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Bradley writes: "The Last Week Tonight host explained why Democrats are so reluctant to open an inquiry-but argued that they should do so anyway."

John Oliver. (photo: HBO)
John Oliver. (photo: HBO)


John Oliver Makes the Case for Impeaching Trump ASAP

By Laura Bradley, Vanity Fair

17 June 19


The Last Week Tonight host explained why Democrats are so reluctant to open an inquiry—but argued that they should do so anyway.

t’s somewhat surprising that until now, John Oliver and Last Week Tonight have not done a deep dive on impeachment. It’s the kind of complicated bureaucratic process that Last Week Tonight has made its bread and butter—and unlike pennies or psychics, there’s already a genuine public interest in the topic. That might be why on Sunday, he told relatively few jokes—instead taking a straightforward approach as he explained how impeachment works, then made the case for impeaching Donald Trump. Oliver seemed to know that he had a captive audience for this subject with or without humor, and that in this case, the argument itself could and should be the star of the segment.

“Ever since this president got elected, people have been dying to see him impeached,” Oliver said, adding that 63 House Democrats now support an impeachment inquiry. But some Democratic leaders, including Nancy Pelosi, have been resistant. The House Speaker recently argued that impeachment does not mean what most people think it means—that it does not immediately remove a president from office. Or, in Pelosi’s words: “[a]ll you do, vote to impeach, bye bye, birdie.” Oliver conceded that Pelosi was right—but he couldn’t help but ding her for her references.

“Nancy Pelosi knows there’s simply no better way to connect with the average working joe than by referencing a Broadway musical from 1960,” Oliver quipped. “Also, if this situation were to be a musical, it wouldn’t be *Bye Bye Birdie. It would obviously be Grease, where a rapey guy with weird hair treats women like shit and yet somehow gets everything he’s ever wanted.”

The basic impeachment process begins with an inquiry in which a committee within the House investigates and holds hearings; if a majority decides they’ve found impeachable offenses, they vote to impeach. From there, the Senate holds a trial, and if a two-thirds majority votes for removal, only then will the president actually be removed from office. The basic point, as anyone who lived through the Bill Clinton impeachment proceedings well knows, is that impeachment does not guarantee that a president will be booted. As Oliver points out, no president has actually been removed by the impeachment process; Clinton and Johnson were both impeached but remained in office, while Richard Nixon resigned before the House could finish impeaching him—“sort of like an Irish goodbye, if Nixon didn’t also hate the Irish.” Plus, removing Trump would require 20 Republican senators to vote for such an outcome—which seems unlikely to happen.

Right now, Oliver said, thanks to Robert Mueller’s report, the House has considerable evidence for obstruction of justice—an offense cited in both Clinton and Nixon’s impeachment cases. Unfortunately, the revelations within the report have failed to make much of an impression on the public, the majority of which remains against impeachment. But a lack of public support does not necessarily mean it’s not a good idea to hold impeachment proceedings, Oliver argued. After all, in the early days of the Nixon scandal, the public was also resistant to his removal, even dismissing the Watergate break-in. (“Although to be fair,” Oliver quipped, “in the 1970s they also thought that shag carpeting was attractive and that Liberace just hadn’t met the right girl yet.”)

Democrats, Oliver noted, worry that trying to impeach Trump could backfire for them the same way Republicans’ impeachment of Clinton did; Clinton remained in office, and Democrats actually gained seats in Congress in the following election cycle. But Oliver had two words for Democrats fretting over such backlash: “Please relax.“

“It is just one of many ways the Semocrats could lose!” Oliver pointed out. “Maybe Trump is caught on tape saying the ‘N’ word, but then two days later Elizabeth Warren accidentally calls a veteran a ‘veterinarian’ and people get twice as angry about that. There’s so many ways that this could go wrong!”

But for those who remain skeptical, Oliver also shared what finally tipped the scales for him personally: “remembering that not opening an inquiry comes with consequences, too.”

Opting not to open an inquiry, Oliver argued, “essentially sends the message that the president can act with impunity. Which is a dangerous precedent to set—not just for future presidents but for the current one.” Consider, for instance, the comments Trump made just last week about being willing to accept information about a political opponent from a foreign power—in other words, engaging in collusion. If the public is really not behind impeachment, Oliver argued, it’s Democrats’ job to try and change their minds, if they believe opening an inquiry is truly the right course of action.

“The case for inaction here is starting to get pretty weak,” Oliver said. “I know it’s easy to be defeatist here because nothing has seemingly reined Trump in so far. But I will say this: every asshole succeeds until finally they don’t. . . I can’t guarantee that impeachment will work out the way that you want it to because it probably won’t. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not worth doing. Because if nothing else, we’d be standing by the basic fundamental principle that nobody is above the law.”

