At this point, Donald Trump should not be impeached. Thank heavens for Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Make no mistake. Trump is a bad president, one of the worst in American history. He takes children from their parents and puts them in cages. He dallies with dictators. He and his family make millions of dollars from the presidency. He has obstructed justice. He makes racist comments. He treats women abominably. He alienates our allies. He is a bully. He doesn’t read or even know what he doesn’t know.
He is damaging the environment. He is exacerbating the national political divide. He has failed to nominate qualified people for key positions in government, such as the Federal Aviation Administration. He wants to spend billions on a border “wall” that experts think is foolish. He would take money away from Medicare, Medicaid, health research and education. He has increased income inequality. He shuts down government for no reason. He starts pointless trade wars. He is a terrible example to children. He lies. He cheats. He demeans the presidency every day.
Etcetera. Etcetera. Etcetera.
But unless special counsel Robert Mueller comes up with solid evidence of serious crimes by Trump while in office, which seems less and less likely, impeachment proceedings before all is said and done would be the worst political mistake in a generation.
And such a move might all but ensure that Trump is re-elected in 2020.
The gung-ho, pro-impeachment-now Democrats in the House are impassioned, with good cause, but politically less astute than Pelosi.
The Founding Fathers did not put the possibility of impeachment in the Constitution for political reasons or even because a president is a bad person. It is there for high crimes and misdemeanors. As a last resort.
Pelosi doesn’t want to go down the impeachment road for political reasons. The Senate would not convict Trump, thus weeks of hearings and debate would be pointless and painful. The proceedings would stop all legislative progress and further divide the nation, further embittering millions. Pelosi pointedly and dismissively noted, “He’s just not worth it.”
As tempted as many Democrats are by the starry-eyed vision of getting rid of the toxic Trump presidency through impeachment, the election of 2020 is the time to decide his fate.
We have been down this road before now. We have had other morally weak presidents, such as Andrew Johnson and Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton, none of whom was convicted of impeachment charges although they came close.
And, when we couldn’t talk to each other anymore, we fought the bloody, horrible Civil War. We are still dealing with its ramifications today.
One remedy we need to clean up our political system (besides getting rid of the spurious influence of big money secret and corporate donors) is to get rid of the outmoded Electoral College, which more and more frequently does not reflect the will of the people but is an 18th century device that forestalls the will of the people.
Another remedy is a better educated public, which more fully understands civics, as well as people who take the bother to learn the news as well as get their news from multiple sources. And activism is building at the local level; referenda and initiatives are being passed; enthusiasm for reform is spreading.
There is no doubt the self-serving Trump is doing great damage to the system itself and to our reputation abroad and to the faith Americans once had in democracy. But those can return.
Trump may well be indicted after he leaves office, even if the Department of Justice “policy” (not law) is not to indict a sitting president. (Also, his children are not exempt from indictment.) Legitimate banks will no longer lend to Trump out of office. His 88 percent approval rating among shameless Republicans will melt away.
Trump will be hobbled in the near-term by local, state and federal courts. Even though he is filling judicial seats as fast as he can with like-minded people intent on solidifying big business and the richest among us as the true government, the courts have whittled away at his determination to make wealth and power the determining factors in this country.
In the long term, Trump will be repudiated by history. Soundly. Democrats will only hurt themselves and the country if they try to shortcut the legal process with political theater.
Ann McFeatters is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service.