This is how far we are (or should be) toward impeachment

Jennifer Rubin’s on a roll lately. This morning I Tweeted this out:

If you don’t read anything more of her piece, read these two grafs:

We now have a situation in which multiple, highly respected GOP officials — Coats, Pompeo and perhaps Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein — will have a remarkably consistent story showing a frantic and persistent president pestering them to derail an ongoing FBI investigation.

In the case of President Richard Nixon, a recording of a single directive for the CIA to squash the FBI investigation of the break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters was dubbed a smoking gun….

Yeah. Assuming these stories remain consistent, we don’t just have a smoking gun — we have a whole battery of them.

Of course, Trump utterly lacks the sense of honor and grasp of reality that led Nixon to resign.

Speaking of grasp on reality, another good piece from a Post writer who generally gets put in the “conservative” camp (although as always when it comes to describing intelligent people, that’s an oversimplification):

This column does a couple of things. First, it tells of Kathleen’s conversations with a friend who, like pretty much the whole Trump base (which keeps him at about 39 percent approval, and WAY higher among Republicans, which is why impeachment will take longer than it should), is blind to how unhinged their guy is — or almost blind: The friend thinks Trump would be fine if he’d just stop Tweeting.

Yet, as Kathleen points out, the Tweets are our window into the real Trump:

So, yes, on one hand, Trump must stop tweeting. On the other, how else would we know how truly demented the man is? Luckily, it’s not too late to save the country, yet. But if Jack is worried about the president’s tweeting, it may be time for congressional Republicans to acknowledge what has long been obvious, declare the man incompetent and deliberate accordingly….

Interesting thing (to someone who cares about the little decisions involved in editing): On the Post iPad app, the headline leading from the main page to the Parker piece was “If Trump stops tweeting, how will we know how demented he really is?” — as you can see below. Then when you got to the column itself, the hed said far less: “If Trump stops tweeting, how will we know who he really is?” When I went to Tweet it, the app offered me the hed that said less. I changed it to the one that stated the case….


28 thoughts on “This is how far we are (or should be) toward impeachment

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    Well, THIS slows things down a bit. Breaking news:

    Two of the nation’s top intelligence officials said in a hearing Wednesday they would not discuss specifics of private conversations with President Trump, declining to say whether they had been asked to push back against an FBI probe into possible coordination between his campaign and the Russian government.

    Testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats refused to say whether it was true, as The Washington Post reported Tuesday, that Trump asked Coats if he could reach out to then-FBI Director James B. Comey and dissuade him from pursuing the Flynn matter.

    “I don’t believe it’s appropriate for me to address that in a public session,’’ Coats said. “I don’t think this is the appropriate venue to do this in.’’

    He added: “I have never felt pressure to intervene or interfere in any way … in an ongoing investigation.’’…

    That last line is critical. Note that I said above: “Assuming these stories remain consistent, we don’t just have a smoking gun — we have a whole battery of them.”

    Well, that “I have never felt pressure” line makes the story inconsistent, which gives Trump supporters something to cling to.

    But of course, since he won’t say more (yet — the hearing continues as I type this), we don’t have the full picture…

  2. Brad Warthen Post author

    Another interesting piece from recent days, by Thomas Friedman. He says this is what he says to foreigners who ask him to help explain America under Trump:

    So any lingering Kennedyesque thoughts about us should be banished, I explained. Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay no price, bear no burden, meet no hardship, support no friend, oppose no foe to assure the success of liberty — unless we’re paid in advance. And we take cash, checks, gold, Visa, American Express, Bitcoin and memberships in Mar­a­Lago.

    The Trump doctrine is very simple: There are just four threats in the world: terrorists who will kill us, immigrants who will rape us or take our jobs, importers and exporters who will take our industries — and North Korea. Threats to democracy, free trade, the environment and human rights are no longer on our menu…

  3. Brad Warthen Post author

    And then there are these paired Tweets from Ross Douthat:

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I’m noticing something about myself lately: I’m paying attention almost exclusively to writers from the (to oversimplify) conservative side of the equation.

      Oh, occasionally, I might cite E.J. Dionne or someone. But I’m far more interested in the ways that conservative thinkers are dealing with this horrific situation in which the country finds itself. You’ll notice the pattern in the people I’ve cited the last few days: Charles Krauthammer, David Brooks, Jennifer Rubin, Kathleen Parker and Ross Douthat. Only Tom Friedman (above) has broken that pattern this week.

      I find myself, in reading The Washington Post in the morning, skipping over the Dana Milbanks and going straight to the others. Mind you, I have no interest in the rare Trump apologist — say, a Marc Thiessen (author of “Forget the critics, Mr. President. Your first 100 days have been just fine”).

      What interests me is the way rational center-right types wrestle with this obviously intolerable state of affairs.

      I found myself following a similar pattern in the fall of 2008. Everyone pretty much knew that Obama was going to beat McCain, from about mid-September on. Democrats were giddy, and “liberal” columnists didn’t have anything interesting to say. “Conservatives,” wrestling with the situation and what it meant, were far more interesting.

