The Mainstream Media Sides with Its Tribe

peachmintEzra Klein, editor at large of Vox, is calling for the Democrats to Impeach him, anyway, even if they can’t oust Trump, echoing Democratic house leader, Nancy Pelosi.

Alexander Hamilton, the Constitution framer, writes [that impeachment is] meant for offenses “denominated POLITICAL, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself.” Political offenses are, by nature, politicized. They “agitate the passions of the whole community” and “divide it into parties more or less friendly or inimical to the accused.” The danger, Hamilton says, is that the impeachment process will be decided “more by the comparative strength of parties, than by the real demonstrations of innocence or guilt.” If that proves either the perception or the reality of impeachment, the process loses its legitimacy, and America loses critical protection against tyrants and criminals.

In other words, if the Democrats use their majority to impeach despite an inability to demonstrate real guilt, they delegitimize impeachment.

Everything, then, rests on the independence and authority of the body charged with impeachment. Hamilton admitted that there was no tribunal capable of “the most exact standard of perfection,” but the best possible hope lay with the Senate. He believed that no “other body would be likely to feel CONFIDENCE ENOUGH IN ITS OWN SITUATION, to preserve, unawed and uninfluenced, the necessary impartiality between an INDIVIDUAL accused, and the REPRESENTATIVES OF THE PEOPLE.”

An who better? The house of representatives are the ones bringing the case for impeachment, so clearly they cannot impartially judge it. The supreme court might be candidates, but since they are appointed by the president (in this case, two of them by the man they would be judging), they too are subject to bias. This may be a case of the Senate being the best of a bad lot.

He was wrong. President Donald Trump faces impeachment after repeatedly asking the president of Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, Trump’s chief domestic political rival, a week after Trump froze the country’s military aid. When Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky brought up the aid, Trump responded, “I would like you to do us a favor though” and turned the conversation to Biden. All of this is confirmed in a call record released by Trump’s own White House.

In the actual transcript of the call, Trump calls for investigation into the Clinton email server (page 3). He then calls once for investigation of Biden’s interference in the investigation of a Ukrainian company of which Biden’s son was a board member (page 4). Military aid is only hinted at by Zelensky, and is never mentioned directly by Trump.

Hamilton wrote in defense of a political system he thought would resist organized political parties. Today, the Senate makes no pretense to impartiality. The modern Senate, like the House, is controlled by a political party — and it is the political party Trump leads.

And yet this seems like a good thing, requiring the House of Representatives make the case for “high crimes” beyond a reasonable doubt. If they do and the Senate does not act, the people can punish their Senators in the next election. If the house’s case is weak, it may be seen as a partisan witch hunt and backfire on them in the next election. If they don’t have a strong case, they should not proceed.

“If this is the ‘launching point’ for House Democrats’ impeachment process, they’ve already overplayed their hand,” Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Politico. “The Senate will never convict President Trump,” his longtime No. 2, Sen. John Cornyn, said before even reading the whistleblower’s report.

Yes, this is partisan posturing. However, if there really is a case for impeachment, the senate knows that they are risking everything is they fail to act.

Impeachment was meant to be a political remedy for political offenses. But over time, it has mutated into something quite different: a partisan remedy for political offenses. And partisan remedies are subject to partisan considerations. If Trump falls before an impeachment trial, the Republican Party will be left in wreckage. The GOP’s leaders can’t permit the destruction of their own party. They will protect Trump at all costs.

That may be true, but if they do so and the people believe that they are, they will be voted out in the election.

“I think we have seen the total collapse of this very basic obligation of Congress under the weight of partisan polarization — particularly on the right — and it is dramatic,” says Julian Zelizer, a presidential historian at Princeton University. “Trump has exposed it rather than triggered it.”

Seems the Democrats are more guilty of partisan behavior, given their three year Russiagate nothing burger investigation.

There have been only three serious presidential impeachment efforts in American history. Every single one of them came when Congress was controlled by the opposition party. “Impeachment has essentially never been effective, except maybe as a deterrent,” says Matt Glassman, who is a senior fellow at Georgetown University’s Government Affairs Institute.

Effective as a deterrent seems to be reasonable. Impeachment is a nuclear option: if you don’t have a case that can completely take out your target, you risk a retaliatory strike. So don’t use it unless you have a rock solid case.

But deterrents matter. Rather than focusing on what impeachment cannot do, it’s worth looking at what it can. The impeachment process, as it stands now, is broken. It almost certainly will not lead to Trump’s removal, no matter how damning the investigation’s findings. But that doesn’t make it useless. It can act as a sanction to Trump and his successors, unearth information voters will need when deciding whether to reelect Trump, and provide a warning to foreign countries that would seek influence over our politics. That is not sufficient, but it will have to be enough.

But will it be? The Democrats are running the risk of impeachment backfiring. See Tim Poole’s video Leaked Documents Implicate Joe Biden in Ukraine Scandal, New Report Backs Trump’s Claims.

Impeachment acts as a form of public disgrace. To be one of only four impeached presidents in American history, even if you are not convicted by the Senate, is to know an asterisk will be forever attached to your presidency, your offenses prominently recorded. It’s a humiliation for you and a warning to your successors.

After being called a Russian puppet and a racist for 3 years, is it really going to be any more humiliating?

