It’s Okay To Admit Both Sides Had the Afghanistan Withdrawal Wrong

A couple weeks ago, under a piece I wrote about the fall of Afghanistan back into the hands of the Taliban, a regular commenter, who had previously supported a full U.S. withdrawal from the country, did something rather remarkable in today’s political environment. He admitted that he had been wrong.

He confessed that he hadn’t sufficiently researched what the conditions in Afghanistan had been in recent years. With little national reporting coming out of the country, public opinion long favoring leaving, and U.S. political leaders from both parties continuing to insist that we were fighting a costly, deadly, pointless, and “endless” war, he was inclined to agree that it was indeed time to go.

“I believed Afghanistan to be a worthless piece of rock where the Afghans refused to fight their own battles at enormous cost to US money and lives,” he wrote. “Over 70 percent of Americans wanted out of Afghanistan. And I believe 100 percent of them had the same opinion I had due to the lack of facts.”

He added, “I have been missing-in-action pertaining to the fact that this war 20 years old, saw young people, including girls, that grew up in an environment free of totalitarianism that permitted them to be educated. I can’t imagine being brought up in a society knowing that a murderous monster in the Taliban was patiently awaiting at the border. The fate of a 17 year old kid plunging to his death in his attempt to flee brought this reality home. I did not realize that over 50,000 Afghans died over the past 7 years fighting the Taliban and in many cases without pay or ammunition. It no longer appears to me that they were the cowards who refused to fight portrayed by the last two administrations.”

I took a couple things away from the commenter’s words.

For starters, he made a really good point about the false perception he and most Americans had of Afghanistan. Once widely seen as the “good war,” our continued deployment there eventually took on the same stigma as the “bad war,” Iraq.

The narrative went something like this: If we were still there years later, having to hold a Middle Eastern government’s hand while terrorist groups targeted our soldiers, it was time to call it quits. This reasoning was perpetuated not just by anti-war activists, non-interventionists, and media liberals, but also by a bipartisan consensus among the last three U.S. presidents (Obama, Trump, and Biden).

Few people of public influence were making a case for staying, even with that case being very strong. This included some traditionally hawkish Republican leaders, many of whom were worried about crossing Trump.

Coupled with dwindling media interest in the country (including the “conservative” media), few Americans understood that the U.S. had officially ended combat operations in Afghanistan back in 2014, and had since been serving in a supporting, stabilizing role, helping to train and provide resources for the Afghan National army, as well as lend a hand to NATO troops. Few understood that no U.S. soldiers had been killed there in combat for over a year. And last week, when 13 U.S. service members were killed in the Kabul attack, I’m guessing that most Americans were shocked to learn that our military hadn’t had a day that deadly in Afghanistan in a decade, and that we hadn’t lost that many U.S. service members there in any of the last several years.

Of course, in a sense, this is all a moot point now that we’ve completed our withdrawal, as mindbogglingly incompetent and stunningly callous as it was. So, let me get my second take-way from the commenter’s words. It has to do with character and credibility.

To be clear, I already respected this individual prior to his remarks. But one’s willingness to admit a political error, rather than spin it into an alternative narrative to save face or run interference for their side of the aisle, is so unheard of these days that it’s worth drawing attention to and commending.

After all, it’s a hard thing to do. No one likes to admit that they got something wrong, especially when it comes to politics. Back in 2016, in my political writing, I treated a Trump loss to Hillary Clinton as an inevitability. I was sure he would lose. And then he won… and I ate some crow. I didn’t enjoy eating it, but it was the table I set for myself, and I learned something from it.

Something I think is truly poisonous to our politics is the inability of people to admit that they were wrong, or even to acknowledge that they held a previous position once that position becomes politically inconvenient. Such examples aren’t hard to find (especially in recent years and with today’s politicians), but the topic of Afghanistan is particularly striking in this regard, because both sides really mucked things up and are now doing a lot of deflecting to pretend otherwise.

Let’s be real here. Any honest, serious discussion of Biden’s Afghanistan policy really should begin with one concession made by each side.

