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Graham’s ‘impeach Kamala’ drumbeat will lead Republicans to a 2022 defeat

Do you remember the riveting testimony of … Bill Taylor? Me neither. How about George Kent? Gordon Sondland ring a bell?  

Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating. Former President Trump’s first impeachment is not totally forgettable. If we strain our brains, perhaps we can remember the testimony of these witnesses at the then-breathless — for Democrats, anyway — House hearings. Those hearings generated two articles of impeachment based on Trump’s alleged “abuse of power” in dealings with Ukraine. Even at the time, the impeachment articles were tough to grasp. They were adopted along partisan lines by the Democrat-controlled House, after which Trump was acquitted along partisan lines in the then-Republican-controlled Senate.

Trump Impeachment Part One was undeniably historic, just the third presidential impeachment in American history (fourth if you count Richard Nixon, though he technically was not impeached). Still, as a matter of public interest, it had a shorter half-life than Iodine-131 (that’s 8.1 days — I looked it up!). 

Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) should bear it in mind.

Graham seems to be banking on a long remembrance of Trump Impeachment Part Two. The former president was acquitted on Saturday in a closer-than-expected vote. The ugly 43-57 tally goes down as a “win” for Trump because of the two-thirds supermajority requirement (67 guilty votes) for conviction. Despite convincing evidence of Trump’s wrongdoing, Graham rebuked Democrats for having opened a “Pandora’s Box.” 

Poor Pandora has been a Graham verbal tick throughout the latest Trump impeachment. In the run-up to the Senate trial, Graham fretted that Democrats would open this mythological wellspring of woe if they dared call witnesses. After the trial, other GOP elder statesmen, such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), were more focused on Trump’s abominable conduct than on their technical, jurisdictional rationale for acquitting him. Graham, by contrast, was defiant. He warned that Democrats would reap the Pandora whirlwind for charging Trump with “incitement of insurrection.” Now, he predicted, the Republicans’ first order of business upon taking control of the House in 2023 would be to impeach Vice President Kamala Harris.

Graham ought to give Pandora a rest.

The senator’s point was not totally fatuous. Suddenly, the schizo-Dems see insurrection as anathema and are smitten by police officers. If you’re feeling dizzy, it’s because the same Democrats spent the summer turning a blind eye to left-wing insurrectionist violence in major cities across the country. And not just a blind eye. Some Democrats affirmatively justified the rioting, as well as ludicrous “Defund the Police” campaigns, in the name of social justice. Among the worst offenders was then-Sen. Harris. 

In June, the California Democrat urged her fellow progressives to “chip in now to the @MNFreedomFund to help post bail for those protesting on the ground in Minnesota.” That fund ended up bailing out alleged rioters who are now accused of committing new crimes while on release. These include one alleged rioter, bailed out not once but twice by the fund, who recently has been arrested yet again on serious felony charges — and he remains under investigation for firearms offenses (beyond one he already has been charged with).

Graham thus figures that Harris could be said to have engaged in the “incitement of insurrection,” even though, as with Trump, she may not be guilty of incitement in the criminal-law sense, and the rioting may not rise to the level of insurrection. There is a certain “good for the goose, good for the gander” symmetry to this contention. It breaks down, though, because the Trump and Harris situations are not comparable.

On Jan. 6, Trump was president of the United States. He instigated a rally intended to pressure his vice president and congressional Republicans to flout their constitutional duty to count the electoral votes of battleground states won by President Biden. Although there is no evidence that Trump wanted the rally to turn violent, it was foreseeable that there could be trouble. When the gathering descended into a forcible storming of the seat of our national government, Trump — the commander in chief — failed to take action to quell the riot, or even to ask his supporters to cease and desist.

This past summer, Harris was not even the vice president. She had no commander in chief duties, and the places under siege were not facilities for which she bore security responsibilities. Even if we stipulate that recklessly bailing out possible sociopaths without studying the facts of their cases is reprehensible, the Eighth Amendment presumptively favors bail. Encouraging it is legal.

Clearly, Republicans must continue pointing out the Democrats’ hypocrisy on political violence. It is certainly fair to compare the Capitol rioting, horrific as it was, to the months of left-wing rioting that did more damage and claimed more lives, and whose anti-police crusade continues to imperil communities — even as Democrats convert the nation’s Capitol into a militarized fortress. It undermines the seriousness of the Republican argument, however, to treat the Harris and Trump situations as if they were on the same plane.

More to the point, it is new events that decide elections, and that erode our memories of even the recent past. Consider this: The midterm elections are two years away. That is twice as long as the time that has passed since Trump Impeachment Part One. Yet, for all its historical significance, that episode slid so quickly down the memory hole that Democrats barely mentioned it at their convention a few months later. It made no difference in the 2020 election outcome. Transparently partisan and utterly forgettable, Trump’s first impeachment was promptly swept from our consciousness by the pandemic, the crashing economy, the rioting, the rebounding economy, the race toward a vaccine, and various other issues.

If Republicans do take over the House again, it will be because voters have wearied of the Democrats’ tireless gamesmanship in running it. A big part of that has been the trivializing of impeachment into a partisan weapon rather than a constitutional check. Rest assured, then, that there will be no GOP House majority if the message is, “Elect us and we’ll impeach Kamala!” 

Remember, Trump did not lose on policy; he lost on temperament. To the contrary, President Obama was always more popular personally than as a policymaker — indeed, though he held on to win reelection, his first four years of governing chased away nearly 4 million voters who’d pulled the lever for him the first time around. Besides Hillary Clinton (Obama’s first Secretary of State), the best thing the Trump 2016 campaign had going for it was the direction in which Obama was taking the country; yet, President Biden seems determined to oversee Obama’s third term.

Remembering that is the key if Republicans are to reclaim control of Congress. Promising tit-for-tat partisan impeachment is the path to a longer stay in the wilderness.

Former federal prosecutor Andrew C. McCarthy is a senior fellow at National Review Institute, a contributing editor at National Review, and a Fox News contributor. His latest book is “Ball of Collusion.” Follow him on Twitter @AndrewCMcCarthy.

Tags 2021 impeachment Capitol attack Donald Trump Donald Trump Electoral violence Gordon Sondland Hillary Clinton Joe Biden Mitch McConnell urban unrest

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