Point Austin: It's Accountability Time
Lloyd Doggett on the need for swift action on impeachment
Earlier this week, the Orange Emperor proclaimed his own "great and unmatched wisdom." If Gramps began talking like that, we'd hide his car keys. Instead, we're watching a malevolent and unhinged autocrat rant incoherently at reporters, and wondering if there will be a republic to preserve by next November. In that context, impeachment has become the most moderate response to Donald Trump's ongoing malfeasance.
U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, began advocating impeachment in the spring, before a majority of his House colleagues joined him, and after his arguments for "inherent contempt" procedures fell on deaf ears ("The Time to Act Is Now," June 21). "I don't believe that timidity and weakness is a way to address Donald Trump," he said at the time. In a renewed conversation with the Chronicle this week, Doggett reiterated that resolve, adding that the Ukraine scandal – Trump's documented attempt to extort domestic political slander from a foreign country – has provided a priority focus for the impeachment process. "We have ample evidence right now," said Doggett, "with our star witness, Donald Trump."
The dam has broken. Not only have the Democratic leadership and the House majority embraced impeachment, but also public sentiment is moving in the same direction. Given the litany of Trump outrages, Doggett said he's somewhat concerned that the Ukraine focus might be too narrow – but he's persuaded that it's the most efficient way to address the president's wrongdoing without additional delay. "We have Trump as the witness, and let's do that [Ukraine] plus obstruction. So that's where I would be leaning today." He added that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's previous reluctance to take this step has become "an asset, because it indicates that she was certainly not in a stampede to impeach Trump."
Pelosi has been cautious on this subject because she's trying to hold together a Democratic caucus with a wide range of policy opinions and who represent politically disparate districts. For Doggett and his colleagues in the House Progressive Caucus, that pragmatism carries its own risks. "I think it's really important going forward," he said, "to not feel that we have to embrace policies that are only acceptable in the most marginal district," referring to those where Democratic reps face the toughest re-election odds, including many of those that turned blue in 2018 to return the speaker's gavel to Pelosi. "On issues like health care, and like the agenda that we passed with the House this year – the Equality Act and Equal Pay Act, the DREAMers, immigration reform – we can't back down just because it isn't a winning issue in the most marginal districts."
Doggett says he continues to hope that beyond impeachment, a Democratic administration would pursue justice. "I don't want the same thing to happen here that happened after Cheney and Bush, at the beginning of the Obama administration, where it was 'Let's let bygones be bygones.' ... We can't have that happen again."
The Damage Done
Whatever happens to Trump and the 2020 election, how much damage has already been done? "In a campaign, maybe you speak so ill of the opponent that it never turns out to be quite that bad," Doggett said. "In this case, it's much, much worse. ... It's really far reaching, beginning with career professionals at places like the Environmental Protection Agency, the State Department, but even in places with a mixed record of serving the public interests, like the Agriculture Department or NOAA [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration]. I'm concerned about having the expertise within the federal government and the experience to carry out and get the job done."
Doggett cited the administration's aggressive deregulation, the rejection of climate science, the complete abandonment of tax fairness, the appointment of dozens of right-wing ideologues as federal judges. Beyond these domestic issues, in the immediate wake of Trump's decision to abandon the Kurds in Syria, Doggett said, "Our standing in the world has been harmed immensely. And I think there are some countries in Europe and elsewhere who will conclude, 'Maybe we don't need the United States as much as we thought we did.' ... The idea of rebuilding support for multilateral action in the world is really important."
In the short term, Doggett says, "Now's the time to hold all those individuals who have enabled [Trump] accountable. And I'm hopeful they will, and we will end up with a progressive Democrat in the White House, backed by a progressive Democratic Congress. And then we need to look for answers to the many problems in the country – answers that are realistic, but are progressive."
Read the full transcript of Michael King and Mike Clark-Madison’s conversation with Rep. Lloyd Doggett.