President Donald Trump is due in South Carolina today for a forum at Benedict College on criminal justice reform. Trump foes say he should not be here, contending his comments on Tuesday disqualify him from visiting a historically black college.
“I don’t think the president has the right to speak at a historically black college after making those comments,” S.C. Democratic Party Chairman Trav Robertson told The State newspaper of Columbia.
“Those comments” refer to Trump’s statement that the impeachment process unfolding against him is a “lynching.”
Specifically, Trump tweeted: “So some day, if a Democrat becomes President and the Republicans win the House, even by a tiny margin, they can impeach the President, without due process or fairness or any legal rights. All Republicans must remember what they are witnessing here – a lynching. But we will WIN!”
The message immediately prompted a mass outcry about the president comparing the political process of impeachment to lynching, the term associated with the extra-judicial killings of African Americans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
While Trump should have chosen a different word or words – as he frequently should – his outcry against the impeachment process is not surprising. And the way things or unfolding in the U.S. House, even those believing he has done something wrong in dealings with Ukraine should have serious doubts about the impeachment process. It is unquestionably partisan, which was not the intent of the founders.
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Perhaps Trump should have gone back to his old term: “witch hunt.” Or maybe he could have used less-electric words associated with lynching: “mob justice,” “assassination,” “hanging.” No matter how he described it, he should have added the adjective “political.”
As should others.
In fact, if Trump should disqualify himself from coming to an HBCU for his words, Joe Biden should too. The former vice president is also scheduled to be at Benedict.
In 1998, just before the House voted to impeach President Bill Clinton, Biden, then a senator from Delaware, also used the term “lynching.” He told CNN: "Even if the president should be impeached, history is going to question whether or not this was just a partisan lynching or whether or not it was something that in fact met the standard, the very high bar, that was set by the founders as to what constituted an impeachable offense.”
Putting aside the reference to lynching, the entire Biden assessment should be replayed and replayed amid today’s situation. Do the accusations against Trump meet “the standard, the very high bar, that was set by the founders as to what constituted an impeachable offense”?
In the case of Clinton, the Senate decided the bar was not met. The same applies regarding Trump.
Of note, The Washington Post reported Tuesday that at least five House Democrats also invoked lynching during the 1998 Clinton impeachment proceedings. One of those was Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, who called the Clinton impeachment process a "lynch mob." Nadler is now chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which will consider any articles of impeachment against Trump.
The nation is in desperate need of less rhetoric and a good dose of tolerance. But with impeachment on the fast track in the House and the 2020 campaign in full swing, things are likely to get worse before they get better.