GOP’s new defense: Collusion is not so bad after all | Moran

Posted Oct 08, 2019

As the case against President Trump grows stronger by the day, some of his staunchest defenders are rallying around a new argument:

Yes, they concede, he asked Ukraine to dig for dirt on a political opponent, and yes, that was clearly wrong. But it wasn’t that wrong.

“The key question with Trump’s Ukraine call…is whether the president’s actions, advisable or not, rise to the level of an impeachable offense,” writes Tucker Carlson of Fox News in the Daily Caller. “It’s hard to argue they do.”

No, it’s not hard at all. If presidents are allowed to do this, it will wreck our democracy. We’ll get to that.

First, though, remember that the initial reaction of the White House was to bury the evidence by locking away the account of Trump’s call to the Ukrainian president in a secure computer system, one normally used for covert operations. Even Trump’s inner circle could see this behavior was way over the line.

Since the whistleblower exposed that secret, support for impeachment has grown stronger by the day. What Carlson is trying to do is organize a strategic retreat to new ground, given that denial is now hopeless.

“Some Republicans are trying, but there’s no way to spin this as a good idea,” Carlson wrote in the Daily Caller. “Like a lot of things Trump does, it was pretty over-the-top.”

Carlson, with help from Republicans in Congress, is trying to lower our standards, to define deviancy down, to suggest that we should learn to tolerate this kind of “over the top” behavior from Trump.

Let’s play that out. Try to imagine a world in which American presidents can freely ask foreign governments to investigate their political opponents, as Trump admits doing. Every government seeking to influence the White House would have a powerful new incentive to investigate that president’s rivals – their bank records, their personal habits, their families.

What would China dig up, and how? What about Iran? And of course, Russia?

“If we legitimize this kind of behavior by a U.S. president, if no price is paid for this kind of conduct, it will be open season on the American political system,” the historian Robert Kagan writes in the Washington Post. “If other governments discover that one of the currencies of relations with the United States is dirt on opponents, they will do their best to arm themselves.”

This used to be obvious, to presidents of both parties. The New York Times interviewed 10 former chiefs of staff to five Democratic and Republican presidents and found that all of them find Trump’s request of Ukraine to be way out of bounds.

The Founders would agree. When they invented impeachment, one of the key sins they had in mind was a president’s colluding with foreigners to mess with our elections. France tried to do that, and the founders saw the existential threat to democracy.

Trump’s bad behavior has lowered our standards of basic decency in too many ways to count, and now Republicans like Carlson want us to lower them again. Trump is playing the same game by publicly calling on China to investigate Biden, as if committing a crime in public takes some of the stink from it and makes it more normal.

Some Republicans who know better have negotiated a price with the devil, and are in the process of selling their souls, chief among them Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

Here’s what he said about the impeachment of President Trump: “To impeach any president over a phone call like this would be insane.”

Here’s what he said about impeaching Bill Clinton: “You don’t even have to be convicted of a crime to lose your job in this constitutional republic...Impeachment is about cleansing the office. Impeachment is about restoring honor and integrity to the office.”

Even with that kind of blind support, the Mad King may have gone too far this time. The Ukraine call is easy to understand. This was a president acting like a mob boss, bullying a weak country into submission, abusing his power to tilt the 2020 election in his favor.

Colin Powell, a Republican who served in senior security posts for presidents of both parties, put it this way: “We’ve got to remember that the Constitution started with, ‘We the People’ not ‘Me the President.’”

Trump’s narcissism knows no bounds. It is not restrained by loyalty to any purpose higher than himself. The danger that presents to our democracy has never been more clear.

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