Trump supporters should concede that Biden’s policy was effectively the same as Trump’s. Neither was conditions-based, both meant a full and telegraphed withdrawal (against the recommendations of top military officials), and both foolishly recognized the Taliban as a counter-terrorism partner to the United States. (Heck, Trump even freed 5,000 jihadi prisoners at the Taliban’s demand). The only real distinction was that Trump wanted out even faster than Biden (May 1st to be exact).

One can argue that, had Trump won re-election, his military advisors would have managed to talk him out of the foolhardy withdrawal he’d begun and was clearly passionate about completing. Or… one can speculate, using whatever rationale they choose, that the withdrawal itself would have been less chaotic under Trump, with fewer lives lost and more equipment salvaged (or destroyed). I personally have no confidence that would have been the case, for reasons described in my last column and also the Taliban’s movements over several weeks. (Once the toothpaste is out of the tube, it’s hard to get it back in). But it’s certainly possible that at least some of the chaos would have been mitigated.

However, the real problem, as Chris Stirewalt effectively argues, wasn’t just a few weeks of incompetency and dishonest messaging from the administration. It was the policy itself.

Afghanistan falling back under Taliban rule, along with all of the human-rights atrocities, murder, lawlessness, lost intel and strategic positioning, and terrorist invigoration that came with it, was both administrations’ recognized outcome. Regardless of what they said publicly, they knew it would happen (though assuredly believing it would take longer than it did), and they decided it was an acceptable consequence of U.S. withdrawal.

What Biden’s supporters should concede is that, counter to what the president has been saying, Biden was under absolutely no obligation to advance the policy of his predecessor. He consciously chose to, he’d wanted to leave Afghanistan for a long time (regardless of the conditions on the ground), he pulled the trigger on this mess, and now he — not Trump — owns the results and should be held accountable for them.

But is either side making those concessions?

To be fair, some on the left (outside of the administration) have been more willing than I was expecting to rightfully lay the blame on Biden. This has included, as Bernie Goldberg wrote in a recent column, a number of liberal journalists.

And on the right, some prominent Trump supporters in the media have been calling things straight as well:

But people like Andrew McCarthy seem to be the exception rather than the rule. Many others are now acting as if they hadn’t supported the policy that led to the chaos they’re currently decrying in front of the cameras.

I’m talking about people like House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who advocated for withdrawing from Afghanistan when Trump was president (even praising Trump’s “deal” with the Taliban), but claimed last week that he was against a full withdrawal, and touted how well our prior presence in Afghanistan had been working to keep the peace.

I’m talking about people like Senator Josh Hawley, who also outspokenly supported withdrawing from Afghanistan under Trump. Hawley even praised Biden back in April for following through with the policy (while chiding him for not moving fast enough). Now Hawley’s calling on the president to resign.

I’m talking about people like Newt Gingrich, who’s been assailing Biden day after day on social media and Fox News, slamming the president for placing trust in the Taliban. It’s a valid criticism, but last year Gingrich praised Trump for doing the same thing.

And of course, I’m talking about regular folks on social media and in political comment sections who were all on board with getting out of Afghanistan ASAP… until a different guy actually did it.

Again, no concessions that they or the guy they were supporting were wrong on any of it, or even reckless or naïve in their actions and aspirations. Just a seamless partisan transition to the other side of the argument.

Of course, a number of people in the pro-Biden camp haven’t been any less embarrassing. Check out this alternate-reality take from Matthew Dowd:

Honest? Competent? I had to check multiple times to make sure that wasn’t a parody account.

Others haven’t been quite as prepared to lavish praise on Biden, but have found other creative ways to run interference for the man, including some really bizarre whataboutism:

Yes Dan, pro-life Americans are just like the Taliban. Nailed it. Ugh.

No one likes to be on the wrong side of an argument, but it really shouldn’t be this hard to just admit when your own side screws up. It shouldn’t be this hard to recognize that a screw-up is still a screw-up, no matter who commits it.

The willingness to do so is not only good for your character and credibility (including when you’re critiquing your political opponents), but it also helps your side recognize their mistakes, and hopefully do better going forward.

If you’re nothing but a “yes” person for your team, and a “no” person for the other, you can certainly make it far in the world of partisan political commentary, but you’re also helping to assure that our leaders, policies, and culture have little incentive to improve.

