With the impeachment process hurtling toward its conclusion, the endgame has now become unmistakably clear: President Trump will retain his office. Indeed, notwithstanding the hullabaloo of gavel-to-gavel coverage and the constant media drumbeat of instant analysis, Republican control of the Senate made that outcome all but foreordained. The only question is whether Trump will emerge from this episode of political theater weakened or strengthened as he runs for reelection. Sadly, the latter seems quite likely.
Not for the first time, the American people have been played for suckers. Hearings conducted by the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees that radio and television commentators have repeatedly described as “historic” have turned out to be banal or, worse still, largely beside the point.
Democrats charge Trump with abusing the power of his office and violating the Constitution. Republicans rebut that charge by accusing Democrats of conniving to overturn the results of the November 2016 presidential election, which they have never accepted. Both claims possess very considerable merit.
Yet the events mounted on Capitol Hill conceal this great irony. Even as they exchange volleys of acrimony and accuse each other of acting in bad faith, the two opposing sides conspire to deflect public attention from matters of far greater moment than whether holding military aid hostage to promises of political favors qualifies as an impeachable offense.
Observers of the House impeachment inquiry blessed with patience and a sufficiently strong stomach have been treated to ringing testimonials in favor of democracy and the rule of law, coming from members of both parties. Do House Democrats genuinely believe that allowing Trump to remain in office until the next election, now just eleven months away, poses a risk to the basic political order? Do House Republicans genuinely believe that Trump’s accusers are engaged in a witch hunt conjured up out of nothing but pure spite? Who knows? Motives are not easily discerned, especially among politicians preoccupied with their own survival.