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Can We Stop Feigning Shock When Politicians Change Their Opinions for Partisan Reasons?

(AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

One of my least favorite aspects of what passes for political discourse these days — especially on social media — is the game of “Gotcha!” with old statements by politicians that they dig up. We all complain about the malleability of politicians’ principles, it should never come as any surprise when any of them do a 180 on a position.

The “Gotcha!” game has gotten to be downright dizzying during the impeachment charade, with quotes from Bill Clinton’s impeachment in 1998 being dug up and compared with quotes from whatever the hell has been going on these past few months.

Examples abound, but I will just provide a few or we’ll be here until St. Patrick’s Day.

The first is from Senate Chief Fair Trial Purity Officer Charles Schumer, who is positively aghast — AGHAST I TELL YOU — that Mitch McConnell has publicly declared himself to be more of a team player than an impartial juror.

It turns out that Chuckster wasn’t as pure as the impartially driven snow back in the ’90s:

But in several appearances on television in 1998 and 1999 reviewed by CNN’s KFile, Schumer noted that senators had previously formed opinions heading into the trial and that the Senate was “not like a jury box.” Schumer was elected to the Senate in 1998 after saying during his campaign that a vote for him would be a vote to not impeach Clinton.

In what should come as a shock to absolutely no one, Cocaine Mitch was more of a purist back then, saying that he was shocked — SHOCKED I TELL YOU — by the partisanship of it all.

Sen. Joe Manchin’s assessment of these reversals wasn’t kind:

One man’s “hypocrisy” is another’s “political business as usual” in the murky moral world Beltway political principal. I’m not excusing it, just pointing out the obvious.

Partisanship reigns in Washington and, as I pointed out in a podcast episode last week, people who think otherwise are suckers. The nature of the Capitol Hill beast is to morph as partisan needs dictate. If both McConnell and Schumer had been noble, impartial impeachment purists in the late ’90s and now, the entire rancid political machine in D.C. would have ground to a halt.

We can wrestle with grand philosophical questions about expecting more from those we elect to represent us but that’s like hoping that a baby will potty train himself before he’s six months old.

It would be better to use this opportunity to make a strong case for why impeachment should most definitely not become the norm. It was supposed to be rare. Now we’re on the verge of it becoming a petty partisan cudgel to be used whenever one party doesn’t have control of both the Executive and Legislative branches.

Let us simply acknowledge that everything is already a partisan you-know-what show and try to avoid anything that exacerbates that.

This is also a teachable moment about letting people hang around in Congress too long. We shouldn’t be able to compare quotes from politicians who were around for impeachments that happened more than two decades apart. There are times when it seems like Dianne Feinstein was around for Andrew Johnson’s impeachment.

If we are going to have deeply partisan hacks representing us, let’s at least get some fresh meat partisanship in there to make things less boring.

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PJ Media Associate Editor Stephen Kruiser is the author ofDon’t Let the Hippies ShowerandStraight Outta Feelings: Political Zen in the Age of Outrage,” both of which address serious subjects in a humorous way. Monday through Friday he edits PJ Media’s “Morning Briefing.”