The Democrats’ Disingenuous Impeachment Plans

According to Politico, after Robert Mueller’s testimony in two televised hearings, 37% of Americans still wanted impeachment proceedings to begin, while 46% still wanted the inquiry to stop and their legislators to refocus on the critical issues of the day: immigration, crime, health care, drug addiction, cyberterrorism and global trade.  Still, Committee Chairmen Jerry Nadler and Adam Schiff were undeterred.  They insisted that Mueller’s halting testimony was a triumph of substance over style but assured us that they’ll have something even better -- a real game-changer -- if we can just hold on until after their six-week vacation is over.

It’s the televised testimony of former White House Counsel Don McGahn -- the John Dean of the Mueller Report -- if he shows up, that is.  If he doesn’t, maybe James Earl Jones could read the unredacted grand jury material in a sweater in a lodge in front of a glowing fireplace.  And don’t forget the Fawn Hall of the Mueller Report -- the lovely Hope Hicks -- who might be able to finally get the eyeballs that the Democrats so desperately need to advance their case with the American people.

Okay, enough.

At this point, the Democrats’ duplicitous strategy for impeachment is failing. No one but a few prosecutors, pundits and professors have actually read the Mueller Report, and they know that, without hard “smoking gun” evidence, Trump’s alleged obstruction will come down to a “he said, he said,” which may not even be sufficient to generate articles of impeachment in the House.

Democrats also know that dragging out the process into 2020 risks drawing the ire of their constituents and getting swept out of office for running a fool’s errand -- considering that there would be no chance of convicting Trump in the Republican-controlled Senate -- and for not attending to the “kitchen table” issues that brought them to power in the 2018 midterms.

That’s why they’re following the Watergate playbook.

In the impeachment saga of Richard Nixon, it was the hearings themselves that, over time, generated enough groundswell of outrage to move the needle of public opinion.  In June of 1973, one month after the inquiry began, only 19% of Americans were in favor of impeachment. It took 14 months, weeks of televised Senate hearings, the revelation of audio tape evidence of constitutional malfeasance by Nixon, and a House Judiciary Committee vote to convince 58% percent of the population that the president should be removed from office.

Democrats are hoping that their own hearings -- the future ones at least -- can do the same: spike the public appetite for impeachment enough to give House liberals the cover they need to continue gathering the “underlying evidence” that will “make the strongest case possible” against the president -- even though they have no intention of proceeding on impeachment.  It will give them the patina of noble progressives who put conscience before political calculation, without jeopardizing their reelection chances.

Enter House speaker Nancy Pelosi, whose conscience is only interested in maintaining power by retaining a majority in the House of Representatives in 2020.  That’s why she’s stalling for “not enough time,” while Nadler and Schiff continue their exit strategy: sanctimoniously slow-walking their impeachment inquiry procession through the House, virtually guaranteeing that it will not lead to formal impeachment proceedings by year’s end.

That’s good news, of course, for the 100-plus Democratic House members who have publicly called for impeachment.  They can have it both ways.  They can look like heroes to constituents in their royal blue districts for standing up in favor of it, and look like pragmatic champions of everyday Americans by getting back to work on bread-and-butter issues this Fall when Pelosi announces an official Democratic decision to “impeach Trump at the ballot box” and “not allow him to cast himself as a political martyr.”

Not only won’t this gambit win her the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award, it could actually end up backfiring. After all, who knows what provocative recordings Republican operatives might be able to find in the trunk of Omarosa Manigault’s car -- or what damaging-but-not-damning memos might be dropped off in Rachel Maddow’s in-box -- potential evidence that could reignite the tender consciences of House Democrats and pressure them to proceed with their impeachment inquiry into 2020?

Whether that happens or not, the Democratic leadership’s one small, disingenuous step toward impeachment -- like so many other unsuccessful forays they’ve tried -- will end up being one giant leap for a president who will continue to defy political gravity, while he relishes every chance to touch down in “Oceanus Procellarum” -- the Sea of Storms -- or, as it’s known in the Trump White House: home sweet home!

Graphic credit: Blue Diamond Gallery

Timothy Philen is an opinion writer and author of You CAN Run Away From It!, a satirical indictment of American pop psychology.

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