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Moscow Mitch and Lame Ar Alexander

And neither should you. Slow and steady wins the race. Important decisions remain that can have a major impact on Trump as president.

Republicans Are Full of Shit

But just to be clear, in defending Trump as president, the Republicans came nowhere near to offering any sort of intelligent argument. Their detailed objections are a rabbit warren of idiotic conspiracy theories, and their marquee claim is rank nonsense on stilts.

As that left wing rag, USA Today, reported:

One bit of arm waving that Trump’s lawyers have engaged in is the argument that House managers are attempting to undo an election. White House counsel Pat Cipollone argued that Democrats are asking the Senate to “tear up every ballot” from the 2016 election, characterizing impeachment as an affront to democracy.

Nonsense on stilts. Impeachment, in the literal sense of the language of the Constitution and in the broader sense of the logic of the action, says absolutely nothing about how the official under impeachment gained the office in question. The Constitution does not address the question at all.

Impeachment is the remedy that the Constitution offers, or requires, depending on how you want to read the operative language, (Article II, Section 4, U.S. Constitution: “The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors”), impeachment for, as this language suggests, criminal conduct. In context, the gravamen is criminal conduct that specifically implicates the particular powers of the office or gives rise to reasonable doubts that the offender can and will perform the duties of the office in a reasonable manner.

That Trump did not win the 2016 election is not relevant. We are operating within the ambit of the Constitution, as we should, since it offers ample protection from the likes of Trump if the relevant officials would only enforce it in a reasonable manner. Trump became president solely through the operation of our Constitution, which gives the electoral college the power to choose the president.

So Trump gained the office through the operation of the Constitution. He may not now reasonably object to the invocation of another provision of the same Constitution to remove him from office, a fortiori.

Referring to the previous election in the context of impeachment is a stupid, conceptually invalid move from start to finish. It is entirely irrelevant.

Dersh is Insane

Trump defender Alan Dershowitz has been off his meds for a long time now. His feeble attempt to defend Trump from removal is only the latest, most vivid example of his utter insanity:

He is undoubtedly right that every elected official believes that their own election serves the public interest, but that claim alone cannot defend Trump, or any official, against impeachment. As above, no matter how the official gained the office, a showing of criminal conduct, as in Trump’s case, justifies the removal of that official.

The Founders lodged the power to impeach in the House of Representatives precisely because that decision needs to reflect the broadest possible consensus of the public, which only the House of Representatives, or Congress as a whole, in our federal government can claim to speak for. They lodged the power “to try all impeachments” in the Senate for the same reason. The two Houses of Congress, under the Constitution, have plenary power to decide if a given action by a public official is in the public interest or not. As it happens, in this instance, the two Houses have come to opposite conclusions, which is primarily a function of the partisan differences in control of the two Houses. No doubt, if honest officials controlled the Senate, they would have allowed both documents and witnesses as evidence from the House to carry its allegation of illegal conduct by the president. Only Republican Party loyalty prevented that entirely reasonable procedure in this instance.

The Dersh tries to gussy up his cheap, stupid apologia for Trump at the outset by insisting that he spoke only to defend the Constitution, but giving any elected official sole power to decide unilaterally whether their choices served the public interest is to fly in the face of the logic of our Constitution, or of any constitution, the point of which is to provide a public, consensual set of procedures for how government shall operate and who shall operate it. Especially under our Constitution (“We, the People”), the public retains ever the option of reviewing the acts of public officials and approving or disapproving them. Impeachment is just an extreme, perhaps the most extreme, mechanism for effecting this enormous responsibility within the context of the Constitution.

The power to impeach is precisely the power in the House to act on evidence of illegal conduct by any federal official and formally allege illegal conduct that harms the public interest, usually in the form of abuse of power or of the public trust, which Trump undoubtedly has done repeatedly. The Constitution creates a limited government, with the checking and balancing effects of the three branches as a primary mechanism of limitation against abuse of power. Presumably the president usually, or always, believes that their acts benefit the public.

The House, through various means, but especially impeachment, explicitly has the power under the Constitution to review those acts and to disagree, up to and including by impeaching the official.

Dersh makes himself look foolish or insane — you choose — with his tawdry attempt to give Trump sole, unreviewable power to decide that his withholding of funds Congress had allocated for military assistance to Ukraine, in direct contravention of applicable statute, is in the public interest. Congress had decided otherwise, and the Constitution gives Congress the authority to enforce its decisions.

Rubber, Meet Road

This is where the rubber really hits the road: with these two cases, the Supreme Court will decide if Trump and various entities with important information about his financial dealings have to comply with subpoenas for records pertaining to those dealings. One of the subpoenas comes from the House of Representatives.

