Nancy Pelosi had the Democrats’ impeachment strategy right the first time: Don’t do it. But apparently even a lifetime in the mud-filled trenches of politics wasn’t enough to toughen the House speaker against the Democratic left’s compulsion to impeach Donald Trump.
Anyone of any political stripe knows that the most psychologically distressed Democrats have wanted to impeach this guy, somehow just get rid of him, from day one.
Before Democrats regained control of the House in the 2018 midterm elections, the Trump takedown was supposed to result from the Russian-collusion narrative, which got up to speed in January 2017 and then steamrolled across the country for two years of media leaks and the Mueller investigation, ultimately and fantastically going nowhere.
Within a day of the Mueller report’s release, dismissing the Russian-collusion story lines, the opposition pivoted to the obstruction-of-justice narrative. Somehow, the pivoters must have assumed that the American people, after enduring the Mueller odyssey, would not notice that this extraordinarily disruptive investigation had come to nothing. And that people would saddle up to join the next get-Trump posse. That didn’t work.
We’ll pause in our own narrative to posit a de minimis level of legitimacy to what they’ve done. If the opposition party and, in our unique times, the opposition press want to spend what capital and credibility they have in a round-the-clock effort to take down a sitting president, that’s their prerogative. Nothing in the Constitution says elected officials are obliged to do anything productive.
But translating the public’s votes into a permanent presidential takedown had better work, because if they don’t pull off impeachment and drive Donald Trump out of public life next year, the losses for the Democrats and the media will be devastating. It’s the familiar do-or-die stakes of trying to take out the king.
Because Donald Trump loves living dangerously, he and the increasingly mysterious Rudy Giuliani handed his opponents the unexpected excitement of the Ukraine-Biden narrative—and at last an opening for impeachment. The New York Times, delirious at the prospect, has even created an ominous little logo for its coverage, typically several pages a day—“The 45th President: Impeachment.”
Maybe it really will be the third time’s the charm for the Trump-elimination forces, but the impeachment project looks like it’s starting to go wobbly.
For starters, it’s still just sort-of an impeachment. There’s been no vote in the House and no sign the Judiciary Committee is drawing up articles of impeachment, as in the past. Instead, Adam Schiff’s intelligence committee is interviewing Ukraine-related State Department officials—in secret hearings. It resembles a show trial, with the “public” parts emerging as selective leaks to the impeachment press.
But the most telling impeachment development this week wasn’t any paraphrased testimony from Mr. Schiff’s private hearings. It was the news that Speaker Pelosi’s impeachment timetable has been delayed “to sharpen their case” for doing it.
It is now evident that a vote to impeach President Trump isn’t likely to occur before Thanksgiving, as many assumed, but will slip to December. Then, of course, the trial phase will pass to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Mr. McConnell reportedly wanted it all over by the end of the year, but what’s the rush? The Trump trial could run through January—31 priceless campaign days before the Democratic Party’s intensely competitive primaries. The Iowa caucus vote is Feb. 3, then comes New Hampshire’s primary on Feb. 11; Nevada’s caucuses are Feb. 22; and the crucially important South Carolina primary arrives Feb. 29.
Instead of competing for their party’s nomination, Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker and Michael Bennet will spend invaluable campaign time planted on Capitol Hill during the days that the Pelosi-Schiff Trump trial drones on. Sens. Sanders and Harris can’t call Mr. Trump the “most corrupt president” in the history of the country and then skip out on the trial of public enemy No. 1 to campaign in a downstate Iowa diner.
Joe Biden, Mayor Pete, and Hillary’s new friend Rep. Tulsi Gabbard get to romp daily through the primary states, but who’s going to notice with the Trump impeachment trial siphoning away the nation’s media’s attention?
Surely Nancy Pelosi knew when she stood firm against opening the impeachment dam that the interests of her party’s anti-Trump compulsives—nearly all from safe seats—and her party’s broader election interests were not aligned.
The left has always believed that some deus ex machina, such as Robert Mueller or a nonstop storm of negative press stories, would magically make the Trump presidency just go away—rather than the more plausible likelihood that the relentlessly combustible Mr. Trump would eventually discredit himself in the eyes of most voters.
The American left throughout its existence has had a deep mistrust of the U.S. system, so rather than wait until November 2020 for voters to sort all this out, we get this crypto-impeachment. Like the sure-thing election of 2016, it too could backfire.
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