There was only one side of the dais at Tuesday’s House Judiciary Committee hearing that mentioned impeachment — and it wasn’t the Democratic side.
There was only one side that hollered and sputtered, one side that lobbed insults at the other and impugned colleagues’ motives — and it wasn’t the majority.
Indeed, Tuesday’s hearing was a study in the asymmetric combat that defines our politics in the Trump era. Some on the left see this asymmetry as a sign of Democratic weakness. I see it as the nation’s best hope for recovery.
At Tuesday’s session, the committee’s chairman, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), spoke in a calm, steady voice about the absence of former White House counsel Donald McGahn, a no-show after President Trump ordered him not to comply with a subpoena. “Mr. McGahn has a legal obligation to be here for this scheduled appearance. If he does not immediately correct his mistake, this committee will have no choice but to enforce the subpoena against him,” Nadler intoned.
Nadler mentioned neither impeachment nor contempt, and he managed to keep the Democratic side — including the gadfly who brought fried chicken to a previous hearing as a prop — quiet.
Then came Nadler’s Republican counterpart, Rep. Douglas Collins of Georgia, who practically yelled out his statement and fired off taunts so quickly that those of us in the room struggled to understand him, and the transcript designated several sections as unintelligible. The words that did come through were mostly caustic and personal. Nadler “rushed to maximize headlines,” was “politically expedient,” issued an “illegal subpoena,” “orchestrated” a “spectacle” and a “drama,” and is “more interested in the fight than fact-finding.” Collins further accused Nadler and the Democrats of “harangues,” “innuendo” and warned of“running roughshod over the Constitution.”
“The theater is open,” Collins said of the sedate proceedings. Because Democrats can’t find anything to “hang their I-word, impeachment, on. . . . We’re here again, with the circus in full force.”
Though accusing Democrats of theatrics by having the empty-seat hearing, Republicans attempted to continue bickering by voting against adjournment. “This is disgraceful!” cried out Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio).
Watching this disparity in demeanor, I tried to imagine how things might look if Hillary Clinton had won the presidency, and, two years later:
• Five of her campaign advisers had been convicted of crimes — one of them implicating her — and a sixth indicted.
• A prosecutor documented numerous instances in which Clinton had interfered with investigators.
• Clinton refused to let aides cooperate with subpoenas and dismissed an unfavorable court ruling as “crazy” and partisan.
• She directed the Justice Department to investigate the front-runner for the Republicans’ 2020 nomination.
• She directed the White House counsel to lie about her deceit, then ordered him not to testify.
Can anybody imagine, in those circumstances, a Republican speaker of the House and the Republican presidential front-runner (the one Clinton ordered investigated) steadfastly resisting calls for impeachment?
There is long-standing tension among Democratic lawmakers and 2020 presidential candidates about whether to answer Trump’s aggression and insults in kind (Republican lawmakers long ago internalized his style) or whether to be the grown-ups in the room. On the campaign trail, Sens. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and Kamala Harris(Calif.) have called for impeachment, and a growing number of Democrats in Congress, from fiery Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) to Rep. David Cicilline (R.I.), a member of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (Calif.) leadership team, have joined the cause. Liberal activists rage against Pelosi “meeting fire with fecklessness,” as New York magazine’s Eric Levitz put it.
But the mass of voters side with restraint, and even anti-establishment Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has said impeachment “works to Trump’s advantage.” Certainly, Trump has earned impeachment; Republican Rep. Justin Amash (Mich.) has said as much. But with no chance of removing Trump, Democrats can instead show the country that our problem isn’t polarization; it’s that one side has gone bonkers, and the other side is trying to restore adult supervision.
Americans, even reluctant Trump supporters, hunger to end the madness. This is likely why former vice president Joe Biden holds a commanding lead, even though he’s out of sync with the party base ideologically and demographically. And generally, the 2020 Democrats seem to grasp the country’s need for normal. I had feared that, after Trump, Democrats would conclude there’s no penalty for lying. Instead, “anecdotally, I think they are trying to harder to be more factually accurate,” The Post’s Fact Checker, Glenn Kessler, tells me.
This is an encouraging sign, as is party leadership’s efforts to resist an impeachment stampede. Impeachment may be inevitable if Trump continues to stiff-arm all inquiries. But Democrats are right not to emulate Trump’s insults, falsehoods and extreme partisanship as they go about their legitimate inquiries.
Maybe such restraint will be proved wrong in 2020, and voters will reward the insult hurlers. But if Americans don’t desire a return to stability, honesty and decency, our democracy is already lost.
