I suggest it’s a mistake when Democrats prematurely announce themselves for impeaching a president as a campaign issue. Two pillars of reality exist in the current case. First, let Robert Mueller and his team complete their investigation and make their report. Possible collusion with a foreign power is a grave matter; despite the agitation of some, Washington and the rest of us can wait for a full accounting.
But the second truth is this. As with any key legislation, e.g. healthcare, the most lasting solutions always have crucial buy-in and support from both sides of the aisle. Anything jammed through at midnight by one party is immediately suspect, fragile, and subject to endless subversion. And Congress should only act in response to an unmistakable tidal wave of indignation from the broad American populace in both parties. In a thing like this, the House and Senate ought to do what we want, not what they want.
In the Watergate saga (1974), the entire nation was inexorably moving toward the conviction that President Nixon was guilty of a cover-up. But it wasn’t until July 24 that Nixon lawyer Fred Buzhardt cued up the infamous June 23 tape that detailed the plot. IMMEDIATELY, key Republicans faced the reality that a crime really had happened, and that this was a moment to put country before party.
Two anecdotes from the Woodward/Bernstein book, “The Final Days,” reveal how our American Congress, acting on behalf of an indignant and aroused public, swung into action. The following Saturday, a House Judiciary Committee had to vote articles of impeachment. Democrat Peter Rodino led the vote and the count was 27, exactly the number needed. Later . . . “The talk stopped. Rodino’s body started to shake. Then his small hands clutched his arms, and tears streamed down his face. Weeping quietly, he left the room, went to a washroom and then to the counsel’s office, where he called his wife at home. ‘I pray that we did the right thing,’ he said to her. ‘I hoped it didn’t have to be this way.’”
Tellingly, on August 7, three Republican Senators – Scott, Goldwater, and Rhodes (pictured) – made an appointment to see Nixon in the Oval Office. It was calm and professional; they were respectful and so was Nixon. But they essentially told their own president that his Watergate sins had ended his presidency. National support had melted away; the collective conscience of millions of their fellow citizens had been inflamed beyond repair. There were almost no Republicans willing to vote for his acquittal in a Senate trial. He would have to step down.
The following night, Nixon resigned his office.