Even though Mueller has totally vindicated Trump, you can expect cries for impeachment to intensify. Learn here how stupid those impeachment demands will be.
One of the Progressives on my real-me Facebook feed contends that she never wanted Trump to be impeached because, as Nancy Pelosi said, “he’s just not worth it.” However, now that the Mueller Report has finally dropped, she’s suddenly changed her mind and says that impeachment is the only way to rein in Trump’s power. In other words, now that the Progressive’s primary nefarious scheme to reverse the 2016 election has failed, it’s time to move on to the next nefarious scheme.
To support her new tack, the Progressive cites to The Atlantic’s March 2019 issue entitled Impeach Donald Trump : Starting the process will rein in a president who is undermining American ideals—and bring the debate about his fitness for office into Congress, where it belongs. The article is certainly timely insofar as its publication conveniently coincides with the Mueller Report. The Progressive says the article is totally believable because the author, Yoni Appelbaum, is a “moderate,” albeit one with a “little bias.”
Having looked at Appelbaum’s article, I have to say I disagree with the article’s title, with every argument contained within it, and with my friend’s assessment that Appelbaum is a “moderate.” It therefore struck me as an article ripe for the fisking. Before I do so, though, I want to do three things. First, even before addressing Appelbaum’s argument, which on its face gives the lie to any claimed “moderation,” I’d like to address Appelbaum’s record, which also gives the lie to any claimed “moderation.”
Appelbaum is an editor at The Atlantic, so he doesn’t write a lot. When he does . . . well, here are most of Appelbaum’s videos or articles over the past couple of years:
- The White House Declines to Substantiate Trump’s Wiretapping Claims (this one, from March 5, 2017, has not aged well at all, has it?)
- Who Can Tell the Emperor When He Has No Clothes? (arguing that “Donald Trump flaunted his elastic conception of truth in an interview with Time—but he may yet learn that facts are stubborn things.”
- Trump’s Ignorance Won’t Save Him (explaining that, “if the president obstructed justice, inexperience will not work as a defense.”)
- A Twitter Tirade on Christmas Eve (accusing Trump of being a bad and dishonest man for tweeting “grievances” on Christmas)
- Which America Is Trump Celebrating? (accusing Trump of KKK-style racism for his decisions last June dis-inviting the Philadelphia Eagles because they protested the national anthem)
- That Time Trump Violated the Boy Scout Oath (accusing Trump of un-American behavior because he talked politics at the Boy Scout jamboree). Incidentally, this is a subject that Appelbaum couldn’t let go, for he also wrote A Scout Is Trustworthy—but Is the President? and Trump’s Mistake at the Boy Scout Jamboree
- It’s Time to Impeach Trump (“The president is unfit for the office he holds, Congress needs to act now and open an impeachment inquiry.”)
I don’t know about you, but I’m not seeing political moderation in Appelbaum. Instead, I’m seeing monomaniacal hate against Trump from a hard-Left perspective.
Second, before diving into Appelbaum’s article, it’s worth remembering what the Constitution has to say about impeachment (Art. II, Section 4; emphasis mine):
The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.
After Friday’s news drop, I think we can confidently say that, with Mueller refusing any indictments, treason is off the table. (Also, considering Trump’s morning joie de vivre, I doubt that the report says, “Trump should be indicted, but the DOJ has to wait until he leaves the White House before beginning the process.”) The question, then, is whether Appelbaum can make an argument for “Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”
Third, as we dive into Appelbaum’s reasoning, I’d like to remind you that surrounding a bad argument with endless historical facts and analysis will not remedy the false data and poor analysis lying at the article’s heart. Appelbaum, a history major, likes to tout his erudition. That erudition, however, does not offset the flat-out lies he advances, nor does it offset his illogical and often hysterical take on Trump’s presidency.
Now, let the fisking begin:
Appelbaum’s first two paragraphs say that President Trump swore to uphold the Constitution and, instead, has blatantly violated it, running roughshod over the separation of powers, the rule of law, and civil liberties (implying that Trump is a racist, misogynistic Muslim hater). Well, at least we know what Appelbaum believes he will prove. Whether he meets his self-imposed burden of proof remains to be seen.
Things start falling apart immediately because, in his third paragraph, Appelbaum goes directly to a tried and true fallacy, namely the appeal to authority. In this case, his authority is two well-known #NeverTrumpers; namely, failed presidential candidates McCain and Romney:
This is not a partisan judgment. Many of the president’s fiercest critics have emerged from within his own party. Even officials and observers who support his policies are appalled by his pronouncements, and those who have the most firsthand experience of governance are also the most alarmed by how Trump is governing.
“The damage inflicted by President Trump’s naïveté, egotism, false equivalence, and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate,” the late senator and former Republican presidential nominee John McCain lamented last summer. “The president has not risen to the mantle of the office,” the GOP’s other recent nominee, the former governor and now senator Mitt Romney, wrote in January.
The reliance on McCain tells us why, even though McCain is dead, Trump continues to attack him. As Shakespeare said, “the evil that men do lives after them.” Now that he’s dead, and Americans cannot be repulsed by the real man, McCain is a better Leftist sword than he ever was during his life.
And why do I say “repulsed by the real man” regarding this former POW? I do so because he ended up being a a vicious, unprincipled, hate-filled, dishonest political panderer. McCain, who was not running in the 2016 race, nevertheless tried to destroy Trump by spreading the debased and debunked Steele dossier, which was itself a product of Hillary’s campaign and the Russians. Then, when Trump won, McCain was so maddened by his hatred for Trump that he reneged on his promise to the American people to help defeat Obamacare. Trump supporters — who pretty much constitute most of the Republican base now — would never look at McCain as an authority for anything but raw hatred, dishonor, and possibly brain-tumor induced insanity. Please remember that the fact that someone suffered for his country, or that someone suffered at all, does not confer upon that person moral purity nor does it stand as a permanent barrier to attacks on that person’s character.