In impeachment, the House’s role is to bring and try the case, while the Senate’s role is to judge the accused. The problem facing the country right now is that Senate leadership has flatly stated that it would never, under any circumstances, convict the accused. Given the two-thirds supermajority required for removal, McConnell and Cornyn’s guarantees hold weight.

I’d be surprised if even a majority voted to impeach Trump unless there was a very solid case that he had committed a crime.

But the Senate isn’t the only possible judge of an impeachment case. In 2020, Americans will go to the polls to vote for the next president. If the House conducts a serious, thorough impeachment investigation, the revelations of that inquiry will inform their choice. Indeed, if Senate Republicans are stonewalling accountability for a clearly corrupt president, it may affect Americans’ choices in Senate elections, too.

Then again, if there is no clear evidence of corruption and the House goes ahead with impeachment, it may affect American’s choices in House elections, not to mention taking the media’s focus off the democratic presidential candidates.

A well-constructed impeachment inquiry will harm Trump’s reelection bid. Of course, the flip is that an ill-constructed impeachment drive will boost it. But House Democrats seem intent on building their case carefully. Speaker Pelosi resisted impeachment after the Mueller report, in part because the absence of collusion made it a weak case for impeachment.

Is the Ukraine “case” any stronger, or did Pelosi cave to pressure from house Democrats who are desperate to find an issue they can win on?

Now Trump has attempted collusion in the plain text of a call record released by his own White House, and the case for impeachment is markedly stronger.

Read the transcript. There is no clear attempt at collusion, and no evidence at all of quid-pro-quo.

Where Democrats were split on the impeachment question after Mueller, Republicans are the ones who are beginning to split, with Vermont’s GOP governor backing impeachment.

This is hardly a split. There are still far more Democrats in the house who still aren’t on board with it that Republicans who are.

Trump wanted to run for reelection atop a booming economy. Now he will run as the candidate arguing that his demands of Ukraine did not quite rise to the level of quid pro quo. It’s not a great bumper sticker.

I think he will run on the economy and paint the impeachment as a witch hunt and a hail Mary attempt to unseat him.

In 2016, Russia reached into the US presidential election to help elect Donald Trump. Its investment was returned in spades. Trump, perhaps pleased by the result and emboldened by the wan aftermath of the Mueller investigation, subsequently asked Ukraine to launch an investigation on his behalf, in an effort to undermine one of his most formidable domestic political rivals.

After 3 years, Mueller found no evidence of Russian collusion, so spare me the conspiracy theories. I think Trump is taking a calculated risk that the Ukraine affair will hurt Biden more than it hurts him. After all, Biden was the one caught on tape admitting to using his position as VP to have the man investigating his son’s company fired, which is far more damning than anything said in the transcript of Trump’s call.

The spotlight of impeachment makes the costs clearer, too. A foreign country that is asked to intervene in an American election may see its activities exposed, much to the fury of the other political party and the public. Ukraine may want Trump’s goodwill, but it doesn’t want the Democrats’ ill will or the distraction and infamy of this investigation.

No doubt true. I’m sure they weren’t thrilled when Biden admitted to pressuring them into firing one of their prosecutors either. And now, with the alternative media on the case, the Democrats are no longer able to keep their own activities from being exposed.

In his farewell address, President George Washington spoke against “the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party.” In particular, he warned that partisan infighting “opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions.”

Seems prescient now.

We live now in the world Washington feared. Party polarization has broken the American political system’s mechanisms of accountability. Republicans have fallen in line behind Trump, placing their loyalty to him, and to each other, above any sense of public accountability. And in doing, they have opened American politics to foreign influence and corruption — both from opportunists, like Russia, and enlisted allies of Trump’s, like Ukraine.

And Democrats and their allies in the media fell in line behind Clinton and, to a degree, behind Biden. Clinton’s state department famously approved the sale the company holding the extraction rights to 20% of America’s uranium to the Russians. See The Facts on Uranium One. And Biden is implicated for using his own political influence to coerce the Ukrainians.

A system of partisan accountability often means no system of accountability at all. It creates eras in which corruption flourishes, so long as that corruption is to the benefit of the party in power. That American politics has no answer for official wrongdoing in periods of unified government is chilling. Elections are not, on their own, sufficient — without rigorous systems of oversight, investigation, and accountability, the public often doesn’t know of the wrongdoing it should punish.

This was the purpose of the media: to act as a watchdog. The problem has been that the media has become more and more biased toward the interests of their corporate masters. But now, the internet has opened up opportunities for a new, alternative media to expose truths that go counter to the interests of the big media conglomerates. Unsurprisingly, they attempt to protect themselves by smearing the alternative media as “fake news”.

Klein seems unaware that he is projecting onto the Republicans the very things his own political tribe and the very organization he leads is doing. One has to wonder if this is legitimate naivety, or calculated deception. Regardless, the evil behavior he ascribes to the Republicans is exactly the behavior of the Democrats. As Jesus said, before you try to remove the mote from your brother’s eye, remove the log from your own.

About jimbelton

I'm a software developer, and a writer of both fiction and non-fiction, and I blog about movies, books, and philosophy. My interest in religious philosophy and the search for the truth inspires much of my writing.
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