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It’s official: the House of Representatives has voted to establish a formal inquiry to determine if President Trump should be impeached. Out of all the lies, all the obstruction, all the corruption, all the incompetence of this president, the House Democrats have chosen strategically to focus on one alleged misdeed: that the president sought to pressure the government of Ukraine to lend itself to the service of his own political interest, explicitly holding back military aid to elicit Ukrainian cooperation.

Voters Decide

I can see why they didn’t want to get bogged down investigating numerous alleged “high crimes and misdemeanors,” which would certainly drag on into the middle of the presidential campaign. They evidently hope to make the case that this one incident in itself justifies his impeachment and removal from office. They believe they would not be fulfilling their constitutional obligation if they failed to investigate what appears to be a major impropriety.

The House should vote to censure the president based on an array of objectionable conduct, including but not limited to the Ukraine imbroglio. And then leave it to the voters.

This is an error. Unless they have some unexpected bombshell that could turn public opinion decisively for impeachment, what we know so far is evidence of corrupt intent and incredibly bad judgment, but hardly so egregious as to move any House Republicans to vote for impeachment, or Senate Republicans to vote to remove him from office. So the whole process will be portrayed as a partisan vendetta.

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Having embarked on the inquiry, the House should follow through with public hearings, so that the evidence is on the record. Then, if they still don’t have significant Republican support, they should forgo the symbolic gesture of an impeachment that would not be ratified by the Senate. Instead, the House should vote to censure the president based on an array of objectionable conduct, including but not limited to the Ukraine imbroglio. And then leave it to the voters.

What sort of objectionable conduct? Trump’s tenure has been marked by a steady train of tens of thousands of lies, improprieties (like profiting from government and corporations that hope to curry favor by staying in his hotels) that are outrageous but not quite illegal, policies (like the State of Emergency that he used to get around congressional refusal to appropriate funds for The Wall) that stretch the law without quite breaking it, and foreign and defense decisions (like the abrupt and capricious decision to pull troops out of Syria) that are stunning in their incompetence but not provably treasonous.

The pattern should be familiar because Trump has spent his whole life like this, skating on thin ice without ever quite falling through. Look at the many cases of people he allegedly defrauded, then paid off to keep quiet. Why is he so desperately insistent on keeping his tax returns private?

This is the tawdry big picture that voters should focus on. Trump is spectacularly mendacious (but maybe not prosecutable as perjurious), visibly corrupt (but probably not prosecutable), presses the limits of his legal authority (but not so far as to be brought up short by this conservative Supreme Court), and equates his own political interest with that of the country (but not to the point of provable treason). Impeachment is not the solution. Defeating him (and his enablers) at the polls is the answer.

impeachment unavoidable

John Peeler