First obligation is to stay informed

Mary Thomas Watts - Contributing columnist

Last month, the new fall television lineup got a last minute, must-see-TV addition: the Trump impeachment inquiry.

If the Watergate and Iran-Contra hearings, the Clinton impeachment, and the Bork, Thomas, and Kavanaugh confirmation hearings taught us anything, it’s that Hollywood can’t hold a candle to Capitol Hill’s live, high-stakes dramas, chock full of heroes and villains, their roles in America’s story memorialized in non-fiction bestsellers and our grandchildren’s history books.

Glitter-bombing the current proceedings is a president who came to the Oval Office straight from a reality TV show and who has had a devil of a time shifting gears to recognizably appropriate presidential behavior, both public and private.

The impeachment inquiry of Donald Trump is well underway, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi predicts the process will chug right along to the inevitable passage of actual articles of impeachment, in the Democratically controlled House. Conviction and removal from office would require a two-thirds vote in the Republican controlled Senate, admittedly still a hurdle, but whistle-blowers — and Trump himself — may have revelations they’ve yet to drop.

We, too, have important roles to play in this unfolding chapter of America’s history, and our first obligation is to stay informed through a variety of reliable news sources and to fact-check information we receive from others, particularly that which is disseminated via social media.

This is the time to read in-depth articles and books by investigative journalists and historians that lend context to events that are unfolding today. One such book is Timothy Snyder’s “The Road to Unfreedom,” which chronicles the rise of authoritarianism in Russia, its spread to Europe and the United States, and Ukraine’s place in the West’s political crisis.

Next up: Insist that your lawmakers in Washington tell the truth about the people, evidence, and events involved in the Ukraine story, call them out when they don’t, and thank them when they do.

In that spirit, here’s a shoutout to Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio), for publicly criticizing Donald Trump for asking Ukrainian President Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, saying, “It is not appropriate for a President to engage a foreign government in an investigation of a political opponent.”

Portman has cred on the matter, as he co-signed a 2016 letter critical of the same Ukrainian general prosecutor that Biden, the European Union, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund sought to remove, and Portman is emphatic now that those efforts had nothing to do with any impropriety on the Bidens’ part.

Finally, as attention-worthy as the impeachment of an American president is, like other benchmark events in our national life, this one will not ignite a civil war, fracture the republic, or noticeably disrupt, well, anything much.

We will go to work and school, pay our bills, volunteer, vote, renew our driver’s licenses, do our holiday shopping, attend movies and sports events, celebrate birthdays and anniversaries, attend our houses of worship, make doctor and dentist appointments, and do the thousands more ordinary things that give our lives structure, stability, joy, and meaning.

Likewise, when we reach the denouement, a verdict that allows Donald Trump to stay or forces him to go, it will happen alongside what is familiar, fixing itself as another “where-I-was-when-and-with-whom” historic moment in our own stories.

Mary Thomas Watts lives and writes in Wilmington.

Mary Thomas Watts

Contributing columnist