RELATED, IF YOU WISH: I strongly recommend this GoFundMe project.
My preoccupation for this week was to watch almost all of the impeachment proceedings in the U.S. Senate. It was a long slog.
I write this between the end of Friday and Saturday, which may wrap up the proceedings. I don’t pretend to know the final decision. Posts about the previous days are here and here. I simply share impressions and personal opinions, as I will, at this space.
I have more than a casual knowledge of law, lawyers, and how the legal and personal dynamics processes work, a benefit of my professional career working representing people.
I know how Law and Politics work. All that differs from one situation to another are the specifics of the rules and the people involved.
Impeachment is more a political process than legal, created and largely administered by lawyers, It is not a “Perry Mason” kind of legal drama. Someone described this hearing as Judge Judy on steroids.
Trump, #45, is only the third president to ever be impeached in our 234 years as a country; and he’s the only one to be impeached twice. Thus, we don’t have much practice with this. The last president to be impeached was impeached for lying about sex, much more a political than legal issue. It took more than a year for this political theatre to play out in 1998-99. Long before the drama ended, the country was sick of it.
The Senate makes the rules for Impeachment hearings, which may or may not be consistent with related laws. In this case, the law becomes a family matter: all of the actors know each other and the rules and are in relationship with each other. We are the spectators, largely ignorant, but we’ll own the results.
Here is the operative language found in Article 2 & 3 of the U.S. Constitution:
Article 2: “The House of Representatives shall chuse [sic] their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.”
Article 3: “The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.
Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.”
There are other impeachments than of the President, but we rarely hear of them. They involve such offices as Judges who have in one way or another violated public trust. Even these are very infrequent. Here’s a source that seems complete. It appears that the only “boiler-plate” language that exists is what has been printed above.
I tend to be very slow on casting judgment on cases like this.
This impeachment is in a sense a family matter in far more than a casual sense. The actors, President, House and Senate, are in co-equal branches with their own rights and responsibilities. The founders did this on purpose.
Add the fact that these actors are partisan, virtually 100% Republican and Democrat, actively involved in who is elected to office, especially President, and there are certain problems, especially in a large and complex society as ours is.
What we are witnessing is very much a dispute between “families” played out by a total of 537 powerful people, every one of whom were democratically elected by ourselves. Our current President, Joe Biden, is not involved.
We, “the American People”, ultimately own the results of this mess – there is no passing the buck. Much is said about “the base”, and “primaries” and the like. That’s us. Like it or not, we are destroying ourselves.
I was musing about this, recently. With apologies to the Hatfields and McCoys and their famous feud, this case reminds me of their dynamics, where one family member killed the others family member and it became a blood feud that lasted for years. If a Hatfield killed a McCoy, one side said the other family deserved to die; and the other family sought revenge. “Can’t we just get along” didn’t work. And this wasn’t because they might have been “hillbillies”. They were no better or worse than all of us.
Think about “street gangs” as well – not that different. In politics, character assassination is a preferred weapon, over deadly weapons, though deadly weapons have now been added to the political arsenal.
Trumps Army, deadly as it was on Jan. 6, is a tiny bunch, even more tiny if you spread it out over the entirety of our country. Who do YOU know, or guess, is active in some militia somewhere? This doesn’t mean these criminals can’t do serious damage – they do, and will – but they are nothing more than a bunch of ignorant know-nothings.
There will be a vote, perhaps as early as tomorrow (Feb 13), on whether to impeach, and no one realistically knows the outcome till the votes are counted (though everyone seems to think they do know).
My own personal opinion: we have never had a worse President of the United States than #45. We are two “countries” now, the laughing-stock of the world. Two halves make far less than a whole…. We do have a very strong personal infrastructure – look at your own neighborhood – but we are a very sick society.
Life has taught me that problems are inevitable between humans, and we’re well advised to figure out how to figure things out. We can’t survive divided. There are no winners.
This is a public matter, not somebody else’s problem. Each of us can help in very small ways at home and in our neighborhood and community. Little changes will make a big difference.
POSTNOTE: “Team Colors”?
Last Sunday we watched part of the Super Bowl. I’m not a big fan of football, but on Super Bowl Sunday, even in Pandemic, other life comes to a screeching halt.
Our society seems to model itself on pro-football, especially today. We are competing teams; seeking the title, which is only for the single year…and next year there’s another battle for supremacy, and so on.
