But first, to get you in the mood . . . Conservative columnist and Republican David Brooks:
. . . First, [Trump] asked the party to swallow the idea of a narcissistic sexual harasser and a routine liar as its party leader. Then he asked the party to accept his comprehensive ignorance and his politics of racial division. Now he asks the party to give up its reputation for fiscal conservatism. At the same time he asks the party to become the party of Roy Moore, the party of bigotry, alleged sexual harassment and child assault.
There is no end to what Trump will ask of his party. He is defined by shamelessness, and so there is no bottom. And apparently there is no end to what regular Republicans are willing to give him. Trump may soon ask them to accept his firing of Robert Mueller, and yes, after some sighing, they will accept that, too.
That’s the way these corrupt bargains always work. You think you’re only giving your tormentor a little piece of yourself, but he keeps asking and asking, and before long he owns your entire soul.
The Republican Party is doing harm to every cause it purports to serve. If Republicans accept Roy Moore as a United States senator, they may, for a couple years, have one more vote for a justice or a tax cut, but they will have made their party loathsome for an entire generation. The pro-life cause will be forever associated with moral hypocrisy on an epic scale. The word “evangelical” is already being discredited for an entire generation. Young people and people of color look at the Trump-Moore G.O.P. and they are repulsed, maybe forever.
The GOP sold its soul a long time ago. Trump only revealed the black, evil monster that hid behind the doors. . . .
“What shall it profit a man,” Jesus asked, “if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his own soul?” The current Republican Party seems to not understand that question. Donald Trump seems to have made gaining the world at the cost of his soul his entire life’s motto. . . .
It’s amazing that there haven’t been more Republicans like Mitt Romney who have said: “Enough is enough! I can go no further!”
The reason, I guess, is that the rot that has brought us to the brink of Senator Roy Moore began long ago. Starting with Sarah Palin and the spread of Fox News, the G.O.P. traded an ethos of excellence for an ethos of hucksterism.
The Republican Party I grew up with admired excellence. It admired intellectual excellence (Milton Friedman, William F. Buckley), moral excellence (John Paul II, Natan Sharansky) and excellent leaders (James Baker, Jeane Kirkpatrick). Populism abandoned all that — and had to by its very nature. Excellence is hierarchical. Excellence requires work, time, experience and talent. Populism doesn’t believe in hierarchy. Populism doesn’t demand the effort required to understand the best that has been thought and said. Populism celebrates the quick slogan, the impulsive slash, the easy ignorant assertion. Populism is blind to mastery and embraces mediocrity.
Compare the tax cuts of the supply-side era with the tax cuts of today. There were three big cuts in the earlier era: the 1978 capital gains tax cut, the Kemp-Roth tax cut of 1981, and the 1986 tax reform. They were passed with bipartisan support, after a lengthy legislative process. All of them responded to the dominant problem of the moment, which was the stagflation and economic sclerosis. All rested on a body of serious intellectual work.
Liberals now associate supply-side economics with the Laffer Curve, but that was peripheral. Supply-side was based on Say’s Law, that supply creates its own demand. It was based on the idea that if you rearrange incentives for small entrepreneurs you are more likely to get start-ups and more innovation. Those cuts were embraced by Nobel Prize winners and represented an entire social vision, favoring the dispersed entrepreneurs over the concentrated corporate fat cats.
Today’s tax cuts have no bipartisan support. They have no intellectual grounding, no body of supporting evidence. They do not respond to the central crisis of our time. They have no vision of the common good, except that Republican donors should get more money and Democratic donors should have less.
The rot afflicting the G.O.P. is comprehensive — moral, intellectual, political and reputational. More and more former Republicans wake up every day and realize: “I’m homeless. I’m politically homeless.”
Now here is Ezra Klein making the case for impeachment in an interview with Chris Hayes. (“Impeachment seems like a big deal? Nuclear holocaust seems like a big deal!”) It stems from his recent piece in Vox.
Every Republican we know — it seems to me — should see Brooks’ column, above.
And every American we know — it again seems to me — should see Klein’s Vox piece, excerpted below.
Please share both widely.
The Case for Normalizing Impeachment
Impeaching an unfit president has consequences.But leaving one in office could be worse.
By Ezra Klein
Updated Dec 6, 2017, 3:29pm EST
. . . Republican Sen. Bob Corker, the widely respected chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, warned that the president was treating his office like “a reality show” and setting the country “on the path to World War III.” In an interview with the New York Times, he said of Trump, “I know for a fact that every single day at the White House, it’s a situation of trying to contain him.” These concerns, Corker told the Times, “were shared by nearly every Senate Republican.”
It’s not just Senate Republicans who worry over the president’s stability. Carl Bernstein, of Watergate fame, told CNN that his reporting found “a consensus developing in the military, at the highest levels in the intelligence community, among Republicans in Congress, including the leaders in the business community,” that Trump “is unfit to be the president of the United States.” A subsequent poll by the Military Times found only 30 percent of commissioned officers approved of the job Trump was doing.
The fear is shared by members of Trump’s own staff. Axios’s Mike Allen reported that a collection of top White House advisers see themselves as an informal “Committee to Save America,” and they measure their success “mostly in terms of bad decisions prevented, rather than accomplishments chalked up.” The Associated Press reported that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and then-Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly “agreed in the earliest weeks of Trump’s presidency that one of them should remain in the United States at all times to keep tabs on the orders rapidly emerging from the White House.” . . .
