- Associated Press
Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan, Sept. 25

The inevitability of impeachment

America is about to formally enter the perilous territory of impeachment.

There are still no absolute guarantees, depending on inquiry findings, but the flow of events in recent days has taken us in this unfortunate direction.

The current controversy over a July 25 phone call President Donald Trump made to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky - an event which apparently alarmed someone within the intelligence community, who had access to the situation, enough to file a whistleblower complaint regarding the episode - has snowballed rapidly. The call made by Trump was allegedly an effort to get the Ukrainian government to investigate the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, one of the top Democratic contenders to take on Trump during the 2020 election. If this complaint bears out, it would constitute a U.S. president reaching out to a foreign government to assist him for his own political gain.

The allegation by the person filing the whistleblower complaint never made it to Congress. It was apparently blocked by someone in the intelligence community, which may violate the whistleblower law.

Meanwhile, media reports on Monday indicated that Trump had ordered the freezing of up to $400 million in military aid to Ukraine about one week before the president made the phone call, during which he allegedly asked Zelensky up to eight times for an investigation. Again, this could be an explosive allegation with damning consequences if the two actions (the withholding of aid and the call) are connected.

Trump has admitted to making the phone call, but says it was about “corruption.” (He accuses Biden’s son, Hunter, of corruption in his Ukrainian dealings, although the Politifact website reports there is no evidence yet to support this.) What that corruption might be has not been specified, but given Trump’s subsequent remarks about Biden (the president said Monday that if a Republican did what Biden had allegedly done, “they’d be getting the electric chair right now”), the connection appears clear.

By late Monday, there seemed little choice anymore. The tide of House Democrats supporting an impeachment inquiry was rising rapidly. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who has resisted pursuing impeachment because of its politically explosive nature ahead of the 2020 election cycle, reportedly began sounding out Democratic leaders about whether this instance - with the president publicly admitting he made the phone call in question - was a “tipping point,” making an impeachment inquiry unavoidable.

On Tuesday, she finally relented.

Those House Democrats who have resisted impeachment, mostly out of fear of electoral fallout in 2020, now may feel they have no choice in the matter. Much of that resistance has been due to the fact that it’s hard to see an impeachment bid getting past the Republican Senate, which serves as a firewall of sorts for the president. Thus, impeachment has been viewed as a means to a dead end. However, things could change as new facts become available, as they did during the Watergate scandal in 1973-74.

It seems at this juncture there’s no choice anymore but to allow the process to move forward. There are too many disturbing questions on the table, and too many constitutional and legal ramifications to ignore.

The Constitution provides a means for pursuing the truth. An inquiry does not automatically mean an impeachment charge will be filed, and impeachment does not automatically mean conviction. But it does open the door for evidence to be gathered and presented to lawmakers and to the public.

And that’s what’s needed at this extraordinary hour. It’s what the situation requires. It’s what the constitutional viability of this country demands.


Black Hills Pioneer, Sept. 21

Government by the people

Our Founding Fathers believed that citizens of this country have a responsibility to participate in government.

Whether it’s attending a meeting to gain information, discuss issues or lend support, writing letters to elected representatives, running for office, or voting, citizen involvement is a critical ingredient.

Democracy by its very definition means government by the people. A democracy’s livelihood rests on meaningful contacts between the people and their government.

If you choose not to participate, then you have little right to complain about actions of your local city council, school board, county commission, state legislature or even Congress.

The lack of public participation can lead to detrimental action.

Recently the Bureau of Reclamation held several public meetings to gather input on what a resource management plan for the Belle Fourche Reservoir should contain. The public meetings were promoted by the bureau in newsletters, emails, newspaper announcements, and more, but there was little public participation or attendance.

One proposed action on the draft management plan was to close the off-road vehicle area at the reservoir.

At a second meeting, only 29 people attended and only 20 written comments were received. Little input was given during the entire process about the ORV area.

Thus, the decision to close it was made. Once the bureau’s plan is finalized and is released to the public, citizens have a 30- to 45-day period to read the bureau’s plan and send additional written comments back directly to the bureau.

In this instance, those opposed to the closure of the ORV area took to social media and tried to gather support through an online petition. But unfortunately this does little to sway the government as it is not an officially recognized way to provide input.

Conversely, attending public meetings and providing direct comments is greatly beneficial to the decision-making process.

Earlier this month, more than 100 citizens attended a meeting at the rural Union Center school in Meade County to learn more about the possibility of the Meade School District splitting into two districts.

It was refreshing to see civil discourse at its finest. Attendees were asked to submit questions which were read and then answered by the appropriate person.

People came to the meeting wanting to learn more about what launching a new rural school district would entail and the left armed with probably more information that they could have imagined on which to base their opinion on the matter.

In a recent newsletter article to members of the Sturgis Area Chamber of Commerce, Chamber Executive Director Veronica Grosek talked about tuning into your local government.

She said that it is no surprise that at any given local government meeting, the attendance tends to be on the sparse side, especially attendance by youth.

“This is bad news for our communities! We are all frustrated with the state of national politics and the collective lack of understanding of current events, not to mention social, economic, and other issues. The first step to turning this problem around is to tune-in locally, attend city council meetings or check out what the county commission is all about.”

Being a good citizen demands that you pay attention to the issues at hand and the decisions being made. Do this and you’ll have a better community, better government, and better nation.

And how many times have we seen someone complain on Facebook about something the city council or county commission did, but neglected to call a member of that board or agency, or attend a meeting concerning a certain issue?

We are fortunate to live in a country where we are allowed to participate in our government, and that our opinion really does matter.

So be informed by subscribing to your local newspaper, get off the couch, put down your smartphone, and participate in this thing we call democracy.

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