Pro Football, love it or hate it, has figured out the rules for its road. Participants know the rules of the road and largely follow them. They have the same playing field, 100 yards long, and they play between the end zones, in-bounds. There are penalties for infractions of the rules, etc., etc., etc.
Theoretically, our society seems to have largely become analogous to pro football: teams (tribes), winners/losers. However, in sundry ways one team seems to have been obsessed with tinkering with the rules to give itself a permanent advantage: appointing the judges most likely to be favorable; tinkering with the rules for voting, analogous to making its teams zone 45 yards, rather than 50, making the other teams field 55 yards. In other words, making it more difficult for one team to prevail than the other.
There has to be a better way.
POSTNOTE Sat. Feb 13 11 a.m.: I started to watch the morning proceedings, but it rapidly descended into procedural wrangling about witnesses, so I checked out, and went for my usual Covid drive. As noon-time approaches, the early morning status continues, with intense private negotiations taking place.
On the drive, I was thinking back to a rather intense exchange within this blog back on July 24, 2019 (it is easily accessible in the archive). This was one of the few times I expressed anger at Trump; it was at the time of issuance of the Mueller Report. I said this: “My opinion: The current President is as close to a common criminal as we have ever had in the highest office in the land….” Hank, someone I’ve never met, a Californian, replied: “Common criminal he may be [emphasis added], but he is the best thing the country has seen since Reagan…” continuing with the usual litany of socialism, etc., etc., etc. from the right-wing echo chamber. It was an interesting acknowledgment.
I thought of an analogy from ordinary life. Let’s say someone’s Dad kills a neighbor in an argument over something domestic. The Dads defense is “he deserved it”, even though it is murder, and everyone knows that. The probable quandary of conscience of the family is to defend the Dad for all of the reasons each of us can understand.
I know a fairly large number of people who support Trump, whose public persona is opposite to that displayed daily by Trump. Still, they defend the indefensible. So it is.
11:30 a.m. Chatter on the TV is about negotiations about reaching some settlement of the issues raised earlier this morning. Of course, none of us other than the persons supposedly talking, have no idea who is discussing what…but it’s all we have to watch, and the TV analysts have to discuss. Having. been in such ‘deaths door’ negotiations in the past, I sort of know what’s happening behind closed doors. We just need to wait. Speculate all one wants to speculate, but the truth will out about what happened, when it actually happens.
Then there’s the drama that can be generated by someone like the “Philadelphia lawyer” representing Trump. We’ve probably all heard the term; I just looked it up for the first time, which is the link provided.
The Law is an adversary process: lawyers are hired to take opposing sides…and honorable thing to do. It is frustrating, if one things their lawyers opinion is dispositive, but rarely if ever is something “clear” in the law.
I first witnessed this in action early in my career in representing teachers. I think it was in the winter of 1976, and a teacher, in the bargaining unit I represented, had been fired for cause, and had requested a public hearing as provided by law. The infraction was excessive discipline of some fourth graders in a particularly rambunctious class.
The evidence and testimony were lengthy, and at the end the prosecuting attorney, representing the school district, rose to summarize the case. He was a pretty gifted orator, the first I’d personally experienced. I vividly remember one short part of his closing, that the errant teacher had “thrown” a student “three feet” across the room. Of course, he made it sound like the student had been launched into orbit – and he had been honest, about the three feet.
I recall the ruling: The School Board voted unanimously to reinstate the teacher, who was on paid leave. The teacher ultimately resigned and never returned to teaching, to my knowledge.
11:52 a.m. – an agreement was announced and agreed to relating to the evidence question referred to above.
5:50 p.m. – I watched the vote, and listened to portions of the analysis, including the speeches of Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell. I think the House Managers did an outstanding job in presenting their case. I hope this is not forgotten by anyone.
Mid afternoon I took a trip over to the Gandhi Mahal site at 27th and Lake. The site is now completely cleared and the depression of the restaurant basement filled in. Here are two photos from today of the site. This will always be my tangible reminder of the tragedy of 2020.
POSTNOTE Feb. 20, 2021: The impeachment vote was a week ago.
“The former guy” is not yet in the rear view mirror. It remains to be seen what the long term impact will be from deprivation of the oxygen of daily publicity.
One of his mentors, Rush Limbaugh, died a couple of days ago. Alan at Just Above Sunset did an excellent commentary about his legacy here.
That’s all I have to say about this. It is time for our country to move on past the nasty negativism so exemplified by Limbaugh and his ilk.