Who's to Blame for Pelosi-Schiff Impeachment Insanity?

It was the saddest of times, it was the happiest of times; it was the time of funerary apparel and commiserations, it was the time of festive attire and congratulations; it was, in Washington D.C.'s grand theater of the absurd, the time for impeachment.

The final act of this Faustian tragedy began a week before Christmas in 2019, when, draped in black and nervous as a mortician trying to look sad at a fifty-thousand-dollar funeral, Nancy Pelosi announced that the president had been impeached.  In spite of the melancholy atmosphere that covered the proceedings like a shroud, the proclamation elicited a smattering of cheers and applause from among her colleagues — but an icy stare and a disapproving wave of the speaker's hand quickly silenced the unwelcome outburst.

Some twenty-eight days later, with her time of mourning completed, the speaker traded her black raiment for a hot pink ensemble and replaced her somber affect with a Cheshire Cat–worthy smile.  Then, with great fanfare, she took thirty gold and onyx ceremonial pens in hand and signed the articles of impeachment.  Three days later, and still in a jubilant mood, Ms. Pelosi appeared on the Bill Maher show, where she was greeted  with thunderous applause, cheers, and a standing ovation.

Like any good celebrity, Speaker Pelosi responded to this outpouring of affection by bowing and waving to her adoring fans.  Then, after Maher thanked her for delaying the impeachment until his show was back on the air, they memorialized her accomplishment with a fist bump, while she smiled and said, "Way to go."

In the euphoria of that moment, every semblance of her simulated sadness evaporated, and she enthusiastically embraced the spectacle of impeachment.  Yet, in spite of her two-faced conduct, Nancy Pelosi is not the problem — and neither is her unstable and two-faced sidekick, Adam Schiff.

Throughout the two-year Rosenstein-Weissmann investigation, Adam Schiff repeatedly claimed that Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin were in cahoots.  He could not discuss the details with any specificity, but he assured everyone that he had seen the proof with his own eyes, and  the president's treachery would be exposed when the special counsel issued his report.  Yet, when that long awaited day arrived, the proof Mr. Schiff promised was nowhere to be found.  Instead, "The Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election" contradicted his oft-repeated assertion of Russian collusion, and concluded that "the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities."  Much to Mr. Schiff's dismay, the Russian collusion narrative had crumbled, but he simply would not let it go.

During his opening remarks at the Senate impeachment trial, Schiff alluded to a Russia-Trump connection some thirty times before turning to the Trump-Zelensky telephone conversation.  He then made the astonishing claim that delaying the release of security assistance to Ukraine had increased the probability of a U.S.-Russian war, fought on American soil.  "The U.S. aids Ukraine and the people," Schiff declared, "so that we can fight Russia over there, and we don't have to fight Russia here."

As usual, Mr. Schiff was long on histrionics and short on facts.  Prior to delaying aid to Ukraine, President Trump threatened to, or actually did, withhold aid from Pakistan, Iraq, Lebanon, El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala.  He also threatened Mexico with tariffs unless the Mexicans halted the caravans marching through their country.  All these demands were transmitted in the clear, and each contained the dreaded quid pro quo, but not a single Democrat eyebrow was raised.  What made the Ukrainian case different?  Why did it rise to the level of impeachment where the others did not?  To Chairman Schiff, the answer was simple: the president had something to hide.  This time he was right: the president was hiding information from Russia.

Unlike the demands made to other countries, President Trump did not transmit his intentions concerning Ukraine's security assistance in the clear.  In fact, he did not transmit those intentions at all — even to Ukraine.  He knew that, unless Zelensky was the reformer he claimed to be, news of the delay would surely leak, thereby giving Russia an excuse to foment additional strife in the region.  If, however, Zelensky could be trusted, the aid would be released as scheduled without either Zelensky or Putin being the wiser.

Although this explanation was well within the realm of possibility, its consideration would disable his drive for impeachment, so Schiff soldiered on and called for the president's immediate removal.  "The president's misconduct cannot be decided at the ballot box," he insisted, "for we cannot be assured that the vote will be fairly won."  The man who led the charge to defund President Trump's election integrity commission had suddenly seen the light, but his conversion was short-lived and did not bring forth fruits worthy of repentance.  Instead of seeking bipartisan legislation to prevent election meddling, Schiff stood in the voting booth door and attempted to block the path of those misguided souls who might have the unmitigated temerity to re-elect Donald Trump.  Just nine months earlier, Representative Al Green had warned that "if we don't impeach this president, he will get re-elected."  Schiff knew that Green was right, and he was not about to let that happen.  In a speech before the California Democrat state convention on Saturday, November 16, 2019, Schiff made his intentions clear.

Two years ago, I stood before you and I urged you to resist and you did, but we are more than a resistance now; we are a majority!  We are a majority in one house, and we will become a majority in the other, and we will send that charlatan in the White House back to the golden throne he came from.

These are not the words of a fair, impartial, and unbiased man.  They are the words of a partisan enforcer, whose only mission is to overturn the results of the last election and predetermine the outcome of the next.

Adam Schiff is an accomplished, inveterate, and shameless prevaricator, to be sure, yet his loathsome behavior is but a symptom of a much larger problem — a problem that John Adams foresaw some two hundred twenty-two years ago.     

During the Franco-American "Quasi-War" of 1798, the officers of the 1st brigade, 3rd division of the Massachusetts militia informed President Adams that they were ready to answer duty's call at any time — and at their own expense.  Accordingly, on 11 October 1798, Adams penned his now famous reply in which he complimented the unit's readiness and commitment but assured them that France's military power did not pose an existential threat to the nation.  The threat to the country, Adams explained, would come not from a cannon's shot or shell, but from an enemy that was even more powerful and difficult to control — the American people themselves.

While our country remains untainted with the principles and manners, which are now producing desolation in so many parts of the world; while she continues sincere, and incapable of insidious and impious policy, we shall have the strongest reason to rejoice in the local destination assigned us by Providence.  But should the people of America once become capable of that deep simulation towards one another, and towards foreign nations, which assumes the language of justice and moderation while it is practising iniquity and extravagance, and displays in the most captivating manner the charming pictures of candor, frankness, and sincerity, while it is rioting in rapine and insolence, this country will be the most miserable habitation in the world; because we have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion.  Avarice, ambition, revenge, or galantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net.  Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people.  It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.

In today's America, blaming politicians for all the country's problems has become a national pastime.  Whether viewed individually or as a group, politicians are now objects of ridicule, grist for the comedian's mill.  As the humorist, social commentator, and genuine member of the Cherokee Nation Will Rogers once observed, "everything is changing.  People are taking their comedians seriously and their politicians as a joke."  

Both Rogers and Adams were right: the Constitution could not protect the country from its own people.  For good or ill, it is the people, not the politicians, who choose the representatives, and it is the people, not the politicians, who can "vote the bums out" at the next election.  Who then is to blame for our current crop of politicians and the toxic political atmosphere that threatens to break the strongest cords of our Constitution?  In the words of that great swamp-dwelling philosopher, Pogo, "we have met the enemy and he is us."

Image: Gage Skidmore via Flickr.

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