Dionne: The ideal date for Judgment Day

Dionne: The ideal date for Judgment Day

March 15th, 2019 by E.J. Dionne Jr. / The Washington Post Writers Group in Opinion Times Commentary

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-California, is setting a high bar for impeachment of President Donald Trump, saying he is "just not worth it." (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Photo by J. Scott Applewhite

WASHINGTON — Please, Tom Steyer, stop spending all that money on impeachment ads. If you want to run spots against President Trump, target his shameful 2020 budget.

In the meantime, the rest of us should quit pretending there is a big debate among Democrats about impeachment. There isn't. There is actually consensus, which is why House Speaker Nancy Pelosi won broad support when she pushed back against impeachment in an interview with The Washington Post.

True, there is an intellectually legitimate case that the House has a moral and constitutional responsibility to start the impeachment process now, given what we know about Trump's misdeeds and lies.

But the vast majority of Democrats recognize that they did not win control of the House last fall on a promise of impeachment. To the extent that Democrats who flipped House seats campaigned on holding Trump accountable, it was by endorsing the traditional inquiries being carried out now. Before you risk tearing the political system apart, you have to lay the groundwork with your constituents. This has not happened yet.

Moreover, it's foolish to say: "Let's impeach him. Now we will assemble the facts." It's far better to say, "Let's painstakingly investigate all the charges against Trump, let's see what special counsel Robert Mueller finds, and then — and only then — will we decide what to do."

Those eager for impeachment are entirely right to feel we should be further along than we are. The Mueller probe should have been accompanied by serious inquests by the House into the president's actions.

But far from investigating Trump's transgressions during his first two years in office, a Republican-controlled House focused on disrupting and discrediting those trying to learn the truth. Democrats now have to start from scratch. Unfortunate? Yes. But still no reason for rushing to impeach.

In the meantime, a premature debate over impeachment floods the media with distractions from all the damage Trump is doing through thoroughly normal uses of power that are not impeachable. This is why Trump eagerly brings up the I-word himself. Gathering shiny objects is his thing.

It's more fun to talk about impeachment than, God forbid, budgets. Yet the budget the president proposed this week is a statement of his values. And it's genuinely vile. He breaks a major campaign promise by proposing cuts in Medicare. He ignores the voters' verdict last fall by calling for yet another effort to repeal Obamacare with $777 billion in reductions to Medicaid and Affordable Care Act subsidies. He slashes programs for low-income people, including a 30 percent cut in food stamps.

The larger point is that the Constitution doesn't create an obligation to impeach Trump. Maybe we'll get to the point where there is a moral and political responsibility to impeach. Pelosi said she'd act if faced with "something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan."

But there's an overriding obligation for those of us who oppose Trump because of the damage he is doing to our democracy: the imperative to check our passions. The Constitution is a framework for self-rule. We must demonstrate our respect for democratic procedures and the power of the people to speak through free elections.

South Bend Mayor and Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg had it right during his boffo CNN town hall performance Sunday. While acknowledging that new information might yet leave Congress no choice but to "begin impeachment proceedings," he said plainly: "I would like to see this president and the style of politics that he represents sent off through the electoral process — decisively defeated at the ballot box."

Politics should be about promoting durable, long-term reform. That requires affirmation from the voters. Congress should not lightly deprive the electorate the chance to kick Trump out of Washington, rebuke his party and set a better course for our country. The ideal date for Judgment Day is still Nov. 3, 2020.

Washington Post Writers Group

Getting Started/Comments Policy

Getting started

  1. 1. If you frequently comment on news websites then you may already have a Disqus account. If so, click the "Login" button at the top right of the comment widget and choose whether you'd rather log in with Facebook, Twitter, Google, or a Disqus account.
  2. 2. If you've forgotten your password, Disqus will email you a link that will allow you to create a new one. Easy!
  3. 3. If you're not a member yet, Disqus will go ahead and register you. It's seamless and takes about 10 seconds.
  4. 4. To register, either go through the login process or just click in the box that says "join the discussion," type your comment, and either choose a social media platform to log you in or create a Disqus account with your email address.
  5. 5. If you use Twitter, Facebook or Google to log in, you will need to stay logged into that platform in order to comment. If you create a Disqus account instead, you'll need to remember your Disqus password. Either way, you can change your display name if you'd rather not show off your real name.
  6. 6. Don't be a huge jerk or do anything illegal, and you'll be fine.

Chattanooga Times Free Press Comments Policy

The Chattanooga Times Free Press web sites include interactive areas in which users can express opinions and share ideas and information. We cannot and do not monitor all of the material submitted to the website. Additionally, we do not control, and are not responsible for, content submitted by users. By using the web sites, you may be exposed to content that you may find offensive, indecent, inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise objectionable. You agree that you must evaluate, and bear all risks associated with, the use of the Times Free Press web sites and any content on the Times Free Press web sites, including, but not limited to, whether you should rely on such content. Notwithstanding the foregoing, you acknowledge that we shall have the right (but not the obligation) to review any content that you have submitted to the Times Free Press, and to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content that we determine, in our sole discretion, (a) does not comply with the terms and conditions of this agreement; (b) might violate any law, infringe upon the rights of third parties, or subject us to liability for any reason; or (c) might adversely affect our public image, reputation or goodwill. Moreover, we reserve the right to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content at any time, for the reasons set forth above, for any other reason, or for no reason. If you believe that any content on any of the Times Free Press websites infringes upon any copyrights that you own, please contact us pursuant to the procedures outlined in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (Title 17 U.S.C. § 512) at the following address:

Copyright Agent
The Chattanooga Times Free Press
400 East 11th Street
Chattanooga, TN 37403
Phone: 423-757-6315
Email: webeditor@timesfreepress.com