E.J. Dionne is right: Let’s get this over with…

I wholeheartedly agree with what E.J. Dionne had to say last night. Excerpts:

Trump has caused a catastrophe. Let’s end it quickly.

There is really only one issue in American politics at this moment: Will we accelerate our way to the end of the Trump story, or will our government remain mired in scandal, misdirection and paralysis for many more months — or even years?E.J. Dionne

There is a large irony in the politics behind this question. The Democrats’ narrow interest lies in having President Trump hang around as close to the 2018 midterm elections as possible. Yet they are urging steps that could get this resolved sooner rather than later. Republicans would likely be better off if Trump were pushed off the stage. Yet up to now, they have been dragging their feet.

The reports that Trump asked then-FBI Director James B. Comey to drop his investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn may finally be concentrating Republican minds….

Nothing could be worse than slow-walking the Trump inquiries. The evidence is already overwhelming that he is temperamentally and intellectually incapable of doing the job he holds. He is indifferent to acquiring the knowledge the presidency demands and apparently of the belief that he can improvise hour to hour. He will violate norms whenever it suits him and cross ethical lines whenever he feels like it.

He also lies a lot, and has been perfectly happy to burn the credibility of anyone who works for him. White House statements are about as believable as those issued regularly by the Kremlin….

My worry is that to do it right — whether we follow the impeachment route or Ross Douthat’s suggestion of using the 25th Amendment (which has a lot of appeal to me, if doable) — may take time. Not only to dot all the legal i’s, but for a miracle to happen — for Trump’s base, which thus far has been immune to evidence, finally sees the light. Otherwise, we’re just in for more horrific turmoil and division.

But that said, we probably can’t wait for that unlikely eventuality. E.J.’s right. ‘Twere best done quickly

40 thoughts on “E.J. Dionne is right: Let’s get this over with…

  1. Claus2

    You expected anything else?

    From Wikipedia: “Dionne is a columnist for Commonweal, a liberal Catholic publication. Before becoming a columnist for the Post in 1993, he worked as a reporter for that paper as well as The New York Times. He has recently joined the left-liberal The National Memo news-politics website.”

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      What’s a “left-liberal?” I always wonder when I hear that. It seems to imply there’s such a thing as “right-liberals”…

      Claus, you seem to be missing the point — actually, a number of points.

      You think you just proved something: that E.J. wants Trump gone because he’s one of these “left-liberals.”

      No, you see, increasingly, just about EVERYBODY wants Trump gone. As E.J. says, if you’re a GOP member of Congress, the sooner the better —
      while Democrats would like to see it drag out through the 2018 elections. (If a President Pence takes over in time to get things settled down by the mid-terms, that can hurt the Dems’ chances.)

      The POINT of this piece wasn’t “Trump needs to go.” The point of this piece was that it needs to happen ASAP, and here’s why…

      1. Claus2

        No I think E.J. wanted to see Hillary in office and is likely heartbroken that she isn’t. This guy could be Nancy Pelosi’s twin brother. Those who want Trump gone is because he’s shaking up “business as usual” on Capitol Hill and they don’t like it.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          If, by “business as usual” you mean the sane and lawful conduct of a constitutional republic, which was the “usual” for 228 years, then yeah, you’re right. People across the political spectrum don’t like the way Trump is departing from that one bit…

          1. Doug Ross

            As I continue to read the Hamilton biography, NOTHING that has happened so far in the Trump administration is close to the craziness that was going on in 1792. Cabinet member Thomas Jefferson and Senator James Madison were running shadow newspapers akin to Fox News to denigrate President Washington. Hamilton was writing multi-page anonymous op-eds AND writing anonymous columns praising those op-eds. He was Trump Twitter on steriods. Meanwhile, Hamilton was under constant threat and paying blackmail regarding an affair he had while Secretary of the Treasury.

            The Whiskey Rebellion saw government tax collectors killed, tarred-and-feathered and forced Washington to send thousands of troops to Pennsylvania.

            Add on top of that the very divisive split in the government over abolition and the Jay Treaty that favored Britain over France…

            There hasn’t been a point in history when all sorts of craziness was going on. We just have more outlets to observe and comment on it more quickly.

