Someone notify Notorious RBG — we have at least three cases for recusal! The question of impeachment came up as the first topic of last night’s Democratic presidential debate. PBS’ Judy Woodruff started off the show by pointing out that House Democrats “have, so far, not convinced a strong majority of Americans to support impeachment of President Trump.” Woodruff then asked all seven of the participants, “What can you say or do differently in the coming weeks to persuade more Americans that this is the right thing to do?”
Oddly enough, despite Chuck Schumer’s demand for “impartial jurors,” none of the three Senate Democrats on stage recused themselves from the question:
It suuuuure seems as though three of the jurors in the Senate trial have their minds made up about it before it even starts. When Woodruff asks Bernie Sanders, “What else can you do?”, Sanders offers a rehash of his previous criticisms. “We have a president who is a pathological liar,” Sanders says, but adds in the context of the impeachment and removal question that “we cannot have a president with that temperament who is dishonoring the presidency of the United States.”
Elizabeth Warren answered a little more directly:
WARREN: So, I see this as a constitutional moment. Last night, the president was impeached, and everyone now in the Senate who has taken a constitutional oath to uphold our Constitution — and that doesn’t mean loyalty to an individual, it doesn’t mean loyalty to a political party, it means loyalty to our country — and that vote will play out over the next several weeks.
But the way I see this is we’ve now seen the impact of corruption, and that’s what’s clearly on the stage in 2020, is how we are going to run against the most corrupt president in living history.
Gee, how will Warren vote on removal in a Senate trial? She seems so impartial!
Woodruff then asked Amy Klobuchar how she will sell removal to voters as “the right thing”:
KLOBUCHAR: Let me make the case to the American people. As a wise judge said, the president is not king in America, the law is king. And what James Madison once said when he was speaking out at the Constitutional Convention — and, by the way, I think he’s a pretty good size for a president, he was five-foot-four.
And what he said, he said the reason that we have these impeachment articles in the Constitution, that the provisions are in there, is because he feared that a president would betray the trust of the American people for a foreign power. That is what happened here.
Watergate — this is a global Watergate. In the case of Watergate, a paranoid president facing election looked for dirt on a political opponent. He did it by getting people to break in. This president did it by calling a foreign leader to look for dirt on a political opponent.
“A global Watergate”? Perhaps, only this time with the FBI on the other side, eh? At any rate, Klobuchar certainly appears to have her mind made up even before any formal presentation of articles of impeachment.
Not that there’s an actual problem with this, as I argued in my column for The Week. No problem, that is, except for all of the hypocritical sanctimony coming from Schumer, Ginsburg, and the media over a lack of impartiality elsewhere:
The legislature exists to settle political questions, not to act as either law enforcement or the judiciary. Its members are always accountable to their constituents, and this matter will be no different. This separates them from both the judiciary and the executive, which is why the process of impeachment was trusted them.
Even if strict impartiality was the standard, though, McConnell was hardly the first to fall short of it. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Cali.) endorsed impeachment on Twitter a few hours ahead of the vote, and that wasn’t even her first time in doing so. In last month’s Democratic presidential debate, three of her Senate colleagues running for the nomination endorsed impeachment as well — Sens. Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders. Warren said she would exhort Republicans to convict, and Harris referred to Trump as “a criminal living in the White House.” Ginsburg’s impartial jury pool is thinning out on both sides of the aisle.
The demands for impartiality are really just a smokescreen for an impeachment debacle borne out of hyperpartisanship and personal animosity. What began as a politicized stunt will eventually end in a politicized stalemate, and voters will have the last word. As they should.
So … when will the media get around to either admitting this, or to criticizing Senate Democrats for a lack of impartiality as well as Mitch McConnell? I won’t hold my breath for either. Hypocritical sanctimony is one of the few renewable natural resources in total abundance.