Well, my fan-boy crusade for Tulsi Gabbard’s presidential campaign has come to grief on the shoals of her abstention on impeachment last night. Her decision to abstain strikes me as a serious mistake: it had no clear legal or constitutional justification, and simply managed to alienate the base that’s supported her so far. I get the rationale, but it seems a bridge too far to a political right that’s essentially lost its way and lost its mind. I still have great respect and admiration for Gabbard, and still intend to post the fourth installment of my series on “Tulsi Gabbard vs. Liberal McCarthyism” (haven’t changed my mind on that, and don’t agree with the accusations of “cowardice” that have been leveled against her for this decision),* but the fan-boy crush, alas, has ended.
Here is her statement on the issue. It’s pretty unconvincing.
I also could not in good conscience vote for impeachment because removal of a sitting President must not be the culmination of a partisan process, fueled by tribal animosities that have so gravely divided our country. When I cast my vote in support of the impeachment inquiry nearly three months ago, I said that in order to maintain the integrity of this solemn undertaking, it must not be a partisan endeavor. Tragically, that’s what it has been.
On the Democratic side? How?
The president’s opponents insist that if we do not impeach, our country will collapse into dictatorship. All but explicitly, they accuse him of treason. Such extreme rhetoric was never conducive to an impartial fact-finding process.
Not credible. The charges against Trump are not essentially tied to any prediction about the country’s collapse into dictatorship. And neither of the articles of impeachment are implicitly or explicitly a matter of treason: treason isn’t one of the charges, and isn’t the relevant issue. (It’s Trump who’s accused people of treason.) Gabbard takes issue with the fact-finding process, but doesn’t identify a single actual problem with it, and doesn’t take issue with the substantive findings of the impeachment inquiry, which were almost as obvious at the outset of the inquiry as they are now. I would not have made the same procedural decisions as Schiff or Nadler did, but then, I’m not a lawyer (neither is Tulsi Gabbard), I don’t stand in an adversarial legal relationship to Trump (unless citizenship itself is one), and it’s reasonable that Congress have leeway in dealing with a president (and party) that plays its own Machiavellian brand of hardball.
It makes no sense to to attack the “impartiality” of so comprehensive a legal proceeding on so clear-cut an issue, when the findings are beyond any reasonable doubt, and the defense has offered literally nothing in the way of credible counter-argument. I’m all in favor of giving defendants a fair shake at a defense, but Donald Trump lost that argument months ago.
There’s no winning here. A trial in the Senate will likely end in acquittal for Trump. Even conviction would just give us a year’s worth of Pence. But the bottom line is that Tulsi Gabbard has, by one fatal omission, wrecked her candidacy for the presidency. One omission doesn’t usually do that, but this one did.
*With predictably Orwellian inaccuracy, The New York Times writes, in today’s report on Gabbard’s decision:
In October, she and Mrs. Clinton sparred after Mrs. Clinton suggested that Russia was backing Ms. Gabbard for president and that Republicans were “grooming” her for a third-party run.
Clinton did not say that Republicans were grooming Gabbard: that’s Clinton’s ex post facto rationalization about what she said, one that’s inconsistent with the text of her remarks. The text makes clear that she was saying that the Russians were grooming both Tulsi Gabbard and Jill Stein (see the next hyperlink). So, by the way, does the Times’s own (crap) reporting, which they’ve now discreetly reversed: it was the Times itself that reported what it called Hillary Clinton’s “claim of Russian influence.” The “Republican grooming” interpretation also contradicts Clinton’s own spokesperson’s claim, who coyly told the press that Gabbard was the target of the unnamed remark, “if the nesting doll” fit. Don’t expect anyone to ask what the Republicans have to do with nesting dolls.
Talk about a loss of impartiality. As Christopher Hitchens aptly put it during the impeachment of Bill Clinton, at this point, there’s no one left to lie to, and nothing left to lie about, either.