In a moment of serene wisdom, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she did not want Donald Trump to become the third president in history to be impeached.
“I’m not for impeachment,” Pelosi told the Washington Post in March. “Impeachment is so divisive to the country that unless there’s something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don’t think we should go down that path, because it divides the country. And he’s just not worth it.”
Even with Democrats demanding Trump’s head from the moment he defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016, Pelosi sought refuge in principle, sounding rather like one of the heroes in future President John F. Kennedy’s “Profiles in Courage,” a book given to me as a boy.
And, I thought, perhaps Pelosi understood, even if her fellow House Democrats did not, that a rabidly partisan impeachment hammering down upon a nation already divided into warring, tribal political camps, was thoroughly irresponsible, an assault on the republic.
But she made that grand statement months ago. And since then, her political calculations have changed. Now she wants Trump’s head.
And on Wednesday, her Democratic-controlled House did what she once said she didn’t want to do, impeach Trump along party lines.
Pelosi dressed smartly in black to reflect her solemn moment, with a striking gold pin evoking her speaker’s gavel. As she directed Trump Impeachment Theater, she looked somewhat like an Empress Palpatine.
With her right hand over her heart, Pelosi pledged allegiance to a poster of an American flag marked with a caption: “To the republic for which it stands.”
Couldn’t Pelosi have used a real flag, rather than a depiction of a flag on a poster? Don’t they have real flags in Washington?
Then the partisan speechifying began. It was all predictable, full of virtue signaling, dragging on until TV viewers could see their national politics through a split screen:
One with the Congress making speeches pro- and anti-Trump, the other with Trump himself at a political rally of his faithful in Battle Creek, Michigan, buoyed by the polls showing even Democratic voters opposing impeachment, blowing the roof off the place.
Imagine Russian boss Vladimir Putin watching the split screen in a hot bath, sipping a vodka, ordering some attendant to hit him with branches in the Russian bath style, laughing at the Americans.
If you’ve been following Trump Impeachment Theater, you probably weren’t surprised by Wednesday’s drama.
As you know, and probably predicted, the House impeached Trump on two vague counts: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, without specifically listing any crime.
What was aggravating were the Democrats wrapping themselves up in the Founding Fathers, although plenty of them wouldn’t mind getting rid of the Electoral College and the Second Amendment, and modifying the First Amendment to include Thought Crimes.
But the Republicans were equally predictable, at least until U.S. Rep Fred Keller, a Pennsylvania Republican, seemed to compare Trump with Jesus Christ.
“Father,” Keller said, “forgive them [House Democrats], for they know not what they do.”
I’ve pictured Trump as many things, but never as the Prince of Peace.
Since 2016 I’ve been picturing him standing outside the palaces of the Washington establishment like some barbaric Visigoth in a bearskin at the gates of Rome.
And chinless elites running around inside, panicking, their soft tiny hands fluttering, and loyal palace guardians (Beltway media) trying to protect them.
But Trump as Jesus? No way.
Many Democrats and Republicans spoke from the heart, and then came U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy, D-Mass., who spoke from the cheap Hallmark card deep inside his chest.
In the most cloying moment of the day, Kennedy directed his speech about why Trump had to be impeached to his children.
“Dear Ellie and James,” Kennedy began — in a speech sure to be included in his future presidential campaign spots — “This is a moment you will read about in your history books.”
His grand-uncle’s book, “Profiles in Courage,” was one of the most important books of my life when I was a little boy. That and “Treasure Island.”
President John F. Kennedy was revered in our home, a Democrat who supported tax cuts and opposed the Commies. But now, with those radical views, Democrats wouldn’t elect him dogcatcher.
One chapter begins this way:
“In a lonely grave, forgotten and unknown, lies ‘the man who saved a President,’ and who as a result may well have preserved for ourselves and posterity Constitutional government in the United States — the man who performed in 1868 what one historian has called ‘the most heroic act in American history, incomparably more difficult than any deed of valor upon the field of battle’ — but a United States Senator whose name no one recalls: Edmund G. Ross of Kansas.”
Republicans loathed Democratic President Andrew Johnson, and in a partisan vote, moved to impeach him. When the matter was brought to the Senate for trial it was Ross, a Republican, who cast the deciding “no” vote, saving Johnson’s presidency and driving the Republican Party crazy.
Ross lost his bid for re-election. He ended up in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he died and was buried in that lonely grave.
Trump may be only the third president impeached, but now that Pelosi and her Democrats have set the bar so low, pushing impeachment along party lines, other presidents will be impeached, and soon.
It won’t be about profiles in courage. It’ll be about one thing: power.
John Kass is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Readers may send him e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.