July 26, 2019 | Reading Time: < 1 minute

Does impeachment = accountability?

I have been reading Ed Kilgore since he was blogging for the Washington Monthly. With amazing consistency, Ed is sensible, sober, well-reasoned, stubborn (gracefully) and deeply moral. So when someone I respect as much as Ed calls on us to consider the moral consequences of a second Trump term, as a result of potentially blowing…

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I have been reading Ed Kilgore since he was blogging for the Washington Monthly. With amazing consistency, Ed is sensible, sober, well-reasoned, stubborn (gracefully) and deeply moral.

So when someone I respect as much as Ed calls on us to consider the moral consequences of a second Trump term, as a result of potentially blowing it with an impeachment attempt, I’m listening. Hard.

Though I have championed impeachment, after coming around to it reluctantly, I have to admit that what’s driving me most isn’t so much Donald Trump’s unfitness. It’s the demands of justice.

In other words, impeachment is one way to hold a president accountable. But if that’s too dangerous, politically and morally, there are other avenues to explore. While I can see the wisdom of those saying we should not impeach, I cannot see the wisdom of just letting Trump get away with his crimes.

We’re far from that, however, but the potential is great if consider Occam’s Razor. It’s just easier to say goodbye this very bad period in our history and pretend it never happened. Indeed, it’s seductive.

I’m not sure how I’d feel if the Democrats did that.

Thoughts? —JS

John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition open and available to all. Find him @johnastoehr.

7 Comments

  1. Ed Kako on July 30, 2021 at 7:51 am

    The bone-deep structural problem with our Consitution is that impeachment doesn’t work as a means to remove a criminal, ill-tempered President or even one guilty of what the early drafters called “maladministration” (a notion I wish they’d kept).

    Impeachment has never removed President. Maybe it can’t.

    When there are strong partisans agitating on the President’s behalf, the odds of removal are low to non-existent. It’s a paper tiger.

    The Framers ignored (willfully and naively, I’d argue) the inevitable rise and potent influence of political parties.

    He deserves to be impeached and removed. The Framers wouldn’t be aghast that we haven’t removed him already.

    Here’s what I fear, though, and what Pelosi may also fear: Consider the reprehensible behavior of the GOP members of Judiciary and Intelligence during the Mueller hearings. A cross-committee impeachment inquiry, supported by the full Dem caucus, would generate a blizzard of bullshit from the GOP, unlike anything we have ever seen before. It would overwhelm everything and everyone.

    So: What to do? Greg Seargent’s WaPo column today points the way: an impeachment inquiry initiated by House Judiciary. Let Nadler run the show, even as Pelosi grumbles (for theatrical effect designed to protect the moderates).

    Nadler has had his missteps, but I believe he can conduct a Judiciary-led inquiry while controlling the bullshit blizzard reasonably well.

    Something *has* to be done. No matter what happens next, the House has to take a stand. Abdicating this responsibility would leave a moral stain on all of us. *How* to move forward is not immediately obvious, but I believe Judiciary has — and should have — the baton.

    • John Stoehr on July 30, 2021 at 7:51 am

      Thanks, Ed. I’ll have more to say in a couple more hours. Stay tuned!

    • realsaramerica on July 30, 2021 at 7:51 am

      Agree that the House has to take a stand. Look how well Obama’s “let’s look forward not back” thinking worked out for us. I understand that as our first president of color he was in an especially difficult place, but that decision paved the way for more unchecked executive power and lawless behavior.

      • Ed Kako on July 30, 2021 at 7:51 am

        Sarah: That’s a separate (though not totally separate) problem: Obama chose not to hold the Bush administration to account for the Iraq War or the financial crisis. That was a mistake. But it was hardly the first. No one held Reagan and GHWB to account for Iran-Contra. And Ford botched it by pardoning Nixon.

        If we find a way through this, we have to say: enough. People must be held accountable, or history will repeat itself. It may already be too late, though I hope I’m wrong.

        • realsaramerica on July 30, 2021 at 7:51 am

          I’m afraid that you are right, but I, too, hope you’re wrong.

        • Geoff G on July 30, 2021 at 7:51 am

          How could Obama hold Bush accountable for the financial crisis or the Iraq war? I mean that as a non-rhetorical question; if there’s a way Bush could have been held to account, I’d like to know. If Bush was accountable for Iraq, do all the congresspeople who voted for it get punished too? And the financial crisis had lots of parents, not just Bush. The usual way to hold people accountable for bad policy decisions is to vote them out of office, and at least that happened.

          Obama’s administration could have held Bush officials, up to Bush and Cheney themselves, accountable for war crimes, specifically torture. Or, it could have prosecuted people in who actually did the torture, and let Bush/Cheney off the hook. I, very grudgingly, believe that Obama made the right call on torture, but I could well be wrong.

  2. Thornton Prayer on July 30, 2021 at 7:51 am

    I agree with those like Kilgore that it’s important to evaluate whether the moral demands for immediate impeachment will have the necessary effects we seek (i.e. removal from office) given the political constraints we face. I believe that undertaking an impeachment process that fails will be counterproductive because the removal simply won’t happen under current circumstances and will also hand the GOP a garbage narrative that you know who was ‘exonerated’. That said, we can undertake other actions besides impeachment that can fulfill the moral imperatives that seek and that are also politically effective.

    I think we, Democrats, liberals, and progressives, forget we can “chew gum and walk at the same time” politically speaking. In practical terms, we have a far broader array of methods to attack the GOP while establishing the narratives why the oval office occupant and the GOP as a whole are not just politically wrong but morally bad. In my opinion, our tendency to believe that there is a silver bullet to accomplish everything immediately is unrealistic and blinds us to our own moral and political strengths. I believe we will accomplish our goals if we focus more on identifying our political and moral powers, establishing effective narrative frameworks based on those options, then driving them bluntly and repetitively.

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