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Boardman writes: "This is not encouraging. The country has been in a deepening constitutional crisis for more than two stormy decades and now, belatedly, the speaker is proposing an umbrella?"

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Adam Schiff. (photo: Getty Images)
Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Adam Schiff. (photo: Getty Images)

What Does "Impeachment" Mean to Democrats? They Don't Say.

By William Boardman, Reader Supported News

08 October 19

“Therefore, today, I am announcing the House of Representatives is moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry. I am directing our six Committees to proceed with their investigations under that umbrella of impeachment inquiry. The President must be held accountable. No one is above the law.”

– Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, September 24, 2019

his is not encouraging. 

The country has been in a deepening constitutional crisis for more than two stormy decades and now, belatedly, the speaker is proposing an umbrella?  

Even less encouraging, when the speaker announces an umbrella of an impeachment inquiry, the political and media classes respond as if they’re going to a New Year’s Eve party rather than undertaking a serious constitutional duty. 

An umbrella? Made up of six committees? How is that supposed to work? 

It’s been raining for a long, long time. 

Since the moment the current president was sworn in, he has been committing more and more impeachable offenses. After more than two and a half years of open corruption, the most thoughtful response we can get from the US House of Representatives is an umbrella of six committees with no formal framework? 

The speaker is playing political word games, and she’s surrounded by enablers equally uncommitted to being frank and honest. What is “an official impeachment inquiry” exactly? It’s nothing. It’s three meaning-free but impressive-sounding words that reinforce the status quo. The status quo is whatever those six committees are up to. We don’t really know what that is because they aren’t eager to explain and reporters aren’t eager to inquire. “An official impeachment inquiry” is actually nothing but empty words that give some sort of cover to those carrying it out, whatever it turns out to be. We shall see, but I am not encouraged. 

As I said on the radio (yes, quoting myself!) two days after the announcement of the official impeachment inquiry:  

When impeachment becomes a sudden fad with no clear grounding in principle and a narrow focus on pretty much circumstantial evidence grounded in a bed of bipartisan corruption resting on tectonic plates of the new cold war, I remain detached and skeptical – except the show might be spectacular, especially if viewed from another planet (or maybe just China). 

In other words, right from the start the official impeachment inquiry looked like an out-of-control six-ring circus with all the sideshows clamoring for center stage and absolutely no clear way to the egress. After two weeks, the mindless public tumult has only gotten worse. No one has offered a cogent answer to the core question of why swamp creatures behaving like swamp creatures in a longstanding swamp had any real significance when they turned their swamp creature tactics on fellow swamp creatures. 

In the real world, Ukraine got its military aid (late) and the Ukrainian president did not get any White House visit. That would be a quid pro nunc. Whether anyone’s investigating the Bidens remains unclear, no matter how deserved. When you’re the VP of the United States and your son is getting $50,000 a month from a corrupt Ukrainian oligarch and you don’t make a peep – well, whatever Joe Biden thinks his behavior was, it was not an example of integrity. And Biden still hasn’t owned up to it any more than he’s owned up to his more egregious gifts to his country: the Iraq War, Justice Clarence Thomas, and predatory credit card companies. To the extent that the official impeachment inquiry is designed to protect Joe Biden, it’s yet another corrupt Democratic Party scheme designed to interfere with an election and defraud the American public. 

Right now, both parties are betting there’s a sucker born every minute and that won’t change. Come see the official impeachment committees swallow their umbrellas whole without a trace. Is there any reason to think America’s elected freakshow won’t keep the two-party con spinning indefinitely? The chair of the House Intelligence Committee can’t even admit the harmless truth about his early knowledge of the first whistleblower. How much of this incompetence is deliberate? 

So what would an honest impeachment process look like?  

The meaning of impeachment is clear – it means indicting the president for “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors” in the words of the Constitution. There are no constitutional rules for carrying out an impeachment, so calling it an umbrella or a banana or a roadside bomb are all allowed, even if they don’t mean much. 

Any serious indictment should rest on reliable evidence (as illustrated by the Nixon impeachment and all but ignored in the Clinton impeachment). This time around, we have Congressional leaders who have spent years denying the evidentiary elephant in the room. Now they suddenly leap into the morass of Ukrainian corruption, cold war politics, and bipartisan sleaze, spouting the high hilarity of moral dudgeon over things they studiously ignored for years. 

The country doesn’t need this kind of fake political theatre of such mindless thrashing about, not if the country has any collective determination to redeem its most important values. Of course, there’s doubt about that. But this moment, this presidency, these decades of decline cry out for principled, clear-headed leadership that is willing to trust the politics of truth and integrity. The umbrella politics of the six House committees have delivered enough denial and evasion. To call for an intellectually honest impeachment process assumes that there are enough principled, clear-headed people in the House prepared to take on a long, intricate, uncertain process for the sake of the American future. Such people are not yet apparent, but perhaps they exist. 

For a serious impeachment process to succeed it needs to be comprehensive, open-ended, and truthful. For better or worse, it is up to the House to manage this. There is no one else. The Senate has already rendered itself irrelevant, making removal of the president is all but impossible, regardless of the evidence. And just as well, since the consequence of removal is clearly undesirable, whether it produces a President Pence or a President Pelosi. 

The most meaningful timeframe now is fixed by the November 2020 election. Between now and then the House could – if it can muster the collective integrity – create what amounts to a year-long national teach-in on constitutional values. There is no shortage of important issues that have nothing to do with Biden or Ukraine. There is a host of important issues that are not secret. Many are explored in “The Constitution Demands It: The Case for the Impeachment of Donald Trump” (Melville House, 2018). This book offers more than enough arguments and evidence to impeach this president multiple times. The authors – Ron Fein, John Bonifaz, and Ben Clements – are all distinguished lawyers and constitutional scholars who would provide the kind of calm, thoughtful, articulate voices that should characterize an ideal teach-in panel. Without that kind of integrity and honesty, we’re not likely to get helpful answers to questions like these:  

Do we want to allow presidents to use their office to enrich themselves? 

Do we want to allow presidents to re-write laws without Congressional participation? 

Do we want to allow presidents to attack the environment for the sake of private interests, at the cost of the public good? 

Do we want to allow presidents to deny climate science at the cost of the public good globally? 

Do we want presidents to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, rather than arbitrarily caging children against the law? 

Do we want presidents to respect the rule of law and due process of law? 

Do we want presidents to be accountable for their words and actions, especially when they incite bigotry and violence? 

This is not an exhaustive list. What matters most is that the president be held accountable for the worst of his behavior, not just some partisan character assassination of an already politically dead challenger. Who knows? If enough Democrats can find the courage and strength to act in the highest national interest, maybe enough Republicans will follow suit to make it a real thing. It might even poll well. And newly-educated voters might remove the president.

William M. Boardman has over 40 years experience in theatre, radio, TV, print journalism, and non-fiction, including 20 years in the Vermont judiciary. He has received honors from Writers Guild of America, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Vermont Life magazine, and an Emmy Award nomination from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner
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