Impeachment Impressions; Guidance for the Speaker from the Lord … and Kenny Rogers: Part II

If one intends to review this post, but has not yet read Part I (which is immediately below), I would start there 😉

A number of commentators have opined that the reason that Ms. Pelosi has delayed in forwarding the House’s Articles of Impeachment to the Senate for adjudication is that she believes it places pressure on Sen. McConnell and his Senate Republican Leadership to hold a meaningful impeachment trial; others have suggested that the delay is strengthening the case for the President’s removal by allowing time for the unearthing of additional evidence by House investigators and the occurrence of events such as former National Security Advisor John Bolton’s recent indication that he will testify if subpoenaed by the Senate. I would suggest that for reasons practical, political, and – to me the most important — Constitutional, she should forward the Articles to the Senate without further delay.

The practical first: everyone in this country that cares to know already understands the essential – and undisputed – aspects of the Trump Administration’s efforts to put pressure on the Ukrainian government to secure domestic political advantage for Mr. Trump. Everyone in this country – undoubtedly down to the junior member of the Senate maintenance crew – likewise knows that Mr. Trump is going to be acquitted in the Senate. I am confident that Ms. Pelosi is not so naïve as to believe that any additional testimony is going to change the outcome. Will sworn testimony by Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney be any more incriminating to the President than Mr. Mulvaney’s blurted admission of the quid pro quo from the White House podium? Will sworn testimony by Mr. Bolton, confirming Fiona Hill’s testimony that he referred to the Administration’s Ukrainian-related efforts as a “drug deal” and credible media accounts that he urged Mr. Trump to release the Ukrainian aid, have any probative impact upon a decisive number of Republican Senators judging the Articles? To ask the questions is to answer them.

As the Lord said in a more celestial context: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Matthew 11:15.

Ms. Pelosi must recognize that everyone who has ears to hear … has already heard. She should move ahead.

As to the political: if the Articles are going to fail in the Senate, how best to paint the outcome for the November election? It would arguably seem that the more rigorous the Senate trial appears, the more credibly the President and his supporters will be able to claim, following his inevitable acquittal, that the Democrats’ entire initiative was a “Witch Hunt.” If they are going to lose anyway, I would suggest that the more the Senate proceedings seem a kangaroo court, the easier it will be for Democrats to label the President’s inevitable acquittal a whitewash and vulnerable swing state Republican Senators as mere party lackeys. Delay can be as politically dangerous to the Democrats as to the Republicans; I note that since the recent strike on Iranian Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, Sen. McConnell has sought to invoke Americans’ patriotic spirit by calling Mr. Trump “the Commander in Chief” while discussing the upcoming impeachment proceedings.

I am confident that Ms. Pelosi and her Leadership team, along with the rest of us of a certain vintage, well recall the legendary advice of Kenny Rogers’ Gambler:

You’ve got to know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run…

It’s time for Ms. Pelosi to fold ‘em … and walk away.

Finally, the Constitutional: Anyone who reads these pages is well aware of the extremely low regard I have for Sen. McConnell. Of all the patently partisan things that the Senate Majority Leader has perpetrated, to me his failure to schedule confirmation hearings on President Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court was a despicable dereliction of his duty. The Constitution’s drafters obviously believed that the Senate would act in good faith in performing its various responsibilities, and didn’t consider it necessary to prescribe a time limit for the Senate to commence deliberations on a President’s nominees. Mr. McConnell should have promptly scheduled confirmation hearings on Judge Garland even if it was preordained that the Republican-controlled Senate would ultimately reject the nomination. He didn’t because he wished to enable Republican Senators to avoid embarrassing, blatantly-partisan votes. He failed in his constitutional duty. I would suggest that by the same token, now that the House has approved two Articles of Impeachment against a President – the weightiest of the House’s Constitutional responsibilities – it is incumbent upon Ms. Pelosi to promptly forward the Articles to the Senate. Whether or not the President is acquitted in the Senate, by commencing impeachment proceedings, House Democrats did what they (and I) felt they were constitutionally obligated to do. Even if there is some gap in the Constitution’s provisions that arguably enables House Leadership to delay in forwarding the Articles to the Senate, they should nonetheless do what Senate Republicans failed to do with regard to Judge Garland’s nomination: respect the spirit, as well as the letter, of the process that the drafters created.