            Trump is Ulysses Grant without the functioning alcoholism. Grant’s administration was rife with corruption. Grant targeted and oversaw the death of more Native Americans than anything Trump could imagine with Muslims. Trump is a lightweight in comparison.

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              All that reading, and you haven’t picked up on the key difference?

              Which is… we were blessed to have unmitigated political geniuses (starting with Hamilton, and perhaps chiefly Hamilton) — who fully understood and believed in what this country was about and would do anything they could to see it succeed — in charge of the country then. Which, of course, is the opposite of the current situation.

              I hope it’s not a revelation to anyone that the infant newspapers of that day were unbelievably scurrilous. You realize, don’t you, that the fair, nonpartisan newspaper touting objectivity on their news pages is pretty much a 20th-century invention, right? All through the 19th century and well into the 20th, newspapers were shills for this party or the other. Even when they were founded for noble purposes, those purposes were anything but neutral — The State was founded to oppose the Tillman machine. A worthy cause, but nevertheless a cause, not an ideal of objective reporting.

              Largely, newspapers embraced nonpartisanship and objectivity on the news pages after publishers figured out they could make more money if they sold something that people of ALL political stripes could value — a motive that I think Doug could believe in. And you had generations of journalists come up in that system, believing in that form of journalism with religious fervor.

              Which was a great gift to the country, and one that — as newspapers recede and ax-to-grind, unprofessional media move into the grown vacuum — is very much to be missed. Which is why we should celebrate signs of vigor at The Washington Post under Bezos, and wherever else it occurs.

              As for the politics of the day — the election of 1800 is generally seen as the nastiest (or close to it) in our nation’s history. It was also our most glorious, for one reason: It established the precedent of one party taking power from another, and the losing party accepting it — something that had not happened before in human history, and if it hadn’t happened that time, the American experiment was over.

              And you bet, the nastiness was largely the product of the “newspapers” of that day, which were simply propaganda arms for one party of the other, run by people who had never heard of the journalistic ideals that I grew up with…

              1. Doug Ross

                Except Jefferson and Hamilton were polar opposites on how they believed the country should be governed… They were the Ryan and Pelosi of the 18th century… except even more underhanded in their attempts to sabotage the other side. Those early patriots were as often wrong as they were right.

                When Trump says Make America Great Again, what do you think he is talking about? Misguided as he may be, I think he thinks he is patriotic. Same as Jefferson and Hamilton… I think Trump looks at Russia and says “What exactly are we fighting with them over now? And wouldn’t it be better to work with them against ISIS than not?”

                1. Brad Warthen Post author

                  “Except Jefferson and Hamilton were polar opposites…”

                  Not on things that mattered.

                  I’m more of a Federalist myself, so I disagree with Jefferson on a lot of things — that is, I disagree on the things he SAID, not so much what he DID.

                  All that small-government, national of rugged, self-sufficient yeoman farmers with no need for an army or a navy stuff was just stuff. He wielded big-government power pretty willingly once he was in office, going after the Barbary Pirates and purchasing half of the lower 48 in one swoop.

                  However much they fought with each other, they’re the guys who had the vision to get this nation started on a strong footing.

                  I would have voted for Adams in 1800, but Jefferson did a fine job, too…

                2. Brad Warthen Post author

                  And in the end, before they both died on the nation’s 50th birthday, Adams and Jefferson became friends again, remembering what they had done together in their youth and why it mattered… the reasons why we still honor them today…

                3. Doug Ross

                  Yeah, old guys tend to get nostalgic and forget what actually happened in the past. Partly due to a sense of mortality but mostly due to fading mental capacity.

            2. Phillip

              A key difference, Doug, is that in 1792 the country was still an infant learning to stand on its own two feet. There was no precedent for anything; the Constitution had only been approved a few years before, we were still into the first Presidency, the war had only been effectively over for about a decade.

              But we’re a long way from that time and place: now a long-established democracy, 240 years old, and now the most powerful nation on earth by a long shot and with that mantle for some time now. If we find ourselves in a domestic political situation remotely comparable to the instability, division, and bitterness of our infant-nation stage, then we can pretty much assume that we’ve taken a big step towards the moment of decline and eventual dissolution of the republic.

              1. Doug Ross

                So what were we in 1968? 1921 with Teapot Dome? 1860’s and the Civil War? When was there political peace and harmony?

