A Hoosier guide to impeachment


INDIANAPOLIS — Last Sept. 19 in my publication Howey Politics Indiana, I wrote the cover story "Double Dog Impeachment Dare." It came just as the whistleblower had surfaced, flagging President Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukraine President Zelensky. There were 146 Democrats (including Indiana’s Andre Carson) and one former Republican backing the impeachment of Trump at that time.

I acknowledged a sinking feeling about this Ukraine story. Just a day before his “perfect” July 25 phone call with Zelensky, Trump seemed to have dodged the Robert Mueller threat. But last June 16, Trump was asked by ABC’s George Stephanopoulos if he would accept foreign intel heading into his 2020 reelection. "I think you might want to listen; there isn’t anything wrong with listening," Trump answered. "If somebody called from a country, Norway, ‘We have information on your opponent’ — oh, I think I’d want to hear it."

Federal Election Commission Chair Ellen Weintraub quickly released a statement on Twitter to make it "100 percent clear to the American public" that accepting such an offer is illegal. "This is not a novel concept," Weintraub said. "Electoral intervention from foreign governments has been unacceptable since the beginnings of our nation."

Trump seemed to be goading Democrats to impeach him. Why? Because it would enhance his reelection. "The Do Nothing Democrats had a historically bad day yesterday in the House. They have no Impeachment case and are demeaning our Country," Trump said on Dec. 4, echoing previous rhetoric throughout the summer. "But nothing matters to them, they have gone crazy. Therefore I say, if you are going to impeach me, do it now, fast, so we can have a fair trial in the Senate, and so that our Country can get back to business."

Trump knows that on the week of his 1999 Senate trial acquittal following the Monica Lewinsky scandal, President Bill Clinton’s Gallup Poll approval reached its historic apex at 73 percent.

In the Feb. 18, 1999, edition of the HPI, my final analysis on Clinton’s 55-45 Senate acquittal was this: "Hoosiers … seemed detached. There were no demonstrations of support. The only fits of public expression came after Clinton bombed Iraq on the evening of the House impeachment vote, but they were hardly sustained. Hoosiers seemed more interested in the federal government’s showdown with Microsoft than it did with the Clinton impeachment. In the end, Sens. Richard Lugar and Evan Bayh perfectly embodied the state. Both were quiet during the proceedings and didn’t seek out the TV cameras and talking head shows. When it came down to the final hour, it was Lugar who finally emerged to eloquently express the outrage so many Hoosiers felt in their hearts but were too busy with day-to-day lives to express beyond their own dinner tables. Bayh was a Democrat embarrassed and disgusted — with his own president — but ultimately didn’t want to upset the applecart.”

So here we go. Where America ends up in early 2020 after the fourth presidential impeachment that got underway this month is anyone’s guess. Regular Hoosiers I know aren’t paying much attention and are polarized by President Trump.

I’ll restate past thoughts on these alleged high crimes and misdemeanors: 1.) Impeachments are messy and unpredictable. 2.) Impeachment is an American tragedy that won’t end well. 3.) Impeachment will result in unintended consequences. 4.) Hoosiers are prepared to render a verdict on President Trump at the ballot box next November. 5.) If we get into a mode where we’re impeaching an American president every 20 years, the fragile American experiment will be doomed.

Impeachment today is not attainable or achievable, though there are decades-old echoes that ring familiar bells. Former Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Buyer, one of the House case managers in the Clinton impeachment, described his stomach as roiled after the Senate acquittals, but describes the dilemma that some Democrats feel today. “The possibility that a future president may commit more egregious acts than perjury or obstruction of justice and then demand party loyalty to defend himself against impeachment is the precedent,” Buyer said. “We had a duty to search for the truth.”

Sen. Lugar, who offered up a censure of President Clinton as a compromise, observed, “I believe the crimes committed here demonstrate that he is capable of lying routinely whenever it is convenient. He is not trustworthy.”

I’ve been asked by a Republican national committeeman to regular column readers why I "hate" President Trump. My response is always the same: I don’t hate President Trump, or anyone, for that matter. Hate is corrosive to your soul. My hope for President Trump is the same for any man or woman who holds that office: That he or she be successful. My problem with President Trump is he lies all the time, often about things he doesn’t even need to lie about, and he runs what should be the most sophisticated political operation on the planet like amateur hour.

But Trump’s political fate needs to be determined by voters next November at the ballot box.

Brian A. Howey of Nashville is publisher of Howey Politics Indiana at www.howeypolitics.com. Find Howey on Facebook and Twitter @hwypol.

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