A postscript to an earlier post: not long ago in a note related to impeachment, I quoted one of the founding fathers of modern conservative thought, Edmund Burke, referring to him as an “Englishman.” Only after it was published did I recall that although Mr. Burke represented the English city of Bristol while in Parliament, he was in fact born in Dublin, and should thus should have been described as Anglo-Irish. I can but offer a sheepish apology to the sons and daughters of the Emerald Isle that follow these pages who, given the warm and forgiving hearts for which our people are known, kindly chose not to take me to task ;). I also apologize to any reviewer of this note who finds the lyrics of The Gambler embedded in his/her mind for the rest of the day …

Impeachment Impressions; Guidance for the Speaker from the Lord … and Kenny Rogers: Part I

At the time this is posted, Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi and her Democratic Leadership Team are yet to forward to the Senate the two Articles of Impeachment against President Trump passed by the House in December. Reports indicate that she has been holding the Articles in an attempt to pressure Republican Senate Majority Leader, U.S. KY Sen. Mitch McConnell, and Mr. McConnell’s Republican Leadership Team, to conduct a meaningful trial of the Articles in the Senate. As the parties bandy back and forth regarding the framework of the upcoming procedure, several impressions emerge:

The President and his supporters persist in calling impeachment a “coup” – short for coup d’etat. It isn’t. My trusty American Heritage Dictionary defines the term – originally French for “stroke of state,” as, “A sudden stroke of state policy involving deliberate violation of constitutional forms by a group of persons in authority [Emphasis added].” By my count, the Constitution refers to impeachment proceedings in five places: Article I, Sections 2 and 3; Article II, Sections 2 and 4; and Article III, Section 2. Whether or not one believes that the President’s imposition upon a vulnerable and reliant foreign ally for assistance against a domestic political rival constituted an offense sufficient to warrant his removal from office under Article II, Section 4, the House impeachment proceedings, which followed the Constitution’s outlines, have in no way constituted a “coup” (nor did the House’s 1998 impeachment of President Clinton). Even though the President’s acolytes are willing to ignore his flouting of his constitutional constraints, I wish that they would at least have the grace not to misrepresent the meaning of a commonly-used English term [even if it is originally French ;)].

The President and his supporters persist in claiming that the impeachment proceedings are intended to “reverse the result of the 2016 election,” “take away the votes of 63 million people,” etc., etc. Again, no matter what one thinks of the weight and merits of the charges against Mr. Trump, this is poppycock [or, as former Vice President Joe Biden might say: malarkey ;)]. By providing for the concept of impeachment in the Constitution, the Founders contemplated that duly-elected officials might behave sufficiently inappropriately to justify their removals from office. If Mr. Trump is removed following the Senate impeachment trial, his successor will not be the 2016 Democratic Party Presidential nominee, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; obviously, it will be Vice President Mike Pence. The 63 million people whose votes the Republicans claim would be forfeited if the Senate convicts Mr. Trump voted for Mr. Pence, too; presumably they believed that Mr. Pence would represent them well if, for whatever reason, Mr. Trump could no longer continue as President.

Putting aside these unfounded oratory flailings by the President and his cohort, to me their most insidious claim is their insinuation that those that support Mr. Trump’s removal from office “don’t like” the President’s supporters. In an October, 2019, piece entitled, “Impeaching Trump Voters,” conservative Wall Street Journal columnist William McGurn wrote, in part, the following:

“So why the rush [to proceed with impeachment]? Maybe … there’s an itch to punish Trump voters for what they did in 2016. In other words, it isn’t enough that Mr. Trump be defeated. His whole presidency must be delegitimized, along with the people who voted him in. … [I]t doesn’t seem to occur to Democrats that the president’s supporters stick with him in part because they appreciate that the Trump hatred is directed at them as well. [Emphasis Added].”

