Whether to impeach and risk a stunning setback

David Brooks and Mark Shields are two of the more thoughtful, insightful and provocative commentators anywhere.

Brooks is a conservative columnist for the New York Times; Shields is a liberal syndicated columnist. Both men are regulars on PBS NewsHour, appearing on Fridays to offer their analysis of the week’s events.

I am posting this segment to illustrate how Brooks (more or less) summarizes my own view of the notion of impeaching Donald J. Trump.

Brooks appears to believe that Trump deserves to be impeached. Trump has asked a foreign government for help with his re-election effort. He has violated the constitutional oath he took when he became president of the United States.

Brooks, though, is leery of the result. He takes care to note that impeachment is a “political” exercise. Its intent is to remove a president from office. He doubts that even if the House of Representatives impeaches the president, the Senate won’t follow suit. He said that it’s a tall order to get 20 Republican senators to flip to the Democrats’ side and vote to convict Trump of a “high crime and misdemeanor” in a Senate trial.

Have a listen. Indeed, listen carefully to what these men have to say.

We need some reasonable discourse. Not more hysteria.

The nation appears to be heading down a dark corridor full of traps and tricks.

Coach Briles is 5-0 … and that doesn’t make it all better!

Here it comes, sports fans.

Mount Vernon High School — over yonder in East Texas — has opened its 2019 football season with five straight wins. Their new coach, Art Briles, came to his job with a huge cloud hanging over his head owing to his dismissal as head football coach at Baylor University.

What is coming? The justification from some football fans that it’s OK for Mount Vernon Independent School District officials to have hired Briles to coach these young men even though he is tainted by a scandal that threatened to swallow up the Baylor program.

The scandal involved some student-athletes who were raping women around Waco. Those athletes were players under Briles’s tenure as the head coach at Baylor. He said this was going on with his knowledge of it. The Baylor regents were buying it. They dismissed Briles, the athletic director quit and, oh yes, the Baylor University chancellor, a fellow named Kenneth Starr, was demoted; he eventually left the university. Why mention Starr? Well, because he was special counsel during the Bill Clinton inquiry into, um, sexual misconduct involving the president — which ended up with Clinton being impeached by the House of Representatives in 1998.

Does an unblemished record expunge Briles from the scandal that took him away from a winning Division I college football program? Not in the least. I remain dubious about his hiring at Mount Vernon HS in the first place. The board of trustees could have found another highly qualified coach without the taint that stained Briles at Baylor.

But hey, as the saying goes: Winning is everything!

Weird, man.

This really has been Trump’s ‘worst week’ as president

Donald J. Trump has had so many “worst weeks” of his presidency that I have lost count of them.

There was the week when he supported Russian strongman Vladimir Putin’s denial that Russians attacked our electoral system in 2016; or when he attacked our allies at NATO and threatened to pull the United States out of the seven-decade-old military alliance; or the time he accepted responsibility for shutting down the federal government; and let us not forget the week in which he said there were “fine people … on both sides” of an uprising that included Klansmen, Nazis and white supremacists on one of those sides.

Well, this week really has been … um, terrible!

Democrats in Congress are preparing to impeach the president. They have launched an impeachment inquiry over allegations that Trump asked Ukrainians for help in bringing down a potential political foe. What’s more, he seemed to hold up a congressional approved military aid package until such help would be forthcoming.

Yes, this really has been Trump’s “worst week” as president.

Might it get even worse than that? Oh, sure. He could actually be impeached. He could stand trial in the Senate. He could be convicted of “high crimes and misdemeanors” and kicked out of office.

This week, though, stands apart from the other “worst weeks” that Donald Trump has suffered.

Speaker putting her political skills to supreme test

Nancy Pelosi is one of the shrewdest, most adroit politicians of this era. And I mean that in a positive sense.

The speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives had held out on whether to impeach Donald Trump, wanting instead to let the 2020 election play out.

Then something really big happened. The nation learned that Donald Trump talked with Ukrainian President Zellenskiy and asked him for a “favor”: Would he be able to provide some dirt on Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, in exchange for military aid to help the Ukrainians fight their aggressor-neighbors, Russia?

Pelosi then said, in effect: That did it!

She launched an “impeachment inquiry.” The ranks of congressional Democrats favoring impeachment exploded. As I write this blog, more than half of the entire House favors impeaching the president.

Now, what does this portend for Pelosi’s legendary political skill? It puts that skill to the most arduous task imaginable. She will need to manage this impeachment train, preventing it from running away and becoming something unrecognizable to the form it should take.

Donald Trump clearly — in my view — is unfit for the office of president. His statement to his Ukrainian colleague merely ratifies that view. He has enlisted the Ukrainian government to help him fight a domestic political foe. That is illegal and it is unconstitutional.

Pelosi, who grew up in a political household as the daughter of a former Baltimore, Md., mayor, knows the stakes. She is a veteran member of Congress. She is serving her second tenure as House speaker. She understands her Democratic caucus. She is tough and disciplined.

I don’t yet know if Pelosi is banking on that skill to help her shepherd this impeachment inquiry through the House. However, I am unwilling to bet against her and the skill she continues to demonstrate.

