Who’s Number Three? Wait… Don’t tell me…

It’s been quite a while since I wrote a political BriRant. Reading the news and taking part on (anti-)social media in the political “debate” (perhaps better termed “savage no-holds-barred brawl”) of the 2016 election cycle put such a bitter taste in my mouth and deep despair in my heart that I was compelled for the sake of my own health and sanity to simply drop out of the game. Over the last few years I have contented myself to observe from the sidelines, saving my rants for my poor, long-suffering family and “real life” friends.

As God is my witness, I am far from a fan of Donald Trump. He is frankly a miserable excuse for a human being, and is dangerously ignorant about most subjects – notably the U.S. Constitution, and foreign affairs. He is without doubt thoroughly unpresidential in almost every aspect of his day-to-day conduct. With all that said, in all honesty I have to admit that yes – I did vote for the man. At the time I reasoned (along with a sufficient proportion of the American voting populace) that no matter what Donald Trump might be, at least he isn’t Hillary Clinton. Indeed, I truly believe that single fact is what made Donald Trump the USA’s forty-fifth President. These days however, The Donald’s “I’m Not Hillary” card is getting a little worn. The laudable fact that he’s not only not Hillary Clinton, but also not one of the clown car full of “characters” that the Democratic party has spawned to run against him in 2020 may simply not be enough to win him a second term in the exalted Oval Office. About the best I can say about him now is that at least the boor is never a bore. Far from being “presidential,” the man’s conduct on most days is simply jaw-dropping.

Which brings me finally to my reason for BriRanting again at last. Certainly Donald Trump’s execution of his presidential duties and privileges (particularly in the area of foreign policy) is appalling on a good day, and oftentimes downright scary. But the question of the hour is whether or not the President’s outrageous conduct rises to the standard of “high crimes and misdemeanors” required by the U.S. Constitution for him to be removed from office outside the election cycle as Congressman Adam Schiff, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and two hundred twenty-eight of their colleagues declared by their votes to impeach the President in the U.S. House of Representatives on Dec 18, 2019. Regardless of the facts of the case for removing the President from office being debated on the floor of the U.S. Senate as I rant, few seem to be voicing one very important question – “Why was this impeachment effort started in the first place?”

Certainly, just as a sufficient proportion of the American voters found Donald Trump’s not being Hillary Clinton an adequate reason to elect him, so a large proportion of the American voters find that fact an adequate reason to remove him from office – many of these being unwilling to await the decision of the American voters at the polls in November 2020. Encouraged by the American mass media machinery so well versed at rabble rousing to sell their sponsors’ products, a fairly small, but very vocal and well-funded subset of America’s voting populace has been calling for the out-of-cycle removal of the duly elected President since the very day he took office, and even before – in fact since the day he was duly elected. Many of these also happen to be sitting members of the U.S. Congress – that exalted body which the U.S. Constitution grants the power to carry out such a removal.

At first, the hue and cry revolved mostly around the contention that the election had been unfairly won. The very constitutional structure under which the election has taken place for over two hundred years was called into question, and loud calls raised on the streets, airwaves, and hallowed halls of government that this “patently unfair” system of election should be replaced. Never mind the reasoned arguments in favor of retaining it raised by scholarly experts on the subject like Tara Ross. Since the time-proved system failed in 2016 to produce the result expected by the majority of the news media and other “right thinking” people, the call to replace it with “a fairer system” rang out loud and long, even making its way into various state legislatures which took precipitous action to overhaul their state’s laws to make them subservient to the national popular majority vote – abdicating the electoral power delegated under the Constitution to the states by our nation’s founders which the Electoral College was created to protect. But the call to replace the Electoral College eventually died on the vine, not due to the reasoned arguments in favor of the Electoral College, but due to the sudden realization on the part of those calling for its abolition of two critical facts:

  1. Replacing the Electoral College requires a Constitutional Amendment which would be virtually impossible to pass in the Congress (needing a super majority in the Senate) and get ratified by three quarters of the fifty state legislatures in time to take effect before the 2020 election.
  2. Next time the Electoral College majority fails to reflect the national popular vote majority, the benefit of that “error” might just as easily fall to the “right thinking” side rather than the “incarnate evil” side as it had in 2016.

