Sunday, April 21, 2019


First, I beg readers to offer a prayer (if so inclined) for the victims of the horrific Easter church bombings in Sri Lanka. So far, I've seen no news stories naming the group responsible for this tragedy. I fear that these attacks will become propaganda fodder for anti-Muslim activists in this country and in Europe.

Impeach! I stand with Elizabeth Warren: We must all screech to impeach. Fortunately, Laurence Tribe -- previously hostile to the notion -- has come around.
Mueller’s report has in no way cleared the president of grave wrongdoing. It would be a lie to claim otherwise, as Barr and Trump repeatedly have done. The report takes pains to note that the investigation could not establish wrongdoing under the strict framework of conspiracy law, but declines to draw a conclusion on the existence of collusion, which “is not a specific offense or theory” under U.S. law. Further, Mueller does not mince words about the president’s potential obstruction of justice, stating: “If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the president clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment.”
In truth, there is some word-mincing here. I would have preferred a straightforward "He did it!" since the evidence is incontrovertible.

(Gotta admit, I loved Rudy's defense: Hey, Trump didn't obstruct. He was joking! It was just a bit! Lighten up, willya? Hilarious stuff. Keep it up, Rudy! I needed that laugh.)

Yes, the polls indicate that the public is not yet with us. On this issue, public opinion must be shifted, not followed. Here's how Democratic politicians should phrase the argument:

"The 'smoking gun' tape which brought down Richard Nixon showed just one act of attempted obstruction of justice. Mueller proved that Trump committed the exact same crime at least ten times over. Trump beat the conspiracy rap by dangling pardons. Only a guilty person would obstruct justice."

These words will do the job. I'm not saying that this argument will persuade everyone; I'm saying that it is reasonable and easily understood. Any Republican who tries to mount a counter-argument will soon start sputtering like Porky Pig.

Even if impeachment does not lead to removal, Democrats should pursue this goal -- first and foremost, for reasons of ethics and national honor. It's simply the right thing to do. Moreover, it's also the tactically correct thing to do. History demonstrates that impeachment will aid the Democrats politically.

Allow me to explain.

The commonly-heard comparison goes to the Clinton impeachment. Unfortunately, our memories have become skewed. Understanding the political fallout from that event requires a degree of nuance which most teevee pundits refuse to provide.

The Republicans had hoped to fare well in the 1998 elections, which followed hard upon the impeachment circus. The GOP did not fare very well. But neither did they receive a "shellacking" (a word used by an MSNBC talking head this morning). The GOP lost seats but retained control of the House, while the Senate remained unchanged.

It is true that Bill Clinton's personal popularity rose. The broadcast of his grand jury testimony made him seem sympathetic; everyone was reminded of how likable the guy could be. (The Republicans had insisted on that broadcast. Boy, did that tactic backfire!)

The citizenry belatedly understood that Republican propagandists had wildly over-promised. For years, we had been bombarded with hyperbolic scare stories which convinced millions that Whitewater was a worse scandal than the JFK assassination, Watergate and Iran-contra combined. Suddenly, we learned that all of those right-wing conspiracy theories were based on pure blather. Starr had nothing. His lavishly-funded, uncontrolled, brutally partisan and absolutely ruthless inquisition had managed to uncover only an extraneous extramarital affair, which the public correctly judged to be no big deal. Though Republicans and feminists (a not-infrequent partnership) tried to portray Clinton as a presidential predator, this line of attack flopped, since Monica Lewinsky clearly took the initiative in the affair. She ended up saying "I hate Linda Tripp," not "I hate Bill Clinton."

When you think about it, the 1998 elections should have been much worse for the GOP, since their star propagandists stood revealed as liars. But the Republicans did not suffer. They came out of 1998 fairly well -- and in 2000, they won the presidency, the House, and the Senate.

The Republicans would have fared far worse if they had not impeached Bill Clinton.

