Sunday, October 20, 2019

Needed in Senate: GOP Profiles in Courage

      Barry Goldwater earned his place in U.S. political history by launching the conservative movement that remade the Republican Party and paved the way for Ronald Reagan's two-term presidency. Before Reagan, however, Goldwater had a more immediate impact on political history by persuading Richard Nixon at the height of the Watergate scandal to resign in order to spare the nation the agony of an impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate.
      Goldwater, who titled his 1960 political manifesto The Conscience of a Conservative, displayed his conscience later by confronting Nixon in the White House with the reality that the president faced a certain conviction in the Senate unless he resigned. Goldwater acted, mostly on his own, after the release of the Watergate tapes proved beyond doubt Nixon's involvement in the hush-money payments to the Watergate burglars.
      Among present-day Republicans, Goldwater-like political courage has been conspicuous by its absence even as the evidence of President Trump's impeachable offenses has emerged in plain sight and beyond dispute. House and Senate Republicans mysteriously lose their voices when questioned by reporters or Democratic colleagues about President Trump's now proven effort to trade U.S. military aid to Ukraine for investigations into his political opponents.
      John Kasich, the former Republican congressman from Ohio, crossed the Rubicon last week [Oct. 18] by saying, with acknowledged sadness, that he would vote to impeach Trump if he were back in the U.S. House of Representatives. Kasich, promoting his new book on CNN and the PBS NewsHour, told interviewers that the acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney had pushed him over the edge on the issue.
      Mulvaney, in his first ever turn at the pressroom lectern, tried to prove Trump's innocence the day before [Oct. 17] by denying that Trump had pressured the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky in the infamous July 25 telephone call to gather possible dirt on Trump's possible opponent Joe Biden. Instead, Mulvaney explained, Trump wanted Zelensky's help in investigating the debunked theory that Ukraine, not Russia, had interfered in the 2016 election, supposedly by hacking into a secret Democratic National Committee server.
      Mulvaney acknowledged various conversations with Trump that led up to the withholding of the military aid. “Did he [Trump] also mention to me in passing the corruption related to the DNC server? Absolutely,” said Mulvaney. “But that’s it. And that’s why we held up the money.”
      ABC's Jonathan Karl alertly underlined the significance of Mulvaney's statement. "What you just described,” said Karl, “is a quid pro quo. It is: Funding will not flow unless the investigation into the Democratic server happens as well.” Later, Mulvaney tried to take back the admission, but there it was, on tape,  replayed time and time again on news programs for the rest of the week.
      Kasich, in the CNN interview, called Mulvaney's supposedly innocent explanation of the events "totally inappropriate. It's an abuse of power." He went on: "Does this rise to the level of impeachment? I now believe it does." But, he added, "I say it with great sadness."
      Kasich may be ahead of the curve among Republicans — no GOP senator has openly supported impeachment to date —  but he is behind the curve among the American public according to the most recent polls. A majority of Americans support the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry in the House of Representatives, according to polls by Quinnipac University, Marist University, and CBS News.
      With support for impeachment and even conviction increasing, Trump's White House counsel and one out-of-office executive branch partisan John Yoo were grasping at straws last week in efforts to delegitimize the impeachment inquiry. Yoo, best known for writing the later-repudiated "torture memo" while at the Bush Justice Department, opined last week, with no evident basis, that the Framers would never have approved of an impeachment within a year of a presidential election.
      Clark Cunningham, a law professor at Georgia State University, refuted Yoo by citing an eerily prescient warning from William Davie, the North Carolina delegate to the Constitutional Convention who helped write the Impeachment Clause. "If he be not impeachable whilst in office, he will spare no efforts or means whatever to get himself re-elected," Davie explained. "I consider this as an essential security for the good behavior of the Executive.”
      Trump''s in-house counsel Pat Cipollone went further in a much-maligned, eight-page letter to House leaders dated Oct. 8 calling the entire impeachment inquiry illegitimate and vowing not to cooperate. Ten days later, 300 law professors had been found to sign a response saying that they disagreed with Cipollone's claim that the inquiry was unconstitutional because the House had not formally approved the inquiry and because Republicans were not being allowed to call witnesses.
      Seemingly oblivious to his worsening political status, Trump doubled down on abuse of office at week's end by authorizing an in-plain-view violation of the Emoluments Clause: specifically, designating his financially troubled Miami-area Doral resort as the U.S. site for the G-7 summit in 2020. With criticism from all quarters, Trump rescinded the decision late Saturday [Oct. 19], blaming Democrats and "the hostile media."
      By week's end, some political observers were counting potential GOP defectors in the Senate, but none of the counts came near to the number needed, 20, to produce a two-thirds majority along with 47 Democrats. In the Senate itself, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was telling colleagues to be ready for an around-the-clock week-long trial, probably sometime around Thanksgiving.

No comments:

Post a Comment