The Casualties of Impeachment, from Biden to Pelosi

Reno Gazette Journal October 6, 2019

Just over a week back, Speaker Pelosi announced that she is launching an impeachment inquiry into President Trump. You have probably heard enough about the merits of the case from various 24-hour “news” channels and I will let you decide on that. Instead, I will use this week’s column to share my views on the casualties of the impeachment process.

Vice President Joe Biden: Even before the Ukrainian issue popped up, Vice President Biden was losing momentum to Senator Warren. Now, no conversation about President Trump involving Ukraine will be complete without a mention of Joe Biden. Every time the Democrats connect President Trump to Ukraine, they will be connecting Vice President Biden to Ukraine as well. This takes away one of Vice President Biden’s biggest selling points: he is drama free and the other guy is filled with drama. Even if the Vice President wins the nomination, he is certain to lose the general election. For all practical purposes, Joe Biden’s political career is over.

Speaker Pelosi: Whatever one may think of Speaker Pelosi’s policy leanings, she is an exceptional fundraiser and a shrewd politician. She resisted the urge to launch impeachment proceedings, but in the end did not have a choice as she was outnumbered by the Ocasio-Cortez wing of the party. To quote Congressman McCarthy, “If you want to know what Pelosi will do tomorrow read Ocasio-Cortez’s tweets tonight”. In my view, Speaker Pelosi is trying to make the most of a bad situation. Pelosi’s choice was to either join the impeachment crowd and do the best she can to control things or oppose impeachment, lose her job as Speaker, and completely lose control over the process. Caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, Pelosi chose the former.

Moderate Democrats: The choice for 31 moderate Democrats who hail from districts that voted for President Trump in 2016 was not easy: Oppose impeachment and face a primary challenge from the Ocasio-Cortez wing of the party or support impeachment and face the ire of swing voters. All 31 of them had to pick their poison and most are unlikely to be reelected. They can only hope that this process is over before the end of the year and there is enough time for the voters to forgive or forget.

Moderate Republican Senators: Senators Cory Gardner in Colorado and Susan Collins in Maine are both in a tough spot. They are up for reelection in 2020 in Democrat leaning states. Their choice: support the impeachment, lose the base, and the election, or oppose the impeachment, lose just a handful of independents, and lose the slim margin of victory. I fully expect Senate Majority Leader McConnell to pull some fancy tricks to prevent Senators Gardner and Collins (and Arizona’s Senator McSally, for that matter) from having to take a stand on impeachment if it ever gets to the Senate.

One final point: The biggest casualty of the impeachment inquiry is the great institutions of Congress and the Presidency. With both President Nixon and President Clinton, the full House voted to direct the Judiciary Committee to begin impeachment proceedings. With President Trump, Speaker Pelosi did not seek a vote of the full House. In skipping this significant step, Speaker Pelosi has set a precedence and lowered the threshold for impeachment proceedings. This will allow any Speaker in the future to start impeachment proceedings against any President of the opposing party for any reason without a vote of the full House. In the long run, the nuclear option did not work well for Democrats with Supreme Court Justices and neither will their current approach to impeachment.

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