Unprecedented, again: The second impeachment


It’s after 10 and I haven’t stopped to rest a moment today. But I can’t go sit, watch a bit of telly and hit the sack without saying something about the fact that Trump was impeached today, for the second time.

Which, of course, is as we know the first time that has happened. Yet another way in which Donald J. Trump is unique in our history.

Strange, isn’t it? That someone so dumb, so incapable, so sub-par, so contemptible should be, in so many ways, so extraordinary. Of course, the only reason he is “extraordinary” is that before 2016, not only had no one so very dumb, incapable, sub-par, and contemptible ever come close to being president of the United States, but it had been unthinkable — something we didn’t even have to bother worrying about. It’s not that he’s extraordinary, but that the situation of someone so lamentably low being in such a high office is extraordinary.

Of course, extraordinary sounds vaguely laudatory, so we usually say “unprecedented.” It’s a somewhat more neutral, even soporific, word, compared to “extraordinary.”

Obviously, I’m tired. Why am I sitting here? Oh, yes — because I have to say something about the unprecedented second impeachment.

Or do I? I mean, we knew it was going to happen. The House had to do something. You don’t just sit there passively and wait for his term to end, when the president of the United States has incited a mob and sent it to physically attack a coequal branch in the very seat of our government. Just saying “Oh, he’ll be gone in a few days” seems too much like a dereliction of duty.

And that’s what they did: something. It wasn’t much, in light of the treasonous (and, here it comes again, unprecedented) course of action taken by the POTUS, on that day, and ever since Election Day. If it hadn’t been his constant lies about the election, his actions in court, his bullying of state officials, all that insanity… there would have been no mob to incite that day.

Seldom in human history has anyone taken such a desperate gamble and, having failed, lived to tell the tale. So impeachment — especially to a guy who’s been there and done that and shrugged it off before, because he has zero respect for the principles involved — is only slightly more than water off a particularly greasy duck’s back.

But it was the arrow in the House’s quiver — the only one, really — so they loosed it.

And we know the Senate won’t take it up any time soon. So what’s my hurry? Why do I have to write about it tonight?

I dunno. Maybe I don’t. But I thought I’d give y’all a place to comment on it. If you have things to say.

That’s it. I’m worn out. Good night…

25 thoughts on “Unprecedented, again: The second impeachment

  1. randle

    The House did what it could, as you say. And did it fast and well. I watched or listened to some of the proceedings, and I thought the members calling for impeachment stated their case well enough in one-minute snippets. The GOP never did defend the president; apparently even their semantic contortions can only bend so far. Their call for unity is amusing, if predictable. These vacuous life forms are clearly incapable of an original thought, so now they co-opt Joe Biden’s message, as it is resonating with much of the population, as is Biden himself. This is what they do instead of leading or legislating: study the other side’s pronouncements, steal their ideas if they have traction or create straw men to attack them if they think there’s a chance to create a wedge issue. It was dispiriting to listen to their collected sophistry in a place and on an occasion that demand so much more.
    I think it’s a mistake to dismiss Trump as dumb; he managed to maneuver himself into the most powerful job in the world. He is a man of limited wit, but he has a feral intelligence and a con artist’s talent for selling people what they think they want. More are coming, smarter, wilier. If they win, we could lose the country for good next time. What may keep Trump at bay for now, since Mitch McConnell has decided to gamble on keeping a madman in office a little while longer, is the repudiation of most of the world. That, along with a swift impeachment for an indefensible assault on the country, is satisfying to see, and rare in a time when everything is subject to calculation. The new Senate should move quickly to remove him, before this fades from our collective mind and GOP senators waiver. Then move on to the business of running the country.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      As for calling him “dumb”…

      As I said, I was tired last night when I made myself write this. And this morning, before I read your comment, I skimmed over it to see what I thought of it.

      The flaw that jumped out at me most clearly was the part about “so dumb, so incapable, so sub-par, so contemptible.”

      Not that he isn’t all those things — I stand by the characterizations. It’s that I left out “evil,” and its synonyms.

      It goes back to that post I keep meaning to write, but keep putting off because I’m not sure about where to go with it: the one asking whether Trump is mainly stupid, or mainly evil (or, to toss in a third approach, simply insane). The thing is, he’s both, or all three. So it’s complicated. Like the related question of whether he’s a pathological liar, or simply so dysfunctional he has no idea what the truth is. (Seriously, is his thing about having the election “stolen” from him really the big Lie people keep talking about, or a case of his actually being stupid enough, or crazy enough, to believe it? The latter seems unlikely, but since he’s apparently managed to make millions of others believe it as well, it’s hard to discount.)

