- Jul 2007
- So. Md.
Jonathan Alter is no uber liberal and is part of what Heather Parton refers as "the village". The journalists who were so cowed by the right insisting that all the media has a liberal bias besides Fox News that they bend over backwards to do bothsiderism in their reporting even when there is no comparison between the right and the left on particular issues. Anyway, he makes a persuasive argument that I hadn't heard before.
What’s holding them back is a faulty analysis of the politics of impeachment. They’re still caught in the grips of myopic conventional wisdom about the way the whole thing would actually play out in a trial in the Senate.
Recall that in the July 31 debate, Sen. Michael Bennet repeated the familiar argument that the Senate will not remove Trump from office. If the House impeaches him, Bennet said, Trump “would be running saying that he had been acquitted by the United States Congress.”
Julian Castro shot back: “If they don’t impeach him, he’s going to say, ‘You see? You see? The Democrats didn’t go after me on impeachment, and you know why? Because I didn’t do anything wrong.’”
Conversely, Castro continued, if the House impeaches Trump, the public would conclude that “his friend, Mitch McConnell, Moscow Mitch, let him off the hook.”
Castro’s argument was so persuasive that Bennet did something you never, ever see in a debate—he changed his mind on stage: “I don’t disagree with that. You just said it better than I did. We have to walk and chew gum at the same time.”
Yes, Democrats Should Impeach Trump—and Make Mitch McConnell Defend His AcquittalWalking and chewing gum at the same time—a useful cliché—usually means in this context legislating and investigating Trump simultaneously. But it could also mean something else: attacking Trump and McConnell at the same time. It may be that a winning Democratic impeachment strategy is coming into view, one that simultaneously upholds the rule of law and yields political dividends.
I call it “Stain and Blame”—stain Trump by impeaching him, and blame McConnell when he is acquitted in the Senate.
But Clinton’s impeachment, while unpopular at the time, was nonetheless a humiliating blow. The next election after the whole process was completed was not the 1998 midterms—won by Democrats before Senate acquittal—but the 2000 presidential election, which George W. Bush (barely) won over Clinton’s vice-president, Al Gore, in part by promising to “restore honor and dignity to the Oval Office.” The argument worked, even though Clinton wasn’t on the ballot. In 2020, after impeaching Trump, it would work much better. Without impeaching him, it has no sting.