Some observations from the impeachment trial – Opinion – ThisWeek Community News

Posted: February 9, 2020 at 6:50 pm

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February 2020. The Super Bowl, once again held without the Cleveland Browns, the BuffaloBills or the Ohio State Marching Band. The Iowa caucuses, plagued by app glitches andconspiracy theories. The State of the Union address, with women in white, a grieving father inhandcuffs and grand dramatic moments (Russ Limbaugh and Nancy Pelosi come to mind). All inthe midst of an impeachment trial.

While the Nixon impeachment proceedings heated up in the summer of 1974, I was a counselorat summer camp, with a cabin full of fifth- and sixth-grade girls. Swamp cake on the dessertmenu seemingly had as much impact in that cloistered setting as did Nixons resignation onAug. 9.

When Bill Clinton was impeached by the House on Dec. 19, 1998, it was five days fromthe end of the Salvation Armys Christmas effort, and I doubt I even turned on the television. Ihave no recollection of watching the January trial in the Senate, nor do I remember much in theway of personal outrage in those pre-"me too" days. Impeachment took a back seat to achallenging ministry, three energetic boys and grad school.

In 2020, Ive been more engaged with the impeachment drama or lack thereof. A couple ofsnarky questions first. Is it OK to notice an obvious toupee, or wonder if a constitutional expertwho previously defended Epstein wears boxers or briefs? Does Adam Schiff really have a pencilneck? Do fidget spinners help fidgety senators?

Two observations. First, Chief Justice Roberts refused to ask a question submitted by Sen.Rand Paul, purportedly an attempt to reveal the identity of the original whistleblower. WhileRoberts was circumspect about it, I could hear the echo of my friend Shirleys famous saying:"Well have none of that!"

Rumors of this persons identity have been quietly circulating in the great abyss of the internetfor a while, but now, just days after Pauls attempt to "out" him or her, posts started showingup in my social media feed with a full name and conspicuously photo-shopped images of thewhistleblower next to prominent Democrats. What does it say about us when we take delight inpotentially putting another human being in danger, when the law promises protection? Who intheir right mind would report alleged wrong-doing if they fear their name will be vindictivelyspread across the internet?

My second observation is "inappropriate," defined as "not suitable or proper in thecircumstances." Picking your nose in public is inappropriate. After the Super Bowl halftimeshow, the battle of appropriateness had a field day on social media. In the late 1990s, Bill Clintonsuggested his relationship with an intern was "inappropriate."

Now, in 2020, "inappropriate" wins the word of the week. Sen. Lamar Alexander: "TheConstitution does not give the Senate the power to remove the president from office and banhim from this years ballot simply for actions that are inappropriate." Or, as Ohios own Sen.Rob Portman concluded, "I believe that some of the presidents actions in this case includingasking a foreign country to investigate a potential political opponent and the delay of aid toUkraine were wrong and inappropriate." Theres that word again.

Im not sure when he said it, but Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh gave us an alternativeto inappropriate. "If the president does something dastardly, the impeachment process isavailable." Dastardly, as in wicked and cruel, is a great-sounding word. If inappropriate isntenough for impeachment today, could dastardly be tomorrow?

Heres the challenge: what are appropriate consequences for inappropriate or even dastardlyactions? On the playground, some stop the behavior when confronted. Others admit no guilt,and even defiantly say, "What are you going to do to me?" Does the system, as its currently setup, have an answer to that question?

A final observation. Remember when the internet world was abuzz about "the dress"? Was itblue and black, or were its stripes gold and white? The opening challenges of 2020 go muchdeeper. Amazing dancing, female empowerment or soft porn? Innocent, guilty, perfect,inappropriate, criminal or dastardly? If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, is truth as well?

JoAnn Shade, author of "Only in Ashland: Reflections of a Smitten Immigrant," can be reached at

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February 9th, 2020 at 6:50 pm