During the House impeachment proceedings, U.S. OH Rep. Jim Jordan said the following:

“It’s not just … [the Democrats] don’t like the President. … They don’t like us. They don’t like the 63 million people who voted for this President. All of us in flyover country. All of us common folk in Ohio, Wisconsin, Tennessee, and Texas — they don’t like us. … That’s what this is about. They don’t like the President. They don’t like the President’s supporters. And they don’t like us so much that they’re willing to weaponize the government. … Going after 63 million people and the guy we put in the White House. …”

Claims such as those leveled by Messrs. McGurn and Jordan are malignant calumny designed to exploit Trump supporters for Republican political advantage. Since there is no indication that Russia manipulated actual 2016 presidential vote totals and Special Counsel Robert Mueller found insufficient evidence to show that the 2016 Trump Campaign conspired with the Russian Government to elect Mr. Trump, I consider Mr. Trump to have validly won the presidency under our Constitution’s Electoral College framework. He – not unlike U.S. VT Sen. Bernie Sanders — provided a voice for millions of well-intended people who for decades have felt impugned and ignored by the comfortable elites of both parties. Mr. Jordan alluded to Trump supporters in my own state of Wisconsin; from our own travels, I would add to his list well-intended Trump supporters we have met in Utah, Missouri, and Alaska. One can have affection and affinity for well-intended Trump supporters and still believe that the President should be removed because he exploited the power of the presidency for his own personal advantage (as noted earlier in these pages, reading the Call Manuscript — as the President urged — was enough for me). Mr. Trump’s defenders are seeking to distract and incite his followers specifically because no substantive defense can be mounted regarding the President’s actions. Their behavior is execrable.

And we haven’t even gotten to the Lord or Mr. Rogers. That in Part II of this note.

On 2020

As we enter 2020, it is perhaps easy to be discouraged at the manner in which our national comity appears to be unraveling, the governmental systems that have sustained us are arguably misfiring, and the world around us is seemingly fragmenting. While the problems we face need to be addressed, they pale in comparison to those that our nation has overcome in darker times. I truly believe what Ronald Reagan proclaimed: that we remain the last best hope of man on earth. The coming year provides us with a chance to make adjustments – while recognizing that no changes are sustainable that fail to take into account the rightful values of any segment of our people. 2020 will inevitably be a year of turmoil for our nation, but also one of opportunity. On a personal level, today we are honored to attend the wedding of good friends starting life anew. There is no greater expression of hope in the future than a loving couple’s exchange of wedding vows.

Happy New Year.

On the December Democratic Debate

Prelude: In a little-noted Gospel passage, the Lord once remarked that doing one’s share in order to maintain marital harmony during the Holiday Season supersedes any urge one has to enter blog posts; I wisely followed His guidance  ;). Except for the italicized postscript, the following was primarily composed on the night of the debate.

Clearly, having only seven candidates on the stage made for a livelier, more interesting, more substantive exchange among the participants. I would suggest that three gained advantage; three lost ground; and one was present. In reverse order:

Businessman Tom Steyer was present. Mr. Steyer made a solid presentation, is likeable enough, and is clearly hankering to take on President Trump … but I didn’t see the springboard in his performance necessary to propel him to the nomination.

Two of the three losing ground: U.S. VT Sen. Bernie Sanders and U.S. MA Sen. Elizabeth Warren. They lost ground because … they were themselves (full disclosure: although I find his ideas too radical, I really enjoy Sen. Sanders; as any reader of these pages is aware, I don’t find Sen. Warren nearly as appealing). They clung to Medicare for All and predictably repeated their assertion that the nation needs Big Change; Ms. Warren specifically repeated her assertion that the party needs to draw a sharp contrast with Mr. Trump. While one admires their sincerity, the impression persists that the agenda that they seek to place before the American people is prohibitively expensive, has no chance of Congressional passage, and will be fatal campaign fodder for Republicans in a year in which Democrats are generally more interested in winning than in specific policy directions.

The unexpected loser of ground: South Bend, IN Mayor Pete Buttigieg. In an extended and testy exchange with Sen. Warren about finances and fundraising, both scored off the other if you listened to the substance, but Ms. Warren’s “Wine Cave Fundraiser” appellation for Mr. Buttigieg is the memory that lingers. U.S. MN Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s pointed reference to Mr. Buttigieg’s loss in his one Indiana statewide race and her implication that a South Bend mayoralty was insufficient background for the presidency also scored. The Mayor seemed a bit off-balance in his responses. This year’s Democratic Shiny New Toy seemed to take on a bit of tarnish.

Two clear gainers: Ms. Klobuchar and Businessman Andrew Yang. Ms. Klobuchar, despite a slow campaign start, has persevered and I would suggest that she may have scored well enough to stage an impressive showing in the Iowa caucuses, a must for her campaign’s viability. Even more, she unquestionably laid a very solid case for the party’s Vice Presidential nomination if she can’t secure the top spot. I would venture that Mr. Yang has no chance to win the Democratic presidential nomination, but he’s hung around long enough and done well enough [his adherents apparently refer to themselves as, “The Yang Gang :)], that from at least one perspective he’s beginning to look like an appealing choice for the Democratic Vice Presidential nomination.

