Several things are amiss with the impeachment machine that's starting to shake and smoke as progressives put their hands to the crank.
The first thing is the calendar date. Donald Trump has been president since Jan. 20. That makes his regime -- which does have the aura of a regime -- four months old. Roman emperors occasionally wore out that fast. Nero had three successors before things settled down for a while under Vespasian. Americans, by contrast, are more patient; they prefer waiting to see how things work out. Talk of leveraging Trump from power at this early hour looks a little previous, as my Southern forbears were given to saying.
It looks all the more so on account of the fragile assertions that constitute the case for impeachment. He fired the FBI director so as to stopper investigation of his "Russian ties"? Wait a bit. How do we know that, any more than we know what is meant by "Russian ties"? We're barely at the start of this inquiry, which no firing of an FBI director was ever going to deflect, legally speaking. As to the Russian angle, may one ask innocently what difference Russian "influence" could really make in an American election? And what payoff are the Russians seeing for it, if so? Have there been any signs of American concessions or moral rollovers that are likely to strengthen Vladimir Putin?
And did Trump give the Russians sensitive information in a meeting with the ambassador and foreign minister? Not according to his national security adviser. And would such a deed have been treasonous, according to the constitutional definition? We normally think of treason as something like opening the city gates at 2 a.m. to admit the howling barbarians -- or selling purloining military secrets, a la Ethel Rosenberg. Are we saying that, mere weeks into his presidency, Trump was selling his country down the river? That's what it sounds like the impeachment crowd is hinting at.
The unaccountable nature of our incumbent president -- one minute all you hear from him is angry tweets, the next minute he's charming the Saudis and the Israelis -- makes it easy to suspect him; easier still to wish you might wake up one day and find Mike Pence running the country.
That doesn't change the circumstances, though reporters, bloggers and high-powered Democrats sharpening their hatchets for impeachment; and memories of Watergate are starting to festoon political commentary.
The fabled establishment has completely written off a man it regards as "unworthy" of his high office. Says The New York Times' Ross Douthat, a supposed conservative: "He's at war with the institutions that surround him because he behaves consistently erratically, and perhaps criminally as well."
Oh, come on, Ross. "At war"? Really? Wars have two or more contending parties. A perception could take hold in certain quarters -- here may be the greater threat to national peace, such as it is -- that the establishment promoted impeachment as the first step toward resuming full, unchallenged power in 2020.
It would not make for a pretty picture: Americans slicing up each other over impeachment rather than taking the painful steps necessary to reform the tax code and do something about health care before Obamacare cracks and craters financially.
Political power games of the sort beloved in our nation's capital, where everything in the world is political and nothing else matters, have catastrophic potential. Played fiercely and mercilessly enough, such games can bring ruin not just to the losers but even, in due course, to the winners. They exhaust and deplete and demoralize.
The times are sour and ill-mannered enough, surely, without unnecessary strife over removal of a duly elected president of the United States: who, yes, inspires anger and disgust with disconcerting regularity but who was put where he is today to do things that scores of millions think essential to our purposes as a nation. Imagine their disappointment -- to put it mildly -- if the impeachment machine begins heaving its way down Pennsylvania Avenue.