Saturday, December 29, 2018


In a opinion piece published early December, Mark Penn urged congressional Democrats to forget impeachment and turn instead to censure:
... come January, the Democrats in the House will have a choice. They can accept the Mueller report and move on. Or, they can hold endless hearings all over again run by Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., who is expected to chair the House Judiciary Committee, and then vote to impeach the president or censure him for the actions described in the Mueller report.

The smartest move Democrats could make would likely be to approve some kind of censure motion against President Trump after a few hearings and then say the American people will decide in the 2020 election who should be president for another four years.

But the pressure from the Democratic base to impeach Trump will be enormous. So House Democrats are more likely to go down the impeachment road that – without significant Republican support – will come off as partisan overreach.
The polling firm Penn runs -- the Harris Poll -- just asked Americans what they think of censure as an alternative punishment for President Trump. They're not interested.
Nearly 60 percent of U.S. voters surveyed say President Trump should be either impeached and removed from office or formally censured, according to a new Harvard CAPS/Harris poll released exclusively to The Hill....

Asked whether Trump should be impeached and removed from office for his actions, censured by Congress or whether Congress should take no action, 39 percent of respondents said Trump should be impeached and removed from office....

Twenty percent of poll respondents said lawmakers should vote to formally censure the president.

Forty-one percent of respondents said Congress should take no action against the president, according to the survey of 1,473 registered voters.
About one in five Americans support censure, but far larger groups of Americans believe that Trump deserves either removal from office or no punishment at all. The country feels as if it's divided between the latter two groups, and this poll confirms that perception.

Public opinion was very different in 1998. Back then, on the eve of a House impeachment vote, Americans wanted censure.
Americans favor censure over impeachment as the House Judiciary Committee prepares to debate four proposed articles of impeachment against President Bill Clinton, a new CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll showed Wednesday.

The survey, conducted between 6 and 9 p.m. ET after the House Judiciary Committee finished hearing Clinton's defense, showed 61 percent of the public opposed to impeachment, while 55 percent said they were in favor of censure.
You'll recall that MoveOn was formed specifically to encourage censure of President Clinton as an alternative to both impeachment and no rebuke at all. Many liberals agreed with conservatives that Clinton had done something wrong, but not something so terrible that he deserved to be removed from office. Swing voters generally agreed with those liberals. Now the right believes that Trump is essentially blameless.

But I think we'll hear a lot of talk about censure as we learn more about Trump and his circle from Robert Mueller and House committees. If the revelations are troubling and impeachment seems inevitable, centrists will try to suggest that impeachment is radical and divisive.

Censure, of course, doesn't preclude impeachment. We could have censured the president for his bigoted remarks in the wake of Charlottesville, for instance -- Jonathan Alter recommended that and a House resolution was introduced, though it of course went nowhere. Alter also recommended censure in response to Trump's "craven performance opposite Vladimir Putin in Helsinki," but that never happened either.

I don't believe we'll ever get twenty Senate Republicans to vote to convict after an impeachment, though I suppose it's possible. I even have my doubts that four Senate Republicans would vote to censure Trump, no matter what we learn about him. (Censure would require only a simple majority in both houses.)

In any case, we'll be talking about censure more in the next year or so. It's not enough. But it will be discussed as if it's the reasonable response.

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