Don’t get me wrong: I think we already know plenty enough to warrant impeaching and convicting Donald Trump, and removing him from the presidency.
The sooner the better.
And I also have concerns about our Democratic leadership being too weak, too hesitant, too namby-pamby in dealing with the Trump crisis. After all, I’ve been writing for more than twelve years now that Democrats have failed to rise to the threat– saying that we have one Party (the Rs) that will make a fight out of anything (even when the nation would be better served by cooperation) and another Party (the Ds) who refuse to fight over anything (even when the nation needs them to press the battle to protect America).
But there are two good reasons for the Democrats to pretend that it is premature to talk about impeachment, and that instead the task right now is to make sure we get the truth. (Special prosecutor, special commission, non-partisan replacement for Comey, etc.)
The first reason is that, with the Republicans in control of both chambers of Congress, the Democrats cannot achieve much of anything by themselves. They must rely on enough Republicans releasing their embrace of Trump and supporting steps to uncover the truth.
Saying “Let’s find out the truth” is a much better way to pressure the Republicans (who can say he’s against the truth?) than saying “Impeach this monster of a president.”
(I wrote this piece yesterday morning which, given the pace of news developments, makes any position vulnerable to being overtaken by events. In this case, the big event is the naming by Rod Rosenstein at DOJ of Robert Mueller as special prosecutor. So there is reason to expect an honest investigation.
(But that does not alter the fundamental argument. As E.J. Dionne writes in today’s Washington Post:
“The naming of an independent counsel cannot become an excuse to pull back on congressional fact-finding. The country needs to know if there was collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia whether or not a crime was committed. And Democrats should ask Republicans to join them in pledging opposition to any appointee to head the FBI who is not universally seen as immune to Trump’s influence.”)
So it is a better rhetorical strategy for keeping the momentum building against Trump, leading to a day when so much has been exposed that “It’s impeachment time” becomes like ripe fruit that falls into one’s hand at the slightest touch.
The second good reason to emphasize truth-seeking rather than impeachment is that the American people need now to be educated, and that takes time.
Although it may be clear to people, like me, who spend hours each day watching the picture of Trump’s misdeeds grow fuller and fuller, a great many Americans who have barely paid attention are nowhere near concluding that Trump has forfeited his right (if indeed he had a right) to the presidency.
(The naming of a special prosecutor does little to help with this educational process. That investigation is by its nature kept hidden, and does not bring the public along even if it leads to charges and prosecutions.)
So the job of the Democrats right now should be first, to compel the Republicans to take the next necessary steps, and second, to conduct a semester-long course on how Donald Trump has followed a consistent pattern of conduct showing contempt for, and doing damage to, America’s constitutional order.