Romney, despite his clean-cut looks and business success fares no better as a respectable politician. It was this milquetoast candidate who handed Obama a second term in the White House who viciously attacked Trump in 2016, then made nice with Trump in 2018 so that Trump would support Romney’s senate candidacy, and then promptly attacked Trump again, all the while cuddling up to those suffering from Trump Derangement Syndrome. In the Senate, he has abandoned his conservative principles in order to block Trump’s initiatives.
Bottom line: While McCain and Romney may suddenly be reliable sources for the Left (who attacked both crudely, dishonestly, and vigorously when they were running for president), true conservatives do not consider them go-to sources for objective analysis about Trump or his presidency. You really don’t have a good authority when you’re appealing to someone hated by everyone except for those who need them at a given moment for expediency’s sake.
Appelbaum’s first direct attack on Trump focuses in Trump’s refusal to divest himself of all his money or to disclose his income taxes (neither of which he is required to do by any law on the books):
The oath of office is a president’s promise to subordinate his private desires to the public interest, to serve the nation as a whole rather than any faction within it. Trump displays no evidence that he understands these obligations. To the contrary, he has routinely privileged his self-interest above the responsibilities of the presidency. He has failed to disclose or divest himself from his extensive financial interests, instead using the platform of the presidency to promote them. This has encouraged a wide array of actors, domestic and foreign, to seek to influence his decisions by funneling cash to properties such as Mar-a-Lago (the “Winter White House,” as Trump has branded it) and his hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue. Courts are now considering whether some of those payments violate the Constitution.
Stripped down, the above is a silly re-hash of the Emoluments Clause attack the Dems have made against the President. As always, let’s start with the source, which is the Constitution. At Art. II, Section 1, it states as follows:
The President shall, at stated Times, receive for his Services, a Compensation, which shall neither be increased nor diminished during the Period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that Period any other Emolument from the United States, or any of them.
It scarcely needs to be said that Trump’s businesses, to the extent they provide him with money, do not constitute payments from either the federal government or the individual states. Incidentally, Trump, unlike any other president before him, donates every penny of his salary to charity.
The Constitution also bars any person — including the president — “without the Consent of the Congress” from accepting “any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.” (Const. Art. I, Section 9.) Again, Trump’s profits do not fall into this category. Indirect income from foreign nationals using Trump hotels fall into that category, since any monies are so diffuse they can only be incidental to his overall wealth.
Although Progressives are obsessed with the Emoluments Clause, despite its patent inapplicability to Trump and even though no president has ever before been required to divest himself of his personal wealth, the better (i.e., actual legal analysis) argument says that this position is too dumb for words. Rather than clotting this fisking with another person’s argument, I’ll refer you here for a good analysis.
It’s also worth pointing out here that the Clintons and Obamas came into office with upper-middle class wealth and left office as multi-multi-multi millionaires. Trump, meanwhile, has seen his net worth drop while in office. Believe me, he’s not president to make bank.
What else did Trump do wrong? He asked that the employees who report to him under Art. II of the Constitution be loyal to him. Yes, yes, he did:
More troubling still, Trump has demanded that public officials put their loyalty to him ahead of their duty to the public. On his first full day in office, he ordered his press secretary to lie about the size of his inaugural crowd. He never forgave his first attorney general for failing to shut down investigations into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, and ultimately forced his resignation. “I need loyalty. I expect loyalty,” Trump told his first FBI director, and then fired him when he refused to pledge it.
Regarding the first claim, I can just see the Articles of Impeachment: “High on the list of Bribery, High Crimes and Misdemeanors is the fact that President Trump disagreed with the hostile media’s crowd estimates and told his press secretary to support his preferred crowd estimates.” Imagine the outrage if Trump had told a blatant, substantive, provable lie such as “If you like your doctor you can keep your doctor.” Oh, wait. Don’t bother. Been there, done that. No outrage.
Regarding the second claim, yes, Trump was exceptionally unkind to Sessions. On the other hand, unless there’s a deep-laid movie-style plot that saw Sessions act as the hapless, bumbling AG for the cameras, all while working diligently behind the scenes to line up a series of indictments against the Democrats who worked with Russia to affect the 2016 election or who, as Hillary did, violated national security laws for their own profit and privilege, Sessions did almost nothing as Attorney General. Moreover, Sessions’ decision to recuse himself on the Russia matter was awful. There was no factual or legal basis for him to do so. Instead, he did it out of some over-developed need to demonstrate purity in the face of the Democrat mob.
The real bottom line is that the Attorney General serves at the discretion of the Executive Branch. If the boss is unhappy with the job he or she is doing, the Attorney General goes. The other bottom line is that, despite ridding himself of someone he deemed a bad employee, Trump did nothing whatsoever to interfere with Mueller’s probe.
Finally, regarding the third claim, Trump did not fire the execrable Comey because the latter refused to give Trump a loyalty pledge. Per the Rosenstein memo, Comey got the boot because his egotistical, illegal, unethical, and disgraceful conduct regarding Hillary brought the entire FBI into disrepute. The first two paragraphs in the Rosenstein memo give a flavor of Comey’s wrongdoing — and that’s impressive enough when one remembers that the memo doesn’t even touch upon the fact that Comey illegally passed confidential information to an unsecured source to trigger the now-pretty-much-discredited Mueller investigation:
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has long been regarded as our nation’s premier federal investigative agency. Over the past year, however, the FBI’s reputation and credibility have suffered substantial damage, and it has affected the entire Department of Justice. That is deeply troubling to many Department employees and veterans, legislators and citizens.
The current FBI Director is an articulate and persuasive speaker about leadership and the immutable principles of the Department of Justice. He deserves our appreciation for his public service. As you and I have discussed, however, I cannot defend the Director’s handling of the conclusion of the investigation of Secretary Clinton’s emails, and I do not understand his refusal to accept the nearly universal judgment that he was mistaken. Almost everyone agrees that the Director made serious mistakes; it is one of the few issues that unites people of diverse perspectives.
