Opinion » Viewpoint

Eyes on the Prize: An Impeachment Primer for Democrats



Eyes on the Prize is the title of a 1988 book I wrote about the civil rights movement.

The title, taken from a folk song, became an anthem for activists who constantly struggled to stay focused on their goal of racial equality as they were called troublemakers, jailed, and even killed. Now the call of history requires the same fierce focus as congressional Democrats begin the impeachment of President Trump.

In every case, the president's strategy is to get Democrats to take their eyes off the prize — with distraction, distortion, and delay in producing evidence and witnesses. He is betting that Democrats will get tired of the fight and lose focus about exactly what he did to deserve impeachment.

Juan Williams
  • Juan Williams

It is not just Democrats he is trying to derail through distraction. He wants the public to call off the Democrats. If the public gets confused and can't keep track of his corruption, he expects polls to tell Democrats that most Americans are dismissing the whole thing as just more political fighting.

So, here is a primer for Democrats who want to keep their eyes on the prize. We begin with one fact: The President of the United States withheld military aid to Ukraine while asking the country's new president to open a corruption investigation into Joe Biden's son. Trump put the nation's military security concerns beneath his personal political goal of damaging Biden, an opponent who consistently beats him in 2020 presidential polls.

Last week, in a brazen effort to make his corruption look normal, the president openly called for another nation — China — to also launch a corruption probe into Biden.

These facts are not in dispute. The president released a summary memo of his phone call with the Ukrainian president that confirms the facts. There are also memos and messages among U.S. diplomats that confirm the facts. But to get everyone to look the other way, Trump is putting on a dazzling cable news show full of shouted insults and pained claims that he is a victim of Democrats who want to undo the 2016 election. He complains Democrats are conducting a coup. He says they are guilty of treason. He warns of civil war.

He has also begun using profanity on Twitter and at his rallies. He distracts by giving Representative Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, the nickname "Shifty Schiff." His friends in the right-wing echo chamber are daring Speaker Nancy Pelosi to hold a formal vote on starting impeachment — even though it is not required by the Constitution. They want to drag Pelosi into a time-consuming exercise that does not advance actual impeachment. It will give Trump more time to cover up and stonewall. By the way, Pelosi has the votes if she felt such a vote would make a difference to actually impeaching Trump. It does not.

This is just one more distraction from the fact, as affirmed last week by Ellen Weintraub, chairwoman of the Federal Election Commission, who issued a statement that it is illegal to ask a foreign government for help in an American political campaign.

Fox News' Andrew Napolitano put it plainly last week: "Is violating campaign finance law by involving a foreign government in an American presidential campaign an impeachable offense? Yes, it is. ... The expressed intention of those who wrote the Constitution and those who wrote the campaign finance laws 200 years later — and the lesson of the post-2016 election and Mueller-investigated angst in America — was to keep foreign governments out of the American political system."

An open-and-shut case, right?

More and more polls show growing support for the House impeaching Trump. That's why the effort to distract goes on. You can watch it live every time Rudy Giuliani goes on television and delivers a rambling, bizarre conspiracy theory. Democrats also have to be careful not to distract themselves by responding to calls from their supporters to load up the articles of impeachment with every grievance against Trump for the last four years — contact with Russians, obstruction of the Mueller probe, foreign leaders staying at Trump hotels to gain his favor — as legitimate and important as that might be.

We must all keep our eyes on the prize if the country is to survive Trump.

Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.

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