This has come up more and more, with what the Jan. 6 hearings have brought to light. It came up, in passing, on a previous thread. And since I wrote almost 500 words in response, I thought I’d post it separately. Here’s that comment, unedited (except for two misspelled words):
Generally speaking, it’s a bad idea to talk about prosecuting presidents. There’s something disturbing, to me, about the idea of a president, duly elected, taking actions consistent with the reasons he was elected, and then being prosecuted because the political winds changed. Sure, the president could be doing things he was NOT elected to do, criminal things, such as happened with Watergate. But I’m not one of those people who get outraged over Jerry Ford pardoning Nixon. Nixon was gone, he was in no way a threat to the country or our politics, and the country needed to move on.
Of course, we have a different situation with Trump. Nixon was fully qualified and suited to the job of president. But he had character flaws that manifested as paranoia, which caused him to do things — behind the curtain — that were wrong. With Trump we have a unique situation, qualitatively different from the situation with anyone else who ever held the office. We have someone who was painfully obviously unsuited to the position, someone who should never, ever have been considered, for even an instant, for such high office. The characteristics that made him unsuitable (and utter lack of any that would have made him suitable) were on clear display 24 hours a day. And it was those characteristics that led quite naturally to the actions for which people talk about prosecuting him.
The way to deal with — that is to say, prevent — this sort of situation is to make absolutely sure that no such individual is ever elected president to begin with. And yet he was, despite his gross defects being fully on display. And almost half of the country voted to <em>re-elect him</em>. And to this day, despite the way his defects exploded in our faces as he went, kicking and screaming, out the door, the Republican Party is in utter bondage to him.
He remains a clear and present danger. Unlike Nixon, from whom Republicans had turned away.
That argues for prosecution, as a way of eliminating the continuing threat to our country. BUT… prosecution implies that once convicted, the almost half of the country that supports him would change their minds, and things would settle down. But that wouldn’t happen, just as it didn’t happen when he was TWICE impeached. His supporters would regard him as a martyr to whatever dark cause made them vote for him in the first place.
And they’d be more ready to attack the Capitol than ever.
As I’ve said before, the problem isn’t Trump. It’s the sickness out in the electorate that caused so many people to vote for him. It’s whatever caused people to vote for someone who, at any previous point in our history, the electorate would have laughed off the stage.
That’s the problem that needs addressing. How, I don’t know. But that’s the problem…