It appears, at least at times, as if the editorial board at the Washington Post has finally given up on the dream that some sort of Groundhog Day miracle is on the way and two-thirds of the Senate will somehow vote to expel President Trump from office. But that doesn’t mean that they’re going to give up on trying. While waiting for the final vote to acquit the President, they gamely pitched another idea this week. Perhaps we could go for a vote on censure instead. Or, better yet… (wait for it) censure him and then remove him from office anyway! I’m still not entirely sure if that’s what’s being proposed in this editorial, but it certainly sounds like it.
The piece begins with what passes for high praise of both Ben Sasse and Lamar Alexander, both of whom have at least gone so far as to say that some of the President’s actions regarding Ukraine were “inappropriate” while not rising to the level of impeachable crimes. Using that as a springboard, the editors challenge the Republicans in the Senate to at least push forward with a censure. But then they immediately seem to backtrack and say that Trump also needs to be removed. Judge for yourself from this excerpt.
The strongest argument offered by Republicans is that the Senate should allow voters to decide Mr. Trump’s fate. Striking him from the ballot, they say, would turbocharge the country’s divisions and leave many convinced that U.S. democracy had been subverted. We agree that’s a danger, but there’s also a solution for it: remove Mr. Trump, thereby guarding against further election interference, while allowing him on the ballot if the Republican Party renominates him.
The reality is that Republicans who acknowledge Mr. Trump’s guilt appear less interested in a remedy than in an excuse to vote for acquittal. They ought to be tested on whether they will stand behind their conclusion that the president’s behavior was wrong. Democrats should put forward a censure resolution saying that the extortion of Ukraine’s president was “inappropriate.” Then Americans will see which GOP senators will still dare to speak truth to Mr. Trump.
The amount of muddled thinking on display here is notable, but let’s see if we can’t sort a few things out. The editors give a nod to the idea that “striking him from the ballot” would convince people that Democracy had been subverted. Let’s just zoom past the fact that Congress has no control over who does or doesn’t get on the ballot for either party unless they can prove that they aren’t natural-born citizens or are younger than the age of 35. The premise here seems to be that the Senate Republicans should join in with the Democrats and remove Trump from office for now, but let him try to run for a second term in November.
I hate to be the one to bring it up, but someone at WaPo HQ might want to take a look at Article I Section 3 of the Constitution. For those who skipped school on the day this was covered, here’s what it says in part, with the emphasis being added by yours truly. “Judgment in cases of impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust or profit under the United States;”
One would assume that the Founders considered the Presidency to be an “office of honor, trust or profit.” If you impeach and remove the President, he’s disqualified from running again. So the wheels come off of this plan pretty rapidly.
As to the censure idea… sure. I suppose so if that’s how you’re inclined. I still doubt you could find enough Republicans willing to go along with it, but let’s say you did. It wouldn’t even be the first time. The Senate censured Andrew Jackson back in 1834, though it was widely seen as a political maneuver by the Whigs and Jackson still served out his term. In the modern era, you may recall that Charlie Rangel was censured by the House in 2010 over various ethics questions and tax evasion. He went on to win several more terms and retired of his own free will in 2017.
It really sounds as if the WaPo editors are letting their frustration over Donald Trump’s apparent Teflon skin get the best of them here. Depending how you interpret this request, they’re either asking for something unconstitutional, essentially meaningless, or both.