And when it comes to issues like terrorism and national security, we should all have a vested interest in improvement.

 


Sean Coleman is back in John A. Daly’s upcoming thriller novel, “Restitution.” Click here to pre-order.




Leaving Afghanistan is a Mistake

David French of The Dispatch wrote a compelling piece earlier this week on how the decision of President Biden (and before him President Trump) to pull all U.S. and NATO forces out of Afghanistan isn’t driven by U.S. strategical interests, but rather the flawed (but popular) narrative that our efforts there over the past two decades have largely resulted in failure.

He asks an important question, evoking the mindset of Americans on September 12, 2001, when many of us were just learning about Osama bin Laden, and had remained glued to our television screens for hours, watching and re-watching the horrors of the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history:

“If I had told you then, at that moment, that the United States was about to embark on a military response that would, over the course of the next twenty years, 1) almost immediately depose the Taliban and ultimately kill Osama bin Laden, 2) defend our nation from enduring even a single further large-scale terror attack, and 3) cost fewer American combat fatalities in Afghanistan than were lost in a single day on 9/11, would you have thought, ‘sounds like we lost’?”

The answer, of course, would be no.

Yet, the failure narrative has become conventional wisdom among most Americans, even if they don’t really think about Afghanistan all that much these days. And that narrative, in the year 2021, has been preserved almost entirely from the premise of how long we’ve been there… not so much the mistakes of the past (of which there were plenty), and next to nothing to do with the current mission.

But that “endless war” meme is a powerful one, once parroted primarily by the likes of Code Pink and Michael Moore, before mainstream Democrats and Donald Trump adopted it years later for political purposes.

It hasn’t seemed to matter to many people that U.S. combat operations and casualties in Afghanistan have been pretty rare for some time now. In fact, no U.S. solider has been killed on an operation in over a year. Our role in the country these days is a supporting, stabilizing one. We’ve been helping to train and provide resources for the Afghan National army, as well as lend support to NATO troops.

Our presence in the country (that comes at a relatively small cost and small number of troops these days) has served as a deterrent to extremist groups. One can argue that such stability is fragile, but I’d call that an argument for staying, not leaving. We saw what happened when President Obama pulled our troops out of Iraq, against the advice of military leaders who are similarly advising President Biden not to pull out of Afghanistan. Jihadists (ISIS) predictably overtook the region, thousands were killed, and we had to send troops back in to a situation that was far more dangerous than when they’d left, to deal with the problem.

Shouldn’t we have learned something from that?

Staying in Afghanistan also provides a strategic advantage for going after bad actors in neighboring regions.

For example, the operation that killed Osama bin Laden and retrieved invaluable intel from his compound in Pakistan (which resulted in many more severe blows dealt to the al-Qaeda’s network), was launched out of Afghanistan.

Thomas Joscelyn, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies who has served as a trainer for the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division, wrote in a recent piece, “It is difficult, if not impossible, to see how the U.S. could have conducted that raid otherwise. And Biden’s strategy will make it only more difficult to launch special operations raids behind enemy lines in the future.”

I get that we’ve been in Afghanistan for a long time. I get that there’s a difference between having a prolonged military presence there, and having one in countries like Germany and Japan (though it’s not as profound of a difference as some make it out to be). I also get that over the past twenty years, we’ve made a lot of mistakes in Afghanistan, fueled by over-optimism toward what could be achieved culturally, democratically and militarily in the country.

But failing to meet certain objectives isn’t failure in and of itself. As French pointed out, we’ve succeeded in Afghanistan well beyond what any of us could have imagined 20 years ago. Withdrawing from the region now, based on an outdated perception, and not the realities of the current mission (nor the risks of ending that mission), can only squander or reverse those successes.

President Biden may be emboldened by the idea of getting his name in the history books as being the guy who said “enough’s enough,” but unfortunately for the United States and much of the world, Islamic extremists don’t exactly approach things that way. In fact, Biden’s needless withdrawal from Afghanistan will be interpreted by them as an enormous victory in what they view as the real “endless war.”