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+42 # johnescher 2019-06-17 12:20
Resistance to Trump's impeachment seems the result of glibness and cheap cynicism. And to quote Marilynne Robinson: "Cynicism is the great enabler of corruption, normalizing and universalizing it so that any particular instance of wrongdoing can be left to fester or metastasize as the world wags."
 
 
+4 # economagic 2019-06-17 18:07
Glibness and cheap cynicism, but also fear. And not just the kind of fear that grabs you when you realize you probably entered that intersection after the light changed to red.

In his First Inaugural Address, Franklin D. Roosevelt spelled out in detail the kind of abject fear he was talking about: "nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance." He then went on to explain why in the absence of that kind of fear the nation had all the resources it needed to prosper again:

"Yet our distress comes from no failure of substance. We are stricken by no plague of locusts. Compared with the perils which our forefathers conquered . . ., we have still much to be thankful for. Nature still offers her bounty and human efforts have multiplied it. Plenty is at our doorstep, but a generous use of it languishes in the very sight of the supply. Primarily this is because the rulers of the exchange of mankind's goods have failed, through their own stubbornness and their own incompetence. . . .

Sounds familiar to me.
 
 
0 # goodsensecynic 2019-06-24 17:08
I truly wish people understood what Cynicism is. A post-Socratic philosophy which cherished free speech, self-reliance and public virtue, such Cynics as Antisthenes and Diogenes of Sinope disdained the pursuit of economic wealth, political power, and social status - preferring to live a life of simplicity and honesty.

The Cynics established the basis for the later philosophy of Stocicism and have been represented by the lives of Saints and Sinners, not least St. Francis of Assisi.

Unfortunately, misanthropes of all sorts have distorted Cynical ideals and turned Cynicism into a term of abuse ... often in their own self-interest, hence reversing the logic and making creatures such as the current president the embodiment of every the original Cynics deplored.
 
 
+8 # lfeuille 2019-06-17 17:45
John Oliver gets it exactly right. And thanks to him for forgoing comedy for one night to make the case.
 
 
+4 # HarryP 2019-06-17 18:40
It’s a strange article ostensibly summarizing John Oliver’s comments.

It ignores Oliver’s comments about Trump ordering Don McGahn to fire Muller. And when McGahn refused, Trump demanded McGahn write a letter denying there had been an attempt to fire the special counsel.

You have to go to the video to hear Oliver explain that Trump “obstructed justice and then obstructed again to try to obstruct the investigation into his obstruction of justice.”
 
 
+2 # HenryS1 2019-06-17 20:04
Timing matters. There is an election coming up in a bit over a year. The more information found, the more likely that an impeachment process would deter, as opposed to support, Trump.

Most Americans don't want impeachment. History shows that impeachment CAN act to boost the person impeached.

A premature impeachment, as in right now, would be great for Trump. A building store of information of real transgressions, including some that the public might take seriously, will exert more pressure, and do more to end Trump's reign.

It's too important to mess up. Yes to impeachment, when the evidence is strong and the timing is right (in the critical months before the Presidential election).

Trust Pelosi, she knows what she is doing.
 
 
+10 # chrisconno 2019-06-18 10:40
It seems a false narrative to not want impeachment because the majority of the Americans didn't support the Clinton impeachment. Doesn't matter that the republicans were trying to impeach for a blowjob and a lie about it. A single lie. What man hasn't lied about his infidelities? Please. Obstruction of justice is only one of Trump's truly criminal activities. Trump is guilty of so many crimes besides the 10,000 plus lies. Wouldn't it be criminal to not impeach him?
 
 
+4 # ddd-rrr 2019-06-18 11:22
Kudos to John Oliver and to Laura Bradly for their excellent demonstrations of why
an inquiry into the evidence for a Trump impeachment should begin immediately.
While I have no illusions that steadfastly-stu pid 'Bublicans will be moved even
an inch by what "Trumpian-messe s" would be uncovered as a result,
some "thinking Republicans" (if any still exist), may then
understand the existential need for the
removal of this "president".

Otherwise, things remain in their current sorry and destructive state,
WHICH IS NOT ACCEPTABLE IN ANY RESPECT!
 
 
0 # goodsensecynic 2019-06-24 17:00
Impeachment should be initiated "if for naught else, then for this: that posterity may know we did not, loosely through silence, let things slip away as in a dream." - English theologian, Richard Hooker, "On the Ecclesiastical Polity, 1598.
 

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