Thus the cry of “foul” concerning the 2016 election changed from the contention that the electoral system itself is unfair to the accusation that the most recent vote had been improperly tallied, or had been tampered with by nebulous foreign agents. After all, Americans (beginning with Native Americans such as Senator Elizabeth Warren), never did cotton much to foreigners, and stirring this nationwide pot of xenophobia is a time-honored means of currying political benefits. However as the evidence for this allegation seemed to never fully materialize, and even worse seemed to increasingly indicate the unthinkable possibility that the election was fairly lost despite the losing candidates’ best efforts to unfairly win it through election manipulations of their own, the search began for another tail to pin upon the Presidential ass. Along with this, the blasphemous cry went up for removal from office at the next election of any elected representatives who didn’t join in the effort to remove the elected President before the next election.

The die had been cast. Practically everyone in government came to the inevitable conclusion to which the Honorable William J. LePetomane had come – “We’ve got to protect our phony baloney jobs!” The time had come to choose a side – either with the President to rise or fall with his balloon, or with the ones who had vowed since the beginning of his presidency to take him down by any means necessary (apart from honestly winning the upcoming 2020 election, of course). Thus the search was on for evidence of “high crimes and misdemeanors” of which the President might be accused. Since such an investigation might well also turn up evidence of “high crimes and misdemeanors” against the investigators themselves or their political allies, the search for evidence of impeachable crimes was conducted behind closed doors under the shelter of “classified” hearings in the secure hearing room of the venerable House Intelligence Committee led by their universally-beloved captain, Congressman Adam Schiff. And so the investigation proceeded week after week, focusing on the hearsay evidence of a mysterious unnamed so-called “whistle blower” presumably on the White House staff. Finally, the cry went out from the American people themselves that the conduct of such hearings without even informing the accused of the crimes being investigated or allowing the accused to confront the accuser in an open hearing was in stark violation of both the letter and the spirit of the American institutions of justice. The backlash from the people couldn’t be ignored even by the Trump-despising so-called “mainstream” media or by Congressman Schiff – master of trial by innuendo. After all, even the infamous Senator Joseph McCarthy had conducted his anti-communist witch trials in open hearings. Thus the hand of Schiff the Intelligence Committee Chair, his boss the Speaker of the House, and their political cronies was forced. They had to bring the President to trial with weaker charges and at an earlier time (well before the potential reelection they were hoping to thwart) than they no doubt initially intended, so after a feeble delaying action by the much adored Speaker of the House (ostensibly until the rules for Senate trial were ironed out), the matter was finally brought before the awe inspiring U.S. Senate in all its dignified grandeur.

Ostensibly, the primary article of impeachment under consideration in the Senate concerns Donald Trump’s dealings with Ukraine in the matter of U.S. foreign aid (or more precisely, the withholding thereof) for his own political gain that the article alleges were illegal for a sitting U.S. President to do. But I’m not so sure that’s the real reason behind all the hoopla. After all, just as one knows when a politician is lying because her/his mouth is moving, one can just as certainly assume that the only time politicians don’t actively carry out dirty political tricks is while they are asleep, and can only dream about screwing over their political opponents (and political allies too, for that matter). Of course, “all the kids are doing it” is never a viable excuse for misbehavior, so the four hundred thirty-five honorable members of the U.S. House of Representatives decided to call The Donald out for his misconduct in office. In fact, they have just today concluded presenting their accusations before the denizens of that august body representing the interests of the American public – the greatly beloved by all U.S. Senate. For good measure another article of impeachment was proffered that the President had impeded the very investigation through which he was to be indicted – for which he could hardly be blamed, but apparently isn’t allowed to do either.

During the presentation of their case against the President before the Senate, Congressman Schiff in his new role as one of the House impeachment managers may have tipped the prosecution’s hand, revealing the true motivation behind the whole fiasco, when he said,

As we will discuss, impeachment exists for cases in which the conduct of the president rises beyond mere policies disputes to be decided otherwise and without urgency at the ballot box.

Instead, we are here today to consider a much more grave matter and that is an attempt to use the powers of the presidency to cheat in an election. For precisely this reason, the president’s misconduct cannot be decided at the ballot box, for we cannot be assured that the vote will be fairly won.

Schwartz, I (2020, January 22) Schiff: Trump’s Misconduct Cannot Be Decided At The Ballot Box, For We Cannot Be Assured He Can Fairly Win. Real Clear Politics. https://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2020/01/22/schiff_trumps_misconduct_cannot_be_decided_at_the_ballot_box_for_we_cannot_be_assured_he_can_fairly_win.html

These remarks clearly show that Congressman Schiff (and by extension, the House majority for whom he was speaking):

  1. fear that unless Donald Trump is removed from office by Congress, he might be reelected.
  2. believe the voting public would not reelect Donald Trump unless the President somehow rigs the election.
  3. believe that Congress must remove Donald Trump from office to ensure that he is not reelected.