      Of course, the stakes weren’t so high then. As you’ll recall, I endorsed McCain, but I was also fine with Obama. Either way, I figured the country would be OK.

      Now, our country is in crisis — at home, and in our dealings with the world. And it doesn’t look like we’ll get through it any time soon. This time, of course, the liberals aren’t giddy — they’re as alarmed as anyone.

      But (almost) nothing they can say is likely to influence the situation for the better. For us to get rid of Trump, there must be changes of mind and heart in the GOP majority in Congress, and out in the constituency that created this problem on Nov. 8.

      The hardcore Trumpistas can never be reached by reason. Anyone who dares criticize their hero is automatically “fake news,” to be ignored. But there’s always the chance that responsible conservative voices CAN sway mainstream Republicans who went out and voted against Hillary, thinking she would win anyway.

      Can we get to the point where the GOP majority is emboldened to act, either through impeachment or the 25th Amendment? I don’t know. But I know that only conservative voices are likely to move the needle, to the extent reason can have an impact.

      So those are the writers I’m interesting in reading…

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        By the way, I wrote about this phenomenon when I noticed it before, back in 2008. An excerpt:

        But that’s because the conservatives were more interesting this year. Why? Because they were struggling. They were uncomfortable. They knew they were likely to lose this election, so they struggled. They were unusually critical of “their” standard bearer, and particularly his veep choice. Some just went ahead and endorsed Obama. They bickered with each other, and in their struggle, in their striving, they had an occasional original thought here and there. You had Kathleen Parker saying Sarah Palin should drop out. You had George Will sneering for all he was worth at McCain for having embraced campaign finance reform, only to be done in by an avalanche of money. You had David Brooks struggling for sociological metaphors to explain what was happening. You had Charles Krauthammer getting irritated at the lot of them, and in reaction writing an endorsement of McCain that was sharper than it otherwise would have been because he wrote it in reaction to the defections of conservatives, as an argument against their apostasy.

        Meanwhile, on the left, you had what you always had — recitations of “the failed policies of the past eight years,” the assertion that McCain equals Bush, yadda-yadda. Same old-same old. Lots of vitriol of the repetitive variety. When people find a formula is working for them, they stick with it. Failure, however, is simply more interesting. It provokes thought, and builds character. So the left just wasn’t nearly as interesting.

      2. bud

        Can we get to the point where the GOP MAJORITY is emboldened to act.

        I know I come across as a cantankerous brocken record but this really is just so obvious and yet Brad and others just can’t see it. The GOP majority love Donald Trump. Nothing that’s happened so far even comes close to budging the GOP majority. That’s because the GOP IS the party of Trump. He hasn’t hijacked in some nefarious way. Rather he represents the crass, mean spirited party that it has become. In a way it’s kind of funny to watch as Brad and others twist themselves into a knot fretting over what they see as inconsistencies but really it all fits perfectly. Just check out the craven things Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan are saying. Ryan is a disciple of the reprehensible Ayn Rand. McConnell is this smarmy jerk whose soul ambition is to win elections. Then we have this Nunez creep who lied through his teeth trying to undermine the House investigation. So take a good look at Donald Trump and what you see is the GOP majority. The sooner you accept that the sooner you’ll stop chasing unicorns that don’t exist. The next step is to support the Democrats who are only real hope.

        1. Doug Ross

          Which democrats? There isn’t a single person leading the party. They have zero viable candidates for President in 2020..

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Well, that wouldn’t matter, if they were relevant to the current conversation. Which they’re not.

            But I would take your point farther. They don’t have anybody really influential who can speak for them on the congressional level, either. Everybody’s tired of Pelosi (and Clyburn, and Steny Hoyer — do these people NEVER get any new blood?), and while I hear him occasionally on NPR, I don’t even know what Schumer looks like (although I suspect I’m different from those of you who watch TV news in that respect).

            And whatever happened to Tim Kaine (whose name I remember just because I saw it on a bumper sticker yesterday)? Was he kidnapped? Is he being held for ransom in an abandoned warehouse? Can Democrats raise enough money to get him freed?

              1. bud

                Just as a quick aside Chuck Schumer spoke at my son’s college graduation ceremony last week in Madison Square Garden.

                Yeh the Dems disappoint. But they’re all we have.

        2. Brad Warthen Post author

          “The next step is to support the Democrats who are only real hope.”

          No, bud — Obi-Wan Kenobi is our only hope.

          But seriously, I know it’s hard for you to think like people you disagree with so adamantly, but I’d like you just to focus on two unavoidable truths:

          1. Republicans control the government. Most importantly, they control the bodies that must rise up to impeach Trump. THOSE are the people who have to be persuaded that they can get rid of him and still survive politically.

          2. Pretty much nothing that Democrats can do or say will in any way persuade or encourage the Republicans to do what needs to get done. We’re pretty much reliant on the voices they might, just MIGHT, listen to.

          I certainly hope you’re not just thinking like a typical partisan and going, “Oh, this is great! We need to keep Trump in office through next year so we can win back control of Congress!”

