President Nixon with chief of staff H.R. Haldeman/UVA-Miller Center

The Unimpeachable Mister Trump

Who cares if he committed a crime? Not today’s GOP.

Jeffrey Denny

Growing up in the 70s, I remember Republicans as the law-and-order party.

Not just when it came to drugs, urban crime, hippies, demonstrators and liberal destruction of American culture, norms, values and institutions, but the president too.

As we know, in 1974, the Supreme Court demanded release of the “smoking gun” tape that proved Nixon tried to obstruct justice by stopping the FBI’s investigation of the Watergate break-in. Overnight, the 11 Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee who initially voted against impeachment changed their minds. When it became clear the Senate would impeach and convict him, Nixon resigned.

Republicans remained law-enforcement sticklers through the Reagan and Bush years and into 1998 when the GOP House voted to impeach President Clinton. This was after they investigated but failed to find any Whitewater crime but stumbled upon his sex with an intern and he dissembled about it. Talk about high crimes and misdemeanors!

But it’s OK with today’s GOP when President Trump obstructs justice; writes hush-money checks to a porn star to protect his election in violation of campaign finance law; scoffs at an enemy nation’s espionage because it helped elect him; violates the Emoluments Clause to enrich himself from public office; defies Congressional subpoenas; and generally asserts executive privilege not in the Constitution and puts himself above the law.

It’s also fine if Trump divides the nation; encourages white supremacists; demonizes the free press; viciously insults anyone who questions him; refuses to release his tax returns like every other modern president; and debases and disgraces the White House he’s made completely dysfunctional.

Let’s ask our Republican friends: If President Hillary Clinton had done any of this, would you defend her and let it go? Or would you already be impeaching her?

Never mind. The answer involves logic that would make a pretzel jealous. I know it’s basically: She’s Hillary. Trump’s not.

Trump can also fail to deliver on every grand campaign promise, from a better healthcare system, to a Mexico-funded wall, Mideast peace, a trade deal with China, a big infrastructure program, return of coal jobs, a balanced budget, a drained Washington swamp. While the powerful deal-maker who had a friendly GOP majority in both the House and Senate until recently whines about Democratic obstruction.

He did, however, sign a tax bill that does little for average working Americans. And while he’s kept the Obama economic recovery going, his inexplicable tariff tantrums have hurt American farmers and manufacturers, boosted prices at Walmart and erased gains in our retirement savings along with $5 trillion in stock market value.

And still, 90 percent of Republicans support Trump, per Gallup as of May 1-12.

This is not your father’s GOP.

Sure, I get why his base of supporters “would drink battery acid if he asked them to,” as columnist David Von Drehle put it.

While a lot of what Trump does hurts them first and worst, they either don’t agree, don’t realize or don’t care. Many are ride-or-die because they’re angry with liberal smarty-pants coastal elite PC snowflake globalists who caused or blame them for their lot in life, or think Black Lives Matter more than theirs, or let America get too immigrant or ethnic. Trump is a folk hero to his base — columnist Charles Blow’s insight — and thus offended by anyone offended by Trump.

Frankly, I find some of Trump’s base ornery, mean-spirited, spiteful and destructive — Honey Badgers and Grumpy Cats — willing to tear down our democratic institutions without knowing or caring how they work or how to make them better. If you doubt there’s racism, misogyny or sheer ignorance at large in MAGAland, check out the comments section on Breitbart.com or any alt-right sites. Reader discretion advised.

But unless it’s simply about the Dow, I don’t understand why reasonable, responsible and knowledgeable Republicans support Trump and are willing to ignore or defend his reign of destruction. And maybe even reelect him.

It’s depressing. But one glimmer: Someone close to me is a lifelong Republican whose father was an elected Republican judge. She despises Hillary and may have voted for Trump. But she likes Joe Biden. She thinks he’s a decent, respectable man, has experience and integrity, and is better than Trump. She’s offended that the “progressives” are attacking Biden for not being liberal enough. At last we agree on something political.

I don’t think the House should impeach Trump.

Not yet. Not with this shameless GOP Senate. Not just for the empty moral satisfaction. Not at the risk of trying, and losing, and ensuring Trump’s reelection as he — classic bully — plays victim.

That is, not until the investigations are duly done and all the information is in, from Trump’s tax returns to his financial dealings, especially anything involving the Russians. You know Trump’s hiding something; you can almost smell the smoking guns. And the fear.

The grand old law-and-order Republican Party I knew as a teen would want to know Trump is clean. Current Republicans certainly would have demanded it from President Hillary, found a way to override Justice Dept. policy, and indict her. Any Democratic special counsel concluding an investigation of her with, “if we had had confidence that the President clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so,” would be enough for the Republicans to “lock ‘er up!”

There’s a big cloud of secrecy hanging over the president. If Trump’s got nothing to hide, if he’s done nothing wrong, he should welcome a true and cleansing exoneration. So should the GOP, the Trump base, and anyone who cares about America.

Jeffrey Denny is a Washington writer.

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