And again, the boss can fire a bad employee, including an employee who repeatedly stabs him in the back. If Comey’s monumental ego and self-righteousness hadn’t taken the place of any residual decency he might have had and if he really had a legitimate beef with the legality of Trump’s actions, Comey would have quit before being fired and then made a principled stand by openly raising his concerns about the president. (And that, my friends, one of the few times you’ll see the words “Comey” and “decency” in the same sentence.)
Following the above weak and ignorant sauce, Appelbaum moves on to the claim that Trump violated the rule of law . . . by whining. Trump could have shut down the whole Russian collusion investigation thanks to his authority under the Constitution. Instead, he left it untouched and limited himself to complaining about how the Department of Justice was treating him — and please keep in mind, both as you read this post and as you listen to the upcoming attacks on Mueller, that Mueller staffed his team entirely with Clinton cronies and other Trump haters:
Trump has evinced little respect for the rule of law, attempting to have the Department of Justice launch criminal probes into his critics and political adversaries. He has repeatedly attacked both Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Special Counsel Robert Mueller. His efforts to mislead, impede, and shut down Mueller’s investigation have now led the special counsel to consider whether the president obstructed justice.
It takes a special kind of stupid to elevate whining to a “high crime and misdemeanor” justifying impeachment.
Appelbaum also conflates complaints with police action in the next paragraph of “indictments”:
As for the liberties guaranteed by the Constitution, Trump has repeatedly trampled upon them. He pledged to ban entry to the United States on the basis of religion, and did his best to follow through. He has attacked the press as the “enemy of the people” and barred critical outlets and reporters from attending his events. He has assailed black protesters. He has called for his critics in private industry to be fired from their jobs. He has falsely alleged that America’s electoral system is subject to massive fraud, impugning election results with which he disagrees as irredeemably tainted. Elected officials of both parties have repeatedly condemned such statements, which has only spurred the president to repeat them.
Again, let’s break it down:
No, Trump did not ban admission to this country based upon religion. Instead, he looked at an Obama-era report identifying those nations most likely to harbor anti-American terrorists. To the extent most of those countries were Muslim, you can either blame the individual countries for harboring this type of criminality, you can blame Islam for promoting this kind of criminality, or you can blame Obama for being anti-Muslim. But you cannot blame Trump for coming up with a list of terrorist countries that happened to be Muslim.
Trump relied upon this Obama list to issue an order banning citizens from those terrorist-sponsoring countries from entering America. The theory behind the ban was reasonable: If Obama says they’re the most terrorist-prone regions in the world, a smart president, intent on saving Americans of all colors, creeds, races, etc., would stop them at the border saying, “Not so fast, buddy. Based upon my predecessor’s analysis, we’re going to triple-check you. After all, we don’t want another Boston Marathon bombing, do we?” (It’s more intriguing that Obama did not implement the ban, but that’s dirty water under the bridge.)
No, Trump did not violate the First Amendment’s mandate that “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom . . . of the press. . . .: First, Trump is not Congress. Second, Trump did not use his authority to create a pseudo law, in the form of a regulation or executive order, “abridging the freedom . . . of the press.” Third, unlike his predecessor, who spied on the media, Trump has not used the instrumentalities of government or the police state to attack the press.
No one in the media has been silenced, threatened, tortured, imprisoned, or executed, either covertly or overtly. Instead, the media has puffed itself up to an extraordinary amount and gone on the type of “anti-President” spree that could only happen in a truly free country headed by an executive officer who is committed to the principles of liberty, including a free press.
So really, the charge about Trump’s allegedly unconstitutional attacks on the media boils down to the complaint that “the President said mean things!” In that regard, as even the WaPo acknowledges, President Trump was in good company. Thomas Jefferson too, while acknowledging that a free press is an essential component of a free state, nevertheless waged his own war of words with the media — and even went a step further, trying to use his power as president to silence the press:
“Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper,” Jefferson said then.
“In his second term, in response to serious criticism from the New England newspapers … he instructed the state attorney generals in New England to prosecute the newspaper editors for sedition in the same way he had opposed such behavior when it was done by the federal government,” said Ellis, the historian.
The move further alienated Jefferson from the journalists, as well as the clergy.
It was during his second term in 1806 that Jefferson wrote to U.S. Rep. Barnabas Bidwell of Massachusetts, “As for what is not true you will always find abundance in the newspapers.”
The next year, Jefferson made his opinion known in a letter to John Norvell, a politician, lawyer and journalist who had written to him about plans to start his own newspaper.
“To your request of my opinion of the manner in which a newspaper should be conducted, so as to be most useful, I should answer, ‘by restraining it to true facts and sound principles only,'” Jefferson said. “Yet I fear such a paper would find few subscribers. It is a melancholy truth, that a suppression of the press could not more completely deprive the nation of it’s [sic] benefits, than is done by it’s [sic] abandoned prostitution to falsehood.
“Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper. Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle.”
Jefferson’s presidency ended in 1809 — but his frustrations with the press did not.
In 1814, he said, “I deplore with you the putrid state into which our newspapers have passed, and the malignity, the vulgarity, and mendacious spirit of those who write for them.”
A year later, he wrote to James Monroe: “A truth now and then projecting into the ocean of newspaper lies, serves like head-lands to correct our course. Indeed, my skepticism as to everything I see in a newspaper, makes me indifferent whether I ever see one.”
And then again the next year: “From forty years’ experience of the wretched guess-work of the newspapers of what is not done in open daylight, and of their falsehood even as to that, I rarely think them worth reading, and almost never worth notice.”
Monticello historian Christa Dierksheide said Jefferson was lamenting the press he envisioned when he first fought for its freedoms.