How should an impeached POTUS fare on Election Day?

Donald J. Trump is facing an extraordinary political hurdle as he campaigns for re-election as president of the United States.

It has been revealed that Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zellenskiy chatted by phone and that Trump sought to hold up a pledge for military aide to Ukraine over a “favor” that would provide dirt on Joe Biden, a potential political rival.

Trump has been accused now of jeopardizing national security because the president is abusing the power of his office.

Congressional Democrats are hurtling toward impeaching the president. What happens if the House actually impeaches him by, say, Thanksgiving?

Here’s where the hurdle stands in his way: What happens if the House impeaches Trump while he is in the midst of a re-election campaign? This unprecedented territory!

President Nixon won re-election in a landslide in 1972 and then quit the presidency in 1974 as the House was preparing to impeach him over the Watergate burglary/cover up. President Clinton won re-election in 1996 and then got impeached in 1998 because he lied to a grand jury about his relationship with a young White House intern; he, like Nixon, had no more campaigns to wage.

Donald Trump’s predicament is unparalleled. If the House impeaches him, he might be forced to run for re-election while shrouded under the darkest of political clouds.

None of this, of course, presumes what the Senate will do were it to receive the formal complaint against the president. I am wondering whether it will move to conduct a trial quickly or wait until after the election … for reasons I don’t quite understand.

I remain a bit reluctant — although decreasingly so — to push the House to proceed with an impeachment. I still would prefer an election to determine whether Donald Trump stays in office. However, the evidence of wrongdoing, corruption and frightening abuse of power well might compel the House to act rapidly.

Will it impeach the president as he prepares to run for re-election?

If it does, I will wait with bated breath to see how Donald Trump seeks to use an impeachment as a reason to re-elect him.

Hold on. This well might get mighty rough.

Whistleblower is a hero, not an ‘almost spy’

Mr. President, you should be ashamed of yourself.

Oh, wait. I almost forgot. You have no shame. 

For you to suggest that the individual who blew the whistle as he or she saw fit is “almost a spy” is preposterous and frightening in the extreme.

The whistleblower is protected by federal law. You ought to know that. You also ought to realize that acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire said the individual “acted in good faith.”

The whistleblower has reported out that White House officials sought to cover up your attempts to bully/pressure/coerce foreign government officials to interfere in the 2020 election. What’s more, for you to suggest that the foreign government assist in digging up dirt on a potential political opponents only worsens matters beyond anything we’ve ever seen.

This individual has done what he or she believes is right.

Yet you — as is your hideous habit — chose to call this person a “political hack” and then you decided to up the ante by saying this week that we used to treat spies differently “when we were smart.” Are you really suggesting, Mr. President, that this whistleblower should be executed? Is that the message you seek to convey?

From where I sit, Mr. President, the whistleblower has performed a patriotic — perhaps even heroic — act on behalf of the nation. Whoever this individual well might have exposed to us all the corrupt intent that seems to pervade every decision to you make.

Yet you throw out threats of reprisal against this individual.

That is a shameful, disgraceful and despicable act of arrogance and ignorance on your part, Mr. President.

I cannot say this with enough passion: I want you removed from the office you occupy. I would prefer to leave that process to the 2020 election, but if impeachment and conviction in a Senate trial does the job … well, so be it.

Some trends just defy understanding

I try like the dickens to be a modern man. Really. I do.

However, there are things and people I see during the course of the day that make me shake my head in wonderment at what they do, what they wear, how they are wearing it and … oh, you get the picture.

This morning I went grocery shopping at a supermarket around the corner from the house and witnessed a young man in front of me. What I saw simply boggles my mind.

You know how young men wear “baggy” pants that droop off their posteriors, correct? Well, this young fellow’s pants had fallen totally off his backside. His entire underwear-clad buttocks were exposed to the rest of the world to see and, I guess, ogle if they were so inclined.

Yep, there are some cultural “norms” that simply go way over my noggin. I don’t get ’em.

There once was a time when I wasn’t much younger than the fellow I saw this morning when we would poke fun at seeing boys’ underwear. We had a goofy grade-school, junior high sing-song we would recite about what we saw.

Oh, we thought we were so clever. I guess that no longer applies these days.

What in the world is next? Will young men eventually no longer feel the need to wear outer clothing? I mean, what was the point of this young’n even wearing pants when he exposed his rear end to astonish old folks like me?

Oh, the humanity!

No, Rep. Turner … impeachment is no ‘assault on electorate’

U.S. Rep. Michael Turner offered a preposterous assertion today while preparing to question acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire on the matter involving Donald Trump’s phone call with the Ukrainian president.

The phone call has accelerated calls among congressional Democrats to impeach the president, citing allegations that he has solicited a political favor from a foreign head of state.

Rep. Turner, a Republican from Ohio, said that any impeachment of the president would be “an assault on the electorate” as well.

I heard it this morning. My jaw dropped.

Impeachment is no … such … thing. It is not an assault on the electorate.

Let’s back up a bit through history.

President Nixon got caught covering up a scandal involving the Watergate break-in. He was re-elected in a historic landslide in 1972, winning 49 states and rolling up about 62 percent of the vote.

