OFF AND RUNNING
Unless you’ve been hiding somewhere off the grid—and there’s some good reasons to do just that—it isn’t news that Nancy Pelosi announced the beginning of a formal impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump and his now infamous July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Zelensky, as well as his administration’s attempts to cover up the whistleblower complaint that brought the whole affair to light.
Not one of my grandparents ever witnessed such a thing, each of them having been born years after the Johnson impeachment of 1868 and having died before Nixon was called to task. Mother and Daddy got that last one, but they didn’t live to see Clinton. And here I am, ready to embark on my third. Interesting times indeed.
So for those of you too young to remember Nixon or weren’t particularly engaged by the Clinton impeachment (which would be understandable), there are a few things to keep in mind to enhance our impeachment watching experience.
First of all, it’s helpful to recognize when the commentary being received is just a partisan talking point. During the Clinton episode, the Democrats kept saying it’s just about sex (and a blow job at that) while the Republicans—clearly titillated by such talk–clutched pearls and asserted it was about lying and perjury. But they were both wrong. It was about power. Impeachments always are.
We can count on all types of distractions to keep us from focusing on the power issue. There will be those Trump supporters who will bark out that this is about Democrats who can’t get over the fact that Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 election. This should be blasphemy in Trump world as everything is always about him. He’s the star of this impeachment, with Hillary relegated to a fifth row center seat for the show. Just something to distract, and pretty silly at that.
Some will assert (from both sides) that impeachment is political overreach by the Democrats. Possibly, but we won’t know until after the general election next year. After all, many thought the Republicans were straining in 1998 when Clinton was impeached, but they went on to win the next two presidential elections—with a little help from the Supreme Court. And isn’t political overreach just using power ineffectively? And which is worse, wielding power to no purpose or not using it at all?
As far as galvanizing the Trump base, they’re already fired up. Watching a Trump rally demonstrates that. Giving them another reason to go out and vote for Trump surely won’t change the numbers. But throwing some red meat to some of the more decidedly anemic Democrats just might. The Republicans have a long standing tradition of giving the base what it wants, and that strategy usually works. Maybe Democratic leaders would do the same if they weren’t dithering about what the base wants, and if that part of the Democratic base would stop defining what they want through the lens of their fears.
Trump will undoubtedly reboot “What about Hillary’s emails?” to “What about Biden and his son?” We got a preview of that gambit on Thursday. Well, what about Biden? No doubt he’ll be pulled into the fray, and he might be able to turn the attack back at Trump. How to do that is what his highly paid consultants should be figuring out right now. But even if they do, Uncle Joe might just fumble the play in its execution. (I think that’s a football allusion, but I can never be sure about that.)
What we haven’t seen before is an impeachment process initiated against an incumbent president seeking reelection. (I’m not counting Andrew Johnson here because no one alive today saw that one, but he was so tarnished by his impeachment that he switched parties and tried to run as a Democrat!) With that tantalizing prospect as part of this one, there should be literally no concern about getting this thing wrapped up so that it doesn’t affect the 2020 election. Excuse me, but isn’t the whole purpose of impeachment to interfere and to influence that election?
So strap yourself in, Christopher. This should be amusing, like watching Gable doing “Puttin’ on the Ritz.” Or at least interesting, like a Chinese curse. (I can still say that, can’t I? Oh, well, I just did.)