          Surely you care more about the country than that…

          1. bud

            What I’m saying is it’s wishful
            thinking to hope the Republican Party will ever see Trump as you do. It’s like expecting dogs to suddenly discover how foolish it is to chase cars. What has to happen is for Democrats to win elections. Either that or a couple of bad jobs reports. Otherwise the situation is what it is.

            1. bud

              Pretty timely interview with Chris Christie on the tube. He’s firmly in Trump’s corner. Republicans are just not budging nor will they regardless of how much evidence there is of malfeasance.

              1. Doug Ross

                Why isn’t Lindsey Graham leading the charge? Too many late night gossip sessions with his phone pal? What does he understand that you don’t?

                1. Doug Ross

                  That being said, as soon as there is rock solid evidence against Trump, Lindsey will be the first one to jump on the bandwagon for impeachment. He floats to whichever position is best for him.

                2. Brad Warthen Post author

                  “What does he understand that you don’t?” Nothing. I think he and I both understand that he is a Republican politician who is already constantly pushing the envelope on his constituents’ tolerance of him, and that I am not…

                  1. Brad Warthen Post author

                    Yes, we know, Doug. You consider politicians engaging in politics — actually deferring to reality and the wishes of constituents, to some small extent — to be contemptible.

                    Hey, I’m with you — enlightened despotism (the polo sci term for government acting like a business) — is the best system, as long as I get to be the despot.

                    But in a republic, statesmen actually sometimes defer to what others want. There is indeed give and take. As Churchill said, it’s the worst system in the world, except for all the others.

                3. Doug Ross

                  Yeah, Lindsey’s all about deferring to his constituents. If by constituents, you mean lobbyists, TV news producers, and defense contractors.

                  1. Brad Warthen Post author

                    I have no idea how anything you just said relates to what we were talking about. Or to anything else.

                    I think it was pretty clear that I was saying that, while Graham is one of the few Republicans who has been willing to oppose Trump openly, he is diplomatic about it — and looks for areas where he can agree with Trump (such as on Gorsuch or increasing defense spending) — in deference to the fact that so many of his constituents voted for him.

                    I look forward to a time when Graham, and most Republicans in Congress, can step up and lead on impeachment, or on invoking the 25th Amendment. But they’re not going to do it until they see movement in that direction on the part of the people who vote in Republican primaries back home.

                    (They’re also not going to move on impeachment until they have a more complete grasp on whether have sufficient evidence on “high crimes and misdemeanors. Congress is still gathering evidence on that — that’s what today’s Comey hearing is about — as is the special counsel.)

                    To you, this indicates cowardice, hypocrisy, dishonesty, and all the things you associate with politics. But the fact is, you can’t lead unless people will follow, and a skilled politician can tell when people are ready to do that, and when they’re not.

                    Nobody in our history was better at that than Abraham Lincoln. He knew how to read the public, and he had exquisite timing. He didn’t move on a thing until he could tell people were ready to follow — and the stakes on his getting that wrong were huge for the country.

                    He was opposed to slavery on principle, but initial did not advocate abolition — he simply tried to keep it from spreading westward. Then he held back on the Emancipation Proclamation until after an important Union victory, which occurred at Antietam. That proclamation, of course, was a hesitant thing that only “freed” slaves in the states that were in rebellion. Then, he waited to push for the one thing that would really end slavery — the 13th Amendment — until the war was almost, but not quite, won. And then he pulled out all the stops, doing things you would probably regard as shady, to get it done right then, because he knew if the war ended he’d miss his chance.

                    The abolitionists saw him as unprincipled, hypocritical, unwilling to do the right thing, etc. (And some of them hated his jokes, too.) But Lincoln actually wanted to END slavery. And that would only get done at the time when there was a window of political opportunity to do so. And then, he got it done…

                4. Doug Ross

                  Lindsey Graham is not Abraham Lincoln. He hasn’t done anything of significance in his entire tenure. Anyway, all you know of Lincoln is what you read in a history book. Please don’t pretend that you have an actual understanding of the man, the times, or whatever internal thought process he had.

                  If Lindsey was supporting the wishes of his constituents, he’d stop being in favor of giving illegal immigrants any special treatment.

                5. Brad Warthen Post author

                  I’m not particularly a student of Lincoln or the period, much less a credentialed expert. But I’m confident I know more about him than the average person, because I read.

                  Note, everyone, that I at no point said Lindsey Graham was Abraham Lincoln. What I did say was that good politicians know when the public can be led and when it can’t, and that no one was better at that than Lincoln. And of course I did that by way of addressing the way many people think “being political” is a dastardly thing, while at the same time regarding Lincoln as a paragon — which he was.

                  I thought it was rather an effective point to make in this context.

                  Also, thanks for bringing up immigration. This is a good example. Knowing that large portions of the GOP electorate is nativist and not with him on immigration, he takes every possible opportunity to mention the part of comprehensive immigration reform where the constituency agrees with him — on securing the border.

                  In fact, since the last collapse of chances for real reform, that’s been about all he says about it. He’ll talk about the rest when the next realistic opportunity arises, I expect. Of course, that’s unlikely to happen before we’re rid of Trump…


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