How to Watch the Impeachment: The People’s Role


And so it starts,  the third presidential impeachment of my lifetime. That might be the case for several of you readers as well. I was in high school during the Watergate impeachment inquiry. I was a reporter working the newsroom during the Clinton impeachment. And now, well, I am an activist.

Only two presidents have ever been formally impeached by Congress. Those presidents were Andrew Johnson of Greene County, Tennessee – (My dad is buried in Johnson’s National Cemetery) – and Bill Clinton.

Only two other presidents have faced formal impeachment inquiries in the House of Representatives: Richard Nixon and Donald J. Trump.

Congress has never removed a sitting U.S. president. It was likely that they were going to vote to remove Nixon, but he stepped down beforehand to save the country.  Trump will never do that.

Congress should have removed Clinton but didn’t have the moral fortitude to do what’s right. And that lack of doing what was right then lowered the bar so much for what it means to have a moral center, what it means to live by the Rule of Law, for what it means to vote in the interest of the country and not one’s own self-interest.

Nancy Pelosi correctly stated that with Trump all roads lead back to Russia.

She should have also added that with Trump all roads lead back to the Clintons.

After all, Trump witnessed first-hand all the wrongdoings, ethically and morally, that Clinton denied doing. Trump had a front row seat to study exactly how to hoodwink the public and earn their undying loyalty despite the many transgressions of a sitting president.

Rule of Law be damned.

Rule of Party be elevated.

Bill Clinton and Donald Trump are two sides of the same coin.

Evil doesn’t come roaring in like a lion. It seeps in like smoke under the door. Before you know it, you are engulfed in evil’s flames.

The likelihood that Trump is going to be removed from office is slim to none.

Even Andrew Johnson was saved from removal by one vote in the Senate after being impeached in the House by 126-47 votes.

Impeached or not, it should be clear to the citizens in this good country that we are eroding as a country, as a society, as a collective unit of individuals. We were able to cope for a couple hundreds of years without the sort of scandalous wrongdoings, the outright defying of Rule of Law that has come about in my short lifetime.

To find oneself in utter darkness one only need to take one step at a time into the root cellar.

The same goes for the Rule of Law. It erodes one step, one president, one corrupt Legislator, one ignorant voter, or non-voter, at a time.

And as elephants parade holding each elephant’s tail,
but if one wanders the circus won’t find the park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.
– William Stafford/A Ritual to Read to Each Other
It is the obligation, the duty of every citizen to be informed, like it or not. Being a government “By the people, For the people” demands that “The People” be educated and engaged.
There are elected officials who say that they will not watch the hearings, will not pay attention to the testimony of public servants, of decorated active-duty and retired military, of state department employees who have spent their entire careers serving this country.
Imagine getting tests back from a doctor and being told that you have a cancerous tumor that needs removal, and your reply is, “I’m not listening to you, Doc. What a bunch of garbage.”
The person who responds in such a fashion will likely die an ugly death. So, too, will a country. Any elected official who fails to go into the Impeachment Inquiry unwilling to listen, to be informed, that person needs to be removed from office. They are refusing to do the jobs they swore an oath to do.
The rest of us, however, we have lives. We have children to feed, dogs to walk, elderly loved ones to look after, sick neighbors to attend, church meetings, city council meetings, faculty meetings, bank meetings to attend. We have houses to buy, to sell. We have groceries to buy and dinners to prepare. Lessons to plan and lessons to finish.
It will be the best we can do to catch an hour of what is happening each day. How should we stay informed? Twitter? Facebook? (Did you know Saudis are major investors in high tech and own 1/5th of Twitter? Do you think they have a vested interest in the outcome?)
How to watch the impeachment inquiry amid your daily living:
– Do not rely on others to tell you what to think. No matter if it is the right or the left laying out the “What happened today” scenario. Writers and trial lawyers understand perspective is everything.  You cannot have clear perspective when it is filtered through the lens of another.
– Commit an hour of your day to watching the proceedings either live or on YouTube at the end of the day. Not the YouTube filtered version but the unfiltered version. Listen to the back and forth. Pay attention to the testimony of the witnesses and not the bickering or accusations of the legislators. Take notes on the witnesses testimony. It is what they have to say that matters most.
– Avoid the glaring headlines. Many people cannot tell any more what is actual news and what is opinion, much less what is designed for sheer click-bait alone. Read the transcripts of the unfiltered testimony of the witnesses whenever possible. Avoid reading opinion pieces designed to persuade you to one viewpoint or another.  Use your own critical thinking skills. Don’t rely on others who may or may not possess any critical thinking skills.
– Spend less time on Twitter, reacting or overreacting to every statement, every outrage. Outrage is a game plan for those whose tool is rhetoric. It is a well-established campaign strategy that to move the masses (that you and me) one aims to corral and harness the outrage of the masses. If I can create an enemy and make you hate that enemy, make you outraged over that enemy’s behavior, I can then make you act in ways that you would not typically act. Better yet, if I can get you to fear that person, fear a whole group of people, I can get you to go to war with them, literally take up arms against them. Outrage and fearmongering have reached new heights in our society. We must make ever attempt to avoid them. Find our centers. Perhaps listen to the testimony of the witnesses while we are out for a walk or on the treadmill, so that we can at least breath with some regularity, and channel our emotions into a healthy activity as we weigh any wrongdoings.
– Sticking our heads in the sand will only lead to deeper misunderstandings in our country.  We cannot afford to do this, not for our sakes, that of our children or our grandchildren.
– Avoid panel discussions and commentators volley. Such commentary rarely gives any true insight. Reading or listening to the testimony of the witnesses will be time better spent. Consider it like studying for a final. Do you want to sit around with a bunch of peers arguing over what the question means, or should you actually study the correct answer to the question so that when it’s asked of you, you know the answer. You won’t need to cheat off someone else’s paper, who just might be wrong anyway.
– Pray for our nation, for our leaders, for those bearing witness. Understand that these who have stepped forward have done so at great risk to their employment, their careers, their reputation, the welfare of their families, and their own health, mental and physical. Be respectful of every witness. Unless you have taken such a step yourself, you have never had to wrestle with the demons these witnesses have wrestled with. It takes courage to speak truth to power, especially when that power can ruin you and your family for decades to come. This is how dictators rise to power, through threats and intimidation and outright butchery.
– Do one nice thing for somebody who doesn’t expect it every day of the proceedings. Write a note to somebody. Tell a funny story to somebody. Share a favorite song. Pass along a favorite poem or Scripture. Call your legislator and thank them, or encourage them to be better.
– Visit the grave of a soldier and thank them for their service and tell them that you will do everything within your power to preserve the freedoms they fought for.  Then do what you say you will.
– When talking about the impeachment use the language of the common man: Bribery. Fraud. Blackmail. Threatened. Intimidated. Coerced.  Manipulated. Enticed. The language of lawyers is reserved primarily for the rich people who use money to weasel out of being held accountable for their wrongs. We have two justices systems in the US – one for the rich, another for the poor. The only reason this exists is because We the People have not demanded fair and equal treatment under the law. It’s long past time that We the People demand accountability from the corrupt rich among us.
– Talk to at least one person a day about the impeachment. A stranger at the coffee shop. A neighbor. A girlfriend. The grocers. Your own children. Your pastor. Your teachers. Fellow coaches. Listen. Be respectful. If they aren’t paying attention, encourage them to do so. If they are, but you don’t agree with them, just listen. Be a sounding board. Most of us don’t know what we truly think because we are too busy being outraged. Listening helps others move beyond outrage to real critical thinking.
– Take care of yourself. Your voice matters. So does your vote.
Karen Spears Zacharias is a Gold Star daughter and author of the memoir AFTER THE FLAG HAS BEEN FOLDED (William Morrow).

