Well, and Your Humble Blogger got around to reading the Washington Post interview with Nancy Pelosi that people were complaining about yesterday, and, well, I have thoughts.
The complaints were about Speaker Pelosi’s comment on impeachment, which I will go ahead and quote:
I’m not for impeachment. This is news. I’m going to give you some news right now because I haven’t said this to any press person before. But since you asked, and I’ve been thinking about this: Impeachment is so divisive to the country that unless there’s something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don’t think we should go down that path, because it divides the country. And he’s just not worth it.
Now, I have two major responses to this. First, as a question of analysis, I think Speaker Pelosi is entirely correct. That shouldn’t be surprising—if I were to tell you that I think Speaker Pelosi’s analysis of a legislative situation is wrong, you would do well to assume that she is correct and that it is YHB that is wrong. Of the two of us, I know which person has more experience, more information, and more skill at analysis, and it ain’t Your Humble Blogger. Still, for what it’s worth, I agree: Democrats should not move to impeach Our Only President in the House without something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, particularly the bit about bipartisan. I would estimate that moving forward on impeachment in the House would require private commitments from about a third of the House Republicans and at least one public call from a Republican Senator, and that absent those commitments a nearly party-line impeachment vote would be bad for the country and bad for our Party, and without enough benefit to make up for that damage.
But granting (as I do) the accuracy of Speaker Pelosi’s analysis of the situation, I still think that her statement was a mistake, and a fairly serious one. Her job involves both analysis and advocacy, and the interview with the Post falls under advocacy, and this was terrible, terrible advocacy.
I don’t mean that I think she ought to have lied—although I’m not against this sort of lie for positioning and negotiation, if it comes to that. But lying wasn’t necessary for a good response. What if Speaker Pelosi had said something closer to this:
Impeaching a President is a terrible step. Going down that path is terribly divisive to the country, terribly costly, terribly distracting from our real job of governing. If, ultimately, we have to take that step, we’re going to take it together with the other Party, and it will be because the evidence is so overwhelming and compelling that it would be worse not to do it. And we’re looking at that evidence—we’ve now got chairs in place, Elijah Cummings, Jerry Nadler, Adam Schiff, who are doing the real work of oversight that wasn’t being done before. Now it is. Now it is. Getting to the facts is what is important, not out of a desire to impeach, but because they are the facts. And my job as Speaker is to support the chairs in that, and to talk with my colleagues across the aisle, and ultimately to do what needs to be done based on that evidence, and based on the dangers that there may be. But I hope that we never have to impeach a President of the United States. It would be a terrible thing.
I think that it’s important to hold out the possibility of impeachment, even if she doesn’t expect to move forward on it at this point. It’s important because there are a lot of people who voted D in the recent midterms specifically for impeachment (how many people? who knows?) but also because the threat of impeachment is one of the levers that Senate Republicans have over the President—I don’t like the Senate Republicans, myself, but it seems to me that as things stand, they are the most important thing holding Our Only President back from his most authoritarian impulses. I’m not suggesting Speaker Pelosi can or should rely on those Senators, many of whom have authoritarian impulses themselves, but removing that threat seems like a cost without a benefit. And of course there’s a cost to undercutting the committee chairs, and a cost to pooh-poohing the strong feelings of a lot of people around the country, and a cost to hinting that Mr. Mueller’s report isn’t important.
I don’t believe that Our Only President will be impeached before the next election, and while I am indeed grouchy about that, politics is the art of the possible. But the investigation isn’t done, is it? And the investigation is, I believe, very very important, whether it leads to impeachment or not—ultimately, I think it matters what the history books say about this time we’re living through. One the whole, though, I think the Speaker’s analysis is correct. I just think this was the wrong time and place for analysis.
Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,