. . . We talk often about running the US government like a business, but businesses — at least public ones — have clear methods for deposing a disastrous executive. The president of the United States controls the world’s largest nuclear arsenal, not to mention the vast resources and powers of the federal government, and so the possible damage of letting the wrong person inhabit the Oval Office stretches all the way to global catastrophe. But is there anything we can do about it?
. . . Sometimes I imagine this era going catastrophically wrong — a nuclear exchange with North Korea, perhaps, or a genuine crisis in American democracy — and historians writing about it in the future. They will go back and read Trump’s tweets and his words and read what we were saying, and they will wonder what the hell was wrong with us. You knew, they’ll say. You knew everything you needed to know to stop this. And what will we say in response?
. . . What is clear is that high crimes and misdemeanors described far more than mere legal infractions. . . .
Asked, for instance, about a president who removed executive officials without good reason, James Madison replied that “the wanton removal of meritorious officers would subject him to impeachment and removal.” Capricious firings are not a crime, but they were, according to the founders, an impeachable offense.
“The grounds for impeachment can be extremely broad and need not involve a crime,” says political scientist Allan Lichtman, author of The Case for Impeachment. “That’s why they put impeachment not in the courts but in a political body. They could have put it in the Supreme Court, but they put it in the Senate.”
. . . “We’ve talked ourselves into believing impeachment is some kind of constitutional doomsday device: ‘Break glass in case of existential emergency,’” says Gene Healy, a vice president at the libertarian Cato Institute. “The result is we almost never break the glass.”
In its roughly 240 years of existence, America has had 45 presidents and three serious impeachment proceedings. None of them has led to the removal of a president, though Richard Nixon’s would have if he hadn’t resigned. “It’s very hard to say of 45 presidents in 240 years [that] never, or once if you count Nixon, is the right number of impeachments historically,” Healy continues. “It’s a much easier case to make that we’ve impeached far too infrequently.”
. . . It would have been simple enough to enumerate the offenses that could lead to impeachment, and some at the Constitutional Convention proposed doing so. Instead, “high crimes and misdemeanors” was the result — a recognition that flexibility would be needed and future generations would need a term they could define for themselves.
. . . It is time to reassess. Impeachment, in Donald Trump’s case, would lead to the elevation of Mike Pence — a Republican who is better liked by his party and who, to Democrats’ chagrin, would likely be much more effective at pushing a conservative legislative agenda. But it would mean less danger of an accidental war with North Korea, less daily degradation of democratic norms and civil discourse, an executive who has the attention span to follow briefings and the temperament to stay off Twitter when he’s angry, and the precedent that there is some minimal level of job performance that the American people and their political representatives are willing to demand of their president.
An objection to this is that it might lead to more common impeachment proceedings in the future. And indeed it might. Other developed countries operate on roughly that basis, with occasional no-confidence votes and snap elections being used to impose midterm accountability, and they get along just fine.
Impeachment under the American political system requires a majority in the House of Representatives and a two-thirds majority in the Senate; it is not easy to use and, as Republicans learned in the aftermath of their attempt to impeach Clinton, can backfire on those who use attempt it frivolously. It seems unlikely that America is at risk of regular or trivial impeachments even as it seems quite likely that the holders of an office as powerful as the American presidency might be well served to believe that impeachment is a real possibility if they perform their duties unacceptably poorly.
A lesson of Trump’s presidency, thus far, is that we have come to see the impeachment power as too sacrosanct, as too limited. While I was writing this piece, Trump embarked on a diplomatic trip to Asia. While there, he sent [a tweet about Kim Jong Un being short and fat].
There are plenty of people who simply should not be president of a nuclear hyperpower, and Trump is one of them. This is a truth known by his staff, known by Republicans in Congress, and known by most of the country.That so few feel able to even suggest doing the obvious thing and replacing him with another Republican who is better suited to the single most important job in the world is bizarre. (It is a particular irony in this case, given that Trump’s entire public persona is based on the idea that well-run organizations need to swiftly and ruthlessly fire poor performers.)
We have grown too afraid of the consequences of impeachment and too complacent about the consequences of leaving an unfit president in office. If the worst happens, and Trump’s presidency results in calamity, we will have no excuse to make, no answer to give. This is an emergency. We should break the glass.
But even if we muddle through Trump’s presidency, it should be a reminder that the presidential elections are as fallible a method of selecting an executive as any other. American government is built so that a president can be removed and a duly elected co-partisan is always present to step in and take his place. Impeachment is not a power we should take lightly; nor is it one we should treat as too explosive to use. There will be presidents who are neither criminals nor mental incompetents but who are wrong for the role, who pose a danger to the country and the world.
It is a principle that sounds radical until you say it, at which point it sounds obvious: Being extremely bad at the job of president of the United States should be enough to get you fired.
I refer you again to “my fantasy” Supreme Court ruling (once a case were brought), which — however unlikely — would be even better than impeachment. Putin attacked us and won. The Court, if asked to rule, has what seems to me a perfectly reasonable way forward.
Quote of the Day
Probably the greatest harm done by vast wealth is the harm that we of moderate means do ourselves when we let the vices of envy and hatred enter deep into our own natures.~Teddy Roosevelt, 1902
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