A Republican refusal to pursue impeachment would have been tantamount to a grand public confession: Okay, folks -- you know those stories we told you about Bill Clinton? About how he was the Master of Evil and King of the Illuminati? Well, all of that stuff was bullshit. We simply made up a bunch of paranoid hooey.

Impeachment did not result in removal, but it allowed the Republicans to portray themselves as the Party of Virtue. A neologism took hold: Virtuecrats. William Bennett (whose secret life was then well-hidden) wrote his smarmy Book of Virtues, which begat a small empire -- sequels, children's books, animated films and so forth. This new propaganda line proved to be very effective. In the words of an old Bill Maher joke, Republicans ran on the slogan "I fuck my wife."

Meanwhile, "Clinton fatigue" set in as 1999 gave way to 2000. Teevee comedians continued to use the Lewinsky affair as fodder for jokes, hitting Clinton again and again. Even David Letterman (whose politics skew left) said that the Oval Office would have to be hosed out after Clinton left.

In 2000, Al Gore felt obligated to distance himself from a president whose administration had, by any historic measure, been wildly successful. (Remember when the great public debating point was "What to do with the surplus?") Gore chose the despicable Joe Lieberman as his running mate for one reason only: Lieberman had been a Clinton critic. 

In short: If the Republicans had not impeached Bill Clinton, Gore almost certainly would have won the presidency. Moreover, the precariously-balanced Senate (50-50 in 2001) would have fallen under Democratic control. Perhaps even the House would have turned blue.

Today, if the Democrats do not screech to impeach, they will empower Trump's "witch hunt" narrative. The result will be electoral disaster. Impeachment will not impede the Democrats' chances in 2020. In fact, impeachment is a requirement.

Here's another important consideration: The public admires fighters. Dems are disliked because Dems, too often, are wimps.

A word about public opinion. Readers may question my consistency. In previous posts, I've argued that the word "socialism" must be avoided, since all polls indicate strong public opposition to the concept. When it comes to the S word, my counsel is "Heed public opinion." But when it comes to impeachment, my counsel is "Change public opinion."

A contradiction? No.

I'm simply offering my view as to which poll numbers can be shifted and which are intractable. All evidence indicates that, for more than a century, Americans have had a phobic reaction to the S word. Look at the data:
Fewer than one in five Americans view socialism favorably, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll published Sunday.

The poll found that 18 percent of Americans have a positive view of socialism, compared to 50 percent who view it negatively. The poll found opposite perspectives on capitalism, with 50 percent saying they view it favorably and 19 percent reporting that they see it negatively.

The poll also found that only 25 percent of Americans are enthusiastic or comfortable with a socialist becoming the next president.
You may argue that other polls will give different results. Not that different; don't kid yourself. And don't try to convince me that educational efforts can work miracles: Speeches and essays and songs and movies and Bill Maher monologues simply won't change the fact that Americans do not like and never will like socialism. Or rather, they don't like that word; they still intend to cash their social security checks.

("But young people...!" Fuck you. The young are not the only voters.) 

By contrast: On this morning, Trump's disapproval is 53.2 percent and his approval is 41.6 percent. Those numbers have been pretty consistent throughout his term. A majority of Americans want to believe ill of this man; they are reachable, persuadable.

Dems, do you really want Trump's "witch hunt" narrative to have purchase? Do you want his propaganda points to prevail? If not, then you must continually push two truths:

1. The Mueller report demonstrates obstruction of justice.

2. Obstruction is the only reason Trump beat the "collusion" rap. If no underlying crime existed, there would have been no need for obstruction. (Besides, Mueller heeded -- foolishly, in my opinion -- DOJ policy which forbids the indictment of a president.)

Those two points will have no impact unless backed by action, by impeachment. If you want to use the term "political theater," fine: Theater can tell important truths. The impeachment process is the way to impress the truth on the public mind. It may be the only way to convey the facts to those who remain locked in the Fox News bubble.


