The history of impeachment
As the impeachment proceedings move forward, it is perhaps instructive to examine the history of such proceedings. Andrew Johnson was the first president impeached and he was spared removal by one vote. It happened in an election year in 1868, and some Republicans were not eager to see the candidacy of Ulysses Grant interrupted by a last minute replacement. Bill Clinton was impeached in a comic-opera affair where removal was not in the cards.
But, these are federal impeachments, other state house affairs are more instructive. Huey Long, governor of Louisiana, was impeached in 1929 and faced a serious “anti-Long” group eager to drive him from power. The underlying reason was his attempt to tax Standard Oil. This proved to be a pivotal affair that marked the politics of the Pelican State for decades.
What ultimately saved Long was a group of supporters known as the Robineers for their signing a document saying they would not vote for removal even if the evidence pointed in that direction. The “round robin” not only saved Long, it led to his domination of Louisiana politics until his untimely death from an assassin’s bullet in September 1935. The 15 who signed the “round robin” fared well, given rewards, patronage and power.
Republicans have a group of “robineers” which are all over the lot in their defense of President Donald Trump. Despite their long standing opposition to Vladimir Putin, they are not above adopting his talking points, including questioning “the Ukraine’s” legitimacy. Not particularly adept, they dispute facts that have been expertly established by Trump’s opponents. They simply deny and deny a political equivalent of denying a storm when you are engulfed by rain.
What they refuse to do is what they should do which is to question American advocacy of a foreign government. Ukraine, a state established despite the warnings of George H.W. Bush that it was not viable. Its a secession from the USSR also got the burgeoning democracy in Russia off to a bad start. Combined with the plundering of Russian wealth and the ensuring mass poverty — it helped to discredited democracy. Russia was left honorless and defenseless to the point that terrorists saw it as a vulnerable target.
But the GOP won’t point this out because so many of its members supported the results. John McCain was one of the leaders in their pressing of the legitimately elected Ukrainian government in 2014 to abdicate. Along with Victoria Nuland, a state department official, McCain acted as a cheerleader for the Maidan mob. Lindsay Graham, the arch intrigues, was in on it no matter how many time he swears allegiance to the Donald.
So the GOP defense is that the evidence does not reach the standard for impeachment. If Trump used his power to persuade government to smear an opponent, it surely does. But unlike Long and his supporters, who made all about a policy dispute over taxation, Trump’s supporters do not coherently address Ukraine. His defenders are not clever enough to make an effective argument preferring stubborness instead.