Europe is reacting to the news that the president of the United States may be impeached.
A note of caution: Whether Europeans or French commentators do or do not like Donald Trump is not the subject of this article. The subject is whether the Trump impeachment process is leading to a serious blow to America’s status as both the guide and the barometer for a world of stability and fairness.
America made the financial and ultimate human sacrifice in the two world wars, and, although there is an element of European and especially French resistance to American influence and dominance, only extremists deny that America saved Europe.
So, coming to the autumn of this last year of the decade, problems of division in America — threatening its democratic foundations — are attracting worldwide attention the way little else has in recent years.
Until now of course there were some European commentators who were amused by the personality of Donald Trump, admired his success with the economy, and interpreted his rise to power as a manifestation of the America’s obsession with financial success.
Others view him in a more negative fashion, as someone who represents that element in America that places wealth and the winner-takes-all mentality above all else and, in parallel, is hostile to multilateralism and support for Europe. An example: cheering on Boris Johnson and the Brits who want to leave the European Union.
But after all Donald Trump was considered an essentially American problem!
What has changed is that the Trump/anti-Trump factions are perceived as risking a breakdown of the American ideals of fairness, patriotism, decency, and perhaps above all respect for dissension. The pledge to Old Glory was not just of allegiance, but of a duty to see justice for all.
So, what is happening now is different.
The division that exists between Democrats and Republicans has caused alarm bells to ring.
Although Europeans are far enough away not to be subject to the constant Fox vs. NBC/CBS/CNN news confrontations, their admiration for America will take a serious blow if political fighting sabotages a time-honored process to find the truth.
The world that America helped build is waiting for the rule of law and justice to operate fairly in order to decide whether the president held up providing military aid to an ally unless it agreed to provide assistance in finding damaging evidence against Trump’s political adversary. The evidence that has been presented so far is supposed to stand up or fail depending on hearings conducted by the Congress, the constitutional authority that is set up to accuse and then judge.
The doubt that this process cannot proceed smoothly comes from Trump’s backhanded dismissal of the entire process, threats to witnesses who fail to respect subpoenas to appear, and recent news that Congressional hearings are being pushed and shoved by storming Congressmen.
Are Americans interested in where the facts lie?
Or do they take sides irrespective of the facts based simply on political affiliation, a phenomenon usually only seen in totalitarian countries?
As the evidence comes in against the accused, instead of his chances of acquittal looking less and less likely, the tables have turned and it is the accuser, the prosecution itself, that has become the accused.
In Europe this is a horrible déjà vu of the political violence of the 1930s with images of Congressmen storming a committee room.
Maybe which side is right depends on which side is quite simply stronger!?
Before passing judgment, it may be that commentators and the general public in Europe have not fully taken into account a persuasively presented defense.
The Republicans have been marvelously successful in claiming that the Democrats, Leftists, Internationalists, and Elitists have conspired to bring down the president.
The Dems stand in the box of the accused because their intention is to bring down the president they don’t like at all costs — and therefore each time evidence builds up of wrong doing, the malevolent intention overrides whatever facts are presented.
This defense has no merit in courts of law, but in the court of public opinion and politics is it legitimate?
What happens if the facts are true but the motivation is to bring down a president, whatever the grounds?
Does the bad intention win out over the wrongdoing?
And here’s the rub: How you come out on this question depends entirely on whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican!
Mark L. Cohen has his own legal practice, and was counsel at White & Case starting in 2001, after serving as international lawyer and senior legal consultant for the French aluminum producer Pechiney. Cohen was a senior consultant at a Ford Foundation Commission, an advisor to the PBS television program "The Advocates," and Assistant Attorney General in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. He teaches U.S. history at the business school in Lille l’EDHEC. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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