Letting History Repeat Itself
Democrats were elected to a majority in the House of Representatives in 2018 largely based on two important promises. First and foremost, they would protect American’s healthcare and oppose and kill the Republican efforts to repeal the ACA and gut Medicaid. Second, they would be a check on a rogue President and administration and hold him and it to account. Fulfilling the first promise has never been in serious doubt. On the second, Democrats have managed to get their knickers in a twist trying to figure out whether to call their investigations part of an impeachment inquiry and whether such an inquiry will strengthen their case with the courts for getting documents and testimony or will simply distract from their efforts to win the Presidency and hold the House in 2020.
While the focus is naturally on the results of the Mueller report, what’s distressing is the lack of urgency or even movement in exposing the other areas of corruption and criminality within the Trump administration that Mueller was never tasked to look at. Where, for example, are the hearings about the national security breaches and influence peddling that occur at Mar-a-Lago and Trump’s other regularly visited properties? Where are the hearings on the costs of security for those visits that go directly into the Trump Organization’s bank account? Where are the hearings on the corresponding Emoluments Clause violations? Where are the hearings on the almost too numerous to count incidents of Trump cabinet officials lining their own pockets and those of their family with excessive and luxury travel, using government workers for personal services, and exploiting their position to get jobs for their family or to benefit companies in which they have an interest? Where are the hearings on FEMA’s failures in Puerto Rico in particular, but also in Texas and Florida, and whether the agency is not only doing enough right now but also adequately prepared to address the catastrophic floods in the Midwest? I know that immigration may not be some Democrats favorite topic, but, for the love of God, where are the hearings on child deaths and kidnappings and the continual violations of the law by CBP and ICE on the southern border?
I could go on, but you get the point. All these investigation should have been teed up and ready to go when the Democrats took over the House in January and certainly by the time the government re-opened in February. The fact that even these hearings seem to have been slow-walked and barely gotten off the ground indicates not so much incompetence but some kind of strategic decision. Assuming that is so, we really will not know whether that strategy was effective or correct until 2020. I happen to believe that the strategy is badly misplaced, but only time will tell.
What I do know is that, even if that strategy is successful, we will end up repeating the same mistakes made after both of the Bush presidencies where serious criminality by the President and his senior advisors gets relegated to simple bygones because the country needs to move on. G.H.W. Bush managed to kill the investigation into his and some of his top advisers involvement in the Iran-Contra scandal with pardons for six of those involved (on the advice of Bill Barr) just days before Clinton’s inauguration. That investigation was never pursued any further by the Clinton administration which was more focused on reviving the US economy. Similarly, the arguable war crimes committed under the George W. Bush administration went virtually unpunished as Obama was again focused on saving the US economy from the Great Recession and uninterested in relitigating the Iraq war. It’s quite possible that a Democratic president may find themselves in a similar situation if they take the oath of office in 2021, with a failing economy and under significant pressure to try and bring the country together after the divisive Trump presidency, especially since they will have presumably won election with a forward-looking agenda.
Those who do not learn from their mistakes are condemned to repeat them. Until we hold our presidents to account, they will continue to abuse the law and our Constitution with ever-increasing impunity. In avoiding holding them to account, we continue to degrade the rule of law and equality under it, and further endanger our democracy. It may turn out to be a smart electoral decision not to hold Trump to account now and a Democrat does win the presidency in 2020. But we should recognize that Democrats will once again be setting the stage to let history repeat itself.