“Tens of thousands of jihadists around the globe are poised to celebrate America’s defeat in Afghanistan,” writes Joscelyn in his piece. “Their movement was given a large boost by the defeat of the Soviets a generation ago. Now, America’s defeat will be commemorated on September 11, 2021—the end date chosen by President Biden. It was a tone-deaf decision to select the 9/11 anniversary. Any other date would have been better. It means the jihadis can now remember how al-Qaeda brought the war to America on that date, and America completed its retreat from Afghanistan exactly 20 years later.”

If Biden’s so concerned with optics, perhaps he should pay closer attention to that one.

 


Note from John: I’ve been writing a weekly non-political newsletter since October, covering topics like art, music, humor, travel, society and culture. I’ve been surprised by, and thankful for, how many people have been signing up for it. If it sounds interesting to you, I’d love for you to subscribe (it’s free).

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Off the Cuff: Bad News for Cable News Networks

Cable news ratings have been plummeting with Donald Trump no longer in office.

That’s the topic of my Off the Cuff audio commentary this week. You can listen to it by clicking on the play (arrow) button below.

 

Editor’s Note: If you enjoy these audio commentaries (along with the weekly columns and Q&A sessions), please use the Facebook and Twitter buttons to share this page with your friends and family. Thank you! 

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Searching for Culture Battles Instead of Solvency

Last week, I didn’t do any political writing… or reading, for that matter. I was on a fun multi-state road trip with my family, and I’ve been told that reading or writing while driving isn’t particularly safe.

I did however listen to few political podcasts in the car. I should mention that the rest of my family was mercifully spared from them, thanks to their wise decision to pack earphones. One of those podcasts was by The Dispatch; Scott Lincicome from the CATO Institute was a guest.

Linicome discussed a column he’d just written (I later checked it out) about the recently signed-into-law American Rescue Plan (ARP), President Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 “recovery” package. As I wrote in a piece a couple weeks ago, that staggering price-tag includes a lot of funding for things that have little or nothing to do with the health crisis the legislation is supposed to address. Linicome gets into much more detail than I did, and his piece is very much worth your time.

But there was a separate point he made that I also found compelling, hinted at in the column’s headline: “While You Were Seussing.”

“Ever since Republicans lost Georgia (thrice), Biden was due some sort of big, pandemic-related legislative win (victors and spoils and all that). In fact, the most striking thing about the last few weeks hasn’t been Biden’s ARP victory or his gloating but the fact that, while the votes were being cast and even now, Republican Party opposition has barely registered—especially among the grassroots.

Instead, the biggest priority in right-leaning political circles in the days surrounding the bill’s passage wasn’t the numerous areas for Republican or conservative disagreement about the ARP’s many, many non-pandemic measures or its potential economic implications, but the decision by Dr. Seuss Enterprises to cease publication and licensing of six books that, in their view, contained ‘hurtful and wrong’ imagery.”

Linicome is right. Though there was some public push-back from congressional Republicans to the package, including opposition with their votes, it was pretty dispassionate. The same was true among the right-wing media, and remarkably the Republican base. In fact, polls showed that most Republicans actually supported the ARP in all its $1.9 trillion glory.

That’s quite a change from the start of the Obama presidency, when federal stimulus spending that was small in comparison to the ARP (when our national debt was also much smaller) spawned the fiscally-conservative Tea Party movement that led to a huge electoral comeback for the GOP a year and a half later. With that passion came real political change, and though it often wasn’t pretty, the GOP did manage to block a lot of additional spending that Obama and the Democrats very much wanted.

But today, there’s almost no passion for fiscal solvency, even as our national debt races quickly toward $29 trillion. Instead, knee-jerk culture battles are all the political right largely seems to care about, as evidenced by the amount of time and emotion Republican politicians, Fox News pundits, and the Republican base invested in the Dr. Seuss story.

Most of them saw it as the latest — and a particularly egregious — chapter in the cancel culture (which is indeed a real thing and should be confronted). But the Seuss stuff simply wasn’t a serious example of that culture.

The situation wasn’t like Amazon’s decision to stop selling Ryan T. Anderson’s book because they found his views on transgender issues to be offensive. In this case, it was the Dr. Seuss estate that made the decision to stop publishing six of their own books. They did so because they no longer felt comfortable with some decades-old ethnic imagery inside them.

