• Daniel Ethan Finneran

Our Peccant President

January 2021

Looking back through the course of our nation’s history, and adjusting our gaze from the sublimity of a past to which, despite our failing efforts of a happy mental transport, we can’t hope to return, to the nightmare of the present moment from which we can’t escape, we notice that no President of this country has been twice impeached. To be met with so unusual a fate, and brandished with so ineffaceable a mark, would be as ignominious as it would be singular, and as disgraceful as rare.

Yet it might be, should the promises of the Democrats ripen beyond that stage of pregnant rhetoric at which they’re so often prematurely aborted, and—having survived that perilous and uncertain state—proceed to a harvestable bearing of fruit, the peculiar distinction by which Donald J. Trump will forevermore be remembered. He might receive that strange and ignoble honor, that of a president twice impeached, by which none before him was ever blemished and, assuming the return of our normal politics, none after him will be confronted.

More noteworthy still, he’ll be the first president twice to have suffered impeachment in half as many years. You’ll recall, the articles of his first impeachment, those rather feebly-drawn accusations on to which well-neigh every Democrat Congressmen signed, weren’t sent through the appropriate channels and, thus, legitimized until 15 January, 2020. At the time of writing, it is the twelfth of that same frigid and tempestuous month upon whose ill-fated Ides, but a year ago, the first articles of impeachment were formally transferred. Should the Democrats take it upon themselves to move with a type of alacrity by which their prior selves failed to be stirred, and accelerate this process toward its completion in the next three days, it’s conceivable that President Trump would be not only the first of his office twice to be impeached, but to have accomplished the unenviable task in less than one year.

Overlooked, of course, is the question of whether or not this is a distinction, or, as I’ve put it, an indelible mark, of which President Trump is fully deserving. Most accept that it is. Perhaps rightly so, they think it a response appropriately made by the body, our Legislature, to which Trump, as the head of the Executive Branch, had become, especially on that dread afternoon of 6 January, an insufferable and immediate threat. His speech on that day was the culmination of a months-long effort to challenge the legitimacy of state election results, to intimidate those by whom they were certified, and, finally, to defame those by whom they were at that moment being counted. If only rhetorically, President Trump mounted a continuous assault on the Legislative Branch, that body of priority, first listed in our Constitution, to which the power of his own office ought always to deign.

While it’s difficult to extract from the now-infamous “Stop the Steal” speech an explicit incitement to violence against the Congress, and to link the kernel of its message to the barbaric actions of those felons upon whom it had so profound and distorted an impact, Trump’s words were certainly unconducive to peace. I think, irrespective of the fidelity you feel toward the man, or the pleasure you derived from the implementation of his agenda, that’s something on which we can all agree. Doubtless, his words did nothing to lower the proverbial temperature, to soften the frayed and excitable passions, or to quiet the heat by which so many of his supporters were irrationally inflamed. He perpetuated the myth that the possibility of his re-election was not yet dead, and that one’s hope in his imminent success was neither misplaced, nor misguided.

He asserted that the real culprit for this unprecedented electoral theft, this “fraud” of the century of which he was so obviously a victim, was none other than the Congress itself. It was the horrid and incorrigible Congress, he said, that bicameral body of five hundred and thirty-five actors (over whom, it might be added, his erstwhile ally, Mike Pence—now a turncoat in his role as President of the Senate—had the duty to preside), that should be targeted for censure and abuse. It’s to the Congress you should go, he urged, in order to seek redress for the problems by which you’re so painfully aggrieved, for which you’ve not yet been given a satisfactory answer. That was his exhortation to the large and motivated audience upon which his words had so predictably stimulating an effect.

To those reading between its lines, however, he was heard to whisper, not quite sotto voce, go into the Congress, by force if you must, and interrupt that fraudulent process on which I, in my distant capacity as a lame duck Commander-In-Chief, can no longer can exert a meaningful influence. Go there, and deliver to a maltreated but deserving president, an eccentric leader of whom you’ve all grown to be so fond, the office to which I, truly, was elected. Return to me that job of which I, despite the machinations of the Dominion voting software and the unscrupulousness of the corrupt state politicians, will be the occupant for four more years. Do it not only for me, the indomitable, lovable, charismatic figure for whom you’d risk not only job and reputation, but family and life, but for your amor patriae, that unquenchable love for a country presently suffering from a “rigged system’s” terrible abuse.

