Let’s not wish for Pres­i­dent Pence

The Record (Troy, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - Email Cyn­thia Tucker at cyn­[email protected]­thiatucker.com.

There is, in­deed, a na­tional emer­gency, but it’s not at the south­ern bor­der. A despotic, cor­rupt, in­fan­tile, clue­less and men­da­cious nar­cis­sist sits in the Oval Of­fice, at the helm of what is still ar­guably the most pow­er­ful na­tion in the world, his fin­gers on the nu­clear but­tons. He is reck­less, im­pul­sive and ig­no­rant of the ex­pec­ta­tions and tra­di­tions of his of­fice. He is a hate­mon­ger who co­zies up to racists, misog­y­nists and xeno­phobes. Yet, he is in charge.

That’s an apt de­scrip­tion of a na­tional emer­gency. And, given that, some mem­bers of an en­er­gized Demo­cratic ma­jor­ity in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives have be­gun to speak openly of im­peach­ment. This was most col­or­fully demon­strated re­cently when newly sworn-in Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., was video­taped in a bar ut­ter­ing, “Im­peach the m—-f—-!” (For all the me­dia fo­cus on that re­mark, she has a long way to go be­fore she is as crude as the pres­i­dent.)

But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, one of the smartest politi­cians of her time, is right to try to keep a lid on that en­thu­si­asm. The in­ter­ests of the na­tion (and, not coin­ci­den­tally, of the Demo­cratic Party) would be best served by pa­tience.

Just take a look at the process of im­peach­ment. The House may vote to im­peach a sit­ting pres­i­dent, and the Democrats might eas­ily have enough votes to do so. But that doesn’t re­move him from of­fice. A hy­per­par­ti­san Repub­li­can House ma­jor­ity im­peached Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton in 1998, but he served out the re­main­der of his sec­ond term. That’s be­cause im­peach­ment is akin to in­dict­ment in crim­i­nal law; it’s not a con­vic­tion.

The Se­nate must vote to con­vict — or re­move a pres­i­dent from of­fice. And that re­quires a two-thirds ma­jor­ity of mem­bers present, ac­cord­ing to the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion. I find it im­pos­si­ble to imag­ine that two-thirds of Mitch McCon­nell’s Se­nate would fol­low after Pelosi’s House and vote to re­move Trump from of­fice. In­stead, a di­vided na­tion would be­come more deeply cleaved.

But al­low me to stretch my imag­i­na­tion a bit and spec­u­late about life after Trump. Let’s say that the Se­nate some­how found the gump­tion to toss Trump out of the Oval Of­fice. That would leave us with a Pres­i­dent Michael Pence. Is that what Democrats want?

Pence is hardly bril­liant, but he’s a lot smarter than Trump. He was a mem­ber of Con­gress be­fore he was elected gover­nor of In­di­ana. In other words, he un­der­stands the me­chan­ics of gov­ern­ment and knows how to get things done.

And the things he’d get done would run counter to the pref­er­ences of pro­gres­sives and the in­ter­ests of the na­tion. Pence is an un­al­loyed Chris­tian fun­da­men­tal­ist, a ho­mo­phobe and an op­po­nent of re­pro­duc­tive rights.

He’d also con­tinue to di­vide the na­tion along re­li­gious and ra­cial lines. As gover­nor of In­di­ana, he an­nounced that his state would not host refugees from Syria. He pushed one of those “re­li­gious rights” bills that was merely a Tro­jan horse to sup­port le­gal dis­crim­i­na­tion; he wa­tered down the bill only after a blitz of protests from com­merce and in­dus­try.

If that weren’t bad enough, he har­bors many of the same im­pulses as his boss. He has faith­fully sup­ported the pres­i­dent’s worst calls for a rea­son: He be­lieves in most of them. As just one ex­am­ple, Pence re­port­edly had his own plan to start a flat­ter­ing fake news oper- ation in In­di­ana. He wanted state funds for a news ser­vice staffed by his own press sec­re­taries, ac­cord­ing to pub­lished re­ports.

Even with­out his own fake news op­er­a­tion, a Pres­i­dent Pence would ben­e­fit might­ily from com­par­isons to his pre­de­ces­sor. Not only would many mod­er­ate and con­ser­va­tive vot­ers em­brace him, but the press and pun­di­toc­racy would chris­ten him as a re­turn to “nor­mal” — en­gaged, de­lib­er­a­tive, rea­son­able. He’d seem, well, pres­i­den­tial, even as he tried to turn the na­tion into a theoc­racy.

Trump could still do a lot of dam­age in two more years in of­fice, of course. But two years of re­lent­less in­ves­ti­ga­tion by Democrats would also yield facts that would make his 2020 elec­toral de­feat even more likely. Let the in­ves­ti­ga­tions, in­clud­ing that of spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller, pro­ceed. Im­peach­ment may be­come ab­so­lutely nec­es­sary, but we’re not there yet.

Cyn­thia Tucker As I See It

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.