Even if former National Security Adviser John Bolton testifies during President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial and the testimony is really damning, the president will almost certainly be acquitted by the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate. But veteran conservative George F. Will — a Never Trump journalist who expressed his disdain for Trumpism by leaving the GOP — argued in his January 29 column for the Washington Post that a Trump acquittal will not mean that his impeachment was a waste of time.
“When the Senate acquits the president,” the 78-year-old Will acknowledges, “he will launch a vindication tour proclaiming that his prosecution was persecution that validated his coveted victim status: crybaby conservatism’s leader has been tormented by unhinged elites. The entire impeachment episode might boost his reelection chances, but only slightly, because voters who are undecided about him are thin on the ground.”
Will quickly adds, however, that after Trump is acquitted on two articles of impeachment — one for abuse of power, the other for obstruction of Congress — his impeachment trial will have served a useful purpose.
“There is more utility than futility in the impeachment trial,” Will asserts. “Because of it, this year’s electorate will have pertinent information. And future presidents will have a salutary wariness.”
It remains to be seen whether or not Trump will win a second term in November. Will has made it abundantly clear that he would love to see Trump voted out of office, although he would much prefer that Democrats nominate a centrist presidential candidate like Vice President Joe Biden or Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota than a staunch liberal/progressive such as Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders — who has been surging in recent polls on the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary.
But whatever the outcome of the 2020 presidential election, Will believes that Trump’s impeachment trial makes voters more knowledgeable.
“The impeachment process has produced granular details about what the president did regarding Ukraine, and about his manner of doing things, and about the grifters he attracts just as magnets attract iron filings,” Will asserts. “All this is grist for the electorate’s mill today, 33 weeks before the general election’s voting begins in Minnesota (on) September 18.”
Trump’s impeachment trial, Will writes, will not only affect the presidential race, but also, U.S. Senate races.
“The 20 Republican senators seeking reelection this November — incumbents from Kansas, Tennessee and Wyoming are retiring — will face voters after explaining why they voted as they did concerning trial witnesses, and for or against acquittal,” Will notes. “Intelligent, public-spirited senators can reasonably disagree about the necessity — or, given the ocean of information that is public and undisputed, the redundancy — of witnesses.”
Impeachments, Will emphasizes, can send out an important message: presidents do not have unlimited power in the United States.
“Because the presidency should be tamed and contracted to constitutional dimensions, this impeachment can be, on balance, constructive,” Will observes. “This is so even if acquittal has the predictable effect of further emboldening this president.”