Both the trial court and the court of appeals have come to the same conclusion, the only conclusion that comports with precedent and basic logic, in finding that the House of Representatives undoubtedly has the power to subpoena any documents that relate to a topic they have the power to legislate on, which undoubtedly includes ethical questions about how public officials behave.

In theory, the partisan affiliations of Supreme Court justices should not matter. They are supposed to decide cases according to the law, which clearly favors the House over the president in this case. The problem is that too many of the Republican appointees have shown a deeply regrettable willingness to decide cases in ways that benefit Republicans in defiance of law and logic. We can expect that the four Democratic appointees will follow law and logic and find that all entities must comply with the subpoenas. Trump’s two appointees to the Court should recuse themselves since they have an obvious conflict of interest, but being good “conservatives” they likely will not.

Probably, the swing vote will be Chief Justice Roberts. We have no very good idea how he will decide. He has stated publicly that he wishes to avoid the public perception that the Court suffers from the taint of partisanship, but he has done a rather bad job of actually taking actions that would serve that alleged wish.

It is a sad statement about Republican hyper partisanship that we can only cross our fingers and hope that Roberts, and maybe other Republican justices, will follow obvious precedent, and logic, and vote to require enforcement of the subpoenas for the president’s financial records, and, by implication, essentially all other subpoenas the House has issued and the president has defied.

Vigorous protest may still be necessary. A decision by the Supreme Court allowing Trump to defy subpoenas would be the last straw. The U.S. public should tolerate no such irrational decision.

When the Supreme Court ordered President Nixon to release transcripts of recordings of his Oval Office conversations, he complied, despite surely knowing that the transcripts contained damning information about his illegal conduct.

Trump may well refuse to comply with a comparable order from the Supreme Court, which should also spark widespread protest, since it is not clear that even so obviously unlawful — in the most literal sense — conduct by Trump would persuade his hyperpartisan defenders in the Senate to remove him.

So, be prepared to protest. I shall, if it becomes necessary. Nothing is as American as protest.

Don’t Say I Didn’t Warn You

With my next post in this space, however, I plan to switch topics, not as completely as it might seem, but to describing and explaining my practice as a Buddhist. After he achieved completed awakening, or “enlightenment,” to use a very fraught term, the Buddha did not become an activist, despite the many gross injustices he observed around him. He spent the remaining fifty years of his life repeatedly explaining what he had learned with his awakening. In following the path he described, I have substantially changed my own consciousness, if not achieved complete awakening. Yet.

The Buddha taught that we all have the capacity to awaken as he did, we just fail to recognize that potential. The more people awaken, the more peaceful the world will be. I am very certain that my claims about our Constitution and how our government should work under it, as I have stated them in this space repeatedly, are correct.

Maybe somebody listens and cares. If you do, thank you. I mean no offense when I state the obvious — the people who listen to me and care what I write are not numerous enough or powerful enough to bring about changes according to my arguments. I stated repeatedly that Nancy Pelosi should have started impeachment long before she did. She obviously did not care.

Buddhist meditation makes me more peaceful. If the Buddha could awaken, then state that all sentient beings have the capacity to awaken, the universe must have some moral order to it. I have had a number of important realizations from my meditation practice, one of which is that the moral order of the universe must be either entirely bad or entirely good. Since the Buddha — the awakened one, which is what “buddha” means in the language he spoke — was the embodiment of compassion and kindness, and enjoined those two qualities on his followers, the universe, at the broadest level, must be good, however much bad we may see on a daily basis (see above about Trump and the Dersh).

So, for my own well being, and I hope for the well being of all other sentient beings, I shall write about my Buddhist meditation practice, rather than politics, for at least the foreseeable future. For reasons (!), publication of it failed, but I have written an entire book explaining Buddhism for people who know little or nothing about it. Download a copy in PDF, MOBI, or EPUB format here. And join the social site while you’re there. We won’t collect any personal information to sell to anyone.

Buddhists do not much proselytize. I detest having anyone proselytize me. I am convinced, however, that the Buddha was right about everything he made claims about after his awakening, including and especially what we might call eschatology and soteriology, although “salvation” is not really a Buddhist concept. Buddhism has nothing threatening or coercive about it. Buddhists make no claim that anyone who chooses not to be Buddhist will suffer as a result. The Buddha offered what he had discovered and encouraged anyone and everyone to try it out to see if it works for them. If not. good luck finding something that does.

It works for me and I want to explain it to the world. This is as good a, um, medium (!) as any for that purpose. I hope you’ll keep reading.

Namaste.

Written by

Uppity gay, Buddhist, author, historian.

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