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Assault on America, Day 355: Nothing new in Washington equates to arguments at the table

Reason to Impeach
“What’s new?” It’s a common greeting we hear a lot, a conversation initiator among friends or even strangers in a supermarket checkout line. I’ve found the simple question sometimes engenders quizzical looks (like, why are you asking, did something happen?) and/or pretty standard responses from the vast majority of folks, namely, “not much… and you?”

Or, invariably, “Busy. Crazy. The holidays, right?”

It’s not as though we lead such boring lives nothing ever changes, it’s just that when you’re put on the spot, the easiest thing to do is default to the status quo of nothingness. And in these times of immense political turmoil and topsy-turvy news cycles, “nothing new” is definitely not the appropriate way to encapsulate the current situation. Nevertheless, last week the Nancy Pelosi-led House (a few days after the Judiciary Committee reached a stalemate where there wasn’t much to say that hadn’t already been uttered yesterday, or last week, or last month, or last year) leaped off a cliff and voted to impeach President Donald Trump.

Nothing new was ever introduced into the impeachment debate because there was no underlying crime and therefore no witnesses who could add a spark to the controversy -- though “Chucky” Schumer desperately hopes to spice things up by calling Trump administration officials during the upcoming trial (note: he opposed them in the 1999 Clinton hearing because he said they wouldn’t add anything new).

But switch on TV news or pick up the latest edition of an establishment media newspaper and there’s usually a reiteration of the same talking points from the pro-impeachment side. Dumbed down to the most basic “nothing new” level, it consists of, “Donald Trump is unfit to be president. He stole the 2016 election with the help of foreign powers, especially Vlad Putin and the Russians. There’s tons of evidence proving he did it. Adam Schiff and Nancy Pelosi know what they’re talking about and they’ve seen the evidence. Trump’s trying to do it again with the 2020 election, this time involving Ukraine, a quid pro quo demand and pressuring the Ukrainians to conduct an investigation into the Bidens (who didn’t do anything wrong) or else no vital, life-sustaining military aid for the oppressed Russian enemy….” There’s more, but why pile on?

Meanwhile, the pro-Trump side keeps recycling the same arguments as well, the difference being the facts are on their side. To restate, the contentions go like this: “The Mueller report showed no collusion with Russia. The deep state was out to get Trump from the beginning. Trump’s been a lot harder on Russia than Obama was. As far as Ukraine goes, Trump was perfectly within his powers to ask the country’s president to look into CrowdStrike and the infamous DNC email fiasco. The Constitution grants American presidents wide latitude to conduct foreign policy, and aid shouldn’t automatically be sent to nations with horrible corruption problems. This is all a political witch hunt to rid the swamp of the man who was elected to drain it… And the rats will never give up unless they’re thoroughly rooted out and defeated.” Same thing here. Much more to say, but we get the gist.

It’s been going on for months (years?). It’s like hearing the same children’s tale told over and over but with replacement graphics and phraseology. We’re about to be served up another fresh round of impeachment-speak when friends and families gather at holiday parties this week. Which brings up a particularly interesting challenge: how to deal with the subject over the Christmas dinner table? Don’t think it’ll come up?

Saturday Night Live touched on the topic in a humorous cold-opening recently. Justin Wise reported at The Hill, “NBC's ‘Saturday Night Live’ parodied how family dinner conversations may take shape this holiday season as the House prepares to vote on articles of impeachment against President Trump.

“The show's cold open featured dinner gatherings in San Francisco, Charleston, S.C., and Atlanta, riffing off of the differing opinions voters hold about Trump's behavior and whether it warrants impeachment.

“Aidy Bryant, dressed as a snowman, introduced the skit by noting that Americans ‘seem more divided than ever.’ But if we listened to some dinner conversations, ‘I bet we'd find out we have more in common than we realize,’ she added.”

The skit isn’t especially creative or instructive on the American mood, but it does put a humorous spin on an otherwise impossible subject. It’s easy to contemplate tens of thousands -- if not millions -- of holiday assemblies ruined by the specter of impeachment. There’s really only so many times folks can comment on the weather and the NFL playoffs without delving into the actions of Democrats in Congress, the fast approaching Democrat presidential primaries and ultimately the historic 2020 election.

While many, many Americans wholesale tuned-out the mainstream establishment media long ago, impeachment leads every broadcast and dominates social media now as well. Unless you live in a cave on a distant, undeveloped tropical island (like Chuck in “Cast Away”), there’s no escaping from the drumbeat of politics in the U.S. of A. Some guest is bound to raise the issue and it’ll grow from there like a fire consuming an oxygen chamber, feeding off a never-ending supply of fear, anger and recriminations.