Congress didn’t get around to investigating the scandal until 1973. Then in 1974, the House Judiciary Committee approved articles of impeachment against the president. He resigned shortly thereafter. Was that impeachment effort an assault against an electorate that voted overwhelmingly to re-elect him? No. It was an act of righteous anger by Congress over the president’s abuse of power.

President Clinton was summoned to testify before a federal grand jury in 1998. He took an oath to tell the truth, then he lied to the grand jury about a relationship he had with a White House intern. House Republicans declared that a president who perjured himself was unfit for the office. They impeached him after he had been re-elected by an Electoral College landslide and after he won a healthy plurality of the vote among Americans.

Was the Clinton impeachment an “assault on the electorate”? No. It was, according to the GOP, an effort to preserve the sanctity of the law that all Americans are obligated to obey.

Donald Trump’s troubles center on allegations that he has violated the Constitution by soliciting a political favor from a foreign head of state. According to the notes of a phone call between Trump and the Ukrainian president, Trump well might have held up military aid funds in exchange for dirt on a potential political foe, former Vice President Joe Biden.

An “assault on the electorate”? Hardly. Let me remind y’all that Trump got fewer votes than his 2016 opponent, but managed to squeak out an Electoral College victory. Yes, he was elected according to the Constitution, but this impeachment effort does not constitute an assault on an electorate, a minority of whom voted for the president.

This effort needs to play out. Rep. Turner, furthermore, needs to focus on the issue before him and stop making dubious assertions about “assaults” on the American electorate.

Happy Trails, Part 170: Wonderful trek comes to an end

I am happy to report that my wife, Toby the Puppy and I are safely ensconced in our Collin County home. We pulled today into Princeton, Texas, at 5 p.m.

We unloaded our pickup and our RV. We locked the vehicles up in front of the house and we’re going to relax for the evening.

Now for a couple of particulars about our multi-state, multi-province trek through the western half of North America.

For starters, we logged precisely 6,037 miles on our pickup and, by association, on our fifth wheel. We traveled through seven states on our way to the U.S.-Canada border. Then we visited four provinces on our journey from west to east in that monstrous nation to our north. On the return to the U.S. of A., we crossed through six more states, not counting Texas — from where this journey began a little more than a month ago.

This is precisely the kind of trek we envisioned taking when we retired from our respective working lives just a few years ago. I quit working full time in newspapers in August 2012, but didn’t actually begin retirement until I turned 66 in 2015. My wife quit her accounting job a few months after I left my job at the Amarillo Globe-News.

Our retirement journey has taken us already to a lot of places, to both coasts, to the Great Lakes, through much of Texas and New Mexico.

This one, though, was something quite special to my wife and me.

We visited with family in the Pacific Northwest, then we trekked off to British Columbia.

Our journey began with a frightening near-collision just outside of Wichita Falls, Texas. We caught our breath and kept on going. Our journey through the western U.S. and into Canada was largely event-free.

Until this morning! We awoke in Tulsa, Okla., our final stop before we got home, and discovered a flat tire on our fifth wheel. Oh, what to do? Fix it ourselves? Call the roadside assistance program to which we belong? Or do we look for a local person to solve the problem? We lucked out. The RV park where we spent two nights has a handyman on staff who changes RV tires. We paid the gentleman a small fee for his effort and we were on our way to the house.

We saw much of Mother Nature’s splendor throughout our journey. We witnessed the big sky of the Great Plains of the United States and Canada. We drove through marvelous farming and ranching country. We peered at the Cascade Range and the Rocky Mountains.

It’s time to take a break. We’ll catch our breath. We’ll visit with our granddaughter and her parents and get caught up with what is going on with her.

The next trip awaits. I don’t know when or where it will take us.

That’s all right. It’s the beauty of retired life. We have the whole wide world at our disposal.

Whistleblower acted ‘in good faith’ and is ‘credible’?

There you have it … from the acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire.

The acting DNI told the U.S. House Intelligence Committee today that a whistleblower acted in “good faith” and has filed a “credible” complaint against Donald J. Trump, the White House and the Justice Department.

At issue is whether the president sought foreign government assistance in bringing down a political opponent. Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zellenskiy had this phone chat. Zellenskiy thanked Trump for helping the Ukrainians fight the Russian aggressors, but then Trump said he needed a favor “though” in exchange for continuing the assistance.

This is mighty serious stuff, folks. Congressional Democrats are enraged enough to launch a full impeachment inquiry against Trump.

The whistleblower’s complaint has been made public. In it he or she says that Trump sought foreign government assistance in undermining Joe Biden’s presidential candidacy. Moreover, the whistleblower has alleged, the White House sought to cover it up.

This individual bases the allegation on conversations with people close to the Oval Office. The whistleblower, naturally, has been attacked. Trump calls the individual a “political hack,” even though the president does not know the identity of who has leaked these allegations.

What’s more, Joseph Maguire, a career Navy SEAL and a decades-long public servant, has said the whistleblower acted appropriately, in good faith. He told Intelligence Committee members he finds the complaint to be “credible.”

The plot is thickening before our eyes.