If Americans aren’t facing the first real constitutional crisis of their lifetimes, it’ll do till the real thing arrives. While this newspaper hoped any impeachment process could be avoided, Republican lawmakers out of fear or blind loyalty have so enabled and so indulged an obviously unprincipled president in his contempt for the Constitution that, by the time voters had enough and placed Democrats in charge of the House of Representatives, he was more and more obsessed with chasing personal demons regarding the legitimacy of his 2016 election, rule of law be damned. And so here we are.
Given the lawlessness rampant in the White House, it’s no surprise President Trump today finds himself the subject of an impeachment inquiry. However, as much as this might strike many Americans as a constitutional crisis, it’s useful to keep in mind the words of President Dale in “Mars Attacks” after martians have obliterated a joint session of Congress: “I want the people to know that they still have two out of three branches of the government working for them, and that ain’t all bad!”
It is now incumbent on the House to follow through with its impeachment proceedings by the book. If obstruction is to be another article of impeachment because the White House continues to deny Congress’ constitutional oversight responsibilities and defy legitimate subpoenas, so be it. And to correct a stubborn bit of fantasy Republican lawmakers and their proxies now peddle after years of claiming to know the Constitution backward and forward: Neither the Constitution nor any House rule specifically requires the House to authorize an impeachment inquiry through a formal vote.
The Constitution provides impeachment as a check on presidential power. To ignore it is to ignore the Constitution itself.
If Republicans believe this proceeding is a “kangaroo court,” then why throw up road blocks? They are jurors in the Republican-dominated Senate and can easily vote any articles of impeachment down, one by one. All of their posturing and bloviating isn’t going to make the formal impeachment proceeding go away. The House will vote to approve impeachment along partisan lines, then send it to the Senate. The Senate votes not guilty and the voters are left to decide who was right come November 2020. Or, at least, the voters in 11 swing states.
We’re struck by the familiarity of language describing impeachment motivations. The word “partisan” and the phrase “undoing the election” are exactly the same Vice President Gerald Ford used in a speech to a partisan crowd two weeks before beleaguered President Nixon resigned.
Undoing the election is a first-year impeachment strategy, not a third-year strategy. The Texas presidential primary for 2020 is in March. That’s when a lot of us will have our first say in all of this. Till then, let the Constitution and rule of law guide lawmakers and the courts in this regrettable and avoidable calamity.