A polarizing, but sadly unavoidable, inquiry
The nation may not yet be entirely caught in the grip of impeachment fever, but a shift in the poll numbers suggests that since last week, we have gained a temperature.
Such circumstances usually call for plenty of liquids and a period of bed rest, and perhaps it's in all of our interest to follow that regimen now, as the U.S. House of Representatives officially begins an inquiry into the possible impeachment of President Donald Trump.
Impeachment talk regarding Trump began even before he took the Oath of Office, and it's too bad that in the intervening months, this has become a national preoccupation, a certain pitch-by-pitch polarizing entertainment of sorts.
For too many people, and far too often, impeachment is seen not as a last-ditch mechanism to remove a criminally incompetent leader but as a handy tool to wield against an indomitably obstinate political opponent.
This has been our consistent impression of the impeachment undercurrent that has gurgled beneath the surface of some of Trump's most-ardent Democratic opposition. Many Trump critics seem insistent not on contending with the president through the force of argument and numbers but by simply shooing him out of the way.
As frustrated as we have been with many of the president's policies and episodes of unbecoming behavior, that perception has always made us uneasy, and we have generally felt, as we stated flatly in an editorial following Robert Mueller's testimony before Congress, that, "Right now, the only thing an impeachment attempt would do is further divide us all."
That was in July. Coincidentally, two days before we published that editorial, President Trump had a phone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in which rough transcripts show he urged an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden, the chief roadblock at that moment to Trump's re-election.
Now that it has learned of that conversation, is the nation developing a stomach for impeachment it did not have two months ago?
Is the nation willing to put the distractions, the talking heads and the talking points aside and listen dispassionately to the evidence, wherever it leads?
Speaking for ourselves, we have to admit we are feeling our temperature rise.
A president of the United States has admitted, indeed boasts of, pressuring the head of a foreign nation to take direct action against a political rival. Just writing that sentence fills us with a sense of dread.
But is it enough to consider invoking a process that aims to remove a duly elected president by legislative fiat rather than a vote of the electorate? We are not quite there yet. But neither are we closing the door.
So much of the debate has focused on whether there was or wasn't a quid-quo-pro in Trump's request for "a favor." An important issue to resolve, to be sure. But it should not distract us from what already is undisputed fact: The president reached out to a foreign power to ask that it investigate his top political rival.
Viewing that soberly, removed from the manipulative passions of politics, what patriot cannot be troubled?
For some, that by itself might be enough to consider. But, we need to know more. As a nation, we may regret the taste of the medicine, but our rising temperature requires it all the same.