The clear winner: former Vice President Joe Biden. In past debates, I have said that I thought Mr. Biden won by not losing; in this most recent debate, he arguably won outright (at worst, he tied for best performance with Ms. Klobuchar and Mr. Yang). He was disciplined and decisive in the majority of his responses; he seemed in command. He looked like the nominee. He sounded like the nominee. Most importantly, he looked and sounded like he was ready for Donald Trump. His allusion to the Republicans’ attacks on his son and himself was deft. In his closing, he sounded like he was wishing Americans Happy Holidays and thanking the PBS team on behalf of the Democratic Party, not just for himself. My mother used to say, “One Swallow doesn’t make a Summer,” and Mr. Biden had best be ready to render a similar performance in the mid-January debate; but this performance seems likely to have quieted some supporters’ doubts and solidified or enhanced his lead during the next month – a critical period in which any candidate will arguably need to make a strong run prior to the Iowa Caucuses.

In a CNN post-debate interview, Sen. Klobuchar indicated that in a meeting she had attended just prior to the debate, she had urged Senate Democratic Leadership to negotiate with Senate Republican Leadership for a thorough impeachment trial in the Senate that would include testimony from as-yet-unheard senior Trump Administration officials. Her comments made me reflect ;). Given my political junkie reading over the years, I am certain that if either John Kennedy or Bill Clinton was serving in the Senate today (Mr. Clinton obviously never served in the Senate), poised as Ms. Klobuchar is to launch an Iowa campaign blitz that would make or break his presidential campaign, he would urge Senate Democratic Leadership to forego a rigorous impeachment trial; each would readily justify skimping on a hallowed constitutional process by rationalizing that the country would be better off with him in the White House than by miring him in a lengthy proceeding seemingly destined to yield an inevitable result in which he would ultimately cast a meaningless vote. Ms. Klobuchar’s desire for the Senate to conduct a meaningful constitutional procedure without regard to the potential consequences for her candidacy underscores why she’d make a fine president … and why she perhaps won’t secure the nomination.

On they march.

Postscript: While the prevailing liberal punditry is apparently to the effect that Mayor Buttigieg got the better of his back-and-forth with Sen. Warren, I remain skeptical; if my assessment has validity, the ultimate beneficiary of the exchange ironically might not be Sen. Warren, but Sen. Klobuchar. There are a number of followers of these pages that know Iowa much better than I, but I don’t think they have many Wine Caves in the Hawkeye State, and the viability of both Ms. Klobuchar’s and Mr. Buttigieg’s campaigns seemingly depend in large part on their showing in the Iowa Caucuses.

Hope your Holidays have thus far been all that you wished for.

Hanukkah … and Happy Holidays

I would suggest that anyone with a center-left disposition read The Point of It All, an anthology of conservative Washington Post Columnist Charles Krauthammer’s works that he assembled prior to his death from cancer at age 68 in 2018. Until I read the collection, most of my exposure to Mr. Krauthammer was as a Fox News commentator, and in that venue he had seemed to me too doctrinaire in his criticism of liberal positions; in reading his compilation, I came to recognize how brilliant and eloquent he was.

The 2019 days of Hanukkah observance began yesterday. In December, 2004, Mr. Krauthammer, Jewish, raised in an Orthodox Jewish household, wrote a column entitled, “Just Leave Christmas Alone.” In that piece, he stated, in part, as follows:

“… I’ve got nothing against Hanukkah, although I am constantly amused – and gratified – by how American culture has gone out of its way to inflate the importance of Hanukkah, easily the least important of Judaism’s seven holidays, into a giant event replete with cards, presents and public commemorations as a creative way to give Jews their Christmas equivalent.

Some Americans get angry at parents who want to ban carols because they tremble that their kids might feel ‘different’ and ‘uncomfortable’ should they, God forbid, hear Christian music sung at their school. I feel pity. What kind of fragile religious identity have they bequeathed their children that it should be threatened by exposure to carols?

I’m struck by the fact that you almost never find Orthodox Jews complaining about a Christmas crèche in the public square. That is because their children, steeped in the richness of their own religious tradition, know who they are and are not threatened by Christians celebrating their religion in public.

