The Wall Street Journal actually argued it's not fair to impeach Trump for being too incompetent

The Wall Street Journal actually argued it's not fair to impeach Trump for being too incompetent
President Donald J. Trump delivers remarks at the 9th Annual Shale Insight Conference Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019, at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh. (Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour)

Despite the explosion of damning evidence in the Ukraine scandal that continues to be exposed, the Wall Street Journal editorial board  — long a bastion of support for President Donald Trump and nearly anything the GOP does — has refused to admit that anything the investigation has revealed constitutes impeachable conduct.


But in a truly bizarre editorial on Wednesday, the board made a brash argument against impeachment that Trump himself likely wouldn't be pleased with. It discussed the fact that Ambassador Bill Taylor's recent testimony confirmed that the Trump administration was, in fact, withholding military aid to Ukraine as part of quid pro quo to induce the country to investigate the president's political foes. It continued:

Intriguingly, Mr. Taylor says in his statement that many people in the Administration opposed the Giuliani effort, including some in senior positions at the White House. This matters because it may turn out that while Mr. Trump wanted a quid-pro-quo policy ultimatum toward Ukraine, he was too inept to execute it. Impeachment for incompetence would disqualify most of the government, and most Presidents at some point or another in office.

In the usual fashion for this particular editorial board, it threw out these head-spinning claims without any further explanation or analysis. And, as is also in the usual fashion for Wall Street Journal editorials, the claims fall apart on close inspection.

The core truth in the passage is that it does, in fact, seem Trump was largely too incompetent to carry out his scheme to extort Ukraine and get away with it. Fair enough.

But the editorial board also suggested that Democrats are considering "Impeachment for incompetence" — with a typically snide remark about the general ineptness of government officials — which is itself totally wrong. If anything, Democrats are impeaching Trump despite the fact that he was too incompetent to carry out the scheme effectively.

And if a president really is too incompetent to perform their job, there's no reason that itself couldn't be an impeachable offense — though perhaps the 25th Amendment would be a more appropriate remedy.

The argument the editorial seems to be ineffectively groping toward could be the idea that because Trump's attempt to abuse his power was unsuccessful, he shouldn't be impeached for it. But if this is the claim, it, too, is certainly wrong. An impeachable offense doesn't have to be successful, just as attempting to commit many other types of crimes makes a person as culpable as actually committing them would. This is exactly as it should be. Failing to impeach the president for a bungled impeachable scheme would just give him the opportunity to try again.

The rest of the editorial doesn't provide any better arguments. Adopting the line currently favored by Republicans, the editorial board criticized House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff for holding interviews in the impeachment inquiry behind closed doors. It asked: "If the evidence against Mr. Trump is so damning, then why not make it all public now so the American people can judge for themselves?"

But despite leading the piece with a similar question, it never actually gave any thought to or responses for the actual answers to the question, which Schiff has given. He has explained that the preliminary stages of the investigation are best kept concealed to carry out a methodical assessment of the facts and to prevent witnesses from being able to align their stories and thus, potentially conceal the truth. And, eventually, the Democrats do plan on holding open hearings.

The completely dismal standard of argumentation found in the piece is fairly representative for the quality of argument currently being made in the president's favor. And the explanation for this is pretty simple: He committed the impeachable acts he's been accused of; the evidence supports these claims; the allegations against him focus on quintessentially impeachable acts. Trump's defenders who are unwilling to admit this don't really have much credible to say.

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