I wrote the following piece earlier today (Thursday, July 27). Then in the evening I heard news that may — or may not, we will see — make my argument here moot. I will present that news below, as an Afterward.
The task of this moment of our history is to Protect America Against Trump.
A figurative wall around Trump now enables the president to act with impunity. That wall has two components. Each of them must be
The wall has two separate but interconnected components:
1) the Republicans in Congress upon whom America is forced to depend, at least until 2019, to protect the Constitution; and
2) the Republican electorate, whose continuing support of Trump is a major inhibitor of the congressional Republicans fulfilling their oath of office and to bring this President down.
Here I will discuss the first. A second piece will address how the second component of that wall might be undermined.
In both cases, what is called for is for Democrats to “Press the Battle” in a vigorous, and suitably-designed way.
Press the Battle Against the Republicans in Congress
The Republican electorate is of course not the only thing in the way of the Republicans in Congress doing the right thing. The Republican Party hasn’t done the right thing in years. Indeed, Trump’s grotesque presidency merely represents a more blatant and extreme version of the political sins that have characterized the Republican Party – increasingly – for a generation.
Thus the battle against the Republicans should be pressed in a way that leads to either of two desirable outcomes: either 1) the Republicans rouse themselves to honor their oath of office and defend the Constitution against this outlaw president or, if they fail to do this, 2) their failure (or, more aptly, their refusal) is made to smell to high heaven and profoundly discredit them in the eyes of the great majority of the American people.
Observing the conduct of the Democrats in Congress, I am led to infer that they believe it is best to deal gently with their Republican colleagues. Maybe they are thinking that this way they can get some bi-partisan cooperation in the investigations being conducted by the relevant committees. Maybe they are thinking that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.
Maybe they are even right. But I doubt it.
My guess is that they are just doing what has come naturally to Democrats throughout this era, and that has failed so spectacularly at almost every turn.
I have always found it useful, in advising anyone, to identify what I call their “characteristic error.” When they choose wrongly, in what direction do they tend to err? Are they usually too impatient, or too slow to act? Are they too assertive, or too much of a pushover? Etc.
With Democrats, and liberals generally, it is not difficult to identify what their characteristic error has been. Liberals tend to believe in being nice, and liberals tend to be averse to conflict. The result has been that over the years, the Republicans have learned that they can get away with almost anything, and no one will make them pay a price.
I would bet heavily that the Republicans in Congress now believe that they can just pretend that their president is not running roughshod over the Constitution and the rule of law and that the Democrats will protest only so mildly that it will cost them little.
I say, Press the Battle.
With Trump’s repeated and even public attempts to obstruct justice, as investigations into Trump’s campaign proceed, and with the Republicans thus far protecting the president rather than the rule of law, we are entering a full-fledged constitutional crisis.
The Democrats are too mild in their words about Trump. (Compare their rhetoric on Trump’s major transgressions with the intensity of the Republican rhetoric about bogus “scandals” like Benghazi.) But even more so, the Democrats are too gentle with the Republicans who are protecting Trump.
How should the Democrats press this battle against the congressional Republicans?
It would be entirely defensible, I believe, for the Democrats to be calling now for impeachment hearings purely on the basis of what Trump has already demonstrated about his attempts to obstruct justice. (Are not his efforts fully the equal of those from President Nixon that made it onto his bill of impeachment?)
But if that is too much, here’s a lesser course of action, one that I proposed in early June in an article titled, “Warn Trump Now: Firing Mueller Would be an Impeachable Offense.“
(At that time I wrote:
Congress should warn the president: firing Mueller would be an impeachable offense.
There can be no good reason for firing Mueller. Leaders from both parties agreed that Mueller is both extremely able and a man of unquestioned integrity. The appointment of Mueller – whom George W. Bush once appointed Director of the FBI — to head the investigation was universally praised.
But while there may be no good reason to fire Mueller, Trump has already shown — when the president told NBC’s Lester Holt that he fired James Comey to stop this investigation – that he might fire Mueller for a bad reason: namely, to obstruct justice.
That’s why the warning should be given to this president: let Mueller do his job. Or else.)
Lately, the focus has been on Trump’s apparent intention to drive Attorney General Sessions to resign, or to fire him and make a recess appointment. (Republicans in the Senate are a good deal more sensitive about mistreatment of one of their former colleagues, apparently, than about Trump’s taking a wrecking ball to the heart of American democracy.)
But the Attorney General is not the point for Trump, nor should it be for the Democrats.
Trump’s real target is Robert Mueller, because Trump seems determined to kill the investigation into him and his campaign.
Likewise for the Democrats, Mueller should be the line in the sand. They should insist that Congress put the President on notice that firing Mueller, without cause, would be so blatant and significant an obstruction of justice that it would bring about Trump’s impeachment.
While the warning is directed at Trump, the Democrats’ immediate target should be the Republicans in Congress. They should insist that Congress pass a resolution that issues such a warning to the President.
And the Democrats should hammer the Republicans on this — insist – loudly, eloquently, with Churchillian rhetoric calling attention to the imperative to protect American democracy, the Constitution, and the rule of law – until they comply. Make the issue the topic of daily headlines.
That way, either the Republicans will comply, or their dereliction of duty, their putting Party ahead of Nation, their violation of their sacred oath, will be on full and vivid display before the American people.
Press the Battle—so that the Republicans do not have the choice they have so often had during these dark times: the choice of behaving disgracefully without their sins being fully exposed and without their being made to pay a steep political price.
I wrote this article on Thursday afternoon. Then in the evening, I heard the news that Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) will be introducing a bill that will protect Mueller and his investigation.
In the USA article, Senator Graham says that the bill would legislate that “”A special counsel cannot be fired when they were entitled to investigate the president or his team unless you have judicial review, not just for Trump, but for any future president.”
Senator Booker says it this way: “I’m introducing this legislation to make sure the president can’t just fire a special prosecutor, that it has to be for cause and that the judicial branch should have a say in whether there is legitimate cause or not,”
Obviously, if this bill were to become law, there would be no need to warn Trump that firing Mueller would be an impeachable offense.
To quote our inimitable leader, “Time will tell.”
“Press the Battle” was the title I gave a series I launched in 2014. This series of articles appeared in various places on the web –including here on Blue Virginia — and it had its own website http://pressthebattle.org/, where it can still be seen.