Former President Barack Obama’s White House counsel, Bob Bauer, says President Donald Trump is the “demagogue” our nation’s forefathers warned us about, and that the impeachment system envisioned by those forefathers may be failing us when it comes to dealing with him.
Writing in the opinion pages of Monday’s New York Times, Bauer, currently a professor at New York University, says that Trump and the Republican Party “are exposing the limits of impeachment as a response to the presidency of a demagogue.”
Yes, the Framers might’ve underestimated the risk that loyalty to a demagogue might triumph. My recent book with @JoshuaMatz8, “To End A Presidency: The Power of Impeachment,” intimated as much. But I’m not as fatalistic as Bob Bauer seems to be. https://t.co/7S05g4F5AY— Laurence Tribe (@tribelaw) December 2, 2019
Bauer says that in the Federalist Papers, written in the aftermath of the first Constitutional Convention in 1787, authors including Alexander Hamilton and James Fenimore Cooper warned their fellow Americans about politicians with “perverted ambition” pursuing relentless self-aggrandizement by lying to the public, vilifying the opposition, and disregarding the rule of law.
The founders feared the demagogue, Bauer writes, and devised impeachment as a safeguard against him. But within the demagogue’s political toolkit are the very means to escape impeachment, Bauer says.
“As the self-proclaimed embodiment of the American popular will, the demagogue portrays impeachment deliberations as necessarily a threat to democracy, a facade for powerful interests arrayed against the people that only he represents,” Bauer says. “Critics and congressional opponents are traitors. Norms and standing institutional interests are fraudulent.
“President Trump has made full use of the demagogic playbook,” he writes. “He has refused all cooperation with the House. He lies repeatedly about the facts, holds public rallies to spread these falsehoods and attacks the credibility, motives and even patriotism of witnesses.”
Bob Bauer, pulling no punches, recalls this episode from history, when Huey Long of Louisiana famously announced: “I’m the Constitution around here now.” https://t.co/sksfo8zBgb— Carrie Johnson (@johnson_carrie) December 2, 2019
Defenses of the president put forth so far by his Republican supporters during the ongoing impeachment inquiry, Bauer says, have so far failed to assail the facts of the case and instead amounted to little more than assaults on the messengers bearing the charges.
Bauer lays blame for the failure of the impeachment process partially at the foot of what he calls Trump’s Republican enablers. A weak Republican party has set aside its constitutional obligations and allowed itself to be bullied into being an instrument of Trump’s personal, political will, as Bauer states.
Earlier impeachment efforts ended with agreement that the “system worked,” as Bauer puts it.
“The Trump impeachment is headed toward a very different summation. A demagogue can claim that Congress has forfeited the right to recognition of its impeachment power, then proceed to unleash a barrage of falsehoods and personal attacks to confuse the public, cow legislators and intimidate witnesses.
“When this is all over, we will not hear warm bipartisan praise for how ‘the system worked,’” he warns in conclusion. “The lesson will be that, in the politics of the time, a demagogue who gets into the Oval Office is hard to get out.”