I’m surprised the Times ran this article, but I guess allowing one contrasting opinion in the mix puts them in stopped clock being right twice a day territory.
Josh Blackman, a constitutional law professor from South Texas College of Law (in Houston), has penned a piece in the Times that isn’t “pro-Trump,” but does manage to lay out the obvious case for why the Democrat push for impeachment is so dangerous.
The way things look, President Trump will almost certainly not be removed from office. The precedents set by the articles of impeachment, however, will endure far longer. And regrettably, the House of Representatives has transformed presidential impeachment from a constitutional parachute — an emergency measure to save the Republic in free-fall — into a parliamentary vote of “no confidence.”
The House seeks to expel Mr. Trump because he acted “for his personal political benefit rather than for a legitimate policy purpose.” Mr. Trump’s lawyers responded, “elected officials almost always consider the effect that their conduct might have on the next election.” The president’s lawyers are right. And that behavior does not amount to an abuse of power.
This is exactly right, and he gets into a lot more detail. But even without further discussion, it’s obvious that what Democrats have done was not the intended purpose of impeachment. If it were, we’d have had dozens of other presidents impeached prior. We didn’t because the House, no matter who was in charge, generally understood that you don’t attempt to override the voters over political questions, and whether Trump “stood to gain politically” from an investigation into several angles of corruption (including Hunter Biden’s activities) in Ukraine is definitely a political question.
For example, I was watching a documentary on the beginnings of the Vietnam War last night and was struck at just how many political machinations were made by then President Johnson. Not only did he lie about the Gulf of Tonkin incident and continually lie to the American people about his actual posture in Vietnam, he actually managed troop deployments based on his coming re-election. That’s not supposition, he admits it on audio recordings of his conversations with advisors. Johnson was never impeached, nor was it even suggested in hindsight he should have been.
Yet, Democrats will stand up before the Senate this week and proclaim with a straight face that Trump asking (not even demanding) for an investigation into a corrupt Ukrainian company is the “worst” abuse of power by a president in history. It’s laughable, especially when you read the exploits of Jackson, Wilson, FDR, and even Lincoln if you want to get technical. And while arguments about what the Founders would do are prevalent among the left these days, the best evidence against the widespread use of impeachment as a political weapon is that they had ample excuse to use it while they were still alive and didn’t.
Blackman goes on to argue that a President having a political stake in a decision is not impeachable and that such considerations are a natural outgrowth of the fact that our executives are political beings. To boil that into an “abuse of power” turns impeachment into a farce by which the Congress is choosing to remove a president based on their own political whims.
Politicians routinely promote their understanding of the general welfare, while, in the back of their minds, considering how those actions will affect their popularity. Often, the two concepts overlap: What’s good for the country is good for the official’s re-election. All politicians understand this dynamic, even — or perhaps especially — Mr. Trump. And there is nothing corrupt about acting based on such competing and overlapping concerns. Politicians can, and do, check the polls before casting a difficult vote. Yet the impeachment trial threatens to transform this well-understood aspect of politics into an impeachable offense.
What Democrats are doing is taking a process meant for worst case scenarios and then applying it to fairly normal political calculations that every president makes. That doesn’t mean you have to like those calculations, nor even think they are proper. But they aren’t impeachable, and to make them so opens up a Pandora’s box of bad things down the road.
We have elections for a reason and questions about Trump’s motives involving corruption in Ukraine should be decided there, not by Adam Schiff or any other member of Congress looking to abuse their power for their own political gain.