Yes, Donald Trump is a disastrously obnoxious purveyor of indignity, vulgarity, and outright hate. I think we can all agree with Joe Biden that we can do a lot better than this orange ignoramus.
It’s not how a president should speak. It’s not how a president should behave. Most of all, it’s not what a president should believe. We’re better than this.
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) January 12, 2018
While Trump’s shocking-not-shocking “shithole” comments are no less detestable for their utter predictability, the calls to impeach Trump for having spoken those words are wrong on a near-epic scale. Impeachment is certainly available as an option to rid us of our ill-tempered leader, but “can” doesn’t always mean “should.”
Like many Americans, my patience is wearing thinner by the day, and impeachment by any means possible sometimes seems tempting. I’ve written before about the belief, shared by many notable legal scholars, that the “high crimes and misdemeanors” required for impeachment was not meant to indicate violations of actual criminal statutes, but was simply an artful phrase describing any action “performed in an official capacity by a government official that violates the basic principles of government.” This wide view of potential bases for impeachment has its roots solidly in from constitutional history, and would likely have broad appeal. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-California) has already gone on record as subscribing to this philosophy, speaking at a Congressional Black Caucus Town Hall, and declaring:
“Impeachment is about whatever the Congress says it is. There is no law that dictates impeachment. What the Constitution says is ‘high crimes and misdemeanors,’ and we define that.”
Right now, Democratic lawmakers are scrambling to see if Trump’s comments might just be the gaffe for which they’ve all been waiting:
Congressional condemnation of racist bigotry is not enough. In Congress, talk is cheap-it’s how we vote that counts. Next week, I will again bring a resolution to impeach @realDonaldTrump. I will put my vote where my mouth is. #RepealandReplaceTrump
— Congressman Al Green (@RepAlGreen) January 12, 2018
Although there is undeniably great appeal in using the concept of impeachment as a kind of Congressional performance review, Shitholegate is the wrong hook on which to hang our hopeful hat. Don’t misunderstand. There is a lot to hate about Trump’s alleged remarks yesterday. Picturing our nation’s leader sitting around with lawmakers, discussing ways to keep immigrants from “shithole countries” out of the U.S. is pretty gross. Following it up with talk of getting “more people from places like Norway,” only underscores Trump’s genuine depravity. But focusing on the racism, nationalism, and general inhumanity of Trump’s position misses an even more important point: there is serious evidence that Trump lied to the American public about what he said during the meeting in question.
Multiple news outlets reported President Trump’s remarks yesterday, and the president’s response was outright denial.
Never said anything derogatory about Haitians other than Haiti is, obviously, a very poor and troubled country. Never said “take them out.” Made up by Dems. I have a wonderful relationship with Haitians. Probably should record future meetings – unfortunately, no trust!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 12, 2018
According to Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois), who attended the meeting with Trump, the comments were made, and made repeatedly. So while we’re all busy debating where on the Hanks-to-Hitler scale Trump falls, we’re ignoring the more pressing issue of whether our commander in chief is lying directly to us all. Like it or not, all impeachments set precedents; if we’re going to put our country through a painful political ordeal, we need to do it for noble reasons. Donald Trump’s inane yammering pales in comparison to the real evil it accompanies.
Elections are not –and were never meant to be – sentences. We as a democracy should not be forced to endure a presidency that is proving to be malignant. At this point, the 45th president of the United States has acted in a manner that would materially disqualify him from every job imaginable, from hot dog vendor to CEO. So if we’re going to go after him, let’s prioritize. It’s not about his language, or even about his feelings about non-Americans. It’s about his expectation to operate without accountability and with total impunity.
Realistically, very few people expect government to be completely transparent; but a president’s lying about statements made to legislators just hours after those statements were uttered is opaque to the point of outright fraud. Today’s discrepancy may be over “shithole,” but tomorrow, it may be over something even more significant. Vulgarity, ignorance – even racism – should be denounced; but none of those things poses the existential threat to our democracy that secrecy does.
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.