Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Let the Punishment Fit the Crime

Even if the House Democrats are right about their impeachment charge, so what?

A writer I respect, Jonah Goldberg, thinks that the Trump phone call with Ukraine's new president was awful and focused on a political rival, and so worthy of House impeachment. Which is apart from the question of whether he should be convicted by the Senate and removed.

To be fair, he thinks a broad range of presidential actions have been technically worthy of House impeachment by both Bush 43 and Obama. Again, whether you should impeach and whether the Senate should convict are separate questions apart from the foundation of an expansive list of proper grounds for impeachment. On that I think he is probably technically correct, but that requires political restraint from our politicians not to abuse that expansive power. I think House Democrats have abandoned that restraint and that this is a bad precedent to set as a threshold for impeachment.

While I don't like the phone call--it is not a "perfect" call as Trump claims--I think things like that are routine although more experienced presidents and staff would have known to have someone else make the request quietly.

FDR asked General Marshall to advance the date of Operation Torch to take place prior to the 1942 Congressional election as a favor to his administration, for example (see Rick Atkinson, An Army at Dawn, p. 29). That didn't happen as the need for preparations pushed the date back, but the request was made.

And practically speaking, other presidents didn't have staff and the media willing to leak such ugly details of real world horse trading the way Trump faces. FDR saw no need to have a proxy make that request.

Nor do I think that there is only a political reason for the call. We have real foreign policy and domestic objectives parallel to the president's political goals and that can't be dismissed. We don't want to waste foreign aid; we want to find out how the BS Russian collusion charge that Obama investigated started, roiling our nation since 2016; and we don't want a corrupt president should Biden win the 2020 election. Trump can be wrong about any or all of those things without being a criminal for believing them or thinking they could be true.

Even though Trump is wrong about the extent of 2016 Ukrainian interference--as far as I can tell it was real but far smaller and far less orchestrated from the top than Russia's project chaos* (and boy are the secondary explosions caused by the Democrats since then--which is one reason the Russian interference was so much more effective--making Putin squeal like a school girl at a boy band concert)--so what?

That presumed truth refuting the president's belief would come out and benefit the Democrats, no? Do you think the media wouldn't blare out the most flimsy but plausible exoneration even if the charge was true?

And Biden doesn't get a pass on corruption charges just because he is a candidate for president. Again, if it is ridiculous to claim Biden corruption, let that come out (or let the media pretend that is the result) and embarrass Trump for pursuing it.

Even if the mind readers are correct that Trump only wanted political gains from his call--and nobody can confirm that with solid evidence--so what? Slap his hand, use it as an argument made to the voters to defeat him in 2020, and let's get on with our lives.

I'm consistent across the Obama and Trump administration on distasteful presidential actions, such as that ugly pre-2012 election Russian "space" for post-election American "flexibility" that President Obama offered:

Seriously, how many of Obama's policies, both in domestic and foreign areas, were adopted in pursuit of his Holy "Legacy" rather than for the good of America?* [Clarification in update at this post]

"Obama did not just want to be president. His mission was to leave a legacy as a president of consequence, the liberal counter to Reagan."

And how many of our presidents could pass the new standard?

It never even occurred to me that Obama should be impeached for that outrageous bargain. It was a political question in my mind. And so is the issue of Trump's phone call to the new Ukrainian president.

God help us if the Senate adopts the standard that the House Democrats have proposed. How will we conduct foreign policy at all?

I never even considered the option of impeaching Obama for a number of things he did that I thought were shady as Hell and contrary to American interests and rule of law. Heck, what about before Obama was president?

The idea that now we would operate on an expansive definition of what is technically impeachable is an outrage, and surely far more politically motivated and damaging to America than Trump's phone call.

Democrats claim they are saving our country. But false patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel. And I think that is what is going on here.

I'm sure this entry will annoy Trump supporters without giving me any credit from Resistance types, but God help me but I can't help myself. That's how I roll.

Welcome to my world.

*I continue to believe Putin full expected he'd face a damaged Clinton in the White House because of his disinformation campaign. But back then I did not imagine that Democrats would still be useful idiots for Russia three years later.