Manieri column: Political rhetoric speaks volumes about impeachment
If you observe politics the way I do – as one stares at a five-car pileup on the freeway – your gaping will always be rewarded.
The House voted on Wednesday to impeach President Trump, but the rhetoric in the run-up to impeachment said a lot about the process. If you enjoy political hyperbole, you weren’t disappointed.
During the debate on articles of impeachment, Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.) searched for analogies to make a point about the injustice of Trump’s impeachment and came up with a doozy.
“Pontius Pilate afforded more rights to Jesus than the Democrats have afforded to this president,” he said.
Loudermilk said that “when Jesus was falsely accused of treason, Pontius Pilate gave Jesus the opportunity to face his accusers.”
I see his point but I don’t think I would have gone there.
Trump himself went a little more current in a letter to Nancy Pelosi.
“More due process was afforded to those in the Salem Witch Trials.”
I said “more current” not recent.
About Trump’s letter to Pelosi. Five pages and a lot of anger. There’s really no news in it unless it’s news that Trump is really, really upset, or that he likes to use a lot of exclamation points when he writes. He especially likes to use exclamation points at the end of paragraphs.
“Even worse than offending the Founding Fathers, you are offending Americans of faith but continually saying, ‘I pray for the president’ when you know this statement is not true, unless it is meant in a negative sense. It’s a terrible thing you are doing, but you will have to live with it, not I!” Trump wrote.
Beyond the punctuation, the letter covers familiar ground – Trump’s conversation with the Ukrainian president, “Russian Hoax,” “Impeachment Hoax,” (the capitalization is Trump’s) Joe Biden and so on.
But wait! There’s more. There’s always more.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney, (D-N.Y.) said that Trump’s actions are “even worse than Nixon’s.”
No, they’re really not.
During the debate, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, (D-N.Y.) accused Rep. Louie Gohmert of “spouting Russian propaganda.”
Nadler apparently believes anyone not in favor of impeaching Trump is a Russian sympathizer.
Gohmert went back at Nadler demanding a retraction. The two stopped before making fists at each other.
House Majority Leader, Rep. Steny Hoyer, said “Democrats did not choose this, impeachment.”
Yeah, they did, but that was hardly the most interesting thing Hoyer said during the debate.
He also felt it necessary to mention that while Trump received more electoral votes than Hillary Clinton in 2016, more people voted for Hillary Clinton -, about 65 million compared to Trump’s 63 million votes.
Kind of a strange point to make during an impeachment debate. What does this have to do with “abuse of power” or “obstruction of Congress”? Nothing at all, unless Democrats view this impeachment as an opportunity to overturn the results of an election which, of course, many Republicans believe is the case.
As you listened to the rhetoric, one truth emerged, no matter what side you’re on – this has been anything but a bipartisan process.
Remember, this impeachment is not part of an ongoing criminal investigation, unlike the Nixon and Clinton impeachments. This is an inherently political and divisive exercise, and it has lacked credibility from the outset.
Thus, it’s not surprising that the whole fiasco seems to be helping Trump. A Gallup poll released Wednesday indicated that Trump’s approval rating has gone from 39% to 45% since House Democrats began their impeachment inquiry in October.
Next, there will likely be a trial in the Republican-controlled Senate and impeachment will be dead on arrival as the GOP will present a strong defense of the president.
That will leave us more divided as a country than we were when this whole thing started and there will be no winners, with the possible exception of Trump himself – the Democrats’ worst nightmare.
Perhaps that’s why Pelosi shooshed her Democratic colleagues to keep them from cheering when the impeachment vote was announced. She’s trying to play this very carefully by appealing to her base without looking like she’s taking a victory lap. It seems an almost impossible strategy.
It wasn’t all theatrics on Wednesday. Pelosi was actually a voice of reason when she said it was “a sad day” for America.
What’s even sadder is she could have kept it from happening.
Rich Manieri is a Philadelphia-born journalist and author. He is currently a professor of journalism at Asbury University in Kentucky. His book, “We Burn on Friday: A Memoir of My Father and Me” is available at amazon.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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