×

Erecting a firewall

Before the Civil War, hints of what was to come were already evident on the floors of Congress. During the debate over whether slavery should be allowed in the territories in the Mexican cession, some members of Congress had taken to carrying firearms. In 1857, Preston Brooks of South Carolina hit Charles Sumner of Massachusetts repeatedly with his walking stick. Suddenly reason had taken flight and the republic was in peril.

Such it is in Washington today, so far without violence. Republicans in their defense of Donald Trump have erected a firewall simply refusing to take any of the articles of impeachment seriously. Instead of arguing the Ukrainian issue clearly, they have chosen an irrational approach. Because of members like Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who simply refuses to listen to the charge, they have given the president a poor defense. They have the votes, they have the advantage, one cannot say they have made the most of this auspicious situation.

Particularly galling for the GOP is that most of the evidence collected from the Democrats has come from Republicans like Bill Taylor. As ambassador to Ukraine, appointed by Mike Pompeo, he witnessed the wheeling and dealing by Rudy Giuliani and testified to his actions. To his credit, Giuliani has not denied these actions. The defense offered by Graham and others is weak because they never approved of Trump’s Ukrainian policy in the first place.

During Governor Bush, they harassed Florida election officials and got a minority president installed, George W. Bush. In 2003, they needed every slimey route to re-elect Bush. Now they depend on jerrymandering and pardons for criminals; as in Kentucky, to hold their power.

And they hope that Trump is beholden to them although he will emerge weaker. They have an argument on the Ukraine which they do not articulate anymore that Southerners did in the 1950s over slavery expansion. By refusing any concession to reality or time, the GOP insists on having its way. Lindsey Graham would have made Brooks proud with his petulant abduracy. Graham praises Trump while undermining him all the way.

Is there as argument for a different policy in Ukraine? Yes, but Trump tried to foresee the issue, largely because his “allies” gave him little room. In the end, he depended on Giuliani and others to pursue the policy, and they misused the brief Trump gave them. Carelessly he gave his enemies a weapon that they have used. This was an error largely of the Republicans, which explains the irrationality of the defense.

Certainly no one thinks Trump will be removed from office. It serves no ones political interest to do so. Democrats have made him their target, but in their defense, they have at least made a credible argument. Republicans have defended Trump like the hacks they are. Both Democrats and their GOP counterparts have an interest in weakening the president. The GOP wants Mitch McConnell to drive policy and the Democrats want Trump to continue to unite their base. Trump has been ill served by his “friends.” The republic lurches toward further division.