Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe has been an online figure in the anti-Trump resistance. He and one of his former students just published a book titled “To End a Presidency: The Power of Impeachment.” Tribe’s basic view is that impeachment is an option for removing a president in extreme cases, but one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. It was in that context that Tribe chose a rather unfortunate metaphor when talking to CNN’s Chris Cuomo earlier today.
“You can’t be the boy who cried wolf and have a viable impeachment power. You can’t use it over and over again against the same president,” Tribe said. He continued, “If you’re going to shoot him, you have to shoot to kill. And that requires an overwhelming majority of a bipartisan kind. Otherwise, you’re just going to nick the guy and make him feel empowered and vindicated.”
Tribe is actually calling for some restraint here from over-eager resistance progressives. He also apologized for his own remark later on Twitter:
In an otherwise good interview I made a terrible word choice, saying an impeachment “bullet” can only be “shot once” so one must “shoot to kill.” I wasn’t speaking literally, but as one who works hard to reduce gun violence this was just inexcusable. I’m very sorry. https://t.co/CIB0NtWiW7
— Laurence Tribe (@tribelaw) May 22, 2018
Maybe this is the most obvious metaphor for talking about this topic. I’d probably be fine with it if I hadn’t witnessed the entire professional media freaking out about “eliminationist rhetoric” just a few years ago.
Remember when the left cared about this? It started back in 2011 when they did their best to blame the Tucson shooting on Sarah Palin. Was Palin’s targeting map a literal threat? No. Did she have anything to do with Jared Loughner? No.
Nevertheless, there was a lot of talk about the need for a new tone even as the left was in the midst of one of the most despicable acts of vicious partisan hackery in the past decade. But the same rules never do seem to apply to people on the left. Tribe won’t even get a slap on the wrist for discussing Trump’s impeachment in terms of assassination. CNN’s Cuomo didn’t challenge Tribe’s language at all. In fact, he extended it saying, “If you don’t have a clear consensus, you now have what you’d call a wounded and dangerous tiger.”
It’s worth noting that while Tribe claims his comments were a “terrible word choice” in the midst of a TV interview, he appears to have said almost exactly the same thing in his book:
Professor Tribe, you explain your use of violent rhetoric on TV today — referring to impeachment as a "bullet" which requires that one "shoot to kill" — as a momentary lapse: "a terrible word choice."
You say it's "inexcusable." Why, then, is this also on p. 94 of your book? pic.twitter.com/wpihjAUIf9
— BP (@BadgerPundit) May 22, 2018
At this point, I almost don’t care what the standard is. Use this rhetoric or don’t use it. What’s I’d really like is for both sides to be held to the same standard. That never seems to happen.