Wednesday, December 18, 2019


I disagree with Jonathan Chait's interpretation of a passage from President Trump's deranged letter to Nancy Pelosi.
... he portrays impeachment as constitutionally illegitimate. By this, Trump doesn’t mean simply that his actions do not rise to an impeachable offense, or even that the accusations are completely meritless. He repeatedly denies that the House has any constitutional right to undertake impeachment at all.

“This impeachment represents an unprecedented and unconstitutional abuse of power by Democrat Lawmakers, unequaled in nearly two and a half centuries of American legislative history,” he insists. “By proceeding with your invalid impeachment, you are violating your oaths of office, you are breaking your allegiance to the Constitution, and you are declaring open war on American Democracy ... it is no more legitimate than the Executive Branch charging members of Congress with crimes for the lawful exercise of legislative power.”

Of course the Constitution gives the House of Representatives the power to determine what presidential acts constitute impeachable offenses. Trump seems to believe that he as president has the power to determine whether a president’s actions are impeachable.

... Trump openly denies the Congress’s constitutional prerogative....
But Trump isn't really making an abstract argument about Congress's power to impeach. This isn't an overarching theory about what the Framers intended.

What Trump is arguing -- although he's not explicit about this -- is that he can't be lawfully impeached because he's Donald Trump. By definition, everything he does is perfect. It wasn't just the call -- Trump's presidency has included no misdeeds, no mistakes, no flaws. That's true of Trump's entire life! Ask him!

Trump's rampant egotism fits nicely into the long-standing right-wing view that all morality inheres in conservatism. Richard Nixon said, "when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal." The conservative version of that is: When a conservative in good standing does it, it cannot be morally or legally questioned. If you're in sync with whatever Fox News and talk radio define as conservatism at a given moment, you can take bribes, cheat on your wife with prostitutes, betray your country, or otherwise engage in crime, immorality, and maladministration, and it's totally cool. But if someone other than a conservative in good standing does drugs or has an affair, or signs off on a warrant against a True Conservative that contains a few errors, then an earth-shattering moral wrong has been committed and all good people must denounce the outrage with one voice.

In a way, it's a collective narcissism. That's why Trump feels so at home in the GOP. He loves himself, believes himself to be above reproach, and thinks everyone who gets in his way is evil. Conservatives have felt the same way about their movement and its opponents for decades.

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