“As an idealist, he continued to hope that the press would overcome its partisan leanings,” she told The Post. “But that never happened.”
And finally, pardon me while I try to stop laughing before I address the risible claim that Trump must be impeached because he was prepared to challenge Electoral College results if they proved to be the product of voter fraud. Okay. Okay. I’m done laughing. Back to my discussion.
First, we know there is voter fraud, although the scale is questionable, with Republicans believing there is more voter fraud than Democrats believe exists. Second, all I’ll say is Hillary Clinton and her “why I lost” tour. Third, this comes from the same side of the political aisle that is celebrating Stacy Abrams, who still refuses to accept her defeat in Georgia. And fourth, for the last month or so, as part of its preparation for the 2020 election, the entire Democrat Party is viciously attacking the Electoral College.
Before I fisk further, let me summarize Appelbaum’s indictment against Trump to this point: According to Appelbaum, Trump fired employees for not doing their jobs or for violating the law, wanted loyal employees, complained about the Mueller witch-hunt but did not act on those complaints, relied upon Obama-era conclusions to block potential terrorists from entering the country, refused to impoverish himself or make public his tax returns, complained about but did not lay a hand on the media, and said that he was concerned that the 2016 election could be marred by fraud. The above, believe it or not, are the only substances issues Appelbaum adduces to justify impeachment.
Having established to his own satisfaction that there are multiple bases for impeaching Trump, Appelbaum then describes the purpose behind the impeachment process:
The electorate passes judgment on its presidents and their shortcomings every four years. But the Framers were concerned that a president could abuse his authority in ways that would undermine the democratic process and that could not wait to be addressed. So they created a mechanism for considering whether a president is subverting the rule of law or pursuing his own self-interest at the expense of the general welfare—in short, whether his continued tenure in office poses a threat to the republic. This mechanism is impeachment.
Appelbaum’s word choice — “subverting the rule of law or pursuing his own self-interest at the expense of the general welfare” — is very careful and remarkably anodyne. I prefer the way the Heritage Foundation phrases it (emphasis mine):
Because “high Crimes and Misdemeanors” was a term of art used in English impeachments, a plausible reading supported by many scholars is that the grounds for impeachment can be not only the defined crimes of treason and bribery, but also other criminal or even noncriminal behavior amounting to a serious dereliction of duty. That interpretation is disputed, but it is agreed by virtually all that the impeachment remedy was to be used in only the most extreme situations, a position confirmed by the relatively few instances in which Congress has used the device.
To expand on the Heritage Foundation’s point, there is an ancient and still respected legal principle (one that Appelbaum relies upon later in his article) called “ejusdem generis.” Black’s Law Dictionary defines it as follows:
Of the same kind, class, or nature. In statutory construction, the “ejusdem generis rule” is that where general words follow an enumeration of persons or things, by words of a particular and specific meaning, such general words are not to be construed in their widest extent, but are to be held as applying only to persons or things of the same general kind or class as those specifically mentioned.
For example, if a municipal code says residents can keep “dogs, cats, and other small animals,” that lead-in that specifically mentions dogs and cats, both of which are traditional home-based domestic animals, means that the phrase “other small animals” cannot be read to include feral, non-domestic small beasties such as honey badgers.
When applied to the Constitution, the ejusdem generis doctrine means is that high crimes and misdemeanors must fall into the same exalted wrongdoing category as treason (punishable by death when the Constitution was ratified) or bribery, which the Founders saw as a reasonable basis for dissolving their bonds with Britain’s incredibly corrupt political class and starting a nine-year shooting war. It’s doubtful that the Founders would have recognized “he hurt my feelings,” or “he insists that the crowd was larger than we insist it was” as an existential threat to America.
Nevertheless, according to the easily overcome and highly overwrought Appelbaum, “Trump’s actions during his first two years in office clearly meet, and exceed, the criteria to trigger this fail-safe.” Yeah, right.
In fact, as he proceeds with his article, it’s apparent that Appelbaum recognizes that his justifications for impeachment are pathetic. He therefore tries to dumb down the constitutional standards:
It is absurd to suggest that the Constitution would delineate a mechanism too potent to ever actually be employed. Impeachment, in fact, is a vital protection against the dangers a president like Trump poses. And, crucially, many of its benefits—to the political health of the country, to the stability of the constitutional system—accrue irrespective of its ultimate result. Impeachment is a process, not an outcome, a rule-bound procedure for investigating a president, considering evidence, formulating charges, and deciding whether to continue on to trial.
Let me translate: We know that Trump has not committed “high crimes or misdemeanors” that rise to the serious level of treason and bribery, both of which can destroy the nation. Instead, because we’re from the opposing political party and dislike his policies, and because it’s totally unfair that our candidate didn’t win in 2016, disliking his politics alone is enough to justify impeaching a duly elected president.
I’m ignoring a bit of blah-blah and throat-clearing to move to Appelbaum next substantive (if you can call it that) point.
That . . . ahem . . . substantive point is Appelbaum’s claim that, because Democrats picked up House control in the mid-terms, the voters were asking for impeachment. Indeed the only thing stopping this voter mandate is the fossils heading the Democrat party:
Democrats picked up 40 seats in the House of Representatives in the 2018 elections. Despite this clear rebuke of Trump—and despite all that is publicly known about his offenses—party elders remain reluctant to impeach him.
Under this line of argument — a switch in party control over the House — Republican House members were derelict in their duty not to impeach Obama in 2010. And they were likewise remiss when they did not impeach Clinton in 1994. And of course, you can say the same about slacker Democrats who didn’t act against Bush when the House flipped during his administration.
Following his own logic to its natural conclusion, Appelbaum cannot understand why Democrats, especially older ones like Pelosi or people running for president, aren’t all gung-ho for impeachment and seem to want to talk about stupid substantive issues instead:
Many Democrats avoided discussing the idea on the campaign trail, preferring to focus on health care. When, on the first day of the 116th Congress, a freshman representative declared her intent to impeach Trump and punctuated her comments with an obscenity, she was chastised by members of the old guard—not just for how she raised the issue, but for raising it at all.
Having identified a failing, Appelbaum comes up with a cause: For the old folks in the House, the ones who aren’t young and hip and angry and totally immune to facts, the problem is that they were scarred by the Clinton impeachment fiasco, not to mention being scared off by the inconvenient little fact that most of the country thinks impeachment is a bad idea:
Pelosi and her antediluvian leadership team served in Congress during those fights two decades ago, and they seem determined not to repeat their rivals’ mistakes. Polling has shown significant support for impeachment over the course of Trump’s tenure, but the most favorable polls still indicate that it lacks majority support. To move against Trump now, Democrats seem to believe, would only strengthen the president’s hand. Better to wait for public opinion to turn decisively against him and then use impeachment to ratify that view. This is the received wisdom on impeachment, the overlearned lesson of the Clinton years: House Republicans got out ahead of public opinion, and turned a president beset by scandal into a sympathetic figure.
The problem with the Democrats, Appelbaum concludes, is that they’re planning to forego the red meat of impeachment with the fake meat of just irritating Trump with endless investigations into his taxes and other stuff. Moreover, these cowardly Democrats are content to let federal judges intervene in Trump’s carrying out his executive mandate. And of course, as of the time Appelbaum wrote his article, these same weak and passive Democrat fossils still had their hopes pinned on Mueller.
(Pardon me. I need to interrupt this post for a happy schadenfreude moment. Aaaaahhhh. I feel sooo good.)
Still, says Appelbaum, you can’t just rely on federal prosecutors to get the job done when it comes to destroying a duly elected president. Worse, the longer you wait to impeach, the more Trump will get done and that’s BAD. This is especially bad because you can’t rush impeachment. So, the sooner you start the process, the better in terms of making sure Trump does not get things done.
For those squeamish readers who might think that it’s a bad thing for Congress to try to overthrow a presidency, Appelbaum assures them that an impeachment attack is good for the presidency — and then he comes up with a piece of slimy intellectual jiujutsu that is extraordinary, so let me break it out carefully.
Keep in mind that, up until this point, Appelbaum has been arguing that Trump is a dangerously powerful maniac who is engaged in conduct that, unless stopped via the extreme remedy of impeachment, will destroy America. He follows this up by acknowledging people who are concerned that, by decapitating such a powerful leader, Congress will accrue to itself way more power than it should have. Appelbaum’s counter to this concern is to negate everything he said before. Thus, Appelbaum counsels concerned citizens that they shouldn’t worry because Trump has in fact been a weak executive and only impeachment can restore the executive office to its appropriate high level of power, one that is co-equal with Congress. And no, I’m not making up that upside-down line of reasoning:
Critics of impeachment insist that it would diminish the presidency, creating an executive who serves at the sufferance of Congress. But defenders of executive prerogatives should be the first to recognize that the presidency has more to gain than to lose from Trump’s impeachment. After a century in which the office accumulated awesome power, Trump has done more to weaken executive authority than any recent president. The judiciary now regards Trump’s orders with a jaundiced eye, creating precedents that will constrain his successors. His own political appointees boast to reporters, or brag in anonymous op-eds, that they routinely work to counter his policies. Congress is contemplating actions on trade and defense that will hem in the president. His opponents repeatedly aim at the man but hit the office.
Orwell would be proud of this doublespeak. “War is peace.” “Freedom is slavery.” “Ignorance is strength.” “A president who deliberately reduces government power is so powerfully dangerous Congress must destroy him to return the presidency to its all powerful role.”
Nor should Democrats fear the backlash Republicans experienced when they went after Clinton, argues Appelbaum. Unlike Trump, who is undermining America by shrinking government, hurting reporters’ feelings, and relying on his predecessor’s working to identify countries that pose a threat to America, all of which justify impeachment, Republicans in the 1990s stupidly used impeachment to go after someone who engaged in criminal conduct while in office. That earlier Clintonian criminal conduct, insists Appelbaum, had nothing to do with “undermining the integrity of office, disregard of constitutional duties and oath of office, arrogation of power, abuse of the governmental process, adverse impact on the system of government” — all of which Appelbaum points to as reasonable justifications for impeachment per a 1974 House Judiciary Committee report.
Again, having satisfied himself with his own bass-ackwards, internally contradictory argument, Appelbaum insists that Trump is “attacking the bedrock of America democracy.” That language, incidentally, is hyperlinked to another Atlantic article from October 2017, entitled Will Donald Trump Destroy the Presidency? Don’t worry that I’m going to fisk two articles here. I won’t.
The quick summary of that second article, which is rich in invective and poor in facts, is that Trump, a mere nine months into his presidency, was destroying democracy because he issued an executive order based upon Obama-era information that banned open immigration from a small number of countries that posed serious terrorist threats to America; because of the (now-discredited) Russia Collusion claim; and because he insulted reporters and leftist judges. In other words (and boy, that article has lots of other words, most of them mean), Orange Man Bad.
After reiterating through a link to own magazine that Orange Man Bad, Appelbaum acknowledges that impeachment won’t actually work. Thus, if the House moves to impeach Trump, there’s no way a 2/3 Senatorial majority will vote to remove him from office despite all the compelling “proof” Democrats have amassed. Instead, it turns out, the whole reason Appelbaum wants impeachment is because of its public relations benefits over the next year and a half:
The process of impeachment itself is likely to shift public opinion, both by highlighting what’s already known and by bringing new evidence to light. If Trump’s support among Republican voters erodes, his support in the Senate may do the same. One lesson of Richard Nixon’s impeachment is that when legislators conclude a presidency is doomed, they can switch allegiances in the blink of an eye.