Which is odd considering there are a several “new” (and rare) constructive developments in Washington that could otherwise inject a little holiday good cheer into conversations. The economy’s doing well, incomes are up, people are working at record rates and there’s relative peace abroad. Even trade relations are heading in a positive direction.

Amidst the political backbiting and non-stop allegations bandied about by both parties, legislative proposals moved in Congress last week. The White House and congressional leaders  advanced the USMCA trade pact (which replaces the outdated and failed NAFTA) and a “compromise” on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

The newly formulated NDAA raises our troops’ pay by over three percent, provides up to twelve weeks of paid parental leave for federal workers, ensures pay and benefits for the next of kin of deceased service members and establishes a United States Space Force, something President Trump’s backed for a long time. It also preserves the president’s power to reprogram funds to secure the southern border (translation, build and repair the wall). It’s not entirely clear why Pelosi and crew assented to these end-of-year measures while pursuing impeachment of a president they claim is a threat to human existence, but alas, it was done.

Can holiday partygoers take a page from Congress in this way? With polls showing Americans about equally divided (nationally) on removal versus retention (with recent surveys revealing a slight but growing preference for keeping Trump in office), the issue is ripe for strife. But life will go on post-impeachment and focus will quickly turn to the 2020 election. After all, does anyone remember what Trump and Congress were battling over a year ago? The budget and the border wall, correct? Remember the government shut down for a little more than a month last December/January?

Who talks about it now? Did families and colleagues argue about the work stoppage last December over Christmas turkey and fixings? Did a healthy dose of eggnog or the uncorking of several bottles of great wine help loosen tongues? I had a friend once who called alcohol “truth serum.” Can the impeachment subject be successfully avoided?

Perhaps groups could set a few ground rules before they sit down to eat. Number one would be to leave Trump’s name out of the discussion entirely. Since the current impeachment drive is supposedly all about the Constitution and the president’s legitimate powers, parties to the debate should be able to defend the legal underpinnings to their contentions. Maybe hosts could plan in advance to provide copies of America’s governing charter and the Federalist Papers to raise the level of intellectual discourse. (Kind of kidding about this, but if semi-intoxicated people are forced to rifle through pages of 18th century text they’ll be less likely to fling giblets at each other before dessert.)

The number two rule might be, if the word “impeachment” is introduced, the litigating parties must adjourn (or be banished) to a specially designated anteroom to shout as loud as they will at each other.

Third, merely allow the sentiments to flow and hope for the best. Since there’s “nothing new” on the impeachment topic the emotions will eventually burn out like a grease fire in a barbeque grill base. The media bludgeoned the subject to death long ago. There isn’t much left to propel it now.

Or lastly, when the passion erupts, play Linus’s speech from “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” If your warring factions won’t calm down after hearing the true reason for the season, your party is likely beyond hope and can’t be resuscitated (almost like a computer destroyed by a virus). If that’s the case, refer to suggestion three in the previous paragraph.

Then again, if you’re as talented as Senator Ted Cruz, take over the space and beat down the opposition’s reaction-based rantings. Valerie Richardson reported at The Washington Times, “After months of hearings, Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, on Sunday sounded the death knell of the House impeachment effort.

“I think this is the beginning of the end for this show trial that we’ve seen in the House,’ said Mr. Cruz on ABC’s ‘This Week with George Stephanopoulos.’ ‘I think it’s going to come to the Senate, we’re going to have fair proceedings, and then it’s not going anywhere because facts aren’t there.’ ...

“’I think it is perfectly within the authority of the president to investigate corruption and to investigate corruption with allies,’ [Cruz] said. ‘We’re doing it every day, and by the way, we did it every day under Barack Obama, under Bill Clinton, under George W. Bush.’”

That’s the point. There isn’t anything “new” about what Trump did in the present episode. Obama offered a real quid pro quo to the Russians before the 2012 election and George W. Bush waged his own version of foreign policy without being seriously threatened with the “I” word. No president could function under the guise of Democrats’ “new” preconditions for executing the laws.

They’re just singling out Trump because they don’t like his style, his tweets and his hairdo. And his marvelous effectiveness. Don’t like it? Vote him out next November.

In “normal” times people wouldn’t allow politics or other extra-family subjects to ruin Christmas celebrations, but these days aren’t typical and Americans are angry about what’s going on in the nation’s capital. President Trump recently told Greta Thunberg to “chill” -- the same could be said for the rest of the world.

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