One of the most ridiculous arguments made by Republicans during the House Intelligence Committee hearing on Monday is that the real danger to our country is the actual investigation into whether or not the Trump campaign colluded with Russia. In other words, investigating those possible ties is more dangerous than finding out whether or not a sitting president worked with an adversary to influence our elections.
Beyond the fact that this is an absurd argument to make, it also happens to be drowning in irony for anyone who has been paying attention over the last 25 years. You might recall that this is the same party that pursued investigations of Bill Clinton almost continually for his eight years in office. To do so they had to make the case that we faced an impeachable moment if our sitting president lied under oath about having sex. Clearly they didn’t think that an investigation into whether or not that happened was dangerous.
But that was simply the crescendo moment of investigations. Republicans also didn’t think it was dangerous to investigate whether or not the Clinton’s improperly fired White House staff or if they somehow benefited from a failed land deal in Arkansas or any other of the myriad of things they investigated in the 1990’s.
You might say, “Well, that was a long time ago. Things have changed.” But obviously the Republicans didn’t think it was dangerous to investigate whether a president (or a subsequent candidate for the presidency) nefariously failed to use the appropriate words to describe an attack on our facility in Benghazi. Even now, Republicans seem intent on finding a way to make Obama the culprit in Trump’s lies about being wiretapped.
This kind of hypocrisy is part of what is damaging to our politics. First of all, if investigations into potential illegal activity on the part of presidents are too dangerous to conduct, our founders wouldn’t have bothered to include the standards and procedures for impeachment. They were smart enough to know that failure to do so would provide an open door for malfeasance of all kinds. A key component of democracy is accountability.
Secondly, ever since Watergate, the Republicans have fed our insatiable need for conflict with a steady diet of investigations in an attempt to suggest that “both sides do it” when it comes to malfeasance. So while we have the specter of investigations into whether Republican presidents lied us into war, approved the use of torture or colluded with the Russians to influence an election, Democrats have been investigated for whether they lied about sex, benefited from a failed land deal or didn’t appropriately describe an attack. See any equivalence?
In a way I agree with Republicans that investigations can be dangerous. But the record will show that they are the ones who have politicized the process – especially when it comes to the Clintons. Now that we have a Republican president, they want to claim, “investigations for thee, but not for me.”