Lee Harrison: Is Pelosi channeling FDR?

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WILLIAMSTOWN — Early in his administration, President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked A. Philip Randolph, the legendary labor and civil rights leader, his view on the plight of African-Americans. Upon hearing Randolph's remarks, FDR said, "You know, Mr. Randolph, I've heard everything you've said tonight, and I agree with everything that you've said, including my capacity to be able to right many of these wrongs and to use my power and the bully pulpit. But I would ask one thing of you, Mr. Randolph, and that is, go out and make me do it."

The consummate politician, FDR agreed with Lincoln that, "In this age, in this country, public sentiment is everything. With it, nothing can fail; against it, nothing can succeed."

Less than a decade later, with Europe already under Hitler's jack boots, and Britain's survival hanging by a thread, Roosevelt knew war was inevitable. Yet public support for entering the war was lagging behind, hobbled in part by Charles Lindberg and his Trumpian-sounding America Firsters.

Once again, Roosevelt didn't want to get too far out in front of public opinion — too far over his skis, as we here in Berkshire County might say. He needed public support to do the right thing — and that, I believe, is where House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is right now with regard to impeaching the most lawless, corrupt, dangerous, and anti-American President we've ever had.

I'm sure Pelosi, along with nearly every American who cares about the rule of law, had hoped Robert Mueller would make public the case for impeaching Trump, but he blew it. Clearly, Mueller, an honorable man but also a conservative Republican whose wife goes to Bible study with Attorney General Robert Barr's wife, has shown no stomach for this fight, no matter the stakes. Although he is now willing to testify before Congress, Mueller has been hiding behind his "impenetrable legalese and double negatives," as the New York Times' Maureen Dowd noted Or, as The Washington Post writer David Ignatius put it: "Mueller went out like a lamb in his remarks ... when the country needed a lion."

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Here again an example of the Muelleroglyphics we were forced to deconstruct. "If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so," the square-jawed special prosecutor intoned, sounding as Dowd said, "like Odysseus struggling to navigate between Scylla and Charybdis." Then again with a straight face and without emotion Mueller casually added: "We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime."

In previous administrations a straight-shooting attorney general might have helped Speaker Pelosi right the ship of state with some plain English clarifications or, perhaps more wisely, kept out of the brouhaha altogether. But Trump's AG Bill Barr — knowing the public at large would never decipher, let alone read, Mueller's work — was only too happy to rewrite Mueller's conclusions. And if the last two years has shown us anything, it's that Republican senators, complicit in all of Trump's un-American activities, will never lift a finger to save the republic. This leaves Speaker Pelosi alone and in a difficult spot, caught between an increasingly enraged party and a largely misinformed general public, but maybe Democratic California Congresswoman Katie Porter offers some proof that Pelosi is still the best at her job — and that baby step by baby step things are moving her way.

On June 17 Porter, who is from Orange County, a historically Republican district, announced she now supports a formal impeachment inquiry of Trump. In any normal year, a first-term Democrat from Orange County might have been reluctant to support the impeachment of a Republican president as other Democrats have done, but Porter chose to be bold. "When faced with a crisis of this magnitude, I cannot with a clean conscience ignore my duty to defend the Constitution," said Porter. She went on to note that Mueller "emphasized that under current law he did not have the option to indict the president," adding a key point that Barr tried to bury: "Despite the limits of his authority, the special counsel was clear that he could not exonerate the president."

Former DNC Chair and Vermont Gov. Howard Dean believes this is all part of Pelosi's plan. He calls it "strategic patience." That is, Pelosi has the strength and patience to hold off formal impeachment proceedings until public opinion has caught up and will make her do it, just as FDR would have done. So, let's help Nancy out. If you believe it's time for an impeachment inquiry, let Nancy know how you feel.

Lee Harrison is a member of the Democratic State Committee and former chairman of the Berkshire Democratic Brigades.


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