|BILL PIERCE / GETTY IMAGES|
There has been a "debate" about what the fate of the Trump presidency should be for what seems like forever: Does Congress move to impeach the sick bastard or do we wait until the 2020 election?
The people arguing that "the system" needs to be allowed to work display a mind-exploding naiveté. Donald Trump and his Vichy Republican henchmen certainly have not allowed the system to work and waiting two more excruciating years while "the system" continues to not work and the foundations of our democracy are further undermined is unacceptable.
This crowd further argues that impeachment is a threat to the constitutional order, but they have it exactly backwards. Impeachment will protect the constitutional order, especially now that the boundless extent of Trump's high crimes and misdemeanors is well known.
These crimes make Richard Nixon seem as if he stepped out of A Fish Called Wanda, although the underlying grounds on which the 37th president was impeached by the House Judiciary Committee on July 24, 1974 are strikingly similar to the 45th president's: Making false and misleading statements. Withholding evidence from investigators. Encouraging witnesses to make false statements. And Interfering with the special prosecutor's work.
Trump's actions during his first two years in office greatly exceed Nixon's misdeeds -- an unrelenting challenge to the separation of powers, the rule of law and civil liberties enshrined in the Constitution, a demand for loyalty over duty, hush money payments, using the presidency as a profit center for family businesses and endlessly covering up -- and this is even without factoring in the megatonnage of the Russia scandal and the reality that the president of the United States has been and continues to be a Kremlin asset.
Some prominent members of the pro-impeachment crew, notably the new House Democratic leadership, are advocating a go-slow strategy. They argue that it is better to wait for public opinion to turn decisively against Trump and then use impeachment to hammer home that view. Besides which, Special Counsel Robert Mueller is doing his job, right?
This view is, in part, a consequence of a lesson learned during the Bill Clinton impeachment when House Republicans got out ahead of public opinion and managed to turn Clinton into a sympathetic figure. But this view is undercut by the reality that Clinton never should have been impeached in the first place. And another reality: By outsourcing its own responsibilities to Mueller, the leadership runs the risk that his final report, no matter how damning, might not be made public and will fall into a black hole of court challenges. They need to do their constitutionally-mandated job.
Then there is the view presented by some impeachment naifs that an impeachment proceeding would "distract" the president from the oh-so-serious business of governing.
But that is laughably irrelevant. Even if the government were not shut down, which happens to be Trump's greatest feat of obstruction and a consequence of him not even being able to get Republicans to pay for his damned border wall, he hasn't governed so much as taken a cudgel to the institutions of government in his whacks at a job he has never tried to understand.
I recently read The Library Book, Susan Orlean's engrossing account of the massive 1986 fire at the Los Angeles Public Library. In it, a fire department captain describes the moment when a conflagration roars out of control: "There is a fire in the room and then suddenly it's the room itself that's on fire."
That is where we are with Trump. The room is on fire. So let's get on with impeachment with the understanding that the process is political, not criminal, and will be long, messy and may not even have the desired outcome.
But let's get on with it.