                We are and will always be a country that is moving in one direction or another with wide swings every 20 years or so. Any time there is power and money involved, you will have competition to control it.

                Let’s picture May 2017 with President Hillary Clinton. What’s different?

                1. Phillip

                  What’s May 2017 like with Hillary as President?

                  Still legislative gridlock of course, but at least the old-fashioned kind, between Republicans and Democrats and more understandable since it would be divided government; less instability overall domestically and globally because of a lack of worry about the US executive branch’s instability; a State Department not still awaiting hundreds of appointments and functioning more effectively; a lack of the sense in the world that the US is becoming a rogue nation through turning its back on international agreements like the Paris Accord; the lack of the clear disdain for and hostility to a functioning free press; the lack of a sense that the Presidency is merely a tool to secure family personal wealth, at least not on the level of this President; full knowledge of the President’s tax returns; at least one major legislative accomplishment on something HRC and the GOP leadership could agree on; Merrick Garland on the Supreme Court; foreign leaders not laughing behind closed doors at what a know-nothing all-bluster fool the US President is…I could go on, but that’s a start. And of course, still more Benghazi hearings. Brad, wanna chime in here? (There are also negatives—-the neocon warriors might be happier, Lindsey, McCain, Bret Stephens).

                  1. Brad Warthen Post author

                    Dang! You ask me to chime in, and then call what I was going to say “negatives.”

                    Of the things you cite, the main point for me is “foreign leaders not laughing behind closed doors at what a know-nothing all-bluster fool the US President is.”

                    I’d broaden that and say “NO ONE, in this country or others, would be laughing behind closed doors at what a know-nothing all-bluster fool the US President is.”

                    And you know, it’s not just “behind closed doors.” Did you see the Russian foreign minister’s mocking “shock” at the news that Comey had been fired? That was right out in the open.

                    That was, of course, just before he went into the closed-door meeting (closed to Americans, not to Russians) where Trump gave him code-word intel…

                    1. Brad Warthen Post author

                      As for Merrick Garland — sure, he should have been confirmed, or at least considered.

                      But my attitude beyond that is the same as toward Gorsuch: Both were qualified. Both, once nominated, were people who should be confirmed…

                    1. Brad Warthen Post author

                      Now, now, maybe Bill could have brokered something. He was good at finding common ground with congressional Republicans.

                      Of course, that was back in the heyday of the Third Way…

                2. Claus2

                  What would be different, we’d see more of a Kennedy or FDR style of President… you know hidden away to hide the medical conditions of the President. The Clinton Foundation would be thriving instead of tanking. Chelsea and her husband would be moving to Washington DC. Bill would be “interviewing personal assistants”. Healthy people in Washington would continue to be dropping dead suddenly. Obama would be appointed as a Saint. Lindsey Graham would be on Sunday morning programs praising Hillary Clinton.

                  1. Brad Warthen Post author

                    And there you have, in a nutshell, the kinds of beliefs that caused some people to consider ANYONE, even the grossly unqualified Trump, preferable to Hillary Clinton…

            3. JesseS

              Playing sock-puppet theater in the Op-Ed letters was big back then. If I recall correctly, Franklin turned it into a kind of hobby, creating entire back stories with sets of spelling mistakes for each member of his cast.

              To be honest, the practice never went away. Only now you can hire firms to do it for you and distribute it out into the wild by the millions with bots.

          2. Claus2

            I”m thinking more along the lines of what we’re seeing with Rick Quinn here in SC.

      2. Scout

        Interestingly, this website says there is such a thing as a right liberal. It says that would be libertarianism. There was a quiz. I’m a sucker for quizzes. This link is to my results (I think). I always wonder if it only shows up that way for me because my browser remembers. But hopefully you will see their cute little quadrant with explanations of their 4 groups.

        Yo Claus, apparently I am a dreaded left liberal; so sorry:


        If that link just goes to the test. Take it and then you will see the cute quadrants with blurbs at the bottom. I got 25.0% Left, 11.1% Liberal.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Actually, they DID impeach him. But the Senate didn’t convict. It’s a two-stage process: The House impeaches, but the president isn’t kicked out of office until the Senate convicts.