One could argue that the organization was compelled by politically correct sensibilities, but so what? The books are their property. They weren’t victims of oppression or cancellation.

Yet, political righties decided a huge cultural injustice has been committed. They were in an uproar on Fox News, talk radio, and social media. House minority leader Kevin McCarthy inexplicably read “Green Eggs and Ham” in an online video. Ted Cruz embraced the branding of the GOP as the party of Dr. Seuss. People raced to their computers to order copies of Dr. Seuss’s remaining titles. Soon, 15 of the top 20 best-selling books on Amazon were by Dr. Seuss.

In other words, in an effort to stand up to the cancel culture, the political right created a big sales surge that rewarded the Dr. Seuss estate for self-cancelling, which also rewarded Amazon (a company that actually is contributing to the cancel culture).

Take that, libs!

Meanwhile, a nearly $2 trillion progressive spending bill was just signed into law, and it barely raised an eyebrow with the same crowd.

This is what American conservatism and the Republican party have been reduced to in the year 2021. Principled stances are reserved for reactionary outrage, and few in a position of leadership are even bothering to try and make a persuasive, policy-oriented case to the public… for anything.

Yes, part of this is due to the GOP largely abandoning its platform for Donald Trump, who wasn’t particularly interested in policy or ideology, but loved stoking grievance among the base and fighting culture battles (rhetorically anyway). It was an easy thing to do, and Trump’s supporters loved it, but it set the bar very low for any measure of political achievement. I’m afraid the remaining allure of Trumpism will keep it there for the foreseeable future, and that’s not a good thing for the country.

Still, there’s always somewhat of an identity crisis and a period of being lost in the wilderness for a major political party after it’s lost big in an election. Maybe the GOP will discover or rediscover some defining principles, and find its way forward sooner than I’m thinking. It sure would be nice, because our nation has very real and consequential challenges that the Democrats are ideologically opposed to confronting or even acknowledging. Fiscal solvency is at the top of that list.

The Cat in the Hat can’t address such a problem, but a serious opposition party would at least stand a chance. I hope one emerges.

 


Note from John: I’ve been writing a weekly non-political newsletter since October, covering topics like art, music, humor, travel, society and culture. I’ve been surprised by, and thankful for, how many people have been signing up for it. If it sounds interesting to you, I’d love for you to subscribe (it’s free).

Order John A. Daly’s novel “Safeguard” today!




Takeaways from Trump’s Impeachment and Acquittal


On Saturday, Donald Trump’s impeachment trial ended with the former president being acquitted of inciting an insurrection against the United States. Though a strong majority of U.S. senators voted for his guilt (57-43), the vote-count didn’t meet the two-thirds majority required for an impeachment conviction.

Here are some of my takeaways from both the impeachment and the trial:

Finding Trump innocent on procedural grounds was a cop-out

Republican Senator Ben Sasse, who voted to convict Trump, released a statement afterwards that included these remarks:

“But here’s the sad reality: If we were talking about a Democratic president, most Republicans and most Democrats would simply swap sides. Tribalism is a hell of a drug…”

He’s right, of course. If Trump were a Democrat, and everything else had been the same, none of the 50 Republicans in the U.S. Senate would have found any constitutional problem whatsoever with convicting an impeached president whose trial couldn’t logistically begin until after he had left office. And they would be on the right side of that argument.

While I think there are some individuals with relevant expertise, who genuinely believe that there is a constitutional conflict with holding an impeachment trial once the defendant is a private citizen, the facts of the matter are that:

  • the vast majority of constitutional scholars and U.S. historians disagree.
  • there was already precedent for trying an impeached former federal officeholder.
  • Section 3 of Article 1 of the Constitution spells things out pretty clearly: “The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments” (not just the impeachments whose timing was convenient). And contrary to how some have confused the issue (in some cases on purpose), this was never about impeaching a private citizen. Trump was impeached before he left office.

In other words, the procedural position invoked by a large majority of Republican senators is very much a fringe, unqualified view — one that runs counter to a strong constitutional consensus, historical precedent, and a clear reading of the text of the U.S. Constitution.