Karen Spears Zacharias

Author/Journalist/Educator. Gold Star Daughter.


AF Roger

about 3 years ago

Thank you for the well reasoned plea above. I will add something I wrote in a commentary piece for Veterans Day. Military service clarified something for me. There is a categorical difference between security and freedom. Our armed forces may keep us safe and secure, but citizens keep us free--ONLY citizens, and only when we citizens do our jobs, just as you have described. Remember one more thing. One day, the impeachment of Donald Trump will be over. (I predict that it will end badly with yet one more safeguard of democracy shattered beyond use and repair.) The root causes of how we got to this point will remain, and they will remain more virulent than before, UNLESS we the people do something about it. I will repeat a plea from a previous comment. I don't know of a better and more instructive book to read at this point in time than How Democracies Die by Daniel Ziblatt and Steven Levitsky. It's not a tell-all tabloid or a zero-sums blame game. The military cannot save our democracy any more than could the murder of our opponents. Only we the people can save it and only by responding thru better thinking, better speech, better and wiser decisions--but only if we care and seek the truth and the common good in all we do.


Karen Spears Zacharias

about 3 years ago

Thank you, Roger, for your thoughts and for this recommended read. You can't have a government By the People, For the People if the people refuse to do their jobs, refuse to hold Legislators and leaders accountable. If we don't want to do our job then we will no longer have a Republic run on Democratic principles. We will have a ruling party period.


Linda Williamson

about 3 years ago

Karen, thank you for the thoughtful, reasonable suggestions of how we should approach the days ahead during the impeachment proceedings. I do so agree about those who argue that they cannot listen maybe even thinking it does not concern them. I fully believe that is one reason why "thatman" still has the approval rating that he does. Some just evidently don't care what he does. My theory is that those supporters fall into one of three categories - 1. Racists (even if they don't admit it to themselves) 2. Greedy souls who covet their stock portfolio more than their country and/or 3. Uninformed (or uneducated or ignorant and proud of it). I have little tolerance for any of that. And I have friends - good friends - and/or family members who fall into all three of those categories. I have told myself to not talk Trumpisms/impeachment with those friends, as even though they are IMHO misguided at best, many of them are dear to me and I don't want to drive them away. Yet I do make it clear how vehemently I feel as I feel, how dear my country is to me and how I feel he is slowly - or now maybe not so slowly - eroding the principles on which our beloved nation was founded. I simply cannot listen to the rhetoric they mimic from Fox News. It makes me nauseous.


Karen Spears Zacharias

about 3 years ago

Linda: I have the utmost respect for those of you on the frontlines of this battle. I admit to being a bit of a coward. I have avoided going back to the Southeast simply because I cannot abide the support for this man. It feels so much like a familiar betrayal - not unlike what I experienced as a child during the Vietnam era. I think your assessment is astute, but I would add one more to the list - the Evangelical one issue voter whose only concern is abortion. They don't care about anything other than that one issue and only because they let others do their thinking for them. Sigh. Praying for truth to be present among us.


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