I began a recent piece here with the words:
“Unhappily, with each passing week, I become more convinced that if the Democrats in Congress continue on their current path in dealing with the Trump crisis, they will disgrace themselves in the eyes of history.”
It’s the failure to impeach that has the Democrats on the path to historical disgrace. It the choice I believe Speaker Pelosi is making that I feel increasingly sure history will judge to have been seriously wrong.
Some think that Pelosi is delaying impeachment, waiting for public opinion to support the move. I used to think that, but have come to believe that instead she wants to avoid impeachment altogether. But let’s stipulate that she’s just sticking by the original Democratic plan to move public opinion first, and then — once the public has been moved — to name the process an impeachment inquiry.
That approach was once a respectable strategy. As many observers noted at the time the Democrats started moving toward holding importantly revelatory hearings, the process of impeachment and the process of holding the planned hearings were the same thing— and would be the same all the way up until a decision needed to be made to declare that the hearings had shown a need to impeach. (I myself wrote a couple of time in agreement with that strategy.)
That idea was fine because the extra bit of caution — in postponing an explicit impeachment process — came without cost in terms of failure to press the battle. It was full speed ahead on exposing Trump’s wrong-doings (through oversight hearings).
But that strategy’s being fine was dependent on the Democrats managing to execute their plan about their staging effective hearings. It depended on their getting important witnesses on national TV who would tell the story that the American people need to hear so that the public would understand the necessity of impeaching a lawless President.
But, with their across-the-board denying Congress of witnesses and documents, Trump and Barr have effectively blocked that strategy.
In the months since the Democrats took control of the House, the public has learned very little, and Trump’s position has if anything strengthened.
In the face of all the obstruction from the Trump side — the contempt of Congress, the obstruction of justice — impeachment became both more necessary (in order to defeat Trump’s continuing obstruction of justice), and more obviously justified (what with the unprecedented defiance of Congress exercising its proper constitutional powers).
So the postponement of using the I-word — an approach that was justifiable when the Democrats could educate the people first, and impeach second — has now become a clear abdication of responsibility.
Following that plan is not showing the people what they need to see, and there is no other route to showing it than impeachment.
Time is passing, and the failure to deal with Trump as an emergency — letting the months roll by — in itself undercuts the message the Democrats need to send to the American people about the true nature of this dangerous moment.
Would it not be reasonable for the people to conclude, from the Democrats’ apparently being content to play out the game in court, letting Trump run out the clock, that there’s no emergency here about dealing with a President who shows complete contempt for the law and the Constitution? Does not the Democrats’ behavior convey the false impression that such a President does not represent all that much of a threat to the nation?
No, this approach doesn’t make sense. How can it make sense to wait for the public when months are going by with so little being accomplished with the public, and with so little sign that much more will be achieved in the coming months?