“Pelosi is crushing McConnell, step by strategic step.”
So a true-blue liberal website known as the Daily Kos declared in a bizarre headline last month. It’s as good an example as any of how completely Democrats have retreated into a fantasy world all their own.
Pelosi is not crushing anyone. Thanks to the ongoing impeachment fiasco, she’s caught in a trap of her own devising and is unable to take a single step without making matters worse. The more she balks at forwarding the articles of impeachment to the Senate, the more foolish she appears. But if she does forward them, she’ll end up looking worse since Mitch McConnell will use his power as leader of the Republican majority to put them to a quick up-or-down vote that will almost certainly result in Trump’s acquittal. All those fancy speeches on the House floor about upholding the Constitution, standing up to Russia, defending brave little Ukraine, blah blah blah – all that sturm-und-drang will go down in defeat in a strict party-line vote that the rankest political amateur could have predicted months ago.
If, on the other hand, Pelosi follows the urgings of the New York Times and maneuvers McConnell into holding a full-blown trial, the outcome will be even more devastating. The reason is that Pelosi and the Times are hoping against hope that a trial will allow Democrats to subpoena ex-national security adviser John Bolton, who will then regale the Senate with inside stories about Trump blackmailing Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky that are so shocking, so sensational, so redolent of corruption and bad faith, that even hardline Republicans will vote to convict.
If so, Trump will slink off stage, Mike Pence will impose a theocratic dictatorship, and presumably Pelosi will live happily ever after.
But it’s a pipedream. For one thing, it’s unlikely that Bolton has anything to say at this point beyond what his deputy, Fiona Hill, already told the House intelligence committee in November. Hill, a stern ramrod-straight neocon who would probably scare the pants off Vladimir Putin himself, testified that European Union ambassador Gordon Sondland declared last summer that Trump would grant Zelensky a much-desired White House meeting only “if specific investigations are put underway” concerning why Joe Biden had pushed for the dismissal of a Ukrainian prosecutor looking into a businessman who had hired his son.
This was the quid pro quo that Democrats had been looking for according to the corporate media. But it wasn’t for the simple reason that Hill was unable to shed light on why Trump was so keen for an investigation in the first place. Was it because he wanted to smear a political opponent he knew to be innocent? Or was he bursting with outrage over Biden’s obviously corrupt behavior and therefore determined that the Ukraine help bring the facts to light?
The difference is crucial. Yet Hill was in no position to say one way or another, and there’s no evidence that Bolton will be either. What Democrats can’t bring themselves to admit is that the second option – moral outrage – is by the far the likelier since Biden’s behavior was every bit as appalling as Trump says it was. “Biden’s family has been cashing in on his career for decades,” Ryan Grim pointed out in The Intercept a few months ago, and allowing his son to take a job with one of the Ukraine most notorious oligarchs after Barack Obama had put him in charge of rooting out corruption was so over the top that it was as if 1930s gangbuster Eliot Ness had looked the other way while one of his offspring went to work for Al Capone. Indeed, the facts are so damning that it’s all but impossible to prove that moral indignation was not a motive on Trump’s part, which undermines impeachment all the more.
But that not the only reason why the ultra-hawkish Bolton won’t deliver the goods. The other is that he’s so elated by Trump’s assassination of Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani that the last thing he wants to do is loosen his grip on power. “Long in the making, this was a decisive blow against Iran’s malign Quds Force activities worldwide,” he tweeted a few hours after the hit. “Hope this is the first step to regime change in Tehran.”
Does that sound like a man looking to stab his ex-boss in the back? Hardly. Given Bolton’s famous infighting abilities, it sounds like someone trying to worm his way back into Trump’s good graces in case he wins re-election – and delivering damning testimony in the Senate is the worst way imaginable of accomplishing the goal.
So Pelosi will wind up humiliated all the more. And that assumes that Republicans don’t twist the knife by subpoenaing witnesses of their own – people like Joe and Hunter Biden, Adam Schiff, or CIA whistleblower Eric Ciaramella – a collection of frauds and phonies whom they’ll happily roast over burning coals. Their glee will br boundlesss. Yet the only person Pelosi has to blame is herself.
All of which is highly unfortunate since not only is Trump guilty of multiple high crimes and misdemeanors – locking up children in cages along the Mexican border, banning Muslims, waging an unprovoked war of aggression against Iran, abrogating the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, and so on – but allowing him to waltz away untouched means that he’ll never have to worry about impeachment again. He’ll be free to behave as undemocratically as he pleases if he wins a second term, and after shooting its wad, there will be nothing that Congress will be able to do about it.
Dictatorship here we come, not despite the Democrats but because of them. Instead of zeroing in on the offenses that count, they opted to attack Trump from the right by accusing him of being soft on Moscow, withholding military aid from the Ukraine’s neo-Nazi defense forces, and pushing for an investigation into a corrupt Democrat who eminently deserves it. It’s a classic example of cowardly Dems trying to prove themselves more conservative than the GOP and, as a consequence, pushing the country ever more firmly to the right. It’s a despicable gambit that deserves to go down in defeat, and fortunately it is.