Saturday, September 28, 2019

Race for the White House 2020 # 39

It has been a tumultuous week in politics adding a new wrinkle along the Road to the White House, that is likely to occupy headlines for several more months.

It now appears, at long last, that Donald J. Trump will become the third President of the United States to ever be impeached. However, he will be the first one to be so in the midst of a reelection campaign. At this point in time, the expectation is that there are not enough votes in the Senate to remove Trump from office or any other sort of votes to remove Trump from atop the Republican ticket. What will be the impact on a general election though? Some Republicans gleefully claim that impeachment will hurt the Democrats and help Trump. The White House is said to be wanting very much to avoid this process. Even many Democrats are spooked that an impeachment process, where a conviction looks far from likely, will help Trump.

Personally, I think this is nothing but bad news for Trump. Democrats may have other problems both as a party and in terms of weaknesses for whomever emerges as their nominee, but I cannot imagine that they cannot use the facts of this case to their advantage, especially if Trump "gets away with it." If the American people determine that Trump acted properly in regards to his desire to influence Ukraine to find political dirt on Joe Biden and his son Hunter, and that the critics of Trump overreached, then we have fundamental problems as a civilization that go far beyond the Oval Office.

I summarized this controversy in my entry last week. There are still unanswered questions that fairness demands get addressed. However, based on what we do know, including from the somewhat overconfident way the White House did agree to release a summary of a phone call (that read as a transcript) as well as well as the "whistleblower" complaint, it is all pretty bad news for Trump and evidence of illegal activities that certainly rise to the level of impeachment for all who actually care about the Constitution.

Was there a direct quid pro quo to withhold money from Ukraine unless the government there went after the Bidens? Maybe not directly, based on what was released, but certainly an implied one. We do not know what exactly happened in discussions previous to this much talked about phone call between Trump and Ukraine's newly elected President. We do know that after the phone call, an effort was made to try to "lock down" what had happened. Now, as this is public, Trump is going after the "whistleblower" as being a spy and making allusions to treason. Of course others in the public sphere, including GOP Presidential challenger Bill Weld are using the T word as well and saying that Trump committed an act for which the prescribed remedy is the death penalty.

That will not happen and Trump is not likely to go to prison, (at least for this offense) but the dam broke in the U.S. House in favor of impeachment and Speaker Nancy Pelosi was no longer able to keep this matter on the backburner. A former inquest is under way and fairly soon there will likely be Articles of Impeachment introduced. At this point, there are enough House Democrat votes (plus Independent Justin Amash of Michigan) to make certain that Trump is impeached. Then, a trial would have to occur within the Republican controlled upper chamber.

Sixty seven votes are needed to convict. Jurors are supposed to be impartial but of course they are also politicians. Nearly every Democrat Senator would vote to impeach, but perhaps not exactly all due to political realities in their states. Right now, many Republican Senators are already declaring the accusation and evidence to be a "nothingburger" and with the exception of Utah's Mitt Romney and perhaps a couple others, all Republican Senators would be expected to vote Not Guilty. This is despite the generally agreed upon comment that if it were a secret ballot to remove Trump, most Republican Senators would vote in the affirmative. It will of course not be a secret ballot though, nor should it be. Of course, this will all depend on public opinion. If by the time of the trial, polling indicates that most Americans have turned strongly against Trump and want him out of office, the votes to remove him in the Senate will be there, perhaps with a sigh of relief from the Republican politicians who want an excuse and the cover to toss Trump overboard.

At this point, all Democrat and Republican challengers of Trump are for impeachment (including now Tulsi Gabbard of Hawai'i who has sometimes had her loyalties questioned.) The early polls show division on the matter but definitely energy moving towards the pro-impeachment side. Needless to say, more Democrat voters support impeachment than  Republican voters, but some of these polls are showing increase in supporting impeachment occurring at the same level for both.

Yes, this will greatly divide America. There will be arguments within families this Holiday season over impeachment. Nonetheless, I think Democrats have been given a political goldmine by Trump's hubris and if they cannot effectively make this case to the American people, then they really have huge, huge problems.

To me, this is simple. The law is the law and nobody is above it. If Trump had evidence that Joe Biden or his son had done anything illegal, then he should have gone to the FBI, which of course is part of his own Executive Branch. He was not to try to collude with Ukraine secretly to help him win reelection and to use the auspices of his office to get Ukraine to cooperate and to have them deal primarily with his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, who has no formal role in the American government.

We spent nearly two years trying to determine if Trump, as a private citizen, colluded with Russia to try to win in 2016. The official finding was that he had not, perhaps just as a technicality, and perhaps not for lack of effort. He should have learned his lesson as the Mueller Report was far more damaging than initially admitted. Still though, Trump continued to act like a mafioso and tried to get Ukraine (which of course is threatened by Russia) to play ball in order to help him win in 2020. Congress has no choice but to impeach, regardless of the eventual outcome. If Trump were able to act this way without any potential consequence, who knows what he might do next, or what a future President might attempt?

Can these developments help the Biden campaign? Joe Biden is of course very much a part of this story and he has in the past received much bipartisan sympathy for the challenges his family has faced. In theory, he could use this to his advantage as a "victim" and get Democrat votes that way to increase his standing (though becoming more shaky) as the front-runner. However, the more this story is in the news, it might also pose political risks for Biden. While by all indications the late Beau Biden was a patriot and dedicated public servant, there have been for years talk about the other Biden children, Hunter and Ashley, and how lucky they have been to have a famous and influential father in order to keep them out of trouble. Whatever Hunter Biden was up to in Ukraine, it does not look good and it is hard for Joe Biden to thus spin this as effectively to his advantage. Some are joking that this whole story is a well thought out "plan" from Elizabeth Warren to fatally damage two Presidential rivals.

The campaign will continue to play out and so will the impeachment saga. Twists and turns can be expected in both. Before the American people have their final say, 435 House members and then eventually 100 U.S. Senators will have theirs. The burden of history is upon them and generations yet to be born will remember how they act.


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