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Posts published in “Day: July 4, 2020”

Impeachment redux


It seems increasingly likely that Trump was briefed on, and failed to respond to, Putin offering a bounty for killing American soldiers in Afghanistan. Even in an administration that brazenly discards norms and consistently lowers the bar, this shocks the conscience and must not go unaddressed. The House of Representatives needs to begin hearings in aid of impeachment.

Some will say that such hearings would be a futile exercise. They will predict -- probably correctly -- that even if the House votes to impeach, the GOP Senate will never vote to convict. After four years of embracing our errant president ever more tightly, Republicans aren’t likely to spurn him now.

Others will argue that the general election is just four short months away and that the people can vote to remove him then. That point, too, has merit.

But here's the thing. If we do not immediately act to remove Trump from office, how do we explain our inaction to the brave and patriotic soldiers serving abroad? How do we justify making them wait until January to have an engaged and loyal commander-in-chief? How many more Putin-sponsored body bags will be met by grieving families? How many more bounties will be paid?

As my friend and former Idaho state representative Gino White predicts, “History will judge Trump harshly, which will lead to the question of ‘what did the opposition party do?’” Gino rightly suggests that the answer should be “everything we could.”

The hearings would not need to be long and drawn out. If Trump was briefed about this travesty and did nothing, the proof should be easily obtained and presented. Moreover, under Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment, no person who has sworn an oath to support the Constitution, who has later gone to war against the United States, or given aid and comfort to the nation's enemies can serve in a state or federal office.

Trump took such an oath and it would seem a small matter to adduce evidence that, even after being briefed on Russia’s machinations, Trump actually rewarded Russia by inviting Putin to visit the White House, by pulling American Troops from Germany, and – most incredibly – by pushing for Russia’s inclusion in the G-7. The U.S. may not be at war with Russia, but Russia is most certainly our enemy. Trump’s actions, in the face of Putin's treachery, gave Russia aid and comfort and should disqualify Trump from serving in federal office.

Once again House Democrats are called upon to lead by example. Unlike Trump and his Republican cohort, they should do the right thing without hesitation. They must investigate promptly and, if the facts warrant impeachment, proceed to schedule that vote. If Republican senators choose to nail themselves to the mast of the sinking S.S. Trump, so be it; they will have the distinction of going down with the first American president to be impeached twice.



In 2017, Tom Nichols, a professor of National Security Affairs at the U.S. Naval War College, published a book that anticipated our current state of affairs. Nichols’s book, The Death of Expertise: The Campaign against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters, made an overarching point: with so much information literally at our fingertips everyone can be an expert on everything. Or at least play at being an expert on Facebook.

One example Nichols cited was a Washington Post poll that found after the 2014 Russian invasion of Ukraine “only one in six Americans could identify Ukraine on a map; the median response was off by about 1,800 miles.” Yet, this lack of basic knowledge hardly kept Americans from their sure-fire opinions about what action the country should take.

“In fact,” Nichols wrote, “the respondents favored intervention in direct proportion to their ignorance. Put another way, the people who thought Ukraine was located in Latin America or Australia were the most enthusiastic about using military force there.”

Turns out our certainty frequently has an inverse relation to our intelligence. Why? Why do so many Americans disdain expertise?

“Americans have reached a point where ignorance, especially of anything related to public policy, is an actual virtue,” Nichols wrote. “To reject the advice of experts is to assert autonomy, a way for Americans to insulate their increasingly fragile egos from ever being told they’re wrong about anything. It is a new Declaration of Independence: No longer do we hold these truths to be self-evident, we hold all truths to be self-evident, even the ones that aren’t true. All things are knowable and every opinion on any subject is as good as any other.”

The country’s disastrous, fragmented and deadly response to the global coronavirus pandemic is deeply rooted in the America aversion to expertise. Unfortunately for the first time in modern history we have a “fragile ego” in the White House who has made being ignorant about virtually everything a governing principle.

“Across the rest of the developed world, COVID-19 has been ebbing,” David Frum wrote this week in The Atlantic. “As a result, borders are reopening and economies are reviving. Here in the U.S., however, Americans are suffering a new disease peak worse than the worst of April.” As a result, the European Union this week barred almost all travelers from the United States because we have failed to control the virus, and we have failed because millions of us have rejected fundamental common sense.

Back in February the president and his Fox News echo chamber were calling the virus “a hoax” that was completely under control. It wasn’t and people who have spent a lifetime studying such things knew it wasn’t. Yet, governors in Arizona, Florida and twenty other places embraced Trumpian logic about the virus, waited too long and then acted inadequately.

From June 15 to the end of the month Arizona’s totals went from about 1,000 cases per day to nearly 5,000 per day. Idaho’s cases seem on a similar trajectory. Little wonder Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert, worried this week that the country could soon be headed for 100,000 new cases per day. “I am very concerned,” he said. And for good reason. Death numbers, a lagging indicator compared to cases, will almost certainly begin rising in coming days.

Meanwhile, every disease expert in the world is recommending the wearing of face masks as a fundamental necessity in slowing the spread. Yet, Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul – hard to believe he is actually a doctor – mused out loud at a hearing where Fauci testified, “We shouldn’t presume that a group of experts somehow knows what’s best for everyone.”

Delegates to the Idaho Republican convention fumed last week about Governor Brad Little’s contact tracing efforts, an effective and proven method of isolating the virus and containing its spread that has been widely implemented in countries that have brought the pandemic under control.

One “expert,” Heather Rogers, a convention delegate from Lewiston, was quoted by reporter Nathan Brown as saying, “What Governor Little did was frankly, in my opinion, completely unconstitutional.” The key words here are “in my opinion.”

Donald Trump is scheduled to be at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota’s Black Hills Friday for a big fireworks display that defies common sense on at least two fronts. Fireworks displays at the national monument were long ago suspended due to concerns about forest fires and a big crowd of people will create a mountain sized petri dish of virus spread.

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem welcomes the chaos. “We told those folks that have concerns that they can stay home,” she told NBC, “but those who want to come and join us, we’ll be giving out free face masks, if they choose to wear one. But we will not be social distancing.”

One of the toughest tasks in politics is to muster the courage to tell your followers that they are wrong. But so many Republicans have lived for so long in the land of science denial, in the universe of expertise bashing, that when confronted with a genuine crisis that can’t be flim flamed away they’re left with little but their own nonsense.

But at this moment, as David Frum writes, “reality will not be blustered away. Tens of thousands are dead, and millions are out of work, all because Trump could not and would not do the job of disease control” – a task that requires deferring to science, accepting facts and behaving responsibly about things like wearing a mask. The task also involves leading the skeptical.

From denying climate change and abandoning the international effort to rescue an imperiled planet to embracing the claim that the virus would somehow magically “go away,” the president and a sizeable percentage of the American population have, as Tom Nichols says, chosen to be ill-informed.

They are left with only their anger and their demands because they have abdicated “their own important role in the process: namely, to stay informed and politically literate enough to choose representatives who can act on their behalf.”

Meanwhile, the cases continue to grow.