Commentary: An Impeachment Incitement

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by Victor Davis Hanson

 

Donald Trump was impeached again on Wednesday, a week before leaving office in one of the great travesties of modern politics.

Here are reasons why the exercise proved a farce.

One, impeachment was never intended by the founders to become a serial effort to weaken a first-term president. But this latest try will mark the third failed attempt of Democrats in Congress to remove Trump before his allotted tenure.

The first Democratic impeachment effort of December 2017 fizzled. The second impeachment of December 2019 succeeded but predictably failed to obtain a Senate conviction.

This third try will likely not result in a Senate conviction, either.

But from now on, House impeachment will be used by the out-party as a periodic club to wound a first-term president. President-elect Biden should beware.

Two, the country is wracked by a pandemic, recession, a summer of Black Lives Matter and Antifa looting, arson, and violence, and the recent rogue group of Trump supporters storming the Capitol. Washington, D.C. is now militarized in a way not seen since the Civil War. Over 20,000 troops patrol the streets.

Thousands are dying from COVID-19. Politics and incompetence at the state level slow down the widespread vaccination of the vulnerable.

So the last thing Americans now needed was the distraction of virtue-signaling politicians to impeach a lame-duck president who will be gone in a week.

Three, the rushed third impeachment attempt was even sloppier than the first two. There was neither an appointment of a special counsel nor a formal case presented for illegal or improper presidential behavior. Trump’s advocates had no time to present a legal or political refutation of “incitement.”

There was no real debate, just for-show stump speeches in a rushed spasm of hatred—a circus entirely contrary to the Founders’ notion of a solemn and rare procedure.

Four, only those without the prior sin of revving up partisans should cast the first stone.

Many of the supporters of this current impeachment would themselves be impeached under their own vague definitions of “incitement” they now apply to Trump.

In March, then-Senate Minority leader Charles Schumer (R-N.Y.) riled up an angry crowd of pro-abortion protestors at the very doors of the Supreme Court—while it was in session.

To a wild crowd, he threatened individual Justices Kavanaugh and Gorsuch by name: “You have released the whirlwind, and you will pay the price. You won’t know what hit you . . .”

In February, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) angrily tore in half the State of Union Address, after, according to custom, it was handed to her by the president on national television.

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris supported efforts to raise bail for those arrested for street violence during the Antifa and BLM rioting this past summer. She also affirmed that such protests in the streets would—and should—continue.

Candidate Joe Biden boasted he would have liked to take Trump, the sitting president, behind the gym of his youth and “beat the hell out of” him. Biden even excused the violent Antifa as a mere “idea.”

Five, the country is dangerously divided. The president will be gone in days. He has taken and given nonstop criticism—and now belatedly but unequivocally condemned the violence that took place after his rally speech.

President-elect Joe Biden has promised unity after a contested election and nearly a year of nonstop violence. But so far, we have seen just the opposite. Biden has just compared two U.S. senators to Nazi propagandists.

Some social media have banned Donald Trump for life. Others barred thousands of his supporters. Silicon Valley has even tried to destroy Parler, a conservative alternative to left-wing Twitter.

Yet another impeachment only accentuated these divisions of an already dangerously divided country.

Robert Mueller’s 22-month investigation of the Russian “collusion” hoax sought to hound Trump out of office. Other freelancers tried to distort the 25th Amendment to declare Trump medically unfit and remove him from office.

Do we really wish to institutionalize these efforts to weaken a president? Would a President Biden want his opposition on three occasions to attempt formal impeachment proceedings?

Would Biden welcome a two-year special counsel investigation of the entire Biden family for its alleged efforts to use his name and influence to skim money from foreign governments?

Would Biden wish to face serial 25th Amendment threats to remove him from office on allegations that he frequently seems cognitively lost?

So what, then, was this latest impeachment gambit really about? Of course, it was a Parthian shot to discredit supporters of Trump—and perhaps stop Trump from running for president again.

But it was also aimed preemptively at opponents of what will soon be the most left-wing Congress in history—one that in days will try to change the very institutions of American government in ways never tried before.

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Victor Davis Hanson is an American military historian, columnist, former classics professor, and scholar of ancient warfare. He was a professor of classics at California State University, Fresno, and is currently the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He has been a visiting professor at Hillsdale College since 2004. Hanson was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007 by President George W. Bush. Hanson is also a farmer (growing raisin grapes on a family farm in Selma, California) and a critic of social trends related to farming and agrarianism. He is the author most recently of The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict was Fought and Won (Basic Books).

 

 

 

 

 

 


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