Lest you think Appelbaum’s calculation is too crude and obvious, he promises that votes in 2020 aren’t really the issue. It’s for the good of the country, he offers in high-minded terms:
The country will benefit greatly regardless of how the Senate ultimately votes. Even if the impeachment of Donald Trump fails to produce a conviction in the Senate, it can safeguard the constitutional order from a president who seeks to undermine it. The protections of the process alone are formidable. They come in five distinct forms.
Let me summarize those “five distinct forms” of “protections of the process”:
1. “The first is that once an impeachment inquiry begins, the president loses control of the public conversation.” I won’t quote Appelbaum’s tedious argument, which is replete with pointless historic references intended to make him look smart. The short version is that for two years Trump has used Twitter like a red dot on the wall to inflame the crazy cats in both Congress and the media, thereby bypassing them to send his messages directly to the voters.
By implementing the impeachment process, Appelbaum promises that Democrats can finally silence the President. He’ll be so afraid he will no longer speak up for himself and, most importantly, he’ll be too cowed to use his counter-punching technique. (When I refer to that technique, I mean that Trump never attacks first; but if you attack him, he’ll make sure he pounds you into the dust.)
2. Trump will be unable to govern. Or, as Appelbaum says, “As Trump fights for his political survival, that struggle will overwhelm other concerns. This is the second benefit of impeachment: It paralyzes a wayward president’s ability to advance the undemocratic elements of his agenda.” As you read those words, please think about just a short list of the results of Trump’s governance to date:
- A soaring economy.
- Fair trade agreements with an increasing number of nations, with China coming closer to the negotiating table.
- Low unemployment, including the best numbers ever for Hispanics and the best numbers in decades for Blacks.
- A sustained battle to enforce existing laws governing American immigration.
- The cessation of North Korean nuclear testing, along with the promise of disarmament.
- A reinvigorated military that is being shaped to win wars rather than appease social justice warriors.
- The end of ISIS.
- Support for the Second Amendment.
- Support for fetal rights.
- Support for Israel.
- Respect for Trump in the Muslim world.
- A federal bench (including the Supreme Court) that is being filled with judges who respect the Constitution and written laws of the United States, rather than governing from feelings.
- Energy policies that sustain the economy and keep us from returning to the squalor, death, and decay of a pre-modern era.
Looking at that list, which out-Reagans Reagan, no wonder the Left is anxious to kneecap this President by any means possible. Every one of those achievements is a disaster from the Democrat policy perspective, whether it’s convincing minorities that they can do better than government dependence; barring the next generation of illegal Democrat voters from entering the country; showing that a strong American military can win wars; supporting gun rights against tyranny; shining a light on the Leftist death cult of abortion; supporting the only liberal nation in the entire Middle East; imposing the rule of law on our courts; and supporting energy policies that block the return of a Stone Age “nirvana.” Sheesh, no wonder the Left hates Trump so much.
Even Appelbaum is forced to concede that “Some of Trump’s policies are popular. . . .” Nevertheless, he claims, impeachment is necessary to stop in their tracks some of Trump’s more outré initiatives — all for the public good, of course. And what are these “orange man bad” initiatives?
What’s funny is that the first thing on the list of alleged bad policies is the Russia collusion issue. Why it’s funny isn’t just that Friday’s events — when it became clear, because of the lack of indictments, that there is no collusion — knock the pins out from under this argument. It’s funny because Appelbaum insists that impeachment will finally give the Russia collusion story the intention it deserves. Really:
[I]mpeachment would raise the scrutiny to an entirely different level. In part, this is because of the enormous amount of attention impeachment proceedings garner.
Considering that, for the past two years, it seems as 90% of reporting from CNN, MSNBC, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, and all the other mainstream media outlets has been about Russian collusion, it’s difficult to imagine bringing “scrutiny to an entirely different level.” When you’ve reached the stratosphere already, where else are you going to go?
3. After some more erudition preening, Appelbaum moves on to his third process protection: “The process of impeachment can also surface evidence.” If you read through two paragraphs of pointless digression about Nixon, you learn that Appelbaum has nothing to offer in the way of new evidence about Trump. He’s just hoping that impeachment will be the ultimate fishing expedition, over and above the Mueller inquiry and myriad House investigations.
4. Benefit number four is a profoundly dishonest one: Impeachment, says Appelbaum, will help America by “defusing the potential for an explosion of political violence”:
This is a rationale for impeachment first offered at the Constitutional Convention, in 1787. “What was the practice before this in cases where the chief Magistrate rendered himself obnoxious?” Benjamin Franklin asked his fellow delegates. “Why, recourse was had to assassination in wch. he was not only deprived of his life but of the opportunity of vindicating his character.” A system without a mechanism for removing the chief executive, he argued, offered an invitation to violence. Just as the courts took the impulse toward vigilante justice and safely channeled it into the protections of the legal system, impeachment took the impulse toward political violence and safely channeled it into Congress.
Of course, Appelbaum is dishonest about his argument. After the erudition preening of quoting Franklin, he points out correctly that political terrorism escalated on Nixon’s watch and acknowledges that this terrorism came from the Left. Today, though, it’s different, insists Appelbaum:
The current moment is different, of course. Today, the left is again radicalizing, but the overwhelming majority of political violence is committed by the far right, albeit on a considerably smaller scale than in the Nixon era.
You’ll notice that there are no hyperlinks to his claim that “the overwhelming majority of political violence is committed by the far right.” That is because there is no proof whatsoever to support that claim. If you look at America’s streets and campuses, the violence is from Antifa and its ilk. If you look at America’s restaurants and other retail outlets, it’s not conservatives throwing foods and drinks at people, snatching their hats, driving them out of venues, etc. Again, that’s all from the Left.
To call things by their true labels, Appelbaum lied. That’s not a good sign about an argument’s integrity, is it?
