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The Impeachment Blues

Summary:
Most American presidents have honored their constitutional duty to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” Donald Trump, however, views his role differently, and for that reason is in the greatest trouble of his presidency so far. WASHINGTON, DC – The most dismaying thing about the impeachment proceedings against US President Donald Trump is that they are falling so short of the constitutional gravamen of the issue. True, some Democrats in the House of Representatives, particularly Adam Schiff of California, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, do appear to understand the seriousness of the question before them. But most Republicans – egged on by Trump, who often complains that they are not

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Most American presidents have honored their constitutional duty to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” Donald Trump, however, views his role differently, and for that reason is in the greatest trouble of his presidency so far.

WASHINGTON, DC – The most dismaying thing about the impeachment proceedings against US President Donald Trump is that they are falling so short of the constitutional gravamen of the issue. True, some Democrats in the House of Representatives, particularly Adam Schiff of California, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, do appear to understand the seriousness of the question before them. But most Republicans – egged on by Trump, who often complains that they are not doing enough for him – are on a search-and-destroy mission. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who had long been reluctant to proceed with impeachment, lost control of her caucus over the issue this summer and has ended up where she feared: in a bitter partisan fight.

At the risk of setting an unfortunate precedent by allowing Trump’s numerous other abuses of power to go unpunished, Pelosi has narrowed the impeachment inquiry to presidential activity for which there is adequate proof, and that she and her Democratic allies think the American public can easily understand. That means Trump and his allies have a very limited target to shoot at.

The inquiry is thus focused on the fact that Trump withheld $391 million in congressionally mandated military aid to Ukraine and held out the prospect of a White House meeting greatly desired by that country’s new president, Volodymyr Zelensky, while he and his accomplices pressed for political favors to help in the 2020 US election. In particular, they wanted Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter, who unwisely accepted a lucrative seat on the board of a Ukrainian gas company at a time when his father was in charge of Ukraine policy. (Both Bidens have denied wrongdoing and, thus far, none has been found.)

Although Democrats of course have strong feelings about Trump, they have lately tried to adopt a solemn tone. When...

Elizabeth Drew
Contributor to New Republic, Daily Beast, Project Syndicate, Nation (book reviews). Fifteen books, including reissue of Washington Journal, Nixon & Watergate.

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