      As to his animal cunning. Yes, I’ve occasionally told myself that there are forms of intelligence that predate literacy, and that maybe he possesses that. But, the more I think about it, the more I think that the fact that he has “managed to maneuver himself into the most powerful job in the world” is purely an accident — the right idiot coming along at the right (or, for most of us, the wrong) time). There was a sickness in our country that was ready to welcome someone who says and does the idiotic things he says and does — and he just stumbled into it. Oh, sure, there’s some interplay and learning — he sees that the mob loves it when he says X, so he says X more often and fervently — but I don’t think this shows intelligence on his part.

      How smart do you really have to be to be a demagogue? Most of us know what to say in order to be a demagogue. We just don’t say it, because we have consciences. OK, so now I’m back to “evil”…

      1. randle

        I don’t know who or what JesseS is referring to when he/she writes, “Don’t mistake skill for wisdom.” I assure him/ her I don’t. I didn’t mention wisdom or imply that Trump is wise. In fact, I said, “Trump is a man of limited wit.” (Wit meaning mental sharpness and inventiveness). I also said he was a con artist. But dismissing him as dumb is problematic because it makes it easier to underestimate him. We didn’t take him seriously when he announced for president in 2016 because of his manifest shortcomings. How could such a man be elected? The same way he has succeeded throughout his life.
        He created a licensing business worth a couple billion (currently, before possible lawsuits and debt collection efforts) based on his “brand” – something he created from thin air and a negligible amount of what we normally think of as accomplishment. He routinely fails at business and convinces people he is a great businessman. People who should know better. He started inserting himself into politics in 1987, ran for president in 2000 and considered running in 2004 and 2012. In 2016, Trump may have been the right idiot at the right time, but the fact is he was smart enough to capitalize on the opportunity. Even as the rest of us dismissed him as ridiculous. One implausible outcome can be attributed to luck. A lifetime of turning nothing into something, failure into success, takes some form of intelligence. Call it cunning or something else if you prefer, it is still the ability to manipulate one’s environment or to learn or understand or deal with new or trying situations.
        I don’t want to spend a lot of bandwidth defending the distressingly twisted landscape of Donald J. Trump’s mind. He parlayed himself into a billion-dollar business, a presidency and now, I hope, ignominy and oblivion. I hope we never see anything like this again, but I think more are coming.
        We should learn from the consummate grifter, and not get fooled again.

        1. Bob Amundson

          I suggest everyone watch “Social Dilemma” on Netflix. Social media profides (note active tense) a technical platform “bullhorn” that enhances the worst in us. The spread of disinformation seems to correlate with Moore’s Law.

        2. Brad Warthen Post author

          Randle, I get what you’re saying here:

          dismissing him as dumb is problematic because it makes it easier to underestimate him. We didn’t take him seriously when he announced for president in 2016 because of his manifest shortcomings. How could such a man be elected?…

          BUT… I still don’t believe his being elected was about him, or his skill in manipulating the mob or whatever.

          I think it was about the mob itself — AND about the business I wrote about earlier about everyone having a separate reality.

          He didn’t have to persuade people to ignore all reliable sources of information and only believe those that support his (or rather, his base’s) fantasy vision of the world. They were ready, and already inclined, to do it. And the technology existed, giving him a leg up that demagogues in previous generations lacked.

          Just to narrow it: It’s one thing for one idiot to assert that he won an election that he clearly lost. The amazing and shocking thing is that you have this HUGE portion of the electorate — 80 percent of Republicans — out there BELIEVING him.

          People just were not that gullible in the past.

          And that’s the thing I’ve been trying to figure out for four years: What happened to these masses of people? What’s wrong with them? And what’s wrong with the people who voted for Brexit? Or the voters around the world who keep electing idiots LIKE Trump?

          What made such a large portion of the human race go nuts? That’s the big question. What made so many of them receptive to Trump?

          That’s why it made an impression on me when I suddenly fully realized what was going on with web services, particularly social media, that AUTOMATICALLY manufacture a separate reality that caters to people’s prejudices.

          Finally, I felt, I understood the Trump phenomenon

          1. Mark Stewart

            Since this appears to be mostly a white working and middles class experience, I would propose evangelicalism, home-schooling, just a general decades-long attack on public education and Newt Gingrich’s 1990s war on rationality and political debate. Those are the four horsemen of today’s insanity. Oh, and Fox/Rupert Murdoch, he has been a social train-wreck more than the Koch brothers ever were.