      What SHOULD have happened in the Clinton case was that he should have resigned when the House impeached. That would have been the honorable thing to do, but Clinton wasn’t about to do the honorable thing.

      Nixon spared the nation the agony of the impeachment process by resigning BEFORE impeachment. That was the honorable thing to do.

      The terrible thing about the current situation is that we all know Trump is even less likely to do the honorable thing than Clinton was…

      1. Phillip

        The Judiciary Committee of the House did vote for articles of impeachment on Nixon, but it’s true he resigned before a full House vote. What had happened in-between of course was the enforced release of some of the withheld Oval Office tapes, which turned out to be the proverbial smoking gun. Even Nixon’s staunchest defenders on the Judiciary Committee who had voted against impeachment said they would now vote for impeachment in the full House. Faced with a certain landslide vote for impeachment in both the House and Senate, Nixon knew there was no hope and that’s when he chose to resign.

        In this case I think the 25th Amendment is a more promising scenario, especially if Trump becomes more erratic as the pressure builds. But things are going to have to get really bad and dysfunctional for the inner GOP core (McConnell, Ryan, Pence, plus key “rational” inner circle people like Tillerson and HR McMaster) to decide to turn on Trump once and for all and basically depose him—that’s what it would amount to. When Pence sees that only his reluctance is standing between him and the Presidency, he will give way and accede to the plan, at least behind closed doors. But while all that’s happening, I see Trump whipping up “his” crowds, maybe firing more people (Rosenstein?), behaving ever more erratically.

        One thing’s for sure, it’s gonna get a lot crazier before it gets calmer. We’re only 120 days into the Trump Presidency.

  2. bud

    Basically impeachment only requires a majority vote in the House. No Is need dotting or ts crossed. If congress says the president committed a crime that makes it so. As long as Republicans find him more useful to their cause than without him he’ll stay. Seems to me his temperament should scare Republicans more than it does. But for whatever reason they are ok with this bizarre man as long as their legislative goals are served.

    1. Claus2

      And any Republican who has any brains knows as soon as he votes for impeachment means that he’s out of a job because he will have lost voters in his district.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Right. Which is why they’re waiting until it’s obvious that those voters have finally, at long last, picked up on what’s going on and turned against Trump…

        1. bud

          Yes, but that won’t happen until there is a crisis like the Cuban missile crisis or a recession. Just saw man in the street interviews in a heavily Trump county in NC this morning and his base is sticking with him. The critical number is 35. It’s 39.8 right now.

        2. Claus2

          So we can expect Lindsey Graham not to get reelected next time around, because SC voters will want Trump out of office.

            1. Claus2

              Who else has the vote to proceed with impeachment? If he were to vote for impeachment, what do you think Republicans in this state would do next time he comes up for re-election? Being SC they’ll vote for the incumbent, but he may actually face a legitimate contender in the primary.

              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                In this instance, he doesn’t have to worry about what Republicans think; he has to worry about what Trump supporters think. There’s a good bit of overlap there, but they are distinct concepts…

  3. Karen Pearson

    One thing I think we’re forgetting about the Trump fan base is that to them all of Trump’s crazy statements, reversals, and actions are either lies or extreme spin perpetrated by the mainstream media which is out to get him. A lot of their support is based on the contention that he is being lied about and persecuted.

    1. Avatar

      According to Gallup, even Nixon still had a 24% approval rating at the time of his resignation. So there’s always going to be a hard core that’ll never let the light of reality crack the benightedness of their devotion.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        And frankly, with Nixon, there was reason for people to support him. He was a center-right politician with a lot of good ideas, and firm grounding in how to get things done in our system.

        In contrast, Trump is a man with NO qualities that recommend him for the job of POTUS — which makes the continued loyalty of his supporters particularly frustrating. There’s no good reason for it…

  4. Harry Harris

    If any of this happens, I’m a good predictor – and so are some of you. Then we’re stuck with Pence, a horrible option policy-wise with a better demeanor, but willing to sell out (as he has already done) for a skunk like Trump. There should be a Nixon/Agnew style deal, and we might end up with a Gerald Ford style person who’s not so hyper-partisan.

    1. Kathleen

      And who could be your Gerald Ford, assuming we didn’t wind up with someone less desirable than Pence? Kiefer Sutherland already has a gig.

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