Opinion

Charles: Impeachment and the Art of ‘No’

Those of us who have raised toddlers and teenagers know this story.

When our children are 2, and 3 years old, and again during those dark ages between 13 and 19 (sometimes the dark ages start around 11 or 12), they spend a great number of their waking hours pushing boundaries.

When our babies become toddlers, they are rightfully exploring the world, what they can do, and how much they can navigate their new discoveries, usually under the safe and watchful eyes of their caregivers. They quickly learn the word “No,” because before they touch that hot stove, tumble down the stairs, or stick something into an electrical outlet, someone swoops in (we fervently hope) to save the day.

They are never grateful. In fact, they often will cry, scream and throw a tantrum. But “no” is the word that establishes boundaries.

When you see the kid in the grocery store throwing a tantrum because he can’t get that toy or that cookie, say a prayer for that parent who has to endure the embarrassment while trying to stay strong. It’s not easy to keep from giving in and giving up when cringing at the disapproving stares. 

And it’s even more difficult when they become teenage toddlers — same mindset, same boundary testing, but bigger, stronger, more verbal, with more chances of high-risk behavior becoming injurious, criminal — or fatal.

But we’ve had the cautionary tale of a lifetime in the last 2½ years of this presidency.

When you have someone who has been bailed out of bad situations and worse decisions his entire life, schemed, cheated and scammed his way through amassing (allegedly) a fortune, without ever being told “no,” I suppose that whole “actions have consequences” credo  just doesn’t apply to you.

Imagine you’re a septuagenarian narcissist, who’s never had to do an honest day’s work in your life. And no, working your way through daddy’s bailouts of millions of dollars while constantly declaring bankruptcy to keep from paying your creditors, and pretending you’re this brilliant businessman, does not count as an honest day’s work.

And if you’ve never been told no, you have no idea what it’s like to not always get your way.

You must figure that your day of reckoning is never going to come.

I know there are a lot of us who had started to believe that too.

Apparently, enough is finally enough.

I believe that must have been House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s feeling when she stood before the cameras Tuesday and announced the opening of a formal impeachment inquiry against Donald Trump.

After way too many months of hand-wringing, poll-watching, finger-to-the-wind politicking, it seems the Toddler-in-Chief has finally been given the life lesson he missed more than 70 years ago.

And while many are finally relieved, and others mystified as the Republicans in Congress try to spin this latest scandal as more partisan politics, let’s actually examine what impeachment may mean for Trump.

Yes, it might fire up his “base,” those who think this racist, xenophobic, Islamophobic pathologically-lying narcissistic wanna-be authoritarian is doing a good job despite (or because of) the above-named qualities. 

They might be even more inclined to come out to vote this person back into the White House in 2020. And they might even be proud to do it.

Good for them.

But if, as so many Democratic congresspeople (and their constituents) believe, no one should be above the law, then let’s see what’s under the hood.

According to the online legal dictionary, impeachment is the process that is used to charge, try, and remove public officials for misconduct while in office.

Impeachment is a fundamental constitutional power belonging to Congress. This is a safeguard against corruption and Congress can use it for cabinet members, judges on the U.S. Supreme Court, all the way to the president. Lawmakers are reluctant to use this power because this is a big deal. It’s not partisan politics, it’s only invoked by evidence of criminality or substantial abuse of power.

This is a two-stage process, which begins with the public inquiry in the House of Representatives. If wrongdoing is established, there will be a trial in the Senate. 

This is where it gets sticky. With the Republicans holding the Senate majority, there seems to be little chance of a vote for this president’s removal. That has been the argument against even starting the inquiry, despite Robert Mueller’s 400-plus page report showing multiple instances of obstruction of justice from this administration. 

Just as Bill Clinton wasn’t removed from office following his impeachment for lying about his affair with a White House intern, Trump may also slither back into the Oval Office. It may even galvanize his base, who will believe Faux News and anything this charlatan tells them, that his actions aren’t criminal, or a threat to national security. 

That’s a chance the Democrats are finally ready to take. 

Because as the Speaker said, no one is above the law. Let these Senate Republicans all go on record saying they condone his actions (and there are multiple committees, so everything will finally be on the table). If the people who were hired to represent their country can say on the record that abuse of power is fine as long as they’re the party in power, then those who voted for them should make sure they let that sentiment sink in. 

This could go either way. It could be the end of Trump’s reign of terror, or it could put him back in the White House.

But shining a light on those dark corners of this administration gives me a little bit of hope. I’m not going to start dancing yet. But I hope that’s the band I hear warming up.

 

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