Columns » Gene Lyons

It's too early for the i-word

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U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib
  • U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib
What an outrage! A Democratic woman talking like a Republican man! President Trump should march right into the House of Representatives, grab this Muslim wench by her [expletive deleted] and deport her to whatever bleep-hole country she came from.

Never mind that Trump has himself used the same offensive phrase to describe whole nations — such as China — in campaign speeches. The real offense was that Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a Detroit Democrat of Palestinian descent, also used the I-word with respect to Trump’s political survival.
U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
  • U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Impeach the mother-abuser, she said, sort of.

Too bad Democratic New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez didn't say it. The entire GOP congressional delegation would have spontaneously combusted.

Speaking of whom, is she like a total fox, or what? It’s clear my fellow old white dudes in the GOP caucus think so. She makes them crazy. That college video of Ocasio-Cortez dancing was supposed to embarrass her. Um, no. Instead, Republican men worry their wives might catch them watching the thing on their phones.

Meanwhile, in the interest of bipartisanship, a timely bit of advice: Trading insults with a smart-aleck New York City bartender is a good way to make a public fool of yourself. Boys, she’s heard it all before, and she’s got more witty putdowns than the late Don Rickles. Try to get over her.



But back to the adult portion of this column.

Sure, Ocasio-Cortez has gotten more attention than a congressional freshman deserves — partly due to New York media provincialism, also because she gives good TV. It’s the way of the world. Democrats elected a lot of impressive women in 2018. Hopefully, we’ll hear from more of them in time.

And yes, Tlaib’s outburst was both ill advised and premature, although Trumpists objecting to profanity aren’t real persuasive. Particularly not Trump himself, who said the Detroit congresswoman “dishonored herself.” Don’t you love it when the world’s biggest vulgarian plays at being a stuffed shirt?

I sent my wife a parody Trump tweet the other day: “I have a 12-inch penis and the biggest skyscrappers. I can call A-10 Warthog strikes.”

She thought it was real. After all, why wouldn’t it be?

Anyway, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reacted coolly to impeachment talk. Tlaib, she said, “does not speak for the Democratic caucus.” Most establishment Democrats, such as House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), took the same line.

Many Democratic candidates took their cue from Pelosi during the 2018 campaign. They stressed practical issues like health care, voting rights, infrastructure and jobs, letting voters’ disgust with Trump take care of itself.

“We have to wait and see what happens with the Mueller report,” Pelosi also said. “We shouldn't be impeaching for a political reason, and we shouldn't avoid impeachment for a political reason.”

Exactly right. The worst thing Democrats could do would be to force a premature impeachment that would do little more than satisfy cable TV’s need for political melodrama without persuading voters that they can actually govern. In my opinion, it would also be Trump’s only real hope of political survival, much less of re-election come November 2020.
Self-discipline is definitely in order. Because while we hear a lot about the passions of Trump’s cult-like “base,” less gets said about how Democrats feel — a cohort already considerably larger, and growing. The 2018 mid-term elections showed that. And real-world issues aside, the single strongest emotion uniting them is sheer contempt for Trump and Trumpism, his pro-wrestling style, authoritarian spectacle.

David Leonhardt has laid out the case for removal in a powerfully restrained column headlined “The People vs. Donald J. Trump.”

“He has repeatedly put his own interests above those of the country. He has used the presidency to promote his businesses. He has accepted financial gifts from foreign countries. He has lied to the American people about his relationship with a hostile foreign government.

“… He has called for the prosecution of his political enemies and the protection of his allies. He has attempted to obstruct justice. He has tried to shake the public’s confidence in one democratic institution after another, including the press, federal law enforcement and the federal judiciary.”

Trump’s lies about and his oddly subservient relationship to Vladimir Putin alone justify his removal. Only last week, the president gave an account of Russia’s 1979 invasion of Afghanistan so bizarrely at odds with history that even the Wall Street Journal was horrified. “We cannot recall a more absurd misstatement of history by an American president,” editors wrote.

It was straight-up Kremlin propaganda. Strange, very strange.

But most Americans aren’t there yet. The worst thing Democrats could do would be to force things prematurely. Hearings, definitely. However, regularizing impeachment as a partisan weapon could have the opposite effect intended, weakening rather than strengthening the Constitution.

What’s needed are a few courageous Republicans. Because once the dam breaks, it will come a flood.

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