Apparently, Only Democrats Can Be Asked To Act For Good Of Country
The release of the redacted Mueller report with its conclusions of probably criminal obstruction of justice by the President and significant and wide-ranging evidence of the Trump campaign’s collusion with the Russians which Mueller determined may not have been provably criminal, often because of the obstruction of Trump and his associates, has put the spotlight on Democrats over whether to head down the road of impeachment or focus on removing Trump at the ballot box in 2020.
It is a remarkable testament to the myopia of the media that this is presented as an almost binary choice, impeachment or nothing. The fact of the matter is that House Democrats will continue to investigate the corruption and criminality in the Trump administration whether there is impeachment or not. And the House has other options that can move the country toward impeachment without actually starting impeachment hearings which include putting together a Watergate-style select committee that takes witness testimony continuously over a 2-3 week period.
What is more remarkable is that the conundrum over impeachment is solely focused on Democrats. Anyone reading the redacted Mueller report with any semblance of an open mind recognizes that the President has engaged in behavior that potentially qualifies as high crimes and misdemeanors under our Constitution. Beyond the redacted Mueller report’s litany of efforts at obstruction and clear collusion and coordination with the Russian efforts to help him get elected, Trump is also an unindicted co-conspirator in criminal campaign violations and conspiracy to again help him get elected.
J.W.Verret, a professor at the Scalia Law School, former Republican Congressional staffer, and self-avowed lifelong Republican, wrote today, “Finished a second read through the Mueller Report. I don’t say this lightly, as a life long Republican, former R Hill staffer, and someone who has worked on every R campaign and pre-transition team for the last ten years. There is enough here to begin impeachment proceedings”.
As they have from before the 2016 election, Republicans in Congress are steadfast in their support for Trump, despite whatever concern they convey in their platitudes. Mitt Romney nearly split his pants in two in covering both sides of the fence, writing, “I am sickened at the extent and pervasiveness of dishonesty and misdirection by individuals in the highest office of the land, including the President. I am also appalled that, among other things, fellow citizens working in a campaign for president welcomed help from Russia — including information that had been illegally obtained; that none of them acted to inform American law enforcement; and that the campaign chairman was actively promoting Russian interests in Ukraine”. Yet, in classic GOP fashion, that sickened feeling just led him to conclude it was time to move on, saying, “good news that there was insufficient evidence to charge the President of the United States with having conspired with a foreign adversary or with having obstructed justice. The business of government can move on”. Of course, Mueller said almost exactly the opposite about obstruction. But even Romney’s empty concern unleashed a furious attack from Trump and his lap dog Giuliani who threw up a libelous accusation about Romney’s 2012 campaign.
But Romney, like all of the GOP colleagues, will never face relentless questions from the press about why the redacted Mueller report does not require impeachment. Like Romney, they can continue to mischaracterize what the report says and the conclusions it reaches and not be challenged by the media. Giuliani can absurdly and dangerously assert that “There’s nothing wrong with taking information from Russians” and Congressional Republicans will be able to successfully dodge defending the comment.
This is how politics works these days but, more importantly, it is possible only because the media accepts it as a given that Republicans will never act in good faith. The Republican party has no agency to do the right thing, only be slavishly controlled by their base, which consists of cultural warrior nativists or plutocrats, depending on the issue. Only the Democrats have the ability to buck their base and do the right thing for the country. On Meet The Press this week, one commentator noted that many Democratic voters are demanding Democratic legislators perform their constitutional duty. There is virtually no cry from the media or others for Republican legislators to perform theirs. Mitch McConnell destroyed that notion years ago.
As I wrote last summer, for the last forty years, Democrats have always been the ones forced to “use their political capital to clean up the mess that Republicans have made”. And here we are again. This time, Democrats are being asked to use their political capital and shift focus from the 2020 election in order to defend the core of our democracy, namely that the President is not above the law, with no help from the GOP. And, if a Democrat does win the 2020 election, I can guarantee that the media and GOP narrative will be that it’s “time to move on for the sake of country”, just as Romney has done with the redacted Mueller report, and once again give the GOP a free pass for their behavior.
Norm Ornstein and Thomas Mann saw all this back in 2012 and 2013, writing that the Republican Party “has become, in its legislative incarnation especially, a radical insurgent, dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition”. Today, that party is apparently fine with a President ordering the investigation of his political opponents without any evidence of a crime. From the comments of Trump, Barr, Giuliani, Jordan, and Graham, it seems pretty clear that such an investigation is coming. Today, that party is apparently fine with a campaign actively receiving assistance and opposition research from a foreign government and building its campaign strategy around that assistance. Today, that party is apparently fine with the President trying to, and in some ways, successfully obstructing any investigation in which he is involved. And that party is never pressed as to why these actions are apparently fine when they are self-evidently not.
At some point, the mainstream media is going to have to try and force some accountability from Republican legislators even if their voters won’t. At some point, the mainstream media is going to have to choose between stenographically regurgitating and amplifying the words of serially liars like Trump himself, Bill Barr, and Sarah Sanders, all of whom already have a substantial platform though right wing propaganda outfits like Fox, Sinclair, and talk radio, and challenging them on every act and statement. At some point, the mainstream media is going to have to give up both-siderism and present the objective reality of the radical nature of the Republican party. At some point, the mainstream media is going to have to stop asking the Democratic party to continually save our democracy and instead perform the Fourth Estate’s constitutional duty of holding the government accountable before that job becomes irrelevant.
Here’s a first baby step to help them on their way. Ask Mitch McConnell, in light of the fact that Mueller reports that the Russian interference was far more wide ranging, “sweeping and systematic” than originally thought, whether he regrets refusing to join a proposed bipartisan statement condemning that interference in October, 2016. I don’t think any reporter has ever pressed McConnell on that October decision and gotten a satisfactory answer. Which is at least a significant part of the reason why we are where we are today.