HOW STRANGE TO BE HERE again when the fate of the presidency and possibly the republic may hang on recordings of what the president said versus what he said he said.
Forty-five years ago President Richard Nixon tried to hide such recordings. But Congress got them… except for some “accidentally” erased sections. A year later, as the House was preparing to bring articles of impeachment, Mr. Nixon resigned.
The clock moves faster now. Over the course of a few days President Trump told us some of what he said in his “perfect” conversation with the president of Ukraine and then he produced a written transcript in which he talked about Ukraine investigating former Vice President Joe Biden, potentially the Democratic candidate for president next year.
But the Nixon-Watergate scandal unfolded in Washington, D.C., not here in the Hudson Valley. The partisan divisions it spawned are a dim memory today. That makes the strident political rhetoric leveled at lawmakers who have voiced support for the impeachment of Mr. Trump noteworthy, especially when it comes from mainstream Republican Party officials and is aimed at Representative Antonio Delgado.
The GOP’s criticism and worse directed at Rep. Delgado, a Democrat whose district includes all of Columbia County, dates from the last election. The tactics didn’t work in that contest and Mr. Delgado counters the negativity with news of his accomplishments, like his bipartisan Family Farming Relief Act signed into law by President Trump, his work on veterans’ issues and his outreach to every corner of the 19th Congressional District, where trees far outnumber constituents.
The energy and skill he’s shown so far has pleased some of Rep. Delgado’s base. Others were disappointed with his reluctance to support impeachment proceedings and said so at a town hall-style meeting in Chatham in July, before the Ukraine story broke. He said then that he wrestled with the impeachment decision every day, adding “I continue to be guided by my conscience.”
In a statement issued Tuesday on his congressional website, this is what his conscience has told him:
“The first responsibility of the President of the United States is to keep our country safe, but it has become clear that our president has placed his personal interests above the national security of our nation. The President has admitted to soliciting the Ukrainian president to investigate a political rival. In doing so, the President used the power of the presidency to pressure a foreign government to help him win an election. This, by itself, is an impeachable offense. And yet, even more troubling is the fact that prior to this conversation, the President instructed his administration to withhold military aid that Ukraine needed to fend off Russian aggression. Having taken an oath of office before God and my fellow citizens to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, I can only conclude that Congress move forward with articles of impeachment.”
This measured statement is based on information volunteered by President Trump.
So how did the Republican Party react? NYGOP Chairman Nick Langworthy said Rep. Delgado had joined “the Impeachment Mob” and called the decision “reckless.” National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Michael McAdams wrote in an email release, “In a district President Trump won by more than 6 points, Antonio Delgado’s decision to pursue impeachment will be a political death sentence.”
These are diversions, not rebuttals. What could be more reckless than supporting a U.S. president who pressures the leader of a foreign country to intervene in a U.S. presidential election? And it’s not a “mob” at work here. It’s the House of Representatives undertaking its duty under the Constitution of the United States.
Rough language is the fabric of politics. But sometimes it tells you more about the speaker than the target. In this case, the GOP doesn’t sound tough, it sounds scared.
Mr. McAdams is entitled to his predictions of how the 19th District will vote in future elections. But he should remember that the willingness to risk “a political death sentence” for the sake of the nation is precisely what we voters say we want from our leaders when so much is at stake.
The GOP can hurl all the insults it wants but they won’t change the fact that Congressman Delgado’s statement on impeachment demonstrates that he, at least, places the good of the nation first.