"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines." — Ralph Waldo Emerson
Emerson wrote those words 180 years ago, but we have Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-California, to prove their resonance today.
Demonstrating she has been unable to move on morally and intellectually from shepherding the embarrassing impeachment of President Donald Trump a year ago, she now suggests — with eight days remaining in the president's term — that he be impeached again for making a political speech to supporters who came to Washington, D.C., last week to protest the certification of Electoral College votes in favor of challenger Joe Biden.
We have said the president should never have spoken to the thousands of people who came to the nation's capital because he had convinced them that somehow the vote might be overturned. We further wish they had not taken the next step of going to the Capitol, breaching it, terrorizing it, vandalizing it and in other ways desecrating it, resulting in the deaths of five people and the injury to many others.
But Pelosi, in talk of impeachments, embodying Emerson's foolish consistency, has been moved to action only out of fear for her job. During the Russian collusion debacle, she consistently railed against impeachment, knowing how popular Trump was with half the country and understanding he would never be impeached in a Republican House or convicted in a Republican Senate.
When Democrats took control of the House in 2018, the speaker began to feel tremendous pressure from newer, younger, more liberal members who wanted to yank the party further left. So when a whistleblower attempted to find a high crime in a telephone conversation Trump had with the Ukrainian president, she gave way to the pressure.
The president's subsequent acquittal was never in doubt.
When Americans voted to sharply reduce the size of the Democratic House margin in November, perhaps partially in retaliation for the impeachment vote, Pelosi, 80, meekly suggested her colleagues give her one more term, a term she won by a mere seven votes.
To remain relevant, she knew she would have to walk the line between the far left base of the party and what is likely to be a slightly more moderate Biden administration. Indeed, even before that administration takes office, she's already had to answer — bristling as she did — about the future leadership of the House.
So Pelosi's breathless suggestions of impeachment since last week's Capitol insurrection are a sop to the party's left wing. She knows Trump's speech doesn't meet the threshold for impeachment and that the Senate would not have time to consider charges against him if the House were to affirm such charges in a simple majority vote. But this is her sad lot in life — to build a case for impeachment of a president who was using his First Amendment rights.
Impeachment will do nothing to change to minds of the American people who already voted him out of office but gave him more votes than any other candidate in history except the man who beat him.
Neither does the country need to undertake the machinations of the 25th Amendment to the Constitution, Section 4 of which stipulates that "the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department (the Cabinet) or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office."
Trump is not unable to do his job. It's just that what he does in his job — though there's no time left to accomplish anything significant — doesn't meet the approval of congressional Democrats and a few Republicans.
On the other hand, if Vice President Mike Pence believed the president had in mind to do something to harm the nation, we would want him to act. But the president repeating one more time that he won the election or it was stolen from him is not that.
Even after more than four years, Democrats are unable to accept that a crude, bloviating businessman and reality television host defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016. They've been unable to give him credit for the triumphs the administration had and have stood in the way to be sure he didn't have any more.
Yet, Trump will leave office next week with his wings clipped. His speech last week and the resulting actions are likely to make him radioactive relative to renomination in 2024, a blow to his egotistical soul. He's also had his mouthpiece — Twitter — removed. And while the efficacy of that decision may have far-reaching consequences, it has removed an effective way in which he has communicated.
Meanwhile, Pelosi, Emerson's "little states(wo)man," will do what she feels pressured to do, but in doing so will remain consistently foolish.
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