To the Editor: In 1961 Philip Roth wrote about the difficulty a writer has “trying to understand and then describe, and then make credible much of the American reality. It stupefies, it sickens, it infuriates, and finally, it is even a kind of embarrassment to one’s own meager imagination…The daily newspapers…fill me with wonder and awe…the fixes, the scandals, the insanities, the treacheries, the idiocies, the lies, the pieties, the noise…”
That was then. What about now?
President Trump was impeached in December by the House of Representatives. Every Republican in the House opposed the two articles of impeachment. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he was not an “impartial juror,” and would closely coordinate any Senate trial with the White House.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi as late as September rejected impeachment. It was “just not worth it.” She changed her mind only after a CIA whistleblower’s complaint became public, and then proceeded to narrow the impeachment investigation to the Ukraine scandal.
This ignored the Mueller Report, which found 10 possible obstructions of justice by Trump, in its investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
The Speaker’s strategy follows the advice of Lawrence Welk who said, “You have to play what the people understand.” Isn’t it a pity that Pelosi believes the American people are not capable of understanding that Trump’s pattern of behavior for three years makes him, in the words of Laurence Tribe, “a serial abuser of power” and someone who has committed many impeachable acts?
It was a mistake that the Democrats didn’t make the broadest case for impeachment, especially in the wake of the assassination of Qassim Suleimani, and the possibility of war with Iran. Our Commander in Chief was described by John Kelly as an “idiot,” who said it was “pointless to try to convince him of anything.” Eliot Cohen concluded that any “level-headed observer” could see “Trump’s deficiencies, outlook and experience made him unfit for office.”
The president has made well over 13,000 false or misleading claims. He has publicly asked not only the Ukraine, but also Russia and China to provide incriminating evidence on his political opponent.
Twenty women have accused him of rape, sexual assault or sexual harassment.
Trump has granted clemency to Edward Gallagher, a Navy Seal, and two other soldiers who were accused or convicted of war crimes. He makes decisions based on information learned each day from Fox News, and recently took credit for the opening of an Apple factory in Texas that had opened in 2013.
During the impeachment hearings, The New York Times published drawings by one of the terrorists behind the 9/11 attacks, showing how he had been tortured by the CIA. There was also a report in The Washington Post which documented that high-level officials in the Bush, Obama, and Trump administrations repeatedly lied about progress in the 18-year war in Afghanistan and hid evidence that the war was unwinnable. In 1971, The Pentagon Papers similarly revealed that every President from Truman to Johnson (Nixon continued this tradition) had lied to the American people about the Vietnam War.
Speaker Pelosi, in justifying the impeachment of Trump because of the Ukraine scandal, said “Our democracy is what is at stake. His actions are in defiance of the vision of our Founders, and the oath of office that he takes to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
If democracy is at stake when Trump violates his oath of office, why wasn’t it at stake for Democrats and Republicans in Congress when the Bush Administration lied about WMDs in Iraq, committed war crimes after 9/11 when the CIA carried out torture and renditions to black sites of suspected terrorists, and authorized illegal warrantless wiretaps? Speaker Pelosi recently admitted she was under pressure to begin impeachment proceedings against Bush for invading Iraq. However, she rejected this pressure, saying, “I just didn’t want it to be a way of life in our country.”
Why wasn’t democracy also at stake when the Obama Administration decided not to hold the Bush administration and the CIA accountable for its abuses of power in the war against terror and the war in Iraq, and when it failed to hold anyone accountable for the National Security Administration abuses revealed by Edward Snowden, who was immediately charged with violating the Espionage Act?
Who can make sense of all of this in a country that Philip Roth, decades ago described as “an unreal environment,” a “distressing cultural and political predicament” and “the indigenous American berserk”?
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