The House: Ready for the Fall

By Jamie Stiehm

September 25, 2019 5 min read

WASHINGTON — On fall's first day, political seasons changed suddenly. The winds blow differently between the White House and the Capitol. Impeachment has landed at last.

The days are getting shorter now for President Donald Trump; the nights are lasting longer. And "Nancy's House" is getting madder. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., the civil rights beacon, said yesterday on the floor he fears for democracy's fate "with a heavy heart." Lewis played harbinger for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's decision to start formal impeachment proceedings.

You can feel and hear it in the air. A threshold has been crossed. Pelosi, the California Democrat, threw out the summer playbook of caution toward the constitutional remedy for high crimes and misdemeanors committed by the president. Now all bets are off, and Ukraine is all the rage.

Pelosi and her team are playing football, not soccer anymore. She issued a statement to the people's House that warned of the Trump White House "entering a grave new chapter of lawlessness" because of a possible presidential plot with a foreign leader.

The grim speaker consulted her Democratic caucus, 235 members of all political stripes, and judged the cost of not impeaching the president higher than the cost of impeaching him. Until now, it's been a close split, with Pelosi holding the reins firm to protect moderates.

Whatever Trump said on a July telephone call to the new Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, was just his way of doing business. We should not be shocked to find gambling going on in Casablanca.

Facing a beehive of queries, Trump allowed that he had brought up Hunter Biden, Joe Biden's somewhat troubled son, and urged a corruption investigation into a political opponent's son by a foreign government. And he even held back $400 million in military aid to Ukraine before that consequential chat. Trump shrugs: Big deal, so what's to admit?

Trump does stuff like that — conduct shady conversations to hurt, insult or intimidate people he hates — all the time. He's a bare-knuckled street fighter with no scruples and no honor among thieves. Why should this conversation be any different? He's probably perplexed at his own pitfall, since he's gotten away with so much for so long, including Mueller report evidence that sent his personal lawyer to prison.

If the Ukraine allegations by a whistleblower prove true, seven freshman Democrats count Trump's behavior as collusion with a foreign leader — an impeachable offense. They are part of the large 2018 House class Pelosi checked for sea changes.

One leading member of Congress, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., went further. She's ready to vote for impeachment outright on the Trump record, never mind the usual hearings. Cutting to the chase might be the smartest thing for Democrats to do, depriving Trump of time to wage a savage war of words and staining him before the election. He loves a good prizefight.

Clearly, the balance of power between Congress and the president has shifted. Nobody knows what the new one will be. The political landscape is changing colors for the first time in the Trump presidency.

In truth, Trump basked in summer sun for way too long. He paid no price for his "very fine people" diatribe on the Charlottesville race riot or his flagrant disrespect for the press, the environment, allies, immigrants and the agreed-upon rules of the political game. He ruthlessly played to win at all costs.

Trump's nasty words for late Republican Sen. John McCain shocked this town. Of course, McCain was the only Republican not to cower at his wrath.

The press has covered Trump tweet by tweet, which has helped spread his message and diverted the quest for harder, deeper digging.

Note that it was a government whistleblower, not a reporter, who broke the bubble around Trump and hastened the present crisis. However, in the Watergate tradition, The Washington Post broke the story of the complaint, in a sign that democracy hasn't died yet. Perhaps history will repeat itself.

We lived through a long, burning summer here. The House is braced for the fall.

To find out more about Jamie Stiehm and other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the website.

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