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A Plague on Both Their Houses, Plus a Dozen Poxes on Trump’s

Photograph Source: Office of Public Affairs – CC BY 2.0

Nancy Pelosi should thank Donald Trump for helping her get over a bad case of IAS, Impeachment Aversion Syndrome. We all should.

Had she not come down with that malady years ago, after the 2006 midterm election made her Speaker of the House the first time, she could now be looking forward, when the time comes, to greeting St. Peter secure in the knowledge that, by going after George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, she had done all that she could to diminish the level of violence and bloodshed that they had brought to Afghanistan and Iraq, and to halt the countless ways that their “global war on terror” was undermining civil liberties and degrading public life in the United States.

Instead, she let it all go on – in order, she thought, to benefit the Democratic Party’s electoral prospects in 2008. She was especially keen, at first, on getting Hillary Clinton back into the White House. She had no problem switching to Barack Obama, though, once it became clear to the Democratic establishment that Hillary’s ineptitude was no match for his charisma. But whoever her chosen one was, impeachment was off the table.

This Fall, it took a lot to get her beyond her IAS affliction, but now, with Trump’s “high crimes and misdemeanors” too blatant to ignore, especially as he keeps at it in plain public view, beyond it she is.

How far beyond, though, is another question. With the more execrable duopoly party in control of the Senate, and all but certain to cut Trump a pass; and with the conventional wisdom being that voters are interested in kitchen table issues, not the buffoon in the White House; and with retrograde Democrats from Congressional districts still friendly to Trump afraid of not being reelected, she seems to want to get it over with ASAP, effectively turning Trump’s impeachment into a glorified vote of censure.

The sad part is that she is probably right. But anything that discomfits Trump or, in any way, hobbles him, and any and all public shaming of the Donald and his minions is not to be despised. Neither are efforts to restore Congressional power and dignity, and to beat back the imperial presidency.

So, if not quite three cheers for Speaker Pelosi, she probably does deserve two and a half.

And even if the impeachment she is shepherding through Congress amounts to less than Rashida Tlaib thought it would when, after winning her Congressional seat in 2018 she called for “impeaching the motherfucker,” it is, by far, the best thing to come out of official Washington in the Trump era.

***

It has never been much of a secret that Trump is not, as people say this time of year, the brightest bulb on the tree. He is a dull-witted ignoramus too, and a lazy and vengeful son of a bitch. But he does seem to have some functioning grey matter; he is, at least, capable of cunning.

Why, then, would he take the trouble, much less incur the risks, of going after Joe Biden?

Biden is still doing well in the polls, and H.L. Mencken’s warning against underestimating the stupidity of the American electorate remains as relevant as ever, but Trump’s Biden escapade is stupidity on stilts.

The man is a doddering, goofus of whom it could be fairly said that even Hillary Clinton is more capable; and while son Hunter surely did take advantage of the Biden name to enrich himself, there is no evidence that he did anything unusual for a high level politician’s son, much less anything illegal.

So, what was Trump thinking? Could he be even more dissociated from reality than he seems?

It sure looks that way. But no matter how we account for it, his campaign, or whatever it is, against Joe and Hunter Biden did the trick; it led to a series of events that ended with the final straw, the metaphorical one that broke the camel’s back, for Pelosi and therefore for the party she rides herd over.

And so, there she was on TV – solemn and prayerful, a good Catholic woman who says that she hates no one, not even those who deserve to be hated, not even Trump. There she was: full of regret that it had to come to this.

But it did. Like everyone else in Congress, she had sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States — and so, she lamented, she could do no other.

Lamentations indeed; celebrations are more in order. But perhaps, with so many benighted souls still in Trump’s pocket, she was wise to caution against expressions of joy.

I would certainly think more of her, though, if she was only feigning piety, if it was all a ruse to gain the attention and sympathy of potential deserters from the Trump cult, and from the portion of the American public that hasn’t been paying close attention to what Trump has been doing, and the portion that so far simply doesn’t care.

However, whether she was sincere or not, the spectacle was more nauseating than inspiring.

I trust that I am not alone in feeling that way. But to hear the pundits on MSNBC and CNN tell it, Pelosi’s decision to move forward on impeachment was courageous, edifying, and inspiring; the prayerful part went over especially well. Decades ago, there was an expression for this: “Gag me with a spoon.”