To insist that the overwhelming majority of this country stifle its religious impulses in public so that minorities can feel ‘comfortable’ not only understandably enrages the majority but commits two sins. The first is profound ungenerosity toward a majority of fellow citizens who have shown such generosity of spirit toward minority religions.

The second is the sin of incomprehension – a failure to appreciate the uniqueness of the communal American religious experience …. [T]he United States does not merely allow minority religions to exist at its sufferance. It celebrates and welcomes and honors them.”

That said, in his last months, Mr. Krauthammer became sharply critical of President Trump, writing in July, 2017:

“[Mr. Trump’s comparisons between the activities of the United States and a Vladimir Putin-led Russia] was “[m]oral equivalence so shocking, emanating from the elected leader of the United States, [that it should] … not … be ignored ….

The demagoguery of 2016 did carry the day. … That the traditional left-right political divide of the last two centuries is increasingly being surpassed by the nationalist-globalist and authoritarian-democratic divide is disturbing and potentially ominous.”

Given what has transpired in the two and half years since he wrote the quoted passages regarding Mr. Trump, I suspect that Mr. Krauthammer would understand why I say: I agree that the politically correct should quit hyperventilating about public celebrations of Christmas. At the same time, the American “generosity of spirit toward minority religions” of which he wrote in 2004 seems to be both explicitly and impliedly under greater siege now than at any previous point in either his or my lifetime. Therefore, while he fittingly concluded his long-ago column about Hanukkah with the words, “Merry Christmas. To All.”, I — as a practicing (although manifestly flawed) Roman Catholic – today find myself most comfortable wishing my fellow citizens … Happy Holidays.

Which Party Will Be Conservative Today?

Today, a majority of the members of the House of Representatives is expected to pass at least one Article of Impeachment against President Trump related to a series of events that includes a call in which the President of the United States asked the leader of a dependent and vulnerable foreign ally to investigate another American, one of his electoral rivals. It is anticipated that the vast majority of the Representatives affiliated with the Democratic Party – the party of progressives, liberals, socialists, and other unreliables — will vote for the Articles. It is further anticipated that not one House member affiliated with the Republican Party – the party of avowed conservatives, proclaimed strict constructionists, and staunch defenders of the cultural mores that have made America great — will support the Articles.

The Englishman Edmund Burke is considered one of the founding fathers of modern conservative thought – a philosophy which embraces social order and the belief that reliance upon traditional institutions, community, and customs is the best way for a society to advance itself. In 1790, Mr. Burke wrote in Reflections on the Revolution in France:

“[T]he steady maxims of faith, justice, and fixed fundamental policy are perfectly intelligible and perfectly binding upon those who exercise any authority, under any name or under any title, in the state. …. [T]he House of Commons cannot renounce its share of authority. The engagement and pact of society, which generally goes by the name of the constitution, forbids such invasion and such surrender. The constituent parts of a state are obliged to hold their public faith with each other and with all those who derive any serious interest under their entanglements … Otherwise competence and power would soon be confounded and no law be left but the will of a prevailing force.”

Addressing his constituents in the city of Bristol, Mr. Burke once declared:

“[A representative’s] unbiased opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you, to any man, or to any set of men living. Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.”

No one can be so naïve as to believe that if Mr. Trump was a Democrat, the Democratic Representatives would be so steadfastly voting to impeach him. Even so, since the substance of the interactions between Mr. Trump, his cohort, and Ukrainian officials is undisputed, if the House vote unfolds today as anticipated, which party, according to Mr. Burke’s precepts, should be considered the more conservative?

Presidential Poker

“Our Crazy, Do Nothing … Speaker of the House, Nervous Nancy Pelosi … suggested … that I testify about the phony Impeachment Witch Hunt. She also said I could do it in writing. Even though I did nothing wrong, and don’t like giving credibility to this No Due Process Hoax, I like the idea & will, in order to get Congress focused again, strongly consider it!”

