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Disunited States

Republican scorched-earth policy is tearing the country apart

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I must say that Kevin McCarthy did a masterful job Tuesday night summarizing the Republican defense of Donald Trump. Except he didn’t actually defend the president against the impeachment charges. He just said those charges were baseless, concocted by left-wing ideologues who hate Trump, have disliked him from the git-go, and want to overturn the will of the people who elected him to office. McCarthy opted not to address the charges themselves. He simply denigrated as mean-spirited losers anyone who sought impeachment. In keeping with Republican talking points, the House Democrats were painted as sore losers who have tortured the administration with false claims of misdeeds as retribution for their defeat at the polls.

Personally, I think that there’s a smidgeon of truth in these critical comments. I think that Democrats were shaken by the results of the 2016 election. For that matter, I think a good many Republicans (including Donald Trump) were surprised. And, might I add, it’s likely that the 3 million more voters who preferred Hillary Clinton to Donald Trump were displeased to learn that their votes didn’t count.

As for the rest of McCarthy’s defense of Trump, however, there’s not a lot of substance. The president did refuse to provide any documents subpoenaed by Congress. He did direct staff not to attend the impeachment hearings when they were requested or subpoenaed to do so. Such actions do constitute obstruction of Congress, by definition. Prior presidents were impeached or subject to impeachment proceedings for the same offense.

Whether or not you consider it an impeachable offense, Trump did withhold congressionally approved military aid to a besieged ally (Ukraine) with an eye toward publicizing damaging information about his potential political rival. Mick Mulvaney and Rudy Giuliani both acknowledged it (“Get over it”) so there’s not much ambiguity. Now, you might dismiss this “bargaining” for political advantage as much ado about nothing. But, given the background of the president’s repeated deference to Russia at the expense of his own government’s intelligence and military officials, and given Russia’s documented interference in our elections, such an action should be viewed as disturbing, if not alarming, if not impeachable.

You have to give credit to McCarthy and his fellow Republicans for their creative rendering of the impeachment proceedings. They said that secretive meetings were held in the basement of Congress. Hardly. When classified information was presented, the meetings were held in chambers that protected the sensitive nature of the discussion. Otherwise, the hearings were open to the public and televised. Republicans were allowed equal time for questioning and had their own lawyer to interrogate witnesses. They presented their own witnesses, too. But, much to the dismay of their Republican backers, their testimony did not exonerate the president. Rather, they supported the contention that there was a quid pro quo.

If there was a “substantive” Republican defense of the impeachment charge of abuse of power it was this: The President was combatting corruption in the Ukraine by withholding military assistance funds and denying the Ukrainian president a prestigious White House visit. To support this contention, Republicans wanted to question the whistleblower who, they said, was motivated by malice toward the president, and they sought to question Joe Biden and his son to show that they engaged in corrupt dealings with the Ukraine government. These justifications for Trump’s actions might exonerate the president from charges of self-serving dealings if they were true. But, they are not. First, whistleblowers have a protected status to avert retribution. There was no documentation to show that the whistleblower’s complaint was biased or politically motivated. Regarding the alleged misdeeds of Biden and his son, their activities in the Ukraine have already been investigated. The investigation found no corrupt or illegal actions had been taken by either Biden or his son.

Trump and his toxic politics have turned many Republican representatives into in-your-face combatants in the political arena. Not since Joe Wilson shouted “You lie” at President Barack Obama’s during a congressional address in 2009 have we seen such mean-spirited and adversarial behavior that is not held to account. Republicans are hard pressed no express policy differences with Democrats without dishing up some measure of character assassination. Furthermore, the amount of mud-slinging, misrepresentations and blatant lying demeans the politicians who have abdicated their roles as statesmen. The hyper vitriolic dialogue of Trump ideologues has spawned physically and emotionally threatening encounters that tear at the fabric of our civil society. America has not been made greater. It has been made into the Disunited States of America.

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Weistock is a concerned citizen.

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