5. The fifth benefit Appelbaum advances in favor of a pointless impeachment process, one that won’t end with in Trump’s leaving office, is once again a crude political calculation: It will help ensure that a Democrat candidate wins in 2020. Indeed, Appelbaum speculates, looking at Ford and Gore, the impeachment process might even keep Pence from ever becoming president, should he so desire.
In sum, looking at the five “benefits” Appelbaum puts forward, it’s obvious that he doesn’t want the impeachment process because it will remove a genuinely corrupt and damaging man from political office. Instead, he wants it to handicap a duly elected president and ensure that a Democrat will get the White House in 2020. Appelbaum’s isn’t a principled argument; it’s a crude political calculation dressed up in high-minded language and meaningless historic references.
I’ll skip entirely Appelbaum’s discussion about how impeachment works and what the standards are. I don’t care whether he’s accurate or not, because his words, again, are merely intended to dress a risible political attack in the respectable clothes of rules and constitutionality. The one thing to note is that Appelbaum concedes that the only hook on which Leftists can hang their hat is “high crimes and misdemeanors,” a concept I already discussed. After trawling through bits and bytes of constitutional history, he pretty much comes out where I did by discussing the ejusdem generis doctrine and the Heritage Foundation summation.
Where Appelbaum gets interesting again is when he goes full Lavrentiy Beria. As most of you know, Beria was Stalin’s head of secret police and famously said “show me the man and I’ll find you the crime.”
To fully understand the horror behind Beria’s statement, you need to think about how America’s criminal justice system works. It’s based upon a very specific order of events: First, a crime occurs. Only then do we look for and prosecute the culpable party. Totalitarian states have a different order. First, the dictator identifies a person whom he wishes to destroy. Then the police state combs through every aspect of that person’s life to find something — anything — this person did that might have violated any one of thousands of laws and regulations. Armed with that information, the state destroys the person.
That’s going full Lavrentiy Beria and that’s exactly what Appelbaum says impeachment should be used for (emphasis mine):
Some democrats have already seen enough from the Trump administration to conclude that it has met the criteria for impeachment. In July 2017, Representative Brad Sherman of California put forward an impeachment resolution; it garnered a single co-sponsor. The next month, though, brought the white-nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and Trump’s defense of the “very fine people on both sides.” The billionaire activist Tom Steyer launched a petition drive calling for impeachment. A second resolution was introduced in the House that November, this time by Tennessee’s Steve Cohen, who found 17 co-sponsors. By December 2017, when Representative Al Green of Texas forced consideration of a third resolution, 58 Democrats voted in favor of continuing debate, including Jim Clyburn, the House’s third-ranking Democrat. On the first day of the new Congress in January, Sherman reintroduced his resolution.
These efforts are exercises in political messaging, not serious attempts to tackle the question of impeachment. They invert the process, offering lists of charges for the House to consider, rather than asking the House to consider what charges may be justified. The House should instead approve a resolution authorizing an impeachment inquiry and allocating the staff, funding, and other resources necessary to pursue it, as the resolution that initiated the proceedings against Richard Nixon did.
Please keep in mind that, when the impeachment process against Nixon started, we already knew — absolutely for sure and certain — about the Watergate break-in, which was a crime. Here, Appelbaum’s “indictment” is nothing more than “I don’t like him, his policies, or his personal style.” Based on this indictment, he is insisting that the House convene an extraordinary constitutional process to find a crime or anything else on Trump’s part that amounts to wrongdoing sufficiently extreme to make the nightly news. If you don’t find that troubling, perhaps you’re a Leftist.
At this point, perhaps realizing how far out on a totalitarian limb he’s placed himself, Appelbaum concedes that, on the rare occasions Congress has gone the impeachment route, it likes to start with a crime onto which it can hang its hat.
Despite the consensus of constitutional scholars that impeachable offenses need not be crimes, Congress has generally preferred to vote on articles that allege criminal acts. More than a third of representatives, and an outright majority of senators, hold law degrees; they think like lawyers. Democrats are thus focused on campaign-finance regulations, obstruction of justice, tax laws, money-laundering rules, proscriptions on bribing foreign officials, and the Constitution’s two emoluments clauses, which bar the president from accepting gifts from state or foreign governments.
Appelbaum even concedes that the whole Russia collusion farce probably won’t be enough of a “crime” to justify impeachment. Even if Mueller came up with something — which he didn’t — wrongful acts Trump may have committed before entering office do not justify impeachment. When he was writing his article, Appelbaum was also filled with hope that Mueller would come up with something that could be grounds for impeachment.
Too bad, so sad, that didn’t happen. Still, Appelbaum dreams and in his dreams he sees a successful House process that sends articles of impeachment to the Senate.
And then, suddenly, the members of the United States Senate will be forced to answer a question that many have long evaded: Is the president fit to continue in office? There will be no press aides to hide behind, no elevators into which they can duck. Some Democrats have already made their opinions clear. Others will have to decide whether to vote to remove a president backed by a majority of their constituents. For Republicans, the choice will be even harder.
If you’re wondering how a Republican majority senate, representing a Republican base that strongly supports the President, will answer the question Appelbaum poses, please refer to the list I compiled, above, detailing just a few of the things Trump has accomplished during his presidency.
Question asked and answered as we lawyers like to say.
Appelbaum must at some low-level in his brain understand that Trump is governing wisely and well, even if not in a way Democrats like, because he suddenly backtracks wildly from his previous line of reasoning (if one can call it reasoning) and announces that impeachment is necessary, not because of high crimes and misdemeanors, but simply because Trump is unworthy:
This is where the dual nature of impeachment as both a legal and a political process comes into sharpest focus. The Founders worried about electing a president who lacked character or a sense of honor, but Americans have long since lost the moral vocabulary to articulate such concerns explicitly, preferring to look instead for demonstrable violations of rules that illuminate underlying character flaws. It is Trump’s unfitness for office that necessitates impeachment; his attacks on American democracy are plainly evident, and should be sufficient.
