By David DeAngelo
Pittsburgh Current Contributing Writer
For the longest time, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial board was more-or-less reliably left-of-center and the editorial board of its in-town rival, Richard Mellon Scaife’s Tribune-Review, was more-or-less reliably right-wing.
The Trib editorial board routinely went full tilt right. They derided supporters of climate science as “chicken little climate cluckers.” And let’s not forget that the Trib, two decades ago, employed Christopher Ruddy (he of “The Arkansas Project,”) to report breathless tales of Clintonian malfeasance, most of which were more-or-less hokum. A Vince Foster suicide, anyone? How about a Ron Brown assassination by gunshot taking place in a plane crashing into a Croatian mountainside, instead?
Meanwhile, the Post-Gazette presumably was looking to deflect any accusation of being a “left wing rag,” employed Jack Kelly, a former Reagan-era appointee, as a conservative columnist. He was followed very briefly by the utterly transphobic Jennifer Graham (as evidenced by her scathing Caitlyn Jenner 2015 column).
Oh, how times have changed.
The Trib has devolved into an online-only news source, Kelly retired for health concerns, and Graham left the ’Burgh within a year of her arrival.
So, what has happened to the P-G editorial pages since then?
Lotsa stuff. For example, in the run up to the 2016 election, while hundreds of other newspapers across the country were endorsing Hillary Clinton (and only about 20 were endorsing Donald Trump), the P-G editorial board published a “voters guide” that did neither. It did, however, trigger Tim McNulty, Mayor Peduto’s Director of Communication, to tweet that it was in fact a “pseudo-Trump endorsement.”
Then there was the editorial published on Martin Luther King Day that declared the act of calling someone a racist was “the new McCarthyism.”
Then this past weekend, the P-G editorial board offered up a word regarding any future Trump impeachment. That word, unsurprising to anyone watching the paper’s recent rightward drift, was “No.”
“Not worth it,” they said because it’s elections that decide who’s president (and who isn’t). We accept the results and that’s what makes the peaceful transfer of power possible, they said.
Then there’s this, from the editorial:
“You can argue about the Electoral College, and you can argue about “stolen elections” in 1960 and 2000. But if elections are no longer how we settle our political differences our basic political way of life is in jeopardy.”
“Impeachment is a dubious, ill-defined constitutional tool to begin with. It should not be used to criminalize political differences or human frailties.”
Note the framing. By writing, “If elections are no longer how we settle our political differences…” the implication is that impeachment will now be a way to settle such differences. Indeed, the board is looking to redefine the Trump scandals that could trigger impeachment, from obstruction of justice regarding Russian interference in the 2016 elections to the many violations of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, and finally and most recently to Trump’s attempts to coerce Ukraine into investigating Joe Biden, as mere political differences.
An appropriate level of business taxation is a political difference, as are debates over the appropriate levels of government funding for the environment or the military. These are political differences.
Whether it’s right for a sitting President of the United States to withhold military aid (paid for by the US taxpayer and agreed to by Congress) from a foreign government in order to get that government to dig up dirt on a political rival is not a “political difference.”
Our friends on the P-G editorial board, on the other hand, counter with this:
Impeachment — possible removal of office by nonelectoral means —– has always been the inevitable result of the Trump derangement.
Ah, Trump derangement — the ad hominem attack designed to deflect any/all anti-Trump sentiment without bothering to engage in the argument at all.
So let’s ignore the ad hominem and instead look a bit deeper at the editorial.
Later in the editorial, the board gives two reasons against impeachment: the voters are against it and the votes in the Senate just aren’t there for it.
Well on that first point, I guess it depends on which poll you chose to share with your reading public. For example, this weekend CBS released a poll that showed 55% of the American public approved of the newly opened impeachment inquiry (55% is a majority, by the way).
And on the second point, if it turns out that the impeachment process plays out and a trial is held in the Senate and Senate Republicans vote no on removing Trump from office, then what we’ll be left with is a neat list of Senators who gave Trump a pass. Everything bad Trump does after that, is on their shoulders.
The board ends their editorial with this:
“No to impeachment. Trust the process; trust the people.”
What the P-G’s board doesn’t seem to understand that impeachment is part of the process. It’s a correction when all else has gone bad. And they have gone bad, haven’t they?
I’ll end with something then Representative Lindsey Graham said during the Clinton impeachment:
You don’t even have to commit a crime to lose your job in this Constitutional Republic. If this body [Congress] determines that your conduct as a public official is clearly out of bounds in your role . . . because impeachment is not about punishment. Impeachment is about cleansing the office. Impeachment is about restoring honor and integrity to the office.”
And Donald Trump has dishonored the office in oh so many ways.