‘Inappropriate’ but not ‘impeachable’?

I long have thought that Mac Thornberry was a smart man, even though I have harbored some deep personal — and largely private — objections to many of the public policy positions he has taken.

However, the Clarendon, Texas, Republican member of Congress has, um, inflicted some damage to my longstanding view of his intelligence.

Thornberry went on national TV Sunday and said that it is “inappropriate” for a president to “ask a foreign leader to investigate a political rival,” But … then he said it is not “impeachable.”

Allow me to split a hair or two here.

The term “inappropriate” doesn’t necessarily equal “illegal.” However, presidents can be impeached for “inappropriate” behavior. I happen to believe, though, that Donald Trump broke the law when he sought foreign government help in investigating a political rival, Joe Biden.

I’ll stipulate that I am not a lawyer. Thornberry did earn a law degree from the University of Texas; he has called himself a “recovering lawyer.” However, I have read the Constitution, as I am sure has Thornberry. I interpret the Constitution as declaring that presidents cannot solicit foreign governments for political help. Donald Trump did that very thing in that infamous phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

So, has the president abused the power of his office? Did he commit an actual crime? I believe he has done both things. Abusing of power is impeachable; violating the law, not to mention his oath of office, certainly is impeachable.

That makes it far worse than “inappropriate,” as Thornberry has described it.

My disappointment in Thornberry is palpable. He was my congressman for more than 20 years when my wife and I lived in Amarillo. He took office the same week I arrived in Amarillo to begin my tenure as editorial page editor of the Globe-News. I had a good professional relationship with him and his staff.

He has announced he won’t seek re-election in 2020. What he does after he leaves office is a mystery to me. I wish him well. I only wish he would interpret Donald Trump’s egregious misbehavior differently than what he has expressed.

It’s clearly possible, as Thornberry has demonstrated, that people can reach vastly different conclusions while witnessing the same act. Rep. Thornberry has determined that Trump’s actions were “inappropriate,” but not “impeachable.” I believe Trump broke the law and, therefore, earned an early exit from the White House.

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