Is this the twilight of the American experiment?


We fully expected the White House to delay, deny, obstruct, and stonewall the House impeachment inquiry. This has been the regime's playbook for its response to congressional oversight from the outset.

Yesterday morning's decree that EU ambassador Gordon Sondland would not be permitted to testify before Congress could have come as no surprise to anyone paying attention to the president's rants about spies, treason, and coups in a barrage of tweets, helicopter interviews, and bizarre conduct during appearances with visiting heads of state.


The regime took its game to a new level with the afternoon release of an eight-page letter signed by David Cipollone, Counsel to the President, to Nancy Pelosi and the chairs of the House Oversight, Intelligence, and Foreign Affairs committees. Cipollone's letter proclaimed the White House refusal to recognize the legitimacy of the impeachment inquiry in a dazzling display of arrogance, ignorance, incompetence, and willful disregard of the Constitution.


As a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a contributor to Time, David French's conservative bona fides are a matter of record. French lays into the letter thusly: "On behalf of lawyers everywhere, I'd like to apologize for the dumpster fire (legal war crime, really) of a letter from counsel to POTUS to Democratic leadership. It's a Hannity segment on letterhead. It would be comedic if it wasn't so consequential" (The Morning Dispatch: October 9, 2019).


It is indeed so consequential. "An impeachment inquiry is not a dinner invitation. It is not something one can decide whether or not to accept. The president, like other American citizens, is subject to Congress’ subpoena power. Let’s not confuse the president’s refusal to comply with a right to refusal" (Jessica Levinson, law professor, Loyola Law School, quoted in Illing).


This fire-bombing of established norms that are as essential as laws, rules, and regulations to the functioning of the government and preservation of civil order goes hand in hand with blanket rejection of congressional oversight and the presumption that there are no bounds on presidential authority.


We are in uncharted and treacherous waters. We must hope that the Democrats proceed with the gravity and deliberation called for by the circumstances, which is to say more like Nancy Pelosi and less like some of the firebrands and blockheads among them. We have to hope that Adam Schiff demands better of himself than he has shown in his handling of the whistleblower contact with committee staff and the parody of the phone call. This may be too much to hope, and it may not be enough anyway. The outcome is uncertain even if they all conduct themselves admirably and even if a consequential number of Republicans join them.


In the unlikely event that a sufficient number of Senate Republicans vote for conviction and removal from office, would Trump accept the verdict and vacate his office? Would his base, which includes self-styled militias with stockpiles of arms, accept the outcome?


Will he accept the outcome of the 2020 election and leave office peacefully if the Democratic candidate prevails? Would his base, which includes self-styled militias with stockpiles of arms, accept the outcome?


Where are we left if in 2020 enough voters in a small number of districts and states prefer rule by a strongman to a constitutional republic to throw the election to the strongman?


The institutional, intellectual, and moral devastation wreaked by the Trump regime will not be quickly or easily remedied. Repair and restoration of the fabric of the nation will be long and hard even with the election of a Democratic president in 2020, preservation of Democratic control in the House, the swing of the Senate to a Democratic majority, and some sincere and genuine soul searching on the part of Democrats and Republicans alike. None of this is a lock. Of all the challenges facing us, even the climate the crisis, this is the greatest because it will not be possible to address the others if we do not find our way. What will become of the nation if Donald Trump is president for another five years?


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David Matthews

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