I just wrote the longest reply to a Facebook friend I have ever authored, not counting pasting in Ethics Alarms columns. He’s a fair and smart man, but he’s in the performing arts, which means he’s surrounded by knee-jerk progressives who think Robert De Nero and Meryl Streep are persuasive political commentators and who cheered when the cast of “Hamilton” ambushed Pence. In his post, he opined that historians would condemn ” spineless, groveling, boot-licking Republican Senators who covered their ears and willfully chose not to hear from fact-witnesses like John Bolton.” He said he was sure “the truth will come out” concerning Trump’s “corrupt motives and his misuse of presidential power,” but that “giving a pass” to an “unstable, narcisisstic” President “convinced that he is above the law” was very dangerous. And so on–this is the standard mainstream media babble. I decided to write a detailed rebuttal, because I know my friend is an ethical and perceptive person, and view his acceptance of this false narrative issuing from the Left as evidence that he is the victim of propaganda. I think what might have tipped the scales for me was one of his friends citing with approval James Comey’s vomit-inducing op ed, yesterday, sanctimoniously telling us that despite the recent failure of the soft coup attempt he helped to advance, “we’ll be all right.” Gag, Ack, Yecch!
Here is what I wrote:
It pains me to see you fall into this intellectual trap, [my friend] though it is not your fault. Propaganda works, after all, and 90% of the reporting and punditry you get about the impeachment is incompetent and shockingly partisan. In fact, as with the illegal attempted impeachment of Andrew Johnson, Republican Senators are saving the Constitution and the Separation of Powers by blocking a precedent that would have reduced elections to just a temporary democratic moment until the opposing party could figure out some way to reverse hem. Few if any of the GOP Senators care for the President any more than you do (or I, for that matter), but Presidents were not intended to be impeached because Congress decides they are assholes, and that’s all that is being attempted here.
There’s no getting around the fact that the Democrats/”resistance” and such news sources as the Washington Post began promoting impeachment from Inauguration Day, and then floated 19 separate attempts to remove him, ultimately settling on one of the weakest, transparently rushing it through in time for the Presidential campaign. They wanted to impeach Trump for the “crime” of being Trump (can’t do that, and if you do, it’s called a “soft coup”) on the presumption of what his “real” motives were for an unremarkable example of typical Presidential foreign policy maneuvering using a contrived theory that, as Dershowitz among others (like me) have explained, could have been used with equal justification against a majority of the 43 men who went before him.
John Bolton had nothing relevant to say, because John Bolton could only testify that he had reason to believe that the President was using the threat of withholding a pot of money to push the Ukraine into doing something a President has the power to make it do. Bolton could not prove, or even say, that the primary reason the President was doing this was to help his re-election chances. That has been complete supposition from the start, and no, you cannot impeach a President based on what he might have been thinking based on a conclusion that he is “unstable, narcissistic, and convinced that he is above the law.”
As many (including me) have pointed out, there would be nothing assailable about seeking the truth about whether a sitting Vice-President in the previous administration engaged in influence peddling so his slimeball son could get a high paying position he had no qualifications for other than being the son of a VP if Joe Biden weren’t running for President. Well, that’s obviously nuts: all a corrupt official has to do to block an investigation is to run for President? Baloney.
Impeachment has to be bi-partisan and undeniable to be legitimate; that’s why we haven’t had any successful ones. This one was—by far—the most unjustified yet: at least Clinton broke the law (twice) in matters serious enough to get him disbarred (I argued at the time that it was strange that conduct that rendered someone unable to be a lawyer wasn’t sufficient to get him told he couldn’t be President). Trump was doing what was within his power and broke no laws, and removing him for that would essentially make every subsequent President a servant of Congress, which could remove him for “maladministration,” a criteria explicitly rejected by the Founders.
I’m going through all this because you’re a fair and astute man who cares about reality. Facebook is a trap, because it does not encourage or reward honest debate. I’ve stopped (well, almost) pointing out completely deranged posts on this topic because the result is automatic: I am called a Trump supporter (I am NOT, and I can prove it: I am a supporter of the Presidency and the Constitution) and a parrot of Fox News talking points (I do NOT follow Fox News, which I regard as a hack news source–almost as bad as MSNBC and CNN)—then I get unfriended by five people who couldn’t explain the Johnson impeachment if there was a gun to their heads, and who didn’t see any problem when no witnesses were called in Clinton’s impeachment trial, if they know that at all, and most don’t.
Thus Facebook is an overwhelmingly anti-Trump and largely civically ignorant bubble that rewards ad hominem attacks and hateful rhetoric with buckets of likes. It’s “Mean Girls,” and unhealthy and wrong. (And if there was ever an example of ethical confusion, it’s citing an opinion piece by James Comey, of all people. It is a nice piece—written as investigations show that he fostered a corrupt culture at the FBI, lied to Congress multiple times and violated the law himself. Ironically, Comey sparked another fake impeachment plan (#7 on my list of 19), the one that held that even if a President fires a subordinate that literally everyone agrees deserved to be fired —Hillary would have fired him is two seconds–it’s obstruction of justice to do so if everyone decides that the REAL reason he was fired was to impede an investigation. The fact that a disgrace like Comey is welcomed onto the op-ed pages shows just how biased the the media is.
Actually, I’m not at all sure we’ll be “all right”—not with a major political party attempting to warp the last resort impeachment clause into a partisan attack tool in order to make up for its ability to win elections, and then having the news media allow it to cloak such anti-democractic warfare in language about “protecting democracy.”
Orwell. Bizarro World.