| Cape Cod Times
The second impeachment trial of President Trump is over.
He was not so much found innocent as he was not convicted. A majority of 57 out of 100 Senate members voted guilty, but a two-thirds supermajority was needed to convict him. It was analogous to a murder trial, where a single holdout can produce a hung jury and the accused is not convicted. That doesn’t find them innocent or guilty, just not proven. Hardly a ringing endorsement.
But a conviction was always intended to be difficult. Our impeachment system antedates the popular vote, the franchise for slaves and women, etc. It was always intended to remove a political official by political officials, and with a supermajority that would encompass all political persuasions. It was not meant to be as easy as a roll call. The longstanding argument against recall and term limits is true – voters can replace an official every two, four, six years. Impeachment was designed to be an exceptional last resort.
In addressing the charges of incitement, there was an effort to say that all the kids do it, with video from our own Senator Elizabeth Warren, and that fighting the steal wasn’t meant to produce riots and death. And that is quite true. Our political class is addicted to the rhetoric of fighting and battle. They do not work to do things any more, they fight for things instead. Perhaps it feels less like failure that way when nothing is accomplished. Some representatives routinely make statements defending burning, looting, etc., as an honorable part of that struggle, even if it is a little hard on the convenience store owner who loses their business. But pointing a finger at somebody else doesn’t excuse your own failure to act.
And this was more than a smash and grab in a liquor store. These violent individuals were hunting for different leaders, including the Vice President, in order to punish him for obeying the law by counting the certified votes. People protecting him and the Capitol were injured and killed. Trump refused to tell them to stand down, and it cost human life. In my opinion, he panicked. He was torn between holding on to his snarky image as a crusader against Them for His People, or telling His People that they needed to stop breaking window and doors, which looked weak. Even though he famously bragged that he could shoot somebody in the middle of Fifth Avenue and get away with it, so loyal were his fans, I do not think he ever envisioned that his bombast would be taken so seriously that people wanted to do physical harm to those he pointed our as his enemies. And when it happened, he froze. He did not tell them to cease and desist, perhaps afraid they wouldn’t listen and he would lose his status as political oracle.
And that status is all he’s got. Had he not run for reelection, he would be remembered for his historic diplomatic accomplishments and peace treaties. He was the only president to ever reach agreements with North Korea, and to meet with the North and South Korean leaders in the Demilitarized Zone. He was able to move our embassy to Jerusalem, and broker agreements with Middle Eastern leaders ending with Arab and Israeli officials celebrating Hanukkah together this past year. He spoke up for American interests and demanded that Europe pay its agreed upon share of NATO expenses, and work on its arrears, and stop treating the U.S. as an American Express card. He saw the highest jump in the stock market, the lowest black unemployment numbers since statistics began to measure them, and the largest and most widespread tax cuts jump starting a stalled economy.
Instead, he will be remembered as the only Federal official to ever be impeached twice.
The Russia impeachment was a farce. It died the day the Mueller report came out announcing that the investigation showed insufficient evidence of collusion or crime. The zombie process continued and the bid to convict failed. The visceral hatred Trump inspired in political and progressive circles was only further proof to some that he could do no wrong. But it is dangerous to start to believe your own press releases.
Trump was addicted to the rush of campaigning and the admiration at rallies. The boring minutiae of incomprehensible bureaucratic regulations encrusting executive duties was the painful part of the job he signed up for. But the lure of tweeting and the adulation of the disaffected was powerful. There are good and sincere people who support President Trump for all the reasons and accomplishments noted above. But there are darker and violent admirers too, and the failure to repudiate them, or at least make it clear that violence was not wanted or appropriate, was a lack of leadership that cost lives.
Another president resigned rather than suffer the shame of being impeached at all. This president wears his impeachments proudly on his shoulders like epaulets. And that trial is just beginning.
Cynthia Stead can be contacted at email@example.com.