Who is to blame for the impeachment of President Trump? It has to be either Trump or the House that impeached him. Or maybe a combination of the two.
But the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank claims that, somehow, the “mess” is Chief Justice Roberts’s fault. Milbank is the Post’s clown prince. He’ll say anything, usually with as much snark as he can muster, to try to score a point against one of his boogeymen — a class that includes anyone who stands against his leftism.
In this case, Milbank has outdone himself.
Why is the U.S. Chief Justice responsible for the impeachment mess? Mainly because of the Citizens United decision — the root of all evil in Milbank’s universe. According to Milbank, the super PACs unleashed by that ruling “led directly to this impeachment.”
The two Rudy Giuliani associates engaged in key abuses — the ouster of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, the attempts to force Ukraine’s president to announce investigations into Trump’s political opponents — gained access to Trump by funneling money from a Ukrainian oligarch to the president’s super PAC.
But Trump didn’t need super PAC money, or Giuliani’s associates, to fire an ambassador he and Giuliani didn’t like. Nor did he need it to withhold (for a brief period) military aid to Ukraine in the hope of inducing that government to investigate Joe Biden.
Milbank’s theory of causation is absurd. Maybe we should blame President Kennedy for Watergate. Key figures in the Watergate burglary were veterans of the invasion of Cuba that Kennedy ordered. Maybe we should blame Linda Lovelace for Bill Clinton’s impeachment.
Milbank goes on to say:
The Roberts Court’s decisions led to this moment in indirect ways, as well.
Less direct than the Citizens United decision? That’s hard to imagine. But Milbank, unconstrained by the need for evidence and the requirements of logic, is up to the task:
The court’s 2013 ruling in Shelby County gutted the Voting Rights Act and spurred a new wave of voter suppression. The decision in 2014′s McCutcheon further surrendered campaign finance to the wealthiest. The 2018 Janus decision hobbled the ability of labor unions to counter wealthy donors, while the 2019 Rucho ruling blessed partisan gerrymandering, expanding anti-democratic tendencies.
The consequences? Falling confidence in government, and a growing perception that Washington had become a “swamp” corrupted by political money, fueled Trump’s victory. The Republican Party, weakened by the new dominance of outside money, couldn’t stop Trump’s hostile takeover of the party or the takeover of the congressional GOP ranks by far-right candidates. The new dominance of ideologically extreme outside groups and donors led lawmakers on both sides to give their patrons what they wanted: conflict over collaboration and purity at the cost of paralysis. The various decisions also suppress the influence of poorer and non-white Americans and extend the electoral power of Republicans in disproportion to the popular vote.
Milbank is right to this extent: If Trump hadn’t been elected, he wouldn’t be subject to impeachment. But the Supreme Court isn’t responsible for Trump’s election.
Milbank presents no evidence that Trump was elected due to “voter suppression” or that “outside money,” rather than the wishes of Republican voters, caused Trump’s “hostile takeover” of the GOP. Trump probably relied less on outside money than his rivals did.
If anything, the rise of Trump is a reaction to the domination of the Republican Party by big money interests — plus well-deserved contempt for media types like Dana Milbank.
Maybe the Post’s Clown Prince is responsible for the current mess.
Some of the Supreme Court decisions Milbank doesn’t like came down after Trump’s election. Milbank blames them for the prevalence of “conflict over collaboration and purity at the cost of paralysis.” But this phenomenon predates by many years the 2018 Janus decision and the 2019 Rucho ruling.
And it has nothing to do with John Roberts. If anything, Roberts has tried to minimize conflict to the extent allowed by his duty as a judge (and to a greater extent than that, some say). He is known for trying to make his rulings as narrow as possible. Among other virtues, this avoids making unnecessary waves. And Roberts famously upheld the constitutionality of Obamacare’s individual mandate in the hope, some say, of avoiding political chaos.
Perhaps Milbank was absent the day they taught logic and causation in philosophy class. To be fair, however, it can’t be easy writing lefty impeachment columns multiple times a week, especially when your work appears on the same op-ed page as other Trump haters, each trying to outdo the other. Thus, it’s understandable that Milbank would look for a different angle and, for one day, a different villain.
Unfortunately, this quest has taken him into the realm of fantasy. But then Milbank is far from uncomfortable there.