Bill Clinton chose his boyhood friend Thomas “Mack” McLarty, a pliable figurehead, because he wanted to function as his own chief of staff. Richard Nixon chose the crew-cut enforcer H.R. Haldeman to instill fear and deliver the bad news that Nixon himself often shrank from imparting.
.. In Priebus, Trump first tried the kind of low-key, steady hand that what’s left of the GOP establishment thought he needed as a novice politician.
Surely the longest-serving national chairman in the Republican Party’s history, who had held the Republican Party together through fractious years and helped it reclaim the presidency, could be a calming, rational manager in the White House.
.. Priebus had repeatedly beseeched Trump to modulate his message and play well with the other candidates in the crowded Republican field. Trump, who has always been his own chief strategist, communications guru and political director – and who was winning by running his way — saw that as a sign of weakness, and responded accordingly.
.. In retired Marine Corps General John Kelly, Trump has now turned to the kind of military strong man he thinks he wants, one he hopes will kick keisters and take names. But the president might want to be careful what he wishes for. There is a model for that kind of chief of staff, and it’s probably not one that Trump would be comfortable with.
.. “Wouldn’t it be awful if Sherman Adams died and Eisenhower became president?” There will never be any doubt about who’s the real boss in the Trump White House.
.. Each day brings fresh evidence that the most unpredictable, undisciplined figure in this administration is the president himself. The very manner of Kelly’s surprise appointment – announced without warning in a presidential tweet – might give any new chief of staff pause.
.. But if he is to be an effective quarterback, his president has to give him the ball. It seems far from clear that Donald Trump is willing to share the football with anyone. Will Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump report to the president, or to Kelly? Scaramucci has already said he answers directly to Trump. What does that portend for Kelly’s authority before he even takes the job?
.. But when Ford left office, his powerful chief of staff, Dick Cheney, got a going- away present from his own aides: A bicycle wheel mounted on a piece of plywood with every spoke between the hub and the rim broken – except one.
.. Donald Trump’s rise, if not his presidency, represents everything that Reince Priebus had argued against in the wake of his party’s 2012 electoral defeat, when he commissioned an autopsy for the Republican National Committee that concluded the party had to attract younger, more diverse swing voters if it were ever again to be competitive in presidential elections
Policy vs. personality in Middle East politics.Real policy differences over Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank and the terms of the nuclear deal with Iran caused innumerable disagreements, many of them quite public. But during my time representing the United States here, I found that the caricature of universal Israeli hostility to Obama was overstated... the arrival of a president who “at last” would support Israel unconditionally and not pressure the country to limit settlement growth or make concessions to the Palestinians.Naftali Bennett, leader of the right-wing Jewish Home party, declared, “Trump’s victory is an opportunity for Israel to immediately retract the notion of a Palestinian state.”.. revive Israeli-Palestinian negotiations toward a two-state solution, with the support of key Arab states.. With Obama, Israelis may not always have gotten everything they wanted. But they always got consistency. Obama held as a firm principle the idea that the U.S. commitment to Israel’s security was unconditional... relationship mature enough and durable enough to withstand such differences — but they needed to know that the United States was a reliable ally when it mattered most. And he delivered.. they came to appreciate was Obama’s style of leadership: steady, thoughtful, knowledgeable... he had the maturity, the discipline and the judgment to reach well-informed decisions that benefited Israel’s security... The result was a period of unprecedented intimacy between our militaries and intelligence services... I was struck by the depth of appreciation that senior Israeli military officers and intelligence officials expressed for Obama’s contributions to Israel’s security, often drawing a contrast with sentiments expressed by their politicians or the public... Amos Gilad, a longtime senior defense official.. told me: “It’s easy to criticize Obama. But on the military front, the relationship was incredible.”.. His unpredictability .. was already a source of anxiety.. Israelis now have to ask which Trump will show up for work each day — the friend who pledges his loyalty or the adolescent who can lash out at allies such as Australia and Canada, and perhaps one day Israel?.. His lack of knowledge, compounded by his aversion to reading and short attention span.. His carelessness.. shaken the confidence of the Israeli intelligence services in the reliability of the United States as a partner.. indifferent to democratic values and institutions and enamored of authoritarian leaders is harming the United States’ standing globally, which is never good for Israel... off the record, officials are beginning to acknowledge that something has changed... erratic, unreliable leader?.. David Ben-Gurion, gave President John F. Kennedy.. The best way you can help Israel, Ben-Gurion told him, is “by being a great President of the United States.”