Photo by Jose Moreno on Unsplash

The speaker has more than one strategy available

News Analysis

By STEVEN A. COHEN

More than 1 million Americans have given their lives in defense of democracy since the Revolutionary War. That is what makes President Trump’s cavalier attitude about the Constitution so disagreeable.

It apparently is necessary for Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her leadership team in the U.S. House to explain the obvious: The Constitution is about life, and a way of life. The Pentagon estimates that about 1.1 million American servicemen have died in wars since the Revolution. To demean the Constitution is an affront to the people who gave their lives in its defense. It’s remarkable that the deaths in war of so many American servicemen -- including more than 500,000 in two world wars — has been left out of the discussion of impeaching President Trump. It also seems strange that there is no apparent backlash over Trump disrespecting the late Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a hero in the Vietnam War. Trump avoided military service altogether during the Vietnam era.

In a pure Democracy, Trump neverwould have made it to the White House; he lost the popular vote by more than 3 million to Hillary Clinton in 2016. His claim to victory resulted from a narrow 70,000 or so vote win in districts in three states, enabling his slates in those states to put him over the top in the Electoral College. The college is an anachronism that has defeated true democracy in America twice since the 2000 election of another unqualified Republican, George W. Bush. A constitutional amendment — which needs a two-thirds majority in Congress and then among the states — is required to get rid of it. That’s a non-starter in Congress.

Lies flow from his lips like water over a falls, and frankly he’s an embarrassment to the country.

Trump’s roughshod approach to government and diplomacy is an extraordinary display of ignorance that is causing irreversible harm throughout the world. He arrogantly eschews advice from competent advisers, insisting that his “genius” alone will decide the correct course for nearly 340 million Americans. In so doing, he has cozied up to murderous dictators in Russia and North Korea, abandoned our Kurd allies in Syria to face ethnic cleansing from neighboring Turks, and he has made a profitable business of being president. His entitled background apparently left him unaware of ethics. Just before taking office, he paid a $25 million fine to settle fraud charges against his now defunct Trump University; then regulators shut down Trump’s charitable foundation as a sham, and these only scratch the surface of his corrupt tactics before he took up residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. His behavior, utterances and Tweets since he took the oath to uphold the Constitution are those of a narcissistic sociopath who can’t distinguish between his personal interests and those of the nation. Lies flow from his lips like water over a falls, and he frankly is an embarrassment to the country. More importantly, his manner of governing and his personal alliances have made him a danger to America and the world.

The cover ups detailed in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election lay out ample grounds for Trump’s impeachment and removal from office, along with William Barr, the current attorney general, who misrepresented Mueller’s findings to the public and then delayed the report’s release for weeks. Barr continues to act as one of the president’s personal lawyers, rather than the attorney general of the United States. The president’s history of corruption and Mueller’s report shouldn’t be forgotten as the House advances impeachment articles based on Trump’s recent alleged attempt to withhold military aid to Ukraine until Ukraine’s president announced an investigation into Joe Biden, the frontrunner in the Democratic race to oppose Trump in 2020.

Speaker Pelosi had been reluctant to pursue impeachment, but she saw the alleged extortion of Ukraine’s president as a clear violation of boundaries set by the Constitution. She said she was left with no choice but to act, because she also took an oath to uphold the Constitution, and she has responded with aplomb to the president’s invective aimed at her. Yet she hasn’t brought up the fact that hundreds of thousands of Americans have given their lives in defense of the Constitution over the years, including more than 400,000 in World War Two and 90,000-plus in the Vietnam War. That’s a lot of sacrifice. Maybe it will resonate with voters better than talk about the Constitution itself, which is a rather dry document that has been debated ad infinitum since it became the underpinning of America’s government in 1789.

If acquitted by the Republican-controlled Senate, Trump and his minions will be shouting from the rooftops that he’s been cleared of all wrongdoing.

After the president’s expected impeachment in the House, the case would go to the Senate for trial — unless the House leadership decides not to refer it for now. That’s a strategy that makes sense if it appears the Republican majority in the Senate will stand firmly with Trump and acquit him. A speedy decision on removing the president also would play into what appears to be the current White House strategy, which if acquitted, would have Trump and his now diminishing minions shouting from the rooftops en route to the presidential election in November that he’d been cleared of all wrongdoing. Should that happen, and if Trump gets a second term, the damage to America’s democracy may be irreparable.

Conviction in the Senate requires a two-thirds majority, which seems unlikely today. This is a majority party which, under Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has been confirming Trump’s appointments of unqualified, right-wing judges to the federal bench nearly as fast as lies flow past the president’s lips.

Whereas House members must stand for reelection every two years, senators are elected for six. That’s a sinecure that’s easy to grow comfortable with, and few give it up willingly. Some Republicans, like McConnell and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who fervently opposed Trump’s 2016 candidacy when he appeared to be just a fly in the ointment, began to support him just as passionately after his surprise victory. They are afraid of losing the president’s support in their reelection campaigns and becoming the subject of his derisive Tweets.

House leaders seem to come up with new evidence of misfeasance by Trump and his gang weekly, and the speaker’s best strategy may be to let the line play out and see what bites while the Republicans sweat it out. Maybe some facing reelection will come to fear their constituents’ wrath more than Trump’s as evidence mounts and the election nears. If not, a better educated electorate might send him packing. If he squeaks through again, he could be impeached and tried in 2021.

Despite the upper hand that Trump Republicans have now in the Senate, don’t bet against Pelosi. The president doesn’t hold a candle to her, in intelligence, in courage, in patience or in compassion. His tantrums are the displays of a caricature. She displays character. The difference between the two is becoming increasingly clear as one scandal after another involving Trump is exposed. And we have yet to see his tax returns.

Retired editor and political/investigative reporter. Worked for AP, UPI, Cape Cod Times and Brandeis University.

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