I didn’t agree with constitutional scholar Jonathan Turley’s conclusions about the speed of the impeachment or the dearth of evidence, but he did say something last week that resonated with me:
“I get it,” he told the House Judiciary Committee. “You’re mad. The president’s mad. My Republican friends are mad. My Democratic friends are mad. My wife is mad. My kids are mad. Even my dog seems mad — and Luna is a goldendoodle and they don’t get mad.”
If you’ve been paying attention, you’re probably mad.
If you are a supporter of President Trump, you are mad that the Democrats have just introduced two articles of impeachment against him, ensuring a shameful place for him in the history books, regardless of the final outcome.
If you are part of the Democratic opposition, you are mad that Trump behaves as if he is above the law, and is likely to get away with trying to bribe a foreign head of state to do his domestic political bidding.
There is plenty of anger on both sides.
The question is: Whose anger is legitimate?
Therapists will tell you that feelings are neither right nor wrong, they just are: Hey, you’re angry. Let’s explore why.
In politics, though, anger is a powerful tool — of persuasion, of manipulation, of motivation. For good or ill, it can be the most effective force in an election, a confirmation, or an impeachment.
Trump surfed a wave of populist anger right into the Oval Office.
Then-Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh figured out halfway through his confirmation hearings that if he didn’t get almost hysterically angry, he was probably going to lose the vote. Magically, at the very same moment, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham discovered his inner rage-aholic, and helped save the day for Kavanaugh. A cynic might say it was almost as if they’d both had a session with an acting coach.
Over the last few weeks, Republicans have focused their anger on the political process of impeachment, rather than on the misdeeds of the president, which are, at their core, indefensible.
The hot feelings, a manifestation of frustration, are a result of their status as the minority party in the House. I get that.
They don’t get to make the rules, they must abide by the Democrats’ procedural decisions. They don’t get to call witnesses. They don’t even control the bathroom breaks.
It must be absolutely infuriating that Democrats Jerry Nadler or Adam B. Schiff can demand a member’s silence with the stroke of the chairman’s gavel. Powerlessness is infuriating. In this scenario, as the kids might tell Republicans, it sucks to be you.
So the anger is understandable, even if the way they express it is, at times, juvenile.
Republican Rep. Jim Jordan, the former assistant wrestling coach whose refusal to put on a coat seems to reflect his lack of respect for the impeachment process, is perhaps the champion of this style. I am not sure what his “inside” voice sounds like, but each time he’s opened his mouth in the impeachment hearings, what comes out is a yell.
Likewise, the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, Rep. Doug Collins, hisses and spits. In his closing statement Monday, he angrily denounced the impeachment inquiry as “a farce.”
Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz is often incensed, and does not hold back: He was ticked off, or at least pretended to be, that Stanford law professor Pamela Karlan illustrated the difference between kings and presidents by invoking the name of Trump’s son Barron. (It was an instance of poor judgment on her part; she should have realized that Republicans, looking for any distraction, would pillory her. She later apologized.)
On Monday, Gaetz was so upset that the Judiciary Committee would allow lawyers to interview other lawyers that he exploded: “Is this when we just hear staff ask questions of other staff and members get dealt out of this whole hearing and for the next four hours you’re going to try to overturn the results of an election with unelected people?!”
Nadler gaveled him into silence.
Instead of being mad at Democrats and the process, Republicans should be mad that Trump imperiled his presidency and his party by acting like a mobster instead of a head of state.
Maybe they are, but it’s too painful to admit.
Therapists have a word for that, too: denial.
Robin Abcarian is an opinion columnist at the Los Angeles Times.