Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Impeachapelosi: The Speaker’s Horrible Impeachment Strategy

 

The error of the House was not beginning with the end in mind.

Back in the “I’m just a bill” days of Schoolhouse Rock, I was a Boy Scout getting my first merit badge-fueled deep dive into the US Constitution. It wasn’t difficult to note those moments when the Senate (and sometimes the House) had to forge supermajorities: ratifying a treaty, overriding a veto, initiating an amendment to the Constitution.

One that stood out was impeachment, where the Senate again had a supermajority requirement, but the House did not. Why?

Removing a judge (confirmed by the Senate) or elected official (elected by the electoral college or likewise confirmed) should be a weighty matter, equivalent to modifying the Constitution. An individual is caught in the crosshairs of the checks and balances between branches of government. So the process should be taken in earnest, and with consensus that transcends partisanship or faction.

So why let the House bring articles of impeachment with a simple majority? Why give each chamber full control over its part and – on paper – none in the other? Checks and balances. The House can ignore the Senate completely in its proceedings, but its likelihood of success in the trial approaches zero if they intend to be adversarial. The odds improve when they cooperate, as they must when passing legislation, and especially when preparing legislation that can override an expected veto.

It’s blurrier now that Senators are directly elected rather than selected by the states to represent the states. It makes more sense to let the people’s representatives bring charges (more) frequently, but leave the final, no-appeals judgment to the presumably more sober, thoughtful higher chamber of the legislature representing the states’ interests, chaired by the chief justice of the Supreme Court. This is a well-considered decision: the people deserve their voice, but let wisdom reign. This is less clear in an era where we have so many Senators who are indistinguishable from their House counterparts. Schumer is an excellent example: under the Clinton impeachment, he began as a congressman, then rendered his verdict as a senator. Same Schumer, different desk.

The inclusion of the Chief Justice also sends a message. The Supreme Court doesn’t conduct lengthy trials with witnesses. They choose which cases to take. All trials and appeals are complete, and the high court sits in judgment of the lot. The law itself is on trial – in one case intact but applied incorrectly, in another upheld in full, but sometimes the law itself is found wanting and struck down.

So the question: is hamstringing the upper legislative chamber and the high court’s presiding judge for the duration of the trial meant to take months (or years, as can happen in lower courts)? I think not. The House should do the heavy lifting, not cut corners and expect the Senate to pick up the slack. (Yes, I know. If mixed metaphors were impeachable…)

A complication is that the Constitution was not created in or for the Internet age. Impeachment was never meant to be a live-Tweeted public spectacle. The Senate is not meant for gladiators.

But, here we are. Impeachment as Wrestlemania, with the big belts going to the loudest and most meme-worthy combatants. It’s tailor-made for a Gerald “Speedwalker” Nadler. Adam Schiff seems to covet the Senate’s filibuster rule, and is no stranger to marathon monologues, but isn’t likely to join Dancing with the Stars anytime soon. Speaker Pelosi and Senator Schumer have their fans on The View and late-night TV.

And if ever there was an epic, headline Heel, it’s Bad Orange Man.

That’s the problem. This impeachment hasn’t been about high crimes and misdemeanors. It’s been about low blows and Taking Back The Belt. Trump toppled the reigning heavyweight champ in 2016 with — they allege — a helpful cheap shot from Boris Malenko, King of the Russian Chain Match. Nadler was swearing out loud he’d be the one to bring him down … in 2017. Points for persistence, I guess. But Hornswaggle isn’t pinning The Rock anytime soon.

The current House wouldn’t shock the founding fathers much — the rabble is going to rabble. But they would roll their eyes at the articles of impeachment and the process that led to it. Impeachments are historic because they are so uncommon. If you’re going to kill the king, you’d better not miss. Bring all evidence to the table. All witnesses examined and crossed. Draw conclusions, and make it brief. This isn’t small claims court, but in a way it is: this is one throw, all or nothing. Don’t walk into the chamber that barely tolerates your presence and make demands. You want witnesses? Get them when you have total control. If you claim to have a slam dunk, be prepared to follow through and hang off the rim.

And in the name of all that’s holy, remember that the upper chamber is, for the duration – merited or not — home to the golden-throned denizens of Olympus. Never squat over the chamber pot on Olympus. Go before you show, and make your exit before the lightning bolts come out.

Begin with the end in mind. If you expect to win that two-thirds majority, come with the intent to earn every single vote. Poaching from the edge of the orchard might get a procedural win here and there but it won’t carry the day. Drive straight to the heart of each of the 100 judges, on all sides. This is historic; your arguments should transcend faction. You know your case’s weaknesses, you acknowledge them, and you have a superior response to each. Know your judges, and sincerely appeal to their highest principles. That means acknowledging they have some, even your worst enemies. If your case can’t bridge that divide, you’re wasting everyone’s time and you will return to your side of Capitol Hill, justly diminished.

