by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
If the impeachment effort isn’t taking the nation by storm, the Democrats have an answer — blame it on Latin.
The use of a Latin term, quid pro quo, is now thought to be a damper on the impeachment cause because it sounds complex and technical.
Latin is one of the great legacies of the Roman Empire, influencing languages across Europe and giving us scientific, medical, and legal terms that heretofore had been thought perfectly fitting. That was before Democrats felt they needed a more emotive phrase to characterize President Donald Trump’s conduct in the Ukraine controversy, and especially one that denotes a more grave offense.
Democratic representative Jim Himes, from Connecticut, made the case on Meet the Press over the weekend: “When you’re trying to persuade the American people of something that is really pretty simple, which is that the president acted criminally and extorted, in the way a mob boss would extort somebody, a vulnerable foreign country, it’s probably best not to use Latin words to explain it.”
There’s a lot to unpack here. The first problem is that Ukraine is not nearly as simple, or as dramatic, as Democrats first hoped. It doesn’t have something memorable and inherently attention-grabbing at its heart, like the Watergate break-in or the Clinton–Lewinsky affair. It involved a pressure campaign on the Ukrainians that — once examined closely — was complicated, ambiguous, and highly contested within the administration. No matter what word is applied to it — even the plainest, non-Latinate English word — this isn’t going to change.