    2. JesseS

      Don’t mistake skill for wisdom. A carnie conning your dad out of $50 on the midway with the quarter and beer bottle trick is skill. It doesn’t prevent that same carnie from ODing on black tar heroin 30 minutes later. That’s a lack of wisdom.

      Donald Trump is a con-artist. He knew how to manipulate the media. The GOP had a crowded field and he knew how to stand out and make people angry. He saw the opportunity and took it. Somehow that skill was enough to get votes. After getting duped, because winning is all that matter, they turned that same con-artist over to the rest of Americans and they fell for the same grift.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        “Wisdom” may be the operative word.

        I know that intelligence and wisdom aren’t the same thing, yet I persist in expecting smart people to be wise — which means when they aren’t wise, I tend to assume they aren’t smart…

        I need to explore that further, if I get around to writing that post…

  2. Bryan Caskey

    I was pleased to see Tom Rice voted in favor of impeachment and likewise disappointed to see the rest of the GOP SC delegation vote against (especially Nancy Mace).

    Even ol’ Lindsey Graham, the most war-hawk senator in the entire Senate, sounds like Rand Paul not wanting to retaliate against a terrorist attack with his argument that impeachment shouldn’t go forward because it would “further divide the nation”.

    Hey, uh…we shouldn’t try this guy for murder because some of the townspeople like him. Yeah, I know, he actually murdered the victim, but trying him for murder would just be so divisive and cause us to have to talk about it. Let’s just let the murderer go, and hope he leaves town. Yeah, that’s what we should do…

    I’m hoping McConnell finally takes this opportunity to push Trump out of any real relevance by leading the GOP Senate caucus to cast 17 votes to convict.

    Counting votes, I see five of the easiest being: Romney, Murkowski, Collins, Toomey, Sasse. Could GOP leadership in the Senate get twelve more? If McConnell, Thune, and Cornyn (not leadership, per se, but well respected in the caucus) voted to convict, I think they could deliver another nine. Maybe.

    The GOP has a golden opportunity to kick Trump to the curb. And THAT’s when the unity can begin. You get unity after consequences and justice.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Tom Rice and Nancy Mace — we South Carolinians have some very confused members of Congress, don’t we?

      Rice voted against confirming Biden’s victory. In other words, Rice was complicit in Trump’s two-month campaign to overturn a legitimate election — which, of course, is what brought all those rioters to Washington. If he and other Republicans had told Trump to shut up and go away to start with, this wouldn’t have happened.

      And then he votes to impeach, over the riot? There might be some consistency here if he voted to impeach himself as well, but as things stand…

      And Nancy Mace didn’t vote with Rice last week, and basically said things over the past week that would give most humans the impression that she was saying, “He did something impeachable,” but she didn’t vote to impeach.

      Pretty messed up, huh?

      1. Mark Stewart

        I’m going to assume that Tom Rice came to the conclusion that this moment required backbone and an affirmation of our Constitution. Nancy Mace? Started strong and then withered under her party’s whipping. I have long felt her “independence” was a crock. She proved it last evening.

        I always want to see more stands on principles. But this is politics and they are so uncommonly displayed, which is still counter-intuitive to me – don’t citizens want leadership? They certainly deserve it, however, though they most often don’t know that the scary unknown might be good for them. Another thing pols are supposed to be able to communicate…

      2. Bryan Caskey

        Rice voted against Biden’s electors and to impeach Trump. He’s just not a big fan of presidents, in general. 🙂

        1. Leon


          What do you think are the odds of Joe Wilson, Henry McMaster, and Lindsey Graham being seriously primaried during the next election cycles? SC needs new Republican faces just as the Democrats are finding new and younger people to run. Why don’t you run?

          1. Bryan Caskey

            I have no idea what the odds of a significant GOP challenge to any of those folks are. Just looking at the calendar, Graham just re-elected, so he won’t be up for another six years. He’ll be 71 then. Who knows what the world will look like in six years. Who knows if he’ll want to retire? That’s just so far away, I don’t think anyone can legitimately predict it with any sort of clarity.

            Wilson is the opposite, right? He’ll be up again in two years. If past results are any indication of future performance, I don’t really see a GOP challenge for Joe.