The Nixon impeachment was the best example we have of a House that did the hard work. They took their time. They started with public sentiment against them. They persisted, built a case, went through the courts. Is there any doubt that a 9-0 victory in United States v. Nixon hastened Nixon’s determination to resign? What’s the goal – to be the one to reach the podium first, win the dank meme war with your sick burns….or to effect actual change? The Rodino committee drafted articles, but they didn’t get an impeachment. They didn’t get a forced removal. But their work led to President Ford nonetheless. A quiet visit to Nixon from some influential GOP senators preempted the need for a trial.

As Reagan said, “there is no limit to the amount of good you can do if you don’t care who gets the credit.”

Was the impeachment of Trump a pursuit of high principles? The results speak for themselves. The House managers and the White House defense scored points with their respective choirs. The House Managers frequently alienated the Senators with inflammatory rhetoric. The results have been utterly predictable since…before the committees first met.

Partisanship can get you into the ring. But don’t expect to win with that strategy.

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  1. Arahant Member

    Jim Wright: The results have been utterly predictable since…before the committees first met. Partisanship can get you into the ring. But don’t expect to win with that strategy.

    Depends on what one considers a win. Perhaps they thought there was no way they would ever get the super-majority, so they were going for the burns and the ability to discredit the Senate, just as they say that nothing the Supreme Court does is legitimate because Brett Kavanaugh.

    • #1
    • January 31, 2020, at 9:38 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  2. Jim Wright Coolidge
    Jim Wright

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Jim Wright: The results have been utterly predictable since…before the committees first met. Partisanship can get you into the ring. But don’t expect to win with that strategy.

    Depends on what one considers a win. Perhaps they thought there was no way they would ever get the super-majority, so they were going for the burns and the ability to discredit the Senate, just as they say that nothing the Supreme Court does is legitimate because Brett Kavanaugh.

    That was their intent, yes, though I think Schiff was absolutely convinced his arguments were irrefutable. But Trump has been Tweeting circles around them, and the predictable, clockwork release of Bombshell Leaks has lost its power to shock, played out before Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

    Does the trial give momentum to the eventual Democratic party nominee? Will the zingers that didn’t move the needle in the Senate become rallying cries in fall campaign ads? Is the Senate less respected than before, or is its reputation just reinforced? I know the Left never gives up; they’re still smearing Clarence Thomas, and Kavanaugh has decades of the same to look forward to. 

    Their shtick may play well in the echo chambers, but will it make much difference in November? I’m not seeing it yet.

    • #2
    • January 31, 2020, at 9:47 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  3. Arahant Member

    Jim Wright (View Comment):
    Their shtick may play well in the echo chambers, but will it make much difference in November?

    I don’t know. Maybe it’s part of ginning up the base to try to take the Senate. Maybe it’s part of a different strategy. Maybe it is the flailing that it looks like.

    • #3
    • January 31, 2020, at 10:00 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  4. Arahant Member

    Also, it could be a way to get the squad to sit down and shut up. “Okay, we tried it your way. Look. It failed. Now, listen to your elders and betters.”

    • #4
    • January 31, 2020, at 10:03 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  5. Jim Wright Coolidge
    Jim Wright

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Also, it could be a way to get the squad to sit down and shut up. “Okay, we tried it your way. Look. It failed. Now, listen to your elders and betters.”

    Interesting thought! Nancy is a survivor, and the Squad is a real threat.

    • #5
    • January 31, 2020, at 10:08 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  6. Rodin Member

    Jim Wright (View Comment):
    Their shtick may play well in the echo chambers, but will it make much difference in November? I’m not seeing it yet.

    Yes, they may have been masterful curling players, with much to speak of with other aficionados at the bar after a match, but not much of an audience outside of themselves.

    For all the angst documented on this site (mine included) it seems like few were paying attention at all. They had the healthier outlook it seems.

    • #6
    • January 31, 2020, at 10:51 PM PST
    • 1 like
  7. Clifford A. Brown Contributor

    Jim Wright (View Comment):
    The House Managers frequently alienated the Senators with inflammatory rhetoric. The results have been utterly predictable since…before the committees first met. 

    More along this line, and your observation:

     The House Managers frequently alienated the Senators with inflammatory rhetoric.

    They specifically offended Senator Lisa Murkowski, who they could have had voting for more witnesses. They fouled her coffee cup twice, at the beginning of this whole circus and at the end. She was reportedly personally offended by over-the-top remarks aimed at the four Republicans the House managers needed to persuade. It was personal, and she took it that way. 

    When they did it the second time, they had already lost Lamar Alexander, who is not running for reelection and so was a free-agent. That meant they needed Murkowski just to get to the 50:50 position that would let them claim some sort of victory and stir the pot further.