But this is not the consensus view among the party faithful or in corporate media circles, not by a longshot. In those quarters, Pelosi is a hero – like G-man Mueller would have been had his carefully wrought Russiagate report been presented to the public in a way that did not obscure how thoroughly devastating it was to Trump’s subterfuges and lies.

And so, the drama unfolded. Marie Yovanovitch and the other foreign service workers who testified before the House Intelligence Committee, including Fiona Hill, Cold War revivalist extraordinaire, were its opening acts; Pelosi’s call to move forward signaled the start of the main event in which she will continue to play a dominant role.

In cahoots with other party leaders, she decided to keep the focus narrow and, as far as possible, limited to Trump’s efforts to extort help from Ukraine in going after the Bidens. In my view, it would be far more courageous, edifying, and inspiring to go after Trump for a lot more; there is so much more from which to choose.

But there is no point in taking issue with her decision now; the train has left the station. Moreover, she is said to know what she is doing when it comes to dealing with Congress. Perhaps this actually is the case.

Going after Trump Pelosi’s way is like prosecuting Al Capone for tax evasion. That worked back then; if something like that will work now, then so be it.

Unfortunately, though, the good impeachment will do will be diminished by Democrats using the Ukraine issue to bolster their warmongering, Russophobic machinations. Nevertheless, getting rid of Trump, the sooner the better, or at least trying to get rid of him in the face of Republican pigheadedness, is important enough to justify moving forward, even if it must be done this way.

Pelosi and the others misconstrue the reason to be wary of impeachment. It is not that it will “tear the country apart,” but rather that it will encourage the less odious duopoly party to display its most noxious side, even to the point of putting its lesser evil status in jeopardy.

There is a remedy for that, though. Just turn on the TV, as the impeachment process unfolds, and watch the Republicans be vile. Take care, though, not to despair for the human race on their account, and not to become paralyzed in wonderment that anyone could think that “bipartisanship” – with miscreants like them! — is a goal worth pursuing.

Watching Pelosi proclaim her fidelity to Catholic school virtues is only mildly emetic. Watching, say, Jim Jordan or Devin Nunes is many times worse. Republican Senators like Lindsey Graham are not exactly prizes either.

But then mainstream Democrats, even as they have, like Pelosi, come around to doing the right thing on impeachment, are infuriating too.

***

Were their hypocrisy less deeply embedded in the ambient political culture, it would be more than just infuriating; it would be mind-boggling. But in the world as it is and long has been, it has come to seem normal for those who speak on behalf of the foremost meddler in the affairs of other nations to complain that one of the principal victims of its meddling, Russia, interfered in the last presidential election and is now interfering again.

Although the evidence, such as it is, comes mainly from the CIA and other intelligence services hard wired to lie, and although nobody has ever claimed that Russia’s purported meddling has ever had any noticeable effects, let’s stipulate that the accusations are true.

This hardly makes Democratic hypocrisy less heinous. Neither does the fact that the hypocrisy is bipartisan.

Republicans participate in it, but they also muddy the waters, which helps explain why, whatever its merits or shortcoming, the story Democrats tell is not exactly gospel truth outside the MSNBC-CNN-quality press ambit.

The GOP, and its media, while not quite denying Democratic claims, tell another story which, as best one can tell, seems incompatible with it. It is hard to say for sure because Republicans are not particularly strong on logic or consistency.

Their contention is that Ukraine, the country Trump is charged with extorting, did some (or all?) of the interfering there was, and that it may also be doing some (or all?) of the interfering going on now. Needless to say, they offer no evidence to support these claims.

The impeachment process should in principle determine what the facts are. But Republicans have a shaky relationship with facts. They are not good at drawing logically compelling inferences either. It is therefore unlikely that anything will come up over the next few months that will move public opinion significantly. Republicans are too dug in.

Of course, if the economy heads south in time to affect public opinion before next November, this could change. For the time being, though, increasing evidence of Trump’s unfitness for the office he holds only makes his base love him more.

This phenomenon is of more clinical than political interest, but it is something we have become accustomed to, and even learned to deal with; and that is politically consequential.

In a word, Republicans are hopeless. Dealing with them is like dealing with insane relatives who are too set in their ways to change. Trying to persuade them to be sensible can be, and often is, a waste of time. Insofar as they are powerless, the best thing is just to ignore them, while they do their thing, whatever it may be. When that is impossible, as it generally is with high government officials and members of Congress, the wisest strategy is to work around them as best one can.

