Despite Mark Galli’s recent claims in Christianity Today, the overwhelming majority of both evangelical Christians and Orthodox Jews reject the notion of impeaching the president and plan to vote for him in 2020. It is not hard to understand why.
Regarding impeachment, we begin with the same presumption of innocence given to every defendant. That is not merely a quirk of American jurisprudence, but a biblical principle summarized in the Sayings of the Fathers (1:6): “Judge every person favorably.” We are obligated to see the behavior of others, including the president, in a favorable light until we know otherwise.
Could the president’s call with his Ukrainian counterpart be seen as improper? Yes. But it could also have been a reasonable request for an investigation of criminal activity. At this rate, we will never know.
One cannot assert the president was wrong to want an investigation of Joe Biden’s involvement in Ukraine’s judiciary until we know both that Biden’s behavior was unquestionably above-board, and that the president knew or should have known that this was the case. Otherwise, we must presume (there’s that word again) that President Trump was genuinely concerned about the involvement of the previous vice president in Ukraine’s well-documented corruption. That does not become less appropriate merely because Biden is running for office again — if anything, just the opposite.
Then we must consider that President Volodymyr Zelensky, along with several other officials in both administrations, has insisted all along that there was no coercion, no bribery, and no “quid pro quo.” Galli’s assertion that President Trump “attempted to use his political power to coerce a foreign leader to harass and discredit one of the president’s political opponents” remains dubious, at best — not “unambiguous,” as he claims. We are therefore morally obligated to presume it is false.
The way to have defeated that presumption was through impartial examination of conduct on both sides. Democrats instead rushed to their partisan debacle, strongly suggesting that the truth did not lie with them from the outset.
President Andrew Johnson’s impeachment did not involve a special counsel — probably because they didn’t exist yet. This is the first time the House of Representatives deliberately bypassed an independent investigation prior to impeachment.
Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor looking into the Watergate scandal, served for over six months until Richard Nixon had him fired — which triggered the House of Representatives to begin impeachment three months later. Six months after that, Nixon’s resignation brought it all to an end. Do the math: 15 months after the prosecutor was appointed, the House had yet to hold a single vote.
Ken Starr was already serving as special prosecutor long before Linda Tripp contacted him with tapes of her conversations with Monica Lewinsky. Yet it took Starr nearly eight months to produce the report that cost Clinton his law license. The House launched formal impeachment proceedings a month later, and then took two months to adopt articles of impeachment. The process took ten months overall, shortened both because the special prosecutor was already hard at work and because of the obvious evidence of illegal activity.
Last week’s impeachment, by comparison, took less than two months from beginning to end. Mueller taught Democrats that a special counsel concerned for law and justice could not be relied upon to reach their predetermined and preferred conclusion. Instead, the House bypassed its own rules for involvement of the minority party and inclusion of exculpatory evidence, bandied about charges of bribery and “quid pro quos” and then, in apparent desperation, called it unlawful for a president to assert executive privilege. While Democrats wore dark clothing and were told to restrain themselves in the chamber, their actual mood was best exemplified by Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MN)’s video, chortling as she went to “impeach the motherf*****.” And no wonder: Impeachment was Democrats’ only notable accomplishment for the year.
As Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) so aptly put it, the standards used were so inadequate that they couldn’t secure a conviction for a parking ticket. Most Democratic senators will similarly express contempt for the presidency, the presumption of innocence, the democratic process, and the rule of law all with one shameful vote, but it is inappropriate in the extreme for Galli to advocate for such a travesty — and in the name of biblical values, no less.
What, then, of the next election? It is a sad fact that in a democracy, a presidential election is in some ways a glorified popularity contest. The president proved himself an expert at securing free coverage, which helped him win the nomination over more mainstream politicians. But a president’s personal failings, until they rise to the level of an impeachable offense, cannot override our primary concern when selecting a candidate for that office: The policies he or she will promote, and the impact those policies will have upon all Americans.
I recently commented that the Coalition for Jewish Values would like to demonstrate lack of partisanship by castigating the president for an objectionable policy decision, but he has stymied our efforts by not making one. On life, family, marriage, conscience — and, yes, Anti-Semitism and Israel — he has not merely satisfied, but has exceeded, any reasonable expectations. Just as relevant is that the Democrats who would replace him opposed each and every one of those policy choices. That is why the pro-values community remains likely to vote to re-elect the president in 2020, and why it should do so.