What’s Going On: Even with a main event, Democrats are losing impeachment fight
It was early in the morning and I awoke about 30 minutes before my alarm sounded, unable to go back to sleep.
As my unfocused mind raced in several directions, it eventually circled to an article I had read the night before, which predicted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was expected to relent and begin laying the groundwork for impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump.
Pelosi remained hesitant but felt compelled by the more radical members of her party. Her hesitancy to impeach the president was rooted in practicality: she wasn’t sure they would win and that the party would suffer as a result.
It was a legit concern and as of that time, I couldn’t help but think this was going to be how Donald Trump got elected to a second term.
As such, I thought this will make for a good column … predicting Trump’s presidential win more than 13 months ahead of the election.
First, this was an effort doomed to fail. There simply was no way 20 Republicans in the Senate would vote with all 47 Democrats to impeach President Trump. Maybe a couple rogue ones would who didn’t care about re-election, but most would toe the party line, especially considering the charges he faced.
With both Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton, there was a “main event,” if you will, for the impeachment proceedings to focus upon; the Watergate break-in and coverup for Nixon and lying about an affair with an intern for Clinton.
But when this article appeared over the weekend, the Democrats didn’t have a main event; instead, they had a bunch of side shows.
There was hush money payoffs to porn stars and models. Abuse of power regarding the Russia investigation. Violation of something called the emoluments clause.
And in the last couple days … there had been rumblings about a phone call to the Ukraine president about Joe Biden’s son … or something like that.
A whole lot of little things, but nothing major. Enough to rile up Democrats, but certainly not enough for Republicans to publicly indict a president from their own party.
And quite frankly, I can’t blame Republicans for their continued defense of Trump and believed unwillingness to impeach him. Ironically, many of them were on the other side of the field 25 years ago, advocating for the impeachment of President Clinton after he lied about having an affair with Monica Lewinsky. The public generally didn’t support Republicans’ efforts at the time because they didn’t care if their president was sexually promiscuous and cheated on his wife, and the fact he lied about it was irrelevant because he should have never been asked the question.
And that explained Pelosi’s hesitancy. She’s not sure the public cares about Trump bullying people in the Russia investigation (in which many believe he was completely exonerated) or that he’s making money on the side off his presidency, or even if he paid off a few people in classic, stereotypical back-room political dealings.
Simply stated, voters knew Trump was a bully and someone willing to bend the rules to make a buck when they elected him. And as proven with Bill Clinton (and others before him), voters (even Evangelical ones) don’t care if their president is more unneutered dog than devoted husband when it comes to sexual desires.
But that may have changed this week with the emergence of more and more details about that July phone call in which Trump’s accused of implying if the Ukraine didn’t investigate a top political rival’s son, military aid would not be forthcoming.
Between the release of the call’s transcript and the whistleblower’s complaint, the impeachment proceedings seemingly have a “main event,” at least for the moment, which begs the new question: is it enough?
Taken on its own, the answer is no.
Like I said, America knows Trump can be a bully. So most not only won’t condemn him for pressuring a foreign leader for some “quid pro quo,” they would praise him for it. And while his critics claim he did it purely for political gain, his retort of not wanting to send foreign aid to a corrupt government rings true with voters.
And take politics out of it. If Trump threatened to withhold money unless the Ukraine investigated someone not connected to a political rival, would anyone care?
Again, none of this is going to be damning enough for 20 Republicans to break ranks, especially considering nearly 60 percent of Americans oppose Trump’s impeachment, according to a recent poll conducted by the non-partisan Rasmussen institute.
That could change as the House continues its investigation, as more indicting than the call may be the cover-up that allegedly included a White House effort to hide the call’s transcript on a classified server … something that has become common practice with Trump in office.
What other calls were stored there and what does those transcripts include? How much shadow diplomacy did Trump’s personal attorney take part in regarding the Ukraine investigation? What other measures did the White House employ to hide information?
There could be answers to these questions that provide additional energy for the impeachment proceedings. Right now, it needs it. There’s a lot of smoke but without more, the Democrats, much like their Republican counterparts 25 years ago, are going to fail.
And we may point to that failure as the key factor to rallying Trump’s base again in 2020 to not only re-elect him, but possibly regain control of the entire Congress to ensure he doesn’t have to endure another witch hunt again.
Gregory Orear is the publisher of The Journal. His award-winning weekly column, “What’s Going On,” has been published in four newspapers in three states for more than 20 years. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.