Of course this reasoning isn’t merely circular, but altogether nonsensical. Having failed to turn up any evidence that Donald Trump cheated to win the 2016 election (presumably through the use of the dreaded foreign operatives), we must now remove him from office prior to the 2020 election to preemptively ensure he doesn’t win reelection by cheating.

It seems plain that the Senate will reject this accusation and the justification for it out of hand. After all cheating in an election is a time-honored American political tradition. But what if the Senate did vote to remove the President? Of course, Vice President Pence would then assume the role of Commander in Chief. Who knows whether President Pence would then run in the November 2020 presidential election at all, and even if he did whether or not he would win. Speculation upon that possible turn of events makes even more interesting a recent news story regarding a video that has surfaced on that universally acknowledged font of truth – YouTube (albeit by someone who obviously has an axe to grind) involving Vice President Pence.

The person presenting this video alleges (or more accurately “insinuates”) that Vice President Pence lied when he told CNN that he didn’t know one Lev Parnas (for whom the video promulgator is defense attorney in a pending criminal trial). Mr. Parnas is a Ukrainian-American associate of presidential lawyer Rudolph Giuliani. Mr. Parnas is under indictment for illegal payments to US politicians from foreign governments presumably in exchange for some sort of political favors or influence. The details of those payments, the sources, recipients, and alleged political rewards for them remain somewhat nebulous pending Mr. Parnas’ trial on money laundering, illegal campaign contributions, and a variety of other charges. The connections between Lev Parnas, President Trump, and Vice President Pence also remain unclear, but the House impeachment managers wish for Mr. Parnas to testify in the impeachment trial currently before the Senate nevertheless. Mr. Parnas claims to have personal knowledge of President Trump’s alleged efforts to remove the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine because she wasn’t playing ball with the President in his alleged efforts to pressure the Ukrainian government into digging up some dirt on Hunter Biden – son of presidential candidate Joe Biden. Never mind that President Trump has a perfect right to hire or fire anyone he pleases in the Executive branch of the U.S. government for any reason whatsoever or no reason at all provided he doesn’t violate US anti-discrimination and anti-retribution law. Never mind that Hunter Biden may indeed have been involved in shady dealings in Ukraine at the time with a Ukrainian government acknowledge even by Trump’s accusers to be corrupt.

For the time being though, the most interesting aspect of the whole Parnas fiasco is the potential involvement of Vice President Pence. The Vice President claims not to know Mr. Parnas, but Parnas’ attorney has released a video of Parnas speaking with the Vice President’s wife while waiting in the receiving line to shake the Vice President’s hand after he finished speaking with someone else at some political or ceremonial gathering. The video makes clear that Parnas and the Vice President were both in the same room at the same time. But does that imply that the Vice President was lying when he said to CNN, “I don’t know the guy?” I guess it all depends on what one means by the word “know.” Thinking about it, my mind hearkens back to a similar trial before the Senate in which the question was raised about exactly what the word “sex” means. But I digress. In any case, even if the Vice President once shook Lev Parnas’ hand, it certainly doesn’t imply that he was lying when he said he didn’t know him. When I was a Boy Scout many years ago, I once shook President Lyndon B. Johnson’s hand, but I certainly wouldn’t ever construe that President Johnson knew me because he once shook my hand when we happened to be together for a few seconds on the streets of Honolulu.

But for the sake of argument, let’s assume that the Senate does vote to convict President Trump for “high crimes and misdemeanors” removing him from office, and that Mike Pence becomes President. Might the House then attempt to impeach President Pence before the election, thereby assuring that the just deserts for whatever egregious crimes they accuse him of don’t get decided (unfairly presumably) at the ballot box? Who then would become President?

Nancy Pelosi in Babe Ruth's number 3 Yankees uniform standing in front of an American flag saying "Batter Up!"

Sherman, set the Wayback Machine for my Junior High School days (if the knobs allow it to go back that far) so I can remember what I learned about the Presidential succession in Government Class. Oh yeah. It’s the Speaker of the House. Nancy Pelosi is next behind Vice President Pence in the pecking order. Coincidence?… Maybe.

2 thoughts on “Who’s Number Three? Wait… Don’t tell me…”

  1. Funny, yet informative and rings true. I had no idea you shook LBJ’s hand.

    While their motives are clear (more so after having read this Bri-rant), I think it’s awesome that they’re impeaching the president. Every second they spend doing so is one less second they spend abrogating our civil liberties with ill-advised, unenforceable, ineffective legislation.

    Reply

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