Even if Pelosi really does think that hating Trump and his flunkies would betray her Catholic upbringing, the fact is that, in the face of his rank immorality—his tearing children away from their parents and stuffing them into cages, for example — and in view of the clear and present danger he poses to every living thing on earth, hating him is not only natural for anyone whose basic humanity is not impaired, but morally obligatory. To think otherwise, no matter how sincerely, is folly.

Nevertheless, those who are foolish enough, even now, to stand by their man, by that man, are at least not quite as besotted with the military-industrial-national security state complex as mainstream Democrats nowadays seem to be. No matter how flawed their reasons, they are, to their credit, less bellicose and less overtly Russophobic, than Pelosi and her flock.

Whatever Trump’s apparent love of Russia’s president is based upon – perhaps one day we will know – he at least does not want to get the Cold War back up and running. Contrary to the consensus view of corporate media pundits, this is all to the good.

And it would be a rare mark in Trump’s favor, if anything of consequence followed from it. But hardly anything does. Either because Trump is too unpopular and inept to get his way outside abject and servile Republican circles or because he doesn’t care enough about what happens in the world, except when there is some percentage in it for him, his administration’s policies hardly improve upon those that mainstream Democrats endorse.

There is another respect too in which one could get the wrong idea. It grows out of the hostility that Trump and his flunkies evince towards what they call “the deep state.” By this they mean the “intelligence community” and the federal government’s several police forces and other agencies that operate through the use or threat of force.

Not long ago, the term was generally understood to designate the quasi-permanent bureaucracies that remain more or less intact as elected governments come and go. Trump uses it to refer to state agencies and institutions that he thinks are out to get him. Add paranoia to the list of Trump’s mental defects.

Democrats these days back what Trump uses “deep state” to designate to a degree more nauseating even than Pelosi’s piety. They adore the CIA and the FBI and the rest. Their media are positively love-struck; just watch the anchors and “experts” on the liberal cable networks as they opine on the latest “breaking news.” How could they not? Many of those experts are former FBI agents or federal prosecutors or CIA veterans.

If ever there were circumstances in which wishing a plague on both their houses is spot on appropriate, this is it. The FBI and CIA and the others have been, and still are, among the greatest enemies of American democracy ever; greater by far than any real or imagined pesky Russian hackers.

So, Pelosi can hate Trump or pray for him or do whatever she likes. I will hate him to pieces but also hate those Democrats, still the vast majority, who promote Cold War revivalist ideas to fortify and enhance the perpetual war regime that is leading America to ruin, and putting life itself on planet earth in mortal jeopardy.

It has become almost obligatory when likening anyone or anything to Nazis to say that, of course, the Nazis were worse. Often, they actually were.

Those of us who criticize the Democratic Party from the left find ourselves in a similar situation; to be taken seriously, at some point, we have to say that of course Republicans are worse, that Democrats are by far the lesser evil. They too generally are.

And when pointing out how Trump’s views are sometimes less noxious than mainstream Democratic views – for instance, on reviving the Cold War with Russia – it is similarly judicious, if not outright obligatory, to be clear about how awful Trump is. The last thing anyone not wallowing in Hillary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables” would want would be to seem to be on Trump’s side. endorse him.

Fine; but Trump and his minions are not the only enemy.

Denis Diderot (1713-1784) is credited with having said that “men will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.” During the French Revolution those words, or augmented variations of them, were often uttered by revolutionaries, sometimes framed slightly differently, as, for example, in declarations to the effect that “this great humanity will not be truly happy until the last king is strangled on the entrails of the last priest.”

In that spirit, and cognizant of the circumstances that now obtain, I would conclude by saying that: “America will not be truly great again (or ever) until the last Trumpian is strangled on the entrails of the last Pelosiite (or Clintonite, or Bidenesque), Cold War-mongering, rightwing (or moderate, or centrist, or mainstream) Democrat.”

 

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ANDREW LEVINE is the author most recently of THE AMERICAN IDEOLOGY (Routledge) and POLITICAL KEY WORDS (Blackwell) as well as of many other books and articles in political philosophy. His most recent book is In Bad Faith: What’s Wrong With the Opium of the People. He was a Professor (philosophy) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Research Professor (philosophy) at the University of Maryland-College Park.  He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

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