Furthermore, if the contention of 43 Republicans was that Trump was innocent purely on procedural grounds, what’s their next move, now that he’s been acquitted?

After all, most (if not all) of these individuals conceded, at some point after the January 6th attack, that Trump bore at least a good amount of responsibility for what happened. Are they now going to censure him the way Republican state parties have been censuring the handful of congressional Republicans who voted to impeach or convict Trump? Is that not the least they could do in response to the provocation of a domestic terrorist attack on the U.S. Capitol — one that killed people?

Yes, those are rhetorical questions. The GOP isn’t going to do anything else. At this point, Trump may as well change his name to Rollo Tomassi.

The trial was worth having, even though the outcome was preordained

What was the point of holding the trial if there was no chance, under the current political landscape, of a conviction? It’s not an unreasonable question, but it’s not without solid answers.

First, to spell it out once more (since it doesn’t always seem to sink in with people), a U.S. president provoked a murderous act of domestic terrorism on the U.S. Capitol through months of aggressively lying to millions of Americans, as part of an attack on our democracy and electoral institutions, for the purpose of overturning the results of a free and fair election that he unequivocally lost.

Again, if that’s not an impeachable offense, nothing is.

Also again, even many of the Republicans who ultimately voted against impeachment/conviction (including top party leaders like Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy) have stipulated that Trump, in fact, committed these very acts. Their argument is not that Trump didn’t do these things. Instead, they qualified their vote with supposed procedural concerns.

On the other side of the GOP coin, there were enough Republicans who didn’t hide behind these disingenuous arguments to make this president’s impeachment, and trial vote, the most bipartisan in U.S history.

Next, because a whopping two-thirds vote is required in the Senate to convict an impeached official, conviction is always going to be highly unlikely… especially when that official is a U.S. president who enjoys the partisan backing of a major political party (as opposed to, let’s say, a federal judge).

Does that mean a president should never, under any circumstances, face an impeachment trial? Should evidence not be heard? Should there be no fact-finding process? Should there be no audit whatsoever of impeachable conduct?

The point of a trial is to present a case, and then let the “jurors” decide on guilt or innocence. Sure, since we’re talking about an impeachment trial and not a criminal trial, the “jurors” likely aren’t going to be objective… but that’s not a valid reason to forego the process itself. There’s a reason the framers included this mechanism in the Constitution: they saw a legitimate need for holding public servants accountable for particularly abusive conduct, including the option to bar them from serving in public office in the future.

Could they have predicted that Senate jurors wouldn’t take their responsibility seriously? Maybe. But what does that matter? The framers themselves did take it seriously.

In summary, the Senate has the sole power to try all impeachments, the offense in this case was entirely impeachable, and it was the most bipartisan impeachment of a president in U.S. history.

So, of course there should have been a trial.

The Republicans who supported impeachment demonstrated patriotism and courage

The 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach, and the 7 Senate Republicans who voted to convict, enjoyed absolutely no political upside from their votes. There was only a downside — a steep one — and all of them knew that going in.

The backlash, driven by a Republican base that largely still reveres Donald Trump as nothing short of a religious figure, was swift and severe. As mentioned earlier, several of these elected representatives have faced official censures from their state parties, and are already being targeted with primary challenges.

The right-wing media has piled on too, bastardizing these individuals as RINOs, liberals, and even traitors. And it’s not just being done by the regular wackos on the commentary shows and hyper-partisan websites. Everyone subscribed to Fox News’s digital news feed received the story of Trump’s acquittal this way:

No, I’m not joking.

These representatives have seen their approval ratings plummet, and their offices’ switchboards and virtual town-halls light up with over-the-top vitriol and threats. Most of them probably won’t end up serving another term because of their principled decision.

This is their penance for supporting constitutional accountability for the incitement of an insurrection that killed multiple people, and very well could have killed our then-vice president and members of congress.

It’s exactly the reason why so few of their Republican colleagues joined them. According to multiple reports, including accounts from House members, somewhere between 60 and 80 Republicans in the House believed Trump should have been impeached, but all but 10 were too scared for their families and/or political futures to put their name behind the effort. The same was assuredly true of a number of Republican senators.

