Politicians’ and civil servants’ entire careers will be defined by this episode. Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) skillfully led the investigation into abuse of Trump’s office, presenting an airtight case to the House. Likewise: Fiona Hill, Marie Yovanovitch, William B. Taylor Jr., David Holmes and other dedicated and fearless foreign policy officials risked personal abuse and career suicide to expose a lawless and corrupt president.
Conversely, former national security adviser John Bolton will be remembered not for his inconsequential tenure as national security adviser but for personal cowardice in refusing to come forward to testify. Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and his crew of clownish colleagues will be remembered, if at all, for making a mockery of constitutional government, lying shamelessly and enabling Russian-backed conspiracy theories.
Impeachment is not, as some commentators have suggested, designed to “resolve” the matter or provide national catharsis. It is meant to establish, if only for history, that there is a line no president shall cross. It is a flashing red light to future presidents: Do not go there.
It is fitting I suppose that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is already colluding with the White House to conduct a sham Senate trial in which witnesses will be prevented from testifying. McConnell hammers the last nail in the coffin of the Senate’s reputation when, without hesitation nor any concern for the institution and in the role of the trial juror’s foreman, he plots with the defendant to promulgate rules that ensure the least amount of fuss in the march to their predetermined outcome. One could argue that this is no trial at all and that a subsequent Senate, if Trump is — God forbid — reelected, would be entitled to declare a mistrial and proceed with a full, fair and complete trial on the merits.
Anyone not intoxicated by the brew of Fox News-Breitbart-Federalist-Sinclair-talk radio conspiracy theories, out-and-out lies and hysteria would, after only a few minutes of viewing the past two days of House Judiciary Committee proceedings, conclude that one party is utterly unfit to hold office and is collectively off its rocker. The other, however imperfectly, is attempting to lay down a marker, to conduct constitutional hygiene and to leave bread crumbs for history that lead to the conclusion: This was the most corrupt president in history who violated his oath and betrayed his country.
Trump and the GOP’s fate will be decided at the ballot box less than 11 months from now. If after all this the electorate is so reckless as to reelect Trump, then the experiment in constitutional democracy may come to be declared a failure. Trump’s statement of imperial power — “Article II allows me to do whatever I want” — could be the guiding principle of a new autocracy.
I remain still optimistic that a sane, sober, decent and minimally informed majority will send Trump and the GOP packing. The 2018 midterm results give me hope that Trump has awakened a slumbering citizenry that still knows right from wrong and facts from lies. Those who still love democracy, constitutional government, the rule of law and the promise of a multiracial and multiethnic democracy had better choose a Democratic nominee wisely and then work like hell to elect him or her. The alternative is unimaginable.