Bob Garner: Caution wise when prosecuting the president
Sunday, June 23, 2019
I know there will be some of you who will say, “Bob Garner ought to stick with exclaiming ‘Mmm-mmm’ over his food and stay the heck out of politics.”
Believe me, I get that, and generally I agree. One of the things I love about being a foodie is that food can often help bring us together over a shared table rather than dividing us even more than we’re already divided — and it’s a shame to argue about politics once we get to that table.
Having said that, I’m still going to venture an opinion on one of the great debates now roiling and tribalizing our electorate. I’ll try to keep my observation narrowly focused on just one aspect of that debate, and if I still become the subject of a withering “Bless Your Heart” reference from either side, well fair enough: I’ll try to accept it with a grin.
So here goes.
If Donald Trump does not win re-election (and that’s a big “if”), I do not believe he ought to be indicted after he leaves office on charges — especially “obstruction of justice” — that could possibly be perceived as part of an effort by a new president to prosecute and imprison his or her political opponents.
It isn’t that I don’t think such an indictment is warranted or might be successfully prosecuted, as so many former U.S. attorneys have suggested. It’s because I don’t believe it would be either the wisest course or in keeping with our overall values, prestige and reputation around the world.
Let me make it clear that I’m not referring either positively or negatively to impeachment but to criminal indictment after leaving office. I’m also not talking about failing to hold Trump accountable for any clear-cut criminal allegations — financial or tax malfeasance, for example — that might be brought to light by investigations already underway in the Southern District of New York or elsewhere.
Prosecution or imprisonment of a national leader by opposition politicians is a common feature of authoritarian regimes in most parts of the world — something that has, unfortunately, been carried out by dictators and democratically-elected leaders alike. Vladimir Putin in Russia, Kim Jong Un in North Korea, Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe and Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, along with dozens of others, are all on the list of those who have pursued imprisonment as a political tool.
So far, it hasn’t happened in the history of our country. I sincerely hope it does not happen in Donald Trump’s case, either. America does not need even the suggestion of such a stain on the way we’re perceived around the globe.
Any new president needs to be focused on vision and policy even more sharply than on Trump’s accountability for previous wrongdoing. Whether impeachment does or does not go forward before the next election, the main job of a new president in the administration of justice will be to appoint a good, wise and non-controversial Attorney General who can win confirmation in the Senate. (Obviously, holding the House and winning control of the Senate is also extremely important.)
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been quoted as making the ill-considered remark that she wants to see Donald Trump “in prison” rather than being impeached. However, she should certainly want to make sure that any such outcome is totally free of the influence of a new Democratic president.
After all, the only prison sophisticated and tough enough to hold Mr. Trump is his own narcissism. And he will not escape that no matter what anyone else does or does not do to hold him accountable.
Bob Garner is a UNC-TV restaurant reviewer, freelance food writer, author of four cookbooks, barbecue pit master and public speaker. Contact him at email@example.com.