  • Tweet by President Donald J. Trump, November 18, 2019

It is universally expected that this week, the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives will approve Articles of Impeachment against President Trump and send them to the Republican-controlled Senate for an Impeachment trial, where it is equally universally expected that he will be acquitted. Where reports differ is whether the Republicans will elect to conduct a streamlined trial involving little new evidence or have an extended proceeding. There are reports that the White House would like a reality show extravaganza involving witnesses such as former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, to testify regarding their activities in Ukraine during the Obama Administration. As a counter, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has written a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, requesting that the Senate call former National Security Advisor John Bolton and Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney. [If I ever had a shred of sympathy for Mr. McConnell, it would be now. ;)]

Assume that, as we have been told and despite the Republicans’ loud protestations to the contrary, Joe Biden did nothing inappropriate in executing his role on U.S. Ukraine policy during the Obama Administration and that Hunter Biden did nothing illegal (although smarmy) in joining or serving on the board of directors of the Ukrainian energy company, Burisma.

If I was advising Mr. Biden today, I would suggest that he consider calling House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Mr. Schumer, talking to them alone – the phones in their ears, none of their staffers in the loop – and indicating that he would be willing to go to the podium as soon as the Articles of Impeachment pass the House and state: if the Republicans want him to testify at the President’s Senate impeachment trial, he is willing to come, without need of subpoena and waiving any right to claim his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination and other rights and privileges, to testify publicly about his Ukraine activities … provided that President Trump also publicly testifies at the Senate trial about all of his activities related to Ukraine [put a time frame around it, to protect current Ukraine-related discussions] on the same basis and with the same waivers. In the statement, Mr. Biden would ask to be given access to all government documents relating to his Ukraine activities to refresh his recollection, in the same way as the President would undoubtedly review documents to refresh his recollection. He would conclude his statement: the President said he would consider testifying in the impeachment proceedings … it’s time for him to man up.

If I was Ms. Pelosi or Mr. Schumer, the questions would be: Have the House impeachment proceedings created sufficient misgivings within the persuadable segment of the electorate that although the President is going to be acquitted in the Senate, they’ll prevail in the election – making Mr. Biden’s overture risky? Or are they concerned enough that the President will be able to spin his Senate acquittal into an “exoneration” such an overture by Mr. Biden would be a way to put Mr. Trump in a precarious, and perhaps no-win, position?

If the above assumptions about the Bidens are accurate, the advantages of the strategy for Mr. Biden (and in some ways, for the Democrats) are obvious: it elevates him to the presidential level against Mr. Trump, triggering a Democratic tribal instinct and essentially reducing his Democratic presidential nomination adversaries to a band of dwarfs; whether or not Mr. Biden testifies, it will raise doubts among even vehement Trump supporters as to whether he did anything wrong; it will leave all Americans with the impression that if Mr. Biden and/or his son are subpoenaed by the Republican-controlled Senate without a corresponding appearance by Mr. Trump and perhaps key Trump aides, the Republicans are unfair whitewashers; if Mr. Trump doesn’t testify – no matter what excuse he gives — he will look weak (and spawn endless Democratic ads declaring that he wasn’t man enough to face Mr. Biden); and if he does testify, he’ll most probably perjure himself in a manner that can be readily detected. An added bonus: with the possible exception of Trump Personal Lawyer Rudy Giuliani, any other high-ranking Trump Administration official called to testify – Messrs. Bolton and Mulvaney, or Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — will almost certainly testify truthfully, because like Amb. Gordon Sondland, the witness won’t want to risk going to jail for perjury.

For Mr. Biden, the disadvantages – even if the introductory assumptions about the Bidens are accurate — are equally obvious: one illusory, one real. The illusory first: can Mr. Biden handle the Senate Republicans’ grilling? Will he wobble too much? If he can’t, he’s no longer up to the presidency. The real disadvantage: The Republicans would undoubtedly call Hunter to testify; even if the Democrats are successful in getting the Republicans to produce a high-ranking Administration official in return, how would Hunter fare? Even if he hasn’t done anything illegal, he’s not a public performer; can he handle the grilling? Republicans will wish to delve into parts of his background which, like his Ukrainian experience, are somewhat unsavory; can he be sufficiently prepared, through grilling by the nastiest Democrats, before he actually testifies? Does the senior Biden want to put him through that? Is the presidency worth that to him? At the same time: How likely is it that Hunter will end up testifying at the Senate trial anyway? If it’s likely, wouldn’t it be better to grab the high ground?

Now is the time to decide; if the Republicans announce that they are going to conduct an extended process and call the Bidens as witnesses, Mr. Biden has lost the edge.

How do the parties like the hands they hold? Does either want to raise the ante?