Among the most puzzling defenses of President Trump is this particular script, beloved of Republican lawmakers: “The Democrats have been trying to impeach this president since before he was sworn into office.” Trumpites like to deliver it with high ferocity and little variation.
Sure, it’s nowhere near as jaunty as Trump’s masterwork: “I JUST GOT IMPEACHED FOR MAKING A PERFECT PHONE CALL!”
But it’s equally desperate.
The response is, as it should be, Yes, of course, impeachment has been top of mind lo these many soul-grinding years, as Americans of all parties have brooked each new round of Trump’s self-impeaching behavior.
And the impeachment drumbeat did start before Trump took office — during that endless migraine of an autumn in 2016. But it wasn’t necessarily coming from Democrats.
“The GOP needs to elect Trump, then impeach him,” wrote Jonathan Ashbach, a conservative writer for the Federalist, a right-wing online magazine, in October of that year.
Ashbach enjoined the Republicans to impeach Trump off the blocks, as soon as he took his presidential oath. He admitted this was a “desperate measure,” but the times, he wrote, called for such Hail Marys. He went on: “If Republicans take the lead in removing Trump from office, the party might regain some of its lost credibility in parts of the electorate that it is anxious to attract.”
In September, former Sen. Jeff Flake said that 35 Republican senators would vote to remove the president in an impeachment trial, if they could do so under cover of secret ballot and thus vote on principle and not for political optics.
If the anguished Republicans acquit the president, as seems likely, they’ll get the godfather’s (and McConnell’s) invaluable blessing and, with any luck, be re-elected. But the dynamism the party once showed, when it dared to condemn Trump in 2016, is gone. In more courageous days, Republicans started this impeachment. Too bad they won’t see it through.
Source: Virginia Heffernan, latimes.com/opinion/story/2020-01-23/impeachment-donald-trump-republican-party-trial