This will be remembered as the week the center crumbled — quickly — on impeaching President Donald Trump. Finally.
After months of political calculations, and investigations that moved more slowly than a Red Line train at rush hour, the House of Representatives is poised to begin impeachment proceedings, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Tuesday afternoon.
Whether impeachment is a good idea or a bad one — a constitutional necessity or a potentially damaging distraction — has divided House members for months. Even the solidly blue Massachusetts delegation was no exception, at least for a while.
But in the wake of allegations that Trump attempted to push Ukraine into an “investigation” of his rival, former vice president Joe Biden, House Democrats who had been on the fence for months about starting the impeachment process finally got off, forcing their leadership with them.
Congressman Stephen Lynch of South Boston — the most moderate member of the Massachusetts delegation and one of its last impeachment holdouts — was among those who gingerly abandoned his wait-and-see stance this week.
“If fully substantiated, it will be of momentous consequence, including the possibility of initiating impeachment proceedings,” Lynch said in a statement.
Depending on your point of view, Pelosi has been either masterfully patient in letting Trump’s behavior force the issue, or she’s been timid to the point of fecklessness.
The tipping point came after a Wall Street Journal report that a whistle-blower had expressed concerns about a conversation in which Trump repeatedly urged Ukraine to investigate Biden, who just happens to be a leading contender for the 2020 Democratic nomination.
The latest revelations, if confirmed, suggest that Trump was fully prepared to enlist foreign aid in undermining a potent political rival to win reelection. If we’re OK with that level of manipulation, we may as well stop having elections altogether.
This is a dicey moment for Pelosi. She is a wily legislator, but her strategy of holding off on impeachment for fear of mobilizing Trump’s base may only have emboldened increasingly lawless behavior on his part. Certainly her one-time strategy of investigating Trump to death went nowhere. Many witnesses refused to testify, or did so under guidelines that rendered their testimony nearly worthless. The administration ignored subpoenas of documents. The House looked ridiculously weak, and the whole notion of checks and balances seemed headed out the window.
Even now, some critics will assert that impeachment will be good for Trump — that the Republican-controlled Senate will never vote to remove him even if he is impeached, that he will decry the whole thing as a witch hunt, that impeachment will rally his base in the midst of his reelection bid.
I don’t think impeachment proceedings will be good for Trump, in any sense. The focus it will place on his recklessness, his willingness to compromise national interests for his own ends, and his refusal to take the gravity of the office seriously are not going to help him, not in a reelection campaign or anywhere else. His sudden pledge Tuesday to release a transcript of his call with the Ukrainian president might indicate that he knows stonewalling alone might not be enough this time.
If Trump does end up being impeached, his brazenness will be as much to blame as the details of his conduct. Throughout his presidency, he has conducted himself exactly like the real estate developer who could scam banks and other investors with impunity, who believes that there are no rules — or laws — when executing the art of the deal.
The truth is, Washington Democrats have never known how to deal with this president who never cared about the rules of their political universe. But the questions on the table now far transcend whether Trump’s Senate enablers will ultimately protect him. Finally, Congress has been forced to take the step it should have taken all along, the path of true accountability.