Joseph Sabino Mistick: Look to Ukraine to survive two more years of Trump
When Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said that Donald Trump is “just not worth” the trouble and division that would be caused by an attempt to impeach him, she was doing more than just throwing shade at Trump.
There are good governmental reasons to avoid the national ordeal of impeachment. Any White House administration that finds itself in bunker mode will struggle to give its full attention to the rest of the business of government. So it is wise to avoid the distractions of impeachment if possible.
It is not that anyone believes that Trump is a hands-on president whose traditional presidential agenda would be derailed by impeachment, but the turmoil trickles down, distracting everyone around the president. We saw that when Richard Nixon faced impeachment over the Watergate break-in in the 1970s. Toward the end, his aides had time for little else.
And any minute that Bill Clinton spent defending himself against impeachment in the 1990s surely would have been better spent on the terrorist threat and Osama bin Laden. While we will never know whether things would have turned out differently without those distractions, we do know that the Republican clamor for impeachment eclipsed everything else.
There are also good political reasons for Democrats to slow-walk impeachment talk. Already, Trump is signaling his punch for 2020, claiming that he is the victim of unfair treatment. “Victim” is a role that Trump relishes, and one that he will weave into political gold given the chance.
After Clinton’s impeachment, he got stronger and the Republicans got weaker. Republican members of Congress who led the charge either resigned or were beaten, and the Republican Party lost congressional seats in the 1998 midterms as impeachment was being debated. And Clinton survived.
Of course, things change. But, for now, a successful impeachment by the Democrats who control the House of Representatives would surely fail in the Republican-controlled Senate. And, even those Democrats who believe that it is their constitutional oversight responsibility to impeach Trump should think again.
The serious issues are not going away. New disclosures and public testimony are the future. And there are those open investigations that Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller referred to other agencies, so it is not like Trump and his minions are getting a pass just yet.
Maybe we can take a lesson from Ukraine, where the voters just elected a real comedian as their president. With all their Russian troubles, the voters cannot be thinking that they can laugh their way through the big problems, but much of what goes on in government is not that big.
Look at Trump. His refusal to deal with Russian cyber-attacks in his election and the upcoming race is nothing to laugh about, and must be addressed. But most of his antics and tweets are laughable, which just might be the survivors’ guide we need for the next two years.
Will Rogers, the great Depression-era pundit who managed to get some laughs during the darkest of political times, said, “I don’t make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts.”
Joseph Sabino Mistick is a Pittsburgh lawyer. Reach him at [email protected].