Mr Mike said...

Democrats: "The Constitution demands Trump be impeached but Senate republicans will fight it bc partisanship". Hammer that narrative every chance a reporter asks. Ball gag Steny Hoyer and Pelosi.

Anonymous said...

He must be impeached. The sooner the better. If the Dems refuse to impeach it will reek of cowardice! There is no other take on an equivocation of impeaching the bastard. The Dems are trying to be too cute in trying to have it both ways. It is time to stand up and impose their will. It is the right thing to do. Or we will have no country or democracy to protect! We have this criminal because Pelosi took impeachment off the table. W deserved being impeached....

Alessandro Machi said...

The Democrat's biggest problem is they want to run the show when it was Trump who was elected. If the Dems don't offifically congratulate Trump for his 2016 win, and if the Dems don't support a Border Wall, then there will be a lot of irriated Moderates who will vote for Trump in 2020.

nemdam said...

My thoughts summed up on impeachment perfectly.

I've heard this dumb argument that "If Dems impeach and the Senate acquits, that will clear Trump!" No, actually it's the opposite. If after all the talk about Trump and this report, the Dems choose not to impeach, that will tell the public that he hasn't done anything that bad, and he's basically just a normal President. I can't think of a better way to deflate Dem enthusiasm than to say with your actions that Trump basically hasn't done anything wrong.

Another aspect which I think overlooked is what will be Trump and the Republicans reaction be if Democrats don't impeach? They know they stole the election, shouldn't be in office, and have engaged in an unprecedented level of corruption. For all of this to happen, for it all to be revealed to the public, and the Democrats still don't impeach? They will feel bullet proof and see it as a de facto invitation to become a one party country since Dems will have basically waved the white flag and providing any meaningful opposition. At a minimum, Republicans will never comply with any House oversight, and Trump will use the DOJ to close all the investigations against him and use it as his own personal tool to go after his political enemies. It'll be a green light to go wild.

I'll wrap this up by saying the good news is my gut is telling me that the "Dem impeachment would an overreach!" is one of those stupid beliefs that only exists in the DC bubble. The Dem base wants impeachment, and Republicans seem to think it's going to happen. This has parallels to Bill's impeachment in that DC thought the public would be outraged by Monica when in fact the public didn't care. Likewise, DC thinks the public would turn against impeachment, when I and many others believe the public would actually support impeachment the further along we get into it.

gadfly said...

Larry Tribe's first name is spelled "Laurence." Don't publish, just fix the spelling.

gadfly said...

(From the "He's Larry Tribe Parody.")

He studied math
He studied law
And he's the most prolific scholar
That the whole world ever saw!

Because he's Tribe
He's Larry Tribe
Not just Harvard's best professor
But the smartest man alive!

He's ten feet tall!
He's learned to fly!
And though he'll never be a Justice
Well, he's never gonna die!

He is the sultan of Sudan
He is the closer for the Sox
And the legal fees he charges
Make him richer than Fort Knox!

He's Jesus Christ!
He's Larry Tribe!
Not just Harvard's best professor
But the smartest man alive!

He's got forty-one degrees
He speaks fluent Japanese
He's Larry Tribe!
He's Larry Tribe!

Joseph Cannon said...

I published your correction anyways, gadfly. I once embarrassed myself in exactly the same way, when I mentioned Laurence Rockefeller in a post.

Your poem is hilarious.

Anonymous said...

Robert Reich:

Alessandro Machi said...

Unless a President signs an executive order on a document, then its just hearsay. Nixon audio recorded his desire and that may have been viewed as signing a document, although I doin't agree unless the intent of the recording was verificaiton.

I am curious, are Presidents allowed to give verbal orders that are followed that were never written down. If yes, why?

If we start impeaching presidents for their spoken words in private rather than their "written" words in public they then verify by signing, we are creating a slippery slope of he said, they said. So do Presidents give orders without written verification? Does anyone know?