The Gaming’s Afoot
It might be useful, before we begin, to recall that the first article of impeachment against Richard Nixon detailed obstruction of justice.
It was useful for us, anyway. Before diving into the second half of the Mueller report — which might have been subtitled “If He Did It” — we wanted to refresh our memory of what an honest impeachment looked like. The dishonest one is more familiar to a contemporary audience, but you really don’t want Ken Starr setting the rules of engagement.
As you know, the Mueller report doesn’t indict Donald Trump on obstruction, nor does it exonerate him. But it is not uncertain or noncommittal. The lack of indictment is a judgment call, fully discussed, about Justice Department prosecutorial policy toward sitting presidents. What follows is the case Mueller would have made, absent that policy.
It’s not coy. It’s all there. It amounts to, as others have called it, a roadmap for impeachment: obstruction of justice through abuse of power.
Attempted abuse, anyway. Orders are demanded, repeated, not carried out. Trump is a buffoon autocrat, not getting any respect from his subordinates. Trump finally fires Comey because Comey won’t say publicly that Trump is not a subject of investigation — but the firing makes him a subject, and every attempt to curtail Mueller digs him in deeper. It’s Sideshow Bob and the rakes.
So it’s there, it’s all there, a case for the Constitutional removal of Donald Trump from office. It’s Watergate repeating itself, the second time as comedy, and because of that there’s a legitimate argument that it’s not worth the bother, at least on those grounds. The Watergate obstruction case arose from what Nixon did. Mueller details what Trump tried to do.
It’s an argument worth having. We’re not having it.
Instead, we’re arguing whether impeachment — on these or other grounds — will cost Democrats the 2020 election.
Dishonesty and cowardice underlie this argument. We totally agree that impeachment would die in the Senate — Mitch would see to that — but legislative futility has not stopped Nancy Pelosi’s House from passing a parade of showy bills with no future.
Ah, but the spectacle of impeachment hearings would distract from The Issues, which served Democrats so well in their landslide House victory last year. Better to just grind away at the drip-drip-drip of House investigative hearings — you know, Benghazi style.
We’re unclear why this is being presented as a choice, why we can’t have impeachment hearings, investigative hearings, and a swarm of freebird presidential candidates singing their special songs all at once. We know what the nation’s political media will dwell on, we know Fox News will make up whatever it wants whatever happens, we know that [MAGAMAGAMAGA REDACTED], but we don’t understand why this should concern us.
Because America might lose, we’re told. One wrong move, the Electoral College goes haywire yet again, and it’s Four More Years.
The Argument from Fear.
We challenge the presumptions, although get a couple beers in us and we’ll argue that maybe it would be nice for once to see a Democratic leadership with balls. But more than the presumptions we challenge the game, the gaming, the incessant realpolitik of politics. We challenge the game because that is not how you frame questions of justice. We challenge the game because the fear of consequences is the moral abdication of duty.
We also challenge the game because people who dwell on hypothetical consequences lack imagination. They get it wrong. Over and over and over. Their fears betray a deep lack of understanding. They don’t know how shit works.
And guess what? We don’t either. We’re just as stupid as the other monkeys. We don’t which action will trigger which timeline.
What we do know is that if you set those fears aside and do what’s right, in your best flawed honest judgment, shit tends to work out. We also know you’re fucked if you don’t.
So: Let’s have the argument. If there’s a case to be made for impeachment, make it. If there’s a case against it, make that. Each on its own terms, not how it will play at the Red Cap Diner.
Anything else, and you’re just walking into a parking lot of rakes.