            McMaster: First, being the Governor of South Carolina is the job he’s always wanted his entire life. If you follow college football, a good analogy is Ed Ogeron being the head coach at LSU. Accordingly, I think he’ll run again, and I think he’ll likely not have any significant primary challengers, as he’s the incumbent Governor who has a vast network here in South Carolina. Interesting question will be the cycle after that.

            Me running for office? I hereby state, and mean all that I say, that I never have been and never will be a candidate for office; that if nominated by either party, I should peremptorily decline; and even if unanimously elected I should decline to serve.

            I’m happy to be a lawyer here in Columbia helping my clients where I can, coach little league, be a Scoutmaster, and generally be left alone.

              1. James Edward Cross

                It’s Shermanesque. It’s almost word-for-word from his statement of 1871:
                “I hereby state, and mean all that I say, that I never have been and never will be a candidate for President; that if nominated by either party, I should peremptorily decline; and even if unanimously elected I should decline to serve.”

                The more famous one is his statement from 1884:
                “I will not accept if nominated and will not serve if elected.”

                And then there’s the paraphrase:
                “If drafted, I will not run; if nominated, I will not accept; if elected, I will not serve.”

              2. Bryan Caskey

                It’s Sherman. It’s a quote, or at least at close as I remember.

                I’m happy being a private citizen. Being a private citizen is quite enough in our democratic republic. It’s a necessary role. I can help my family, my community, and my country more by being a private citizen.

  3. bud

    Rachel Maddow suggested a different path to 2/3. If several Republicans just stay home then the magic number is reduced from 17. In a senate with just 87 members present and all Democrats on board just 8 Republicans would have to vote to impeach.

    1. Mark Stewart

      If a Senate conviction occurs, this will be the path, a quorum but a bunch of empty seats as the GOP lines up in the corridor to be first on FOX to lambast the trial and proclaim their everlasting fealty to Donald J. Trump.

  4. Ken

    Latest poisonous statement issued by the 3rd District’s Representative in Congress, Jeff Duncan:

    This week, Democrats teed up a vote on another partisan push to remove President Trump from office. They forced a vote in the House on a resolution attempting to blackmail Vice President Pence into invoking the 25th Amendment or else Democrats would impeach President Trump, even though he had less than a week left in office. We all know what this was about – Democrats weren’t interested in what the Vice President had to say in response to this resolution, and they really weren’t interested in the 25th Amendment at all. Their goal has been the same since President Trump came down that infamous escalator – to destroy him at all costs. Democrats’ hatred of him and the millions of Americans that support him started years ago, and it has only grown with every success the Trump Administration achieved along the way.
    Ultimately, Democrats forced a vote in the House to impeach President Trump – I voted NO. This rushed, political stunt made a mockery of what the impeachment process should be – solemn and methodical. There were no hearings, no witness statements, and no evidence presented to Members of Congress. Why? Because it’s a race against the clock – Democrats have less than a week to appease their radical base. Why else? Because the evidence and timeline would suggest the violence was already in motion before the President’s speech – not incited by it.
    I have never witnessed such hatred for one person, Donald Trump, as I have seen these last four years. The left has tried to remove him from office since 2017 through the fake Russian collusion hoax, the 2019 shampeachment, and the 25th Amendment resolution attempting to blackmail the sitting Vice President. Democrats should be embarrassed. The nonstop hysteria is incredible to witness.
    At its core, this impeachment isn’t about the violence we saw last week – which I unequivocally and fully condemn. It’s about achieving their longtime aspiration at the expense of further dividing our nation.

    1. Bob Amundson

      These same “talking (NONSENSE) points” are proliferating social media, including the opinion “talent” on both major Fox channels. I can only stomach so much; a classic brainwashing technique is to repeat the same bulls**t over and over.

      I’m p**sed; I patiently tried to understand these people, but they have indeed become a dangerous cult. Millions of people need an intervention, and if that means violence, so be it. Thin the f**king herd. Somehow, we MUST figure out a way to hold scum like Duncan (and up the chain, to Trump) accountable.

      Ok, I’m feeling better now. I scare my wife when I’m like this. I don’t own any weapons, but if need be, I am locked and loaded to deal with this insanity. As Bill noted earlier on another post, this EVIL.

      1. Bob Amundson

        Wow. I just watched the New Yorker Magazine video, taken by a photojournalist with the attackers. These attackers have leaders (TRAITORS), with military training, “rallying the troops.”

        General McMaster seems to be “angry” but glad “we won.” I see more and more over the shock, and are now in the same place. This was close.


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