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Impeach art

Most Americans, we imagine, are much like us — weary at the idea that we’re in for months of political combat over impeachment.

Nobody should relish the idea.

Like most, we’d rather our Congress and White House argue — if they are to do so — over how to provide less costly health care, deal with climate change and improve the economy. But, like all Americans, we also care about how our government is run — that our Constitution is honored. So we respect the decision by Democrats in the House of Representatives to launch an impeachment inquiry over President Trump’s attempt to get the president of Ukraine to investigate a political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, and his son.

We believe it was deeply wrong for the president to do this, especially after he’d abruptly suspended military aid just days before to Ukraine, a country that is desperately trying to counter Russia’s aggression.

Was it a quid pro quo? Is it impeachable? That is a question the House will have to answer after what we hope is a thorough, serious investigation that eventually gains the cooperation of the White House and resists political grandstanding. (Hey, we can dream, can’t we?)

For his part, the president has launched an all-out verbal war on this inquiry and the Democrats. His tirade in the company of the president of Finland last week was alarming and embarrassing. His invitation to China to investigate Biden was frightening.

That said, no American should take an impeachment process lightly, even though there is practically no danger that Trump will be removed from office by the Republican-controlled Senate.

Still, House Democrats must convince the American people this inquiry is about getting the facts and not weakening the president politically. And if they eventually draft articles of impeachment, they must offer a thorough, well-documented explanation of the president’s transgressions and the kind of context that so far has not been provided.

It demands a seriousness that does not leave much room for the kind of political posturing we’ve seen — such as Rep. Maxine Waters’ demand that Trump be thrown in "solitary confinement"; wrong, too, is the president’s description of Rep. Adam Schiff as a traitor, not to mention calling this process a "coup."

The Constitution sets out a process for impeachment, and removal, and while it is rare and divisive it clearly is not illegal.

We were heartened by the restraint offered in the statements by our representatives in the House, Dave Loebsack and Cheri Bustos, Democrats who both back the inquiry.

In Bustos’ case, she would not initially even use the word "impeachment," though we suspect that likely was a way to distance herself from the idea of impeachment. Bustos has urged her party for months to steer clear of this kind of talk.

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We also were heartened to see Sen. Chuck Grassley step forward to stick up for the whistleblower and the right to anonymity — this in the face of Trump's insistence that he be told who it is. (We should note, however, that Grassley, a Republican, also attacked Democrats for launching the inquiry.)

We were most disappointed in Sen. Joni Ernst’s reaction. The Iowa Republican who is up for re-election next year, said that even after she’d read the rough transcript of Trump's call with the president of Ukraine, she didn't have any concern.

"I don’t see anything there," she said.

We are pleased that most Americans see what Sen. Ernst could not, or would not.

Sixty-three percent of the people surveyed in a Monmouth University Poll released last week said that it was inappropriate for Trump to make such a request of Ukraine's president. Only 21 percent of those polled said it was fine with them.

That poll also found that a plurality of Americans (52% to 44%) do not believe the president should be impeached and removed from office, even as more Americans than not (49% to 43%) believe an impeachment inquiry is warranted.

What this tells us is that most Americans are troubled by the president’s behavior but aren't ready to toss him from office, even though they are willing to let Democrats seek more information.

As we said earlier, we don't think for a moment this process will end with the president losing office.

Voters will make that choice next year.

However, this inquiry may force each of the major political parties to define just what kind of conduct they believe should, or shouldn't, warrant the removal of a president from office.

In that respect, this inquiry could end up being very useful.

Unfortunately, getting to that point will take us along an ugly road we all will have to endure.

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