In this regard, may I point out that Kennedy, Clinton, and FDR were sexual predators; FDR and Kennedy lied to the American people about their health and drug use; and Johnson was a man who abused dogs (although he did not eat them), debased his employees while talking to them as he defecated, and communicated with endless crude obscenities.
And then there’s Obama. Obama invited into the White House anti-Semites, singers who sang anti-white songs, and singers who supported murdering police. Obama also talked about kicking people’s asses, sending people to the back of the bus, and bringing guns to fights. Because the media adored him, and not enough decades have passed for people to start speaking the truth, I suspect there’s more there in terms of Obama’s behavioral abuses while in the White House. We just haven’t heard it yet.
I’m going to skip most of Appelbaum’s discussion about the effort to remove Andrew Johnson in 1868. The point that Appelbaum is trying to drive home is that Trump is another Johnson: a populist (although Johnson was a Democrat) who hated blacks and, while comfortable with seeing slavery gone, wanted to ensure that blacks continued as second-class citizens without the benefits of civil rights:
The case before the United States in 1868 bears striking similarities to the case before the country now—and no president in history more resembles the 45th than the 17th.
A remarkable number of Americans looked at the president and saw a man grossly unfit for office. Johnson, a Democrat from a Civil War border state, had been tapped by Lincoln in 1864 to join him on a national-unity ticket. A fierce opponent of the slaveholding elite and a self-styled champion of the white yeomanry, Johnson spoke to voters skeptical of the Republican Party’s progressive agenda. He horrified much of the East Coast establishment, but his raw, even profane style appealed to many voters. The National Union Party, seeking the destruction of slavery and the Confederacy, swept to victory.
No one ever thought Johnson would be president.
In federal efforts to establish racial equality, they saw antiwhite discrimination.
The question facing Congress, and the public, was this: What do you do with a president whose every utterance and act seems to undermine the Constitution he is sworn to uphold?
It was the campaign of white-nationalist terror that raged through the spring and summer of 1866 that persuaded many Republicans they could not allow Johnson to remain in office.
But the euphoria [at Johnson’s failed impeachment] proved short-lived. The New York Times urged Johnson’s supporters to look at the bigger picture: “Congress has assumed control of the whole matter of reconstruction, and will assert and exercise it.” Any effort to wrest control back from the House and Senate was held in check by the specter of another impeachment, which haunted Johnson’s remaining months in office.
The chorus of experts who now present Johnson’s impeachment as an exercise in raw partisanship are not learning from history but, rather, erasing it. Johnson used his office to deny the millions freed from bondage the equality that God had given them and that the Constitution guaranteed. To deny the justice of Johnson’s impeachment is to affirm the justice of his acts. If his impeachment was partisan, it was because one party had been formed to defend the freedom of man, and the other had not yet reconciled itself to that proposition.
To understand the above narrative from Appelbaum’s perspective, you must believe that President Trump — who has brought blacks more economic success than any president in history and who is working hard to keep out illegal aliens who primarily compete with blacks for jobs — is nevertheless a member of a new, secret KKK.
Although Appelbaum doesn’t mention Charleston, we know that the only piece of so-called “evidence” the Left has that Trump is the reincarnation of the racist Andrew Johnson is Trump’s alleged support for White Supremacists in Charlottesville. That alleged support is a hoax. I will not explain the hoax here but will, instead, direct you to Scott Adams, John Nolte, and Steve Cortes, all of whom have irrefutably rebutted that gross and complete canard. Take out the hoax, and there is nothing that justifies trying to analogize Trump, who’s never been racist in his life, to Johnson.
In fairness, here’s Appelbaum’s conclusion to his article, which I’ll follow with my own conclusion:
Today, the United States once more confronts a president who seems to care for only some of the people he represents, who promises his supporters that he can roll back the tide of diversity, who challenges the rule of law, and who regards constitutional rights and liberties as disposable. Congress must again decide whether the greater risk lies in executing the Constitution as it was written, or in deferring to voters to do what it cannot muster the courage to do itself. The gravest danger facing the country is not a Congress that seeks to measure the president against his oath—it is a president who fails to measure up to that solemn promise.
Nothing that Appelbaum asserts against Trump rises to the level of “high crimes and misdemeanors.” His assertions aren’t even low crimes and misdemeanors. Parsed, Appelbaum’s indictment boils down to attacking Trump for seeking loyalty from his employees, firing people who are corrupt or incompetent, calling out the media on its partisanship and dishonesty, shrinking government’s role in citizen’s lives, refusing to turn himself into a pauper in order to hold office, and successfully bypassing the media in getting his message to America.
Moreover, the benefits that Appelbaum asserts flow from impeachment proceedings have nothing to do with addressing alleged high crimes and misdemeanors. Instead, he is open about the fact that they are intended to entangle Trump in process so seriously that he can no longer govern. Appelbaum also hopes that the proceedings smear Trump so completely that he’ll not only lose in 2020, but that Pence will be forever tarred with the same brush.
In other words, Appelbaum doesn’t make a case for impeachment. Instead, he proves that he’s just another garden-variety, biased, monomaniacal member of the “Resistance,” so deeply infected with Trump Derangement Syndrome that he’s incapable of realizing that what comes out of his mouth is a fetid combination of politically biased garbage and nonsense, infused with meaningless historic references, and neatly packaged in the rotting remnants of a once-reputable magazine.
One more thing. Although The Atlantic is pretty much a joke today whenever it gets on politics (groveling at Obama’s feet and snapping at Trump’s), it still has significant reach. If you think my post has some virtue in tearing down Appelbaum’s argument, please think about sharing it. And of course, if you don’t, quickly pass over my post and pretend you never read it in the first place to spare me the shame of ignominiously showcasing my own ignorance and bias.
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