To Impeach or Not to Impeach?

Democrats have the power to impeach Donald Trump.

After all, impeachment simply requires a majority vote of the House of Representatives, and Democrats hold 235 seats to just 199 for Republicans.

Of course, impeaching the president is only the first step in removing him from office. It's merely an indictment, which then forces a trial in the Senate. Only a two-thirds supermajority vote (67 of 100 senators) can oust the president from the White House. Just two US presidents (Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998) have been impeached. Neither was convicted by the Senate.

Many Democrats, including two of the party's presidential candidates, argue the Mueller Report and other sources of information offer ample evidence that President Trump has committed "high crimes and misdemeanors," the standard for removal from office under Article Two of the US Constitution. But the impeachment question has provoked intense debate within the Democratic Party.

Here are the strongest arguments on both sides of the Democratic Party's debate.


Don't impeach:

Voters don't support it. A poll conducted last weekend shows that just 34 percent of voters believe Congress should begin impeachment proceedings against President Trump, while 48 percent say it should not.

Voters want policies that improve their lives, not more political infighting. Those who might vote against President Trump in 2020 want to hear about health care plans and other urgent concerns. They want to know if Democrats stand for anything other than opposition to Trump.

Don't waste time on a fight you can't win. You can impeach Trump, but the Senate won't convict him. That would take 67 votes, and there are just 47 Democratic and independent senators. Don't waste time on a fight you can't win.

Look at the historical record. The 1998 impeachment of Bill Clinton actually improved his poll numbers. Voters in 2018 didn't give Democrats a House majority to make Trump more popular.

What happens if you try to impeach him and fail? If you get no votes from House Republicans and if 18 Democrats representing districts where Trump is popular decide to vote no, Democrats will lose and look ridiculous.

Impeach:

Set politics aside for a moment. The US Constitution charges Congress with the responsibility to provide oversight of the executive branch. This is fundamental to the American system of checks and balances. If lawmakers believe the president has committed high crimes and misdemeanors, they must impeach him.

Back to politics. When Congress opened hearings on Watergate in the spring of 1973, just 19 percent of Americans favored impeachment. After hearing the evidence against Nixon gathered over many months, that number climbed to 57 percent by August 1974.

Look again at the historical record. Yes, impeachment made Bill Clinton more popular, but it didn't hurt the Republicans' election performance. The GOP still won the 2000 presidential election and held its congressional majorities in both houses through 2006.

The 2020 election will be decided by Democrats, not "swing voters." In the five presidential elections decided by less than 5 points since 1976, the candidate who won independents still lost the national popular vote every single time. The Democrats must inspire as many reliable Democratic voters as they can. This is the portion of the population most eager to see Trump impeached.

The bottom line: This debate is just getting started. House committees will continue their investigations of the president. So will federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York. More facts will emerge, and new cases will be made. No final decision on impeachment will be made for months.

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This Saturday, July 20, will mark the 50-year anniversary of the day a human being first stepped onto another world. A moment born out of Cold War political pressures, it's easy to forget a half century later how much bitter controversy the project provoked at home and the intensity of the worldwide fanfare that followed its success.

The moon mission's primary purpose was to defeat the Soviet Union. By the time John Kennedy became president in 1961, the Soviet Union had advanced far ahead of the United States in the race for achievement in space. In October 1957, the Soviets launched Sputnik, the world's first satellite. A month later, a dog named Laika became the first living creature to travel beyond Earth's atmosphere. In April 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin orbited the Earth, the first human to do so.

In early May, Alan Shepard became the first American in space, spurring Kennedy to announce a far more ambitious plan. On May 25, Kennedy famously pledged that by the end of the decade Americans would go to the moon and return safely to the Earth.

Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963, but new President Lyndon Johnson quickly signaled his intention to see the promise kept. The Soviets held their space lead through 1965, by landing an unmanned craft on the Moon.

The moon mission stoked controversy in the United States. A review of polls reveals that only in 1969 did a majority of Americans support the project. Many people argued that the billions spent on a moonshot should go toward the war in Vietnam or to fight poverty in America's inner cities. "No hot water, no toilets, no lights. But Whitey's on the moon," sang musician and activist Gil Scott Heron. It didn't help when a fire during the Apollo 1 mission killed three astronauts and destroyed their space module.

But when Neil Armstrong became the first person to step onto the moon on July 20, 1969, the event took on a life of its own. It was a decade framed by two images of respected TV anchorman Walter Cronkite—shaken to the core on air by the 1963 murder of President Kennedy and then speechless with awe as Americans bounded across the surface of the moon.

A decade that included confrontation with the Soviets in Cuba, the assassinations of John Kennedy, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, and Robert Kennedy, a failing war in Vietnam, race riots in American cities, and violent chaos at the 1968 Democratic Party convention ended with an accomplishment a quarter million miles away, that was watched live by 94 percent of Americans who owned a TV.

Americans weren't the only ones watching. About 650 million people around the world watched the moon landing live on TV, making the event the first truly global televised event. Nine weeks later, astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins began a world tour.

Concerns that planting an American flag on the moon's surface would seem an act of obnoxious nationalism faded as the three men were greeted by overflow crowds in 27 cities in 24 countries over 39 days. An estimated one million people greeted them in Dhaka (then Pakistan) and some 1.5 million turned out in Mumbai (then Bombay).

Fifty years later, moon missions are still a mark of national prestige. Russia, China, India, the EU, Japan, and Israel have all sent probes to orbit the Moon or landed vehicles on its surface. But none of them matches that first "giant leap for mankind."

Next up: Mars? For thoughts on the next space race, click here.

Bonus fact: An iPhone has more than 100,000 times the processing power of the computer that landed Apollo 11 on the moon.