Much to their credit, those who stood up for what was right are still standing by their votes, and prepared to answer for them electorally.

“If we are willing to ask our young men and women to wear the uniform and sacrifice their lives for the good of the country,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger said in a statement, “how can Members of Congress—the elected officials entrusted by the American people to serve them honorably—be unwilling to sacrifice their careers in order to save the country?”

Sen. Lisa Murkowski told a reporter, “If I can’t say what I believe that our president should stand for, then why should I ask Alaskans to stand with me?”

And of course, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutle felt so strongly in her convictions that she was ready to testify under oath to what Kevin McCarthy had told her about the president effectively rationalizing the insurrection… as it was playing out.

These people deserve our respect and admiration, not scorn, for putting the country and the Constitution before their party and political future.

The Democratic leadership was more interested in impeachment optics than impeachment conviction

There were some subtle indications early on that the Democrats may have been organizing Trump’s second impeachment in a way that wasn’t particularly inviting to Republicans who may have been inclined to sign on to the effort.

Some, like Rep. Chip Roy, a Republican from Texas, complained that while he truly believed Trump’s conduct was impeachable, the articles of impeachment written by the Democrats (without soliciting help from any Republicans) were too narrow in scope, because they were focused almost exclusively on incitement and insurrection.

Ahead of his vote, Rep. Kinzinger’s staff reached out to House Democrats to request seven minutes of time for the congressman to speak out in support of impeachment (a move that could have rallied more Republicans to his side). He figured he’d at least be granted five minutes. Instead, they would only agree to one, which Kinzinger decided wasn’t worth it.

After Trump was impeached, and the Democrats realized that ten Republicans had sided with them on the issue, there was a bipartisan opportunity to ask at least one of the ten to serve as a House manager during the Senate trial. But they didn’t.

At each step, it appeared more and more as if the Democrats didn’t even want Republican support, and instead were trying their best to brand the entire GOP as pro-insurrection, or at best indifferent to what had happened on January 6th, as part of a campaign strategy.

That seemed to change, at least for a couple of hours, on what was supposed to be the last day of the trial (Saturday), when a surprise Senate vote to allow witnesses was passed. This initiative came after Republican Rep. Beutle released a statement drawing attention to her aforementioned conversation with Kevin McCarthy.

At that point, Democrats could have called on McCarthy to testify under oath about the phone call. They could have called on Mike Pence to testify about Trump not contacting him at any point during the attack or in the days following. They could have called on people at the White House that day who supposedly witnessed Trump celebrating the rioting as he watched it on television, and asked them exactly what Trump was doing as events unfolded. This would all seem like very useful information if the goal were conviction.

But apparently, Senate Democrats quickly decided that calling on and questioning witnesses would take too much time, and they were about ready to leave for their scheduled vacation.

“People want to get home for Valentine‘s Day,” Democratic Senator Chris Coons reportedly told House impeachment managers.

This tweet from Politico’s Burgess Everett seemed to concur:

Thus, no witnesses were called, the Dems held the vote, they got their political narrative… and that was that.

The moral of this story…

I think the strongest conclusion that can be drawn from this impeachment experience is that while the framers of the Constitution rightly saw a genuine need for the mechanism of impeachment to hold public officials accountable for extraordinarily bad and unbecoming conduct (like that which led to what we saw on January 6th), that mechanism is no match for the intoxicating effects of partisanship and political careerism.

Also, if you’re a good person who’s thinking of running for high office, and you suspect there might be a situation one day in which you would have to make a politically unpopular decision for the good of the country and the integrity of the Constitution, you probably shouldn’t bother running in the first place. You’ll be thrown under the bus by your peers and constituents in no time flat, and it just won’t be worth it.

God bless America.

 


Note from John: I’ve been writing a weekly non-political newsletter since October, covering topics like art, music, humor, travel, society and culture. I’ve been surprised by, and thankful for, how many people have been signing up for it. If it sounds interesting to you, I’d love for you to subscribe (it’s free).

Order John A. Daly’s novel “Safeguard” today!