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For America’s sake, Democrats should end impeachment effort

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Once again impeachment is in the air, this time driven by Democratic firebrands and donors, with an assist from lousy polls for Donald Trump and the Republican Party. These days, the Democrats see a pathway for retaking the House of Representatives as they lead on the generic congressional ballot by an average of 9 points. Indeed, Democratic billionaire donor Tom Steyer just announced his “Need to Impeachment” initiative. For the record, Steyer spent more than $91 million of his money to help elect Democrats in 2016, and that did not work out exactly as Steyer had planned.

Still, from the looks of things, Nancy Pelosi could again be wielding the Speaker’s gavel come January 2019, while Paul Ryan may be looking for a new job, with the president staring at the possibility of impeachment. Sure, as long Republicans rule the House, impeachment remains a mere hypothetical. But if the House changes hands as the result of the 2018 midterms, then all bets are off.

{mosads}For the Democrats, this looks like an attractive outcome, one that may have folks pinching themselves. Still, they should think twice before going down that road. Instead, they should wait to hear what special counsel Robert Mueller has to say before pulling the trigger. Impeachment drives don’t always end as planned. Seeking to void the results of the 2016 election based solely upon partisan bloodlust would be counterproductive for the Democrats and injurious to America. Sadly, we have seen that movie before, about 20 years ago to be exact.

Back then, Newt Gingrich, the ever priapic House Speaker, and his Republican congressional colleagues thought it a good idea to impeach Bill Clinton for being, well, ever priapic. For his efforts, Gingrich lost the speakership as his own “hobbies” became the focus of attention, and the Republicans managed to lose four seats in the 1998 midterm elections, despite the fact that they were the “out” party. President Clinton ended up the winner as he completed his term with a 65 percent approval rating, a number higher than every other president since Harry Truman.

Instead, the Democrats and the country would be better served by waiting for what the special counsel ultimately says and does about President Trump. Conceivably, Mueller could indict Trump, label him an unindicted conspirator much like Richard Nixon, or recommend that the House consider Trump’s impeachment. It also possible that Trump escapes legal jeopardy. The bottom line is that prudence is in order. There is plenty of time left on the clock.

Not every House Democrat is inclined to wait for either the results of the Mueller investigation, or next year’s elections. Earlier this month, Rep. Al Green of Texas introduced an impeachment resolution predicated upon Trump’s alleged race baiting, discrimination, bigotry and sexism. Suffice to say, Green’s effort did not set off alarms. Ryan yawned and Pelosi did not bat an eyelash. The staples of our culture wars make for lousy grounds for impeachment.

Obviously, all this can change if Mueller ultimately determines that there is sufficient evidence pointing to obstruction of justice by Trump, or some other flavor of impeachable malfeasance. In that case, Democrats and Republicans alike would have a duty as public servants, sworn to uphold the Constitution, to take a good hard look at the facts before them.

Indeed, if that were to occur, this half century’s other impeachment drive, that being the House Judiciary Committee’s impeachment investigation into President Nixon, serves as the better model. Within the House Judiciary Committee, six Republicans voted with 21 Democrats to impeach the president. Nixon resigned in the face of certain impeachment by the House and conviction in the Senate.

But that was a different time. Back in 1974, Southern Democrats like Walter Flowers of Alabama and James Mann of South Carolina managed to find common ground with the likes of Hamilton Fish, a New York Republican, whose namesake served as Ulysses Grant’s secretary of State. Virginia Republican Caldwell Butler, whose ancestors included a Confederate general who had received a death bed promotion from Gen. Stonewall Jackson, made common cause with Texas Democrat Barbara Jordan, who descended from sharecroppers, tenant farmers and former slaves.

In supporting impeachment, Jordan announced, “My faith in the Constitution is whole. It is complete. It is total.” That kind of faith is much harder find in 2017. With each election feeling like a Civil War reenactment, Jordan’s sentiments are really words from a bygone era. For America’s sake, the Democrats should think hard before going there. Sometimes patience really is a virtue.

Lloyd Green was the opposition research counsel to the George H.W. Bush campaign in 1988 and later served in the U.S. Department of Justice.

Tags Al Green Bill Clinton Bill Clinton Democrats Donald Trump Donald Trump Impeachment Nancy Pelosi Newt Gingrich Paul Ryan Paul Ryan Politics Republicans Richard Nixon Robert Mueller Tom Steyer

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