This, precisely, is what they did. If not all of them, a pugnacious and fervid bunch took it upon themselves to walk the mile-and-a-half corridor by which the Ellipse outside the White House (the location at which Trump’s speech was held) and the Capitol Building is separated. Discovering at the grounds of the Capitol a police presence inadequate to repulse their swelling force, they charged forth into the building, a beautiful Greek edifice through whose battered doors, they quickly flowed. The barriers receded, the calls for reinforcements bellowed, and the officers unhappily yielded the dwindling ground on which they stood. In a moment’s time, a scene was created of which the brazen insurgents, now confident in the success of their design, took giddy advantage.

In a somewhat desultory fashion, quite at odds with the unblinking focus by which they were initially propelled, the rioters meandered through the Capitol Building to which they’d just gained access. In the course of the romp, they pilfered paraphernalia, hoisted lecterns, posed for selfies, and sat in venerable chairs in which their vulgar bodies didn’t belong. They scattered papers about offices, broke photographs and the frames in which they were hung, and thrust flags into floorboards emblazoned with the name, “Trump”.

They sprayed irritants, threw punches, and pushed furniture at those gathering officers by whom, now more equally numbered, they were freshly opposed. Conceivably, clad with zip-ties, incendiaries, and knives furtively concealed in the pockets of pants and the sleeves of shirts, it was their ultimate goal to detain, by violent means, if needed, any Republican congressmen by whom Trump’s legitimacy was opposed. Doubtless, they would’ve satiated their morbid zeal by harassing any like-minded Democrats by whom, similarly, the president’s rightful claim was thwarted. Most frightening of all, however, it’s possible their design might’ve taken them so far as to capture Mike Pence, that same man whose injured name joined Trump’s on their waving flags.

As we know, they failed to accomplish the end to which they were so balefully committed. Their reckless adventure was eventually stopped, though not before the death of five people. One police officer, a New Jersey native, a heroic man upon whom a flurry of punches was unleashed, tragically succumbed to his wounds. Another perished, at his own hand in the wake of the trauma of the events, the weekend after. Others died of undisclosed “medical emergencies” at the scene of the tumult, and a female protestor was fatally shot through the neck.

While all this transpired, President Trump issued messages of appreciation from his soon-to-be-deactivated Twitter account, that great megaphone of his feelings and direct line to his soul to which, at the time of writing, his privileges still haven’t been restored. In a string of rather nebulous tweets, by which his rabid supporters might be understandably confused, he advised them against committing further violence, promoted respect for the police over whom they’d just recently stormed, and insisted that the Congress was still, despite their best efforts, in the process of abetting an historic fraud.

Does not this final line negate the two by which it’s so incongruously preceded? Having read it, could his supporters really be blamed—given the ambiguity of all his earlier promptings—to carry on with their effort to “stop the steal”? Is it any wonder, then, that they continued with their assault on the Congress and, through the Congress, on the rest of us, a population viewing this vandalism in a state of utter disbelief?

This, ultimately, is the sin for which our untamable President, our peccant Commander-In-Chief, ought to be impeached. He offended, as none has before, not only the dignity of a co-equal branch of government, but the safety of the members by whom it’s composed. Indirectly or not, he imperiled those same representatives to whom we, as the most important aspect of this free and peculiar state—the people—have extended our suffrage and in whom we’ve planted our trust. The Legislative Branch, that great body through which our democratic voice most loudly echoes, and our republican enthusiasm most actively flows, must, in this case, reassert itself.

Impeachment of the Executive is its means to that worthwhile, neigh, Constitutional end. The members of the Congress, despite the constraints of the dwindling time in which they have to work, would be wise to pursue it.

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