The current president’s conduct in office has been so rancid that the phrase ‘You can’t indict a sitting president” is spoken about a thousand times each day on news programs all around the world. While it appears that a majority of political pundits assume this to be true, I am not sold. First and foremost there is no law that says any such thing in the Federal Code. Second, the foundation of this assumption is simply a guideline in the Department of Justice operations manual that directs its officers on how to conduct investigations. That is an issue altogether different from giving a sitting president a “hall pass” to do whatever the hell he wants without consequence for as long as he holds the office. And Third, the current president is neither a public servant nor a loyal American so all rules must be read and interpreted in a manner that protects the nation and not the man to whom 25% of Americans foolishly entrusted our highest office.
To illustrate how ridiculous the assumption is that you can’t indict a sitting president, I pose this question: What if Bill Clinton had been accused of raping Monica Lewinsky? Is there any chance that any significant segment of the population would have been content to suspend legal accountability for an intentional criminal act? Imagine how that assumption would have been dealt with then. We can extrapolate from Republican behavior since 2009 that when they don’t like rules or guidelines they just throw them overboard and install new ones that meet the need of the moment. The clearest example is their refusal to seat Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court after Antonin Scalia died while serving. They got away with ignoring a rule actually based in the Constitution and rather than being punished for it, they were rewarded for it. Trump is on the verge of seating his second Supreme Court Justice in the space in two years. The court has been corrupted for a generation and it was done in plain sight in the light of day.
Flagrancy has proven to be Donald Trump’s clever methodology for doing dirt: he turns the reasonable assumption that dirt is done in the dark on its head and does a great deal of his dirt in wide open view and uses the assumption against his accusers. “If you’re going to obstruct, you obstruct in private, not in public!” his “Despicable Me” style lawyer insists. With that said, there is no question that had Bill Clinton raped Monica Lewinsky instead of just acting out a scene from a 70’s porno with her, he would have been indicted. And they most assuredly would have made him stand trial. And his impeachment and removal from office would have been a foregone conclusion. Republicans would not have hesitated to call Clinton a rapist in public all day every day as a small segment of their crazies actually do now.
But things are different today. Sure, Americans were crazy back in the 90’s but not quite like we are now. Voters were hyper-partisan, irrational and willfully blind back then as they are now but we weren’t quite ready to take up arms against each other the way we are now- metaphorically speaking. Conservatives will tell you with a straight face that their sharp turn toward the nut-house is Barack Obama’s fault. Had he not been SO power-hungry, and SO hyperbolic in his rhetoric, and SO lawless, and SO mean to white people in general and Republicans in particular, you wouldn’t have the white nationalists marching on D.C. and Russians polling ahead of Democrats in red districts all over the country.
Of course that is compete bullshit. Barack Obama was guilty of NONE of these charges while Republicans cheer lustily for Donald Trump who is guilty of ALL of these charges (of course you have to swap out “black and brown” people for “white” people but surely you get the point). What Republicans really mean is that if Barack had not been so BLACK and so damned awesome, almost half the country wouldn’t have lost its collective mind and started acting like lunatics.
But Barack and Bill make up the relevant back story here. Our current pain is our current president and his cartoonish level of corruption. It really does feel like the bad dream of an 8-year-old where Oil Can Harry and Simon Bar Sinister defeated Mighty Mouse and Under-Dog and finally took over the world. The volume of graft in this administration is rivaled for shock value only by his flagrant betrayal of the nation in favor of our oldest and most determined foreign enemy. But there is nothing shocking about the daily spoonful of racism he serves his base to make it all go down in one gulp.
What is frustrating is how easily the rational voices on our side on the biggest platforms readily cede precious ground in critical debates. Too often they try to function as the fire extinguisher in a political crisis when they should be functioning as the loudest smoke detector that alerts everybody before the flames erupt. On the issue of indicting a sitting president the effective Democratic talking point that should be amplified by major media outlets is this:
“There is no law on the books anywhere barring the indictment of a sitting president we’ve just never had a president conduct himself this way before. Law enforcement must make certain this president is held accountable for his actions as proscribed by the law.”
Granted, that’s a bit wordier than “NO COLLUSION!“ but you get the point. Shifting the perspective and the conversation away from the “hall pass” mentality to the mindset of holding this president fully accountable for his actions is the key to preserving what remains of the integrity of our institutions. And we need to do it as it would have been done if Bill or Barack had performed so disgracefully in office.