The way I look at things these days—which is to say, largely prone—we all have to come to face one big, hairy, honking, ugly fact about the situation in the country. There is only one organized political entity in the country right now capable of arresting the republic’s slide toward the boneyard wherein presently reside many of the republics in history. There is only one gathering of politicians capable of still reaching for the ripcord. That entity is the Republican Party. And not the Republican Party of Lincoln and Grant, and not the Republican Party of Coolidge and Hoover. And not the Republican Party of Taft and Eisenhower. And not even the Republican Party of Nixon and Agnew, of Railsback and Flowers and Elliot Richardson.
Whether the democratic republic as we know it survives, or whether it transforms into a performative autocracy with nice beachfront property, depends on the Republican Party of Gaetz and Gohmert, of Collins and Ratcliffe, of Pompeo and Mulvaney, and of McConnell and Cornyn and Roberts.
There’s really nobody else left. The Democratic House majority has done all it can. It presented a torrent of evidence that the president* shook down the president of Ukraine the way any cheap crook would demand protection money from the neighborhood bodega. All it got for rebuttal was howling from an elected claque of fishmongers in the minority peanut gallery. The Democratic House majority presented testimony from witnesses who fairly dripped expertise, experience, and gravitas. All it got in return was spitballs and whoopie cushions and Rudy Giuliani’s running around West Asia like Marco Polo selling timeshares.
They held their hearings. They took their votes. They’ve sent their articles to the floor of the House, where they will pass this week. And, on Monday, the House Judiciary Committee released its report. And it was the burial job you knew it was. From The New York Times:
“When the president demands that a foreign government announce investigations targeting his domestic political rival, he corrupts our elections,” the report states. “To the founders, this kind of corruption was especially pernicious, and plainly merited impeachment. American elections should be for Americans only.” It also urges the House to approve an article of impeachment charging the president with obstruction of Congress, saying that “President Trump’s obstruction of Congress does not befit the leader of a democratic society. It calls to mind the very claims of royal privilege against which our founders rebelled.”
One of the more compelling passages is the one in which the HJC majority explains that absolutely no communication from this Executive Branch need be believed any more.
When someone repeatedly changes their story, it makes sense to infer that they began with a lie and may still be lying. That is true in daily life and it is true in impeachments. The House may therefore doubt the President’s account of his motives when he first denies that something occurred; then admits that it occurred but denies key facts; then admits those facts and tries to explain them away; and then changes his explanation as more evidence comes to light. Simply stated, the House is “not required to exhibit a naiveté from which ordinary citizens are free.”...
Where someone explains why they acted a certain way, but the explanation depends on demonstrably false facts, then their explanation is suspect. For example, if a President publicly states that he withheld funds from a foreign nation due to its failure to meet certain conditions, but the federal agencies responsible for monitoring those conditions certify that they were satisfied, the House may conclude that the President’s explanation is only a distraction from the truth.
“A distraction from the truth” is nice, because that’s what the entire presidency of El Caudillo del Mar-a-Lago—and his entire campaign before it, and his entire public life before that—has been. He has gone from Manhattan real-estate grubber, to tabloid freak, to bankrupt (again and again), to punchline, to quasi-television star, to, impossibly, President* of the United States. That's where he has treated everything the country thought permanent about itself as though as it were as disposable as the gilded filth of fame in which he has armored himself against the truth that he’s never been more than what Dickens said Scrooge was: a greedy, grasping, covetous old sinner. Except Ebenezer Scrooge never was elected to parliament. He was never prime minister. He ruined lives one at a time. For his part, today, the president* is the country’s distraction from the truth of the fact that it elected him.
Five Republicans can keep his trial in the Senate from turning into the 1919 World Series. (Actually, we might need six to avoid the deadly Margin of Manchin.) Chief Justice John Roberts can rule like a statesman and a jurist, perhaps reckoning that his legacy will be shinier for that. The Senate Democrats can use every device at their disposal to keep the trial within the rails laid down in the House. (The sadist in me would like to see them sit Lev Parnas in the gallery above the president of the Senate’s chair, like Frankie Pentangeli’s brother in front of the rackets committee.) But, ultimately, the nature of the constitutional structure going forward depends vitally on the good faith of the members of the Republican Party of 2019. That’s where we are. That’s the logical end of the line.
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