    Why? I see the answer in the wild jockeying for the final microphone appearance between Nadler and Schiff. They both have Squad-type primary challengers and are desperate to out-crazy the crazy left, just to keep their seats. The socialist left is firmly in charge of the Congressional Democratic Caucuses, both houses. 

    • #7
    • February 1, 2020, at 12:11 AM PST
    • 7 likes
  8. EODmom Coolidge

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    Jim Wright (View Comment):
    The House Managers frequently alienated the Senators with inflammatory rhetoric. The results have been utterly predictable since…before the committees first met.

    More along this line, and your observation:

    The House Managers frequently alienated the Senators with inflammatory rhetoric.

    They specifically offended Senator Lisa Murkowski, who they could have had voting for more witnesses. They fouled her coffee cup twice, at the beginning of this whole circus and at the end. She was reportedly personally offended by over-the-top remarks aimed at the four Republicans the House managers needed to persuade. It was personal, and she took it that way.

    When they did it the second time, they had already lost Lamar Alexander, who is not running for reelection and so was a free-agent. That meant they needed Murkowski just to get to the 50:50 position that would let them claim some sort of victory and stir the pot further.

    Why? I see the answer in the wild jockeying for the final microphone appearance between Nadler and Schiff. They both have Squad-type primary challengers and are desperate to out-crazy the crazy left, just to keep their seats. The socialist left is firmly in charge of the Congressional Democratic Caucuses, both houses.

    And just think about it: all these people, from Congress to media to “scholars” to other institutional types and more, have all that time on their hands to go through these motions to produce …… absolutely nothing. And they have the infernal arrogance to tell us that it’s the highest and best exemplar of good governance? Think of all the people you know who go to work every day and genuinely contribute to the making of something of value to society, if not civilization. What do these individuals produce? Nothing. For years and years and years. 

    • #8
    • February 1, 2020, at 6:33 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  9. Rodin Member

    EODmom (View Comment):
    Think of all the people you know who go to work every day and genuinely contribute to the making of something of value to society, if not civilization. What do these individuals produce? Nothing. For years and years and years. 

    B-b-b-b-ut…fundraising!

    • #9
    • February 1, 2020, at 8:10 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  10. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge

    Question. If Presidents can be impeached and removed using these tactics. Why can’t lower office and positions? Why don’t we start doing so?

    • #10
    • February 1, 2020, at 11:33 PM PST
    • Like
  11. Arahant Member

    Fake John/Jane Galt (View Comment):

    Question. If Presidents can be impeached and removed using these tactics. Why can’t lower office and positions? Why don’t we start doing so?

    They can, such as judges.

    • #11
    • February 1, 2020, at 11:35 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  12. OkieSailor Member
    OkieSailor Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Jim Wright (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Jim Wright: The results have been utterly predictable since…before the committees first met. Partisanship can get you into the ring. But don’t expect to win with that strategy.

    Depends on what one considers a win. Perhaps they thought there was no way they would ever get the super-majority, so they were going for the burns and the ability to discredit the Senate, just as they say that nothing the Supreme Court does is legitimate because Brett Kavanaugh.

    That was their intent, yes, though I think Schiff was absolutely convinced his arguments were irrefutable. But Trump has been Tweeting circles around them, and the predictable, clockwork release of Bombshell Leaks has lost its power to shock, played out before Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

    Does the trial give momentum to the eventual Democratic party nominee? Will the zingers that didn’t move the needle in the Senate become rallying cries in fall campaign ads? Is the Senate less respected than before, or is its reputation just reinforced? I know the Left never gives up; they’re still smearing Clarence Thomas, and Kavanaugh has decades of the same to look forward to.

    Their shtick may play well in the echo chambers, but will it make much difference in November? I’m not seeing it yet.

    It all depends on what the mushy middle decides, to they go with D’s or R’s? They decide every election, not a great selling point for Democracy.

    • #12
    • February 2, 2020, at 6:10 AM PST
    • 1 like
  13. OkieSailor Member
    OkieSailor Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Also, it could be a way to get the squad to sit down and shut up. “Okay, we tried it your way. Look. It failed. Now, listen to your elders and betters.”

    One can hope but that’s probably hoping against hope.

    • #13
    • February 2, 2020, at 6:11 AM PST
    • 1 like
  14. OkieSailor Member
    OkieSailor Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Rodin (View Comment):

    Jim Wright (View Comment):
    Their shtick may play well in the echo chambers, but will it make much difference in November? I’m not seeing it yet.

    Yes, they may have been masterful curling players, with much to speak of with other aficionados at the bar after a match, but not much of an audience outside of themselves.

    For all the angst documented on this site (mine included) it seems like few were paying attention at all. They had the healthier outlook it seems.

    Friends we see often were hoping for no witnesses in the Senate solely so they could see their TV shows again.

    • #14
    • February 2, 2020, at 6:12 AM PST
    • 1 like