Wednesday was one for the history books, literally.
Every historical mention of President Trump — and many for the rest of his political career, however long it lasts — will include the fact that the House of Representatives voted to impeach him on two charges: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. This puts Trump in an exclusive club whose members number three.
The charges, stemming from his attempt to elicit foreign assistance in the 2020 presidential election, then hamper the investigation of it, will remain a blemish, no matter how brightly the economy shines.
But it’s hard to deny that Trump’s impeachment is largely a self-inflicted wound, the result of his mercurial character and a scattershot, self-serving foreign policy.
Trump, who on the evening of his impeachment was joking about the whereabouts of the late Rep. John Dingell of Michigan — a painful and unnecessary slur — is not known for restraint. When questions about his July 25 call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky arose, he indulged in insults, misdirection, overheated claims of victimhood and conspiracy theories.
His personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, appeared on cable TV with Dadist claims that “truth isn’t truth.” His chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, in a poorly worded diatribe, boasted about Trump’s attempt to elicit “quid pro quo” assistance from Zelensky and told the press to “Get over it.”
Trump practically dared Democrats to impeach him. He could likely have avoided one charge, maybe both, by submitting subpoenaed documents and allowing members of his administration to testify before the House.
But by refusing to cooperate, he opened himself to the charge of obstruction — and to still-unanswered questions about just what he’s trying to hide.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, on the other hand, showed plenty of restraint, tamping down party malcontents and concentrating on the work at hand — the 400-some bills passed by the House this term (which are now sitting on the Senate’s doorstep) — as long as she could.
But the call to Zelensky had set off alarms with several State Department careerists — and Trump’s own ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland — who thought Trump’s request for “a favor” to investigate “Biden” was a step too far. From the moment a whistleblower contacted a House representative, the die was cast. It would have been entirely irresponsible to ignore the situation.
Democrats have seen the polls. They know that the Senate will not convict. They had nothing to gain politically from impeachment and plenty to lose.
But they acted on principle. However history — and the next election — rewards them, they deserve credit for their political courage. It’s how we wish all of our representatives would behave.
As for the Republicans, having the Senate coordinate Trump’s expected trial with the White House is not a good look. At least they’re honest about their partiality.
Many of the talking points offered by the Republicans — delivered Wednesday at high volume — are simply bogus. If Trump’s impeachment was an attempt to “undo an election,” was Bill Clinton’s? If it was an “attempted coup,” how to reconcile that removing Trump would place Mike Pence in the presidency, not Hillary Clinton?
The worst aspect of the impeachment is that it will likely worsen our angry political divisions. That’s unfortunate.
But unity can’t be achieved by abandoning moral principles or embracing falsehoods.
With or without Trump, we’ve got to find our way back to personal decency and the constitutional principles that truly made America great.