Saturday, October 05, 2019


The president of the United States is a Republican who's a pathological narcissist; curiously, the last time impeachment was taken up by Congress, the leader of the Republicans, who were the ones doing the impeaching, was also a pathological narcissist. Republicans believe they have a monopoly on truth, wisdom, morality, and patriotism, so narcissism suits the party's culture. I wish liberalism didn't have quite as firm a purchase on whatever you'd call narcissism's polar opposite.

Here's liberal pundit Jonathan Bernstein with a message for Democrats: Before you start impeachment, you should engage in some serious and very public self-abnegation:
Oust Pelosi From the Presidential Succession Line

Democrats should make it legally impossible for impeachment to deliver them the White House.

The top order of business when the House of Representatives returns from recess on Oct. 15 is certain to be the impeachment inquiry into the conduct of President Donald Trump. Here’s something the lawmakers should take care of first: changing the presidential line of succession to remove the speaker of the House and the president pro tempore of the Senate.

The U.S. Constitution specifies that the vice president takes over if a president leaves office. After that, presidential succession is up to Congress, which has changed the procedure several times throughout U.S. history. There are two strong reasons to change the law again now: It’s the best way for the Democrats to handle impeachment, and it’s best for the nation, anyway.

With Trump claiming that the constitutional process of impeachment amounts to a “coup,” it’s a good idea for Democrats to make it as clear as possible that they have no intention of overturning the 2016 election by installing a Democrat in the White House. That’s important because Speaker Nancy Pelosi is second in line to replace Trump under current law, behind Vice President Mike Pence.
Really? This is the first thing Democrats should do after the recess?

Bernstein offers a good-government reason why members of Congress shouldn't be in the line of succession at all.
It’s always been a mistake to insert members of Congress into the presidential line of succession; it’s contrary to the entire structure of the constitutional system, which separates legislative from executive institutions and forces them to share powers.
And maybe he's right, in the abstract. But while there's nothing wrong with painting your house, the time to do it isn't when the house is on fire, there's an infestation of termites, and a plane has fallen out of the sky and crashed through the roof. That's where we are in America right now. Our house is under assault in multiple ways. It's really not time to be thinking about new drapes.

Bernstein also believes that this move might persuade reluctant Republicans to agree on the removal of Donald Trump and Mike Pence from power.
A Republican wouldn’t have to be paranoid to imagine the Democrats trying to maneuver past Pence, especially now that Pence’s name has come up as a possible character in the drama at the heart of the impeachment inquiry.... As long as Pelosi remains in the line of succession and control of the White House is even potentially at stake, Republicans will have an incentive to fight back against a legitimate investigation of Pence’s potential role in the Ukraine scandal.
I love that bit about "otherwise open-minded Republicans." Where are these strange creatures? I've never seen one in the wild, or anywhere else. Right now there's one (1) Republican in Congress, Representative Mark Amodei of Nevada, who's expressed support for an inquiry into Trump's wrongdoing. As soon as it was reported that Amodei backed an impeachment inquiry, he walked his remarks back, insisting that he wanted some vague, undefined sort of investigation, but -- heavens to Betsy! -- not an impeachment inquiry. (Justin Amash of Michigan supports impeachment, but he's no longer a Republican.)

It's a huge undertaking to impeach a president, and we're nowhere close to the point where the process might result in conviction and removal from office. Bernstein is arguing that 20 or more Senate Republicans might be found who'll say, "Sure, impeach and remove my party's president and my party's vice president -- I'm cool with that. But Nancy Pelosi running the country in caretaker mode for a year? That's a bridge too far."

Ultimately, what Bernstein is recommending is classic liberal forelock-tugging: Let's sacrifice the power we've acquired because then Republicans won't be mean to us!
... even a little uncertainty about that outcome might be enough to push otherwise open-minded Republicans away from voting for impeachment or conviction. Removing Pelosi and the third-in-line official, Senate President Pro Tem Charles Grassley, from having any chance of becoming president would be a worthwhile gesture for Democrats to make, indicating that they accept the reality that a Republican will be president until January, 2021, no matter what happens.
Republicans use every bit of power they have. Twice in the past two decades they've placed a candidate in the White House who didn't win the popular vote. Did either of those Republicans cede power? Not at all -- no "governing from the center," no nothing. Four of the nine justices on the Supreme Court were appointed by these two Republicans, and if Trump is reelected, that number will rise to a majority of the High Court. So in the unlikely event that Democrats are in a position to force both the president and the vice president from office -- if the public regards both as clearly guilty of high crimes, and Republicans feel that their immediate electoral prospects are doomed unless they acknowledge the criminality of the two men -- why shouldn't Democrats grab whatever power is in reach? Why should we be chumps?

Oh, sorry, I forgot -- Republicans are supposed to take their own side in an argument. Democrats aren't. Silly me -- I should have known that.

No comments: