Democrats who vowed they would bring higher standards of conduct to Congress are being undermined by some of their own.

The most obvious example is Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a Michigan Democrat who used her first day on the job to call for President Donald Trump’s impeachment in an obscene rant.

While some Democrats on Capitol Hill suggest the House ought to withhold judgment while special counsel Robert Mueller continues his investigation, a significant faction of Democrats prefer to fuel political fires rather than pursue justice.

Mueller’s investigation into misconduct in the Trump campaign and Trump administration has so far led to more than 30 indictments and seven guilty pleas.

Trump’s supporters argue that none of the convictions were for “collusion” per se. That’s a weird defense of a U.S. president, but these are, to say the least, weird times.

By most indications, Mueller is still actively investigating — not wrapping things up. A federal court approved a six-month extension for the grand jury that has been hearing evidence for about 18 months.

In addition to Mueller, Trump also must worry about hearings House Democrats are likely to launch — not only into the relationship between the Trump campaign and Russia, but also into whether Trump has used his office to enrich himself, whether he complied with federal tax laws, and whether he violated campaign finance laws with hush money paid to alleged mistresses.

The specter of those investigations makes many Democrats giddy. But unless they proceed with respect, caution and fairness, the Democratic House will be guilty of the same shoddy partisanship they accused Republicans of.

The enthusiasm with which Tlaib and others push impeachment should worry Americans interested in the rule of law and fairness.

Some of us are old enough to remember the Iran-Contra hearings of the 1980s, and Democrats’ insistence that Col. Oliver North be called to testify.

At the time, special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh was investigating the sale of weapons to Iran, the proceeds of which were then used to secretly and illegally fund rebels in Nicaragua. North, a military officer assigned to the National Security Council, was a key figure in the illegal operation.

Walsh asked Democrats to let him finish his criminal investigation before they granted immunity to suspects in the case. But Democrats — eager in their attacks on the Ronald Reagan administration — insisted on calling North to testify and insisted on granting him full immunity.

Walsh did prosecute North following his appearance before Congress.

Federal juries convicted North and others of felonies.

However, an appeals court ruled that Walsh had to prove that nothing from North’s immunized testimony before Congress had tainted his criminal trial. Unable to meet that standard, Walsh dropped the case. North’s felonies were overturned, and North declared he had been “totally exonerated.”

House Democrats eager to embarrass Trump risk tainting not only potential criminal prosecutions but also the impeachment process if circumstances warrant its initiation.

The tone set so far suggests the public should view the Democratic-controlled House much as it did the Republican-controlled House. That is, partisan to the point of corruption.

After screeching for two years that Republicans were using House hearings to undermine the FBI, thwart Mueller’s investigation and divert attention by obsessing over Hillary Clinton’s emails, Democrats seem poised to commit the same sorts of sins.

Not all Democrats — nor all Republicans — should be viewed as putting party above country. But too many in both camps give tacit approval to bad behavior. Their silence in response to lies, bizarre accusations, crass insults and unethical conduct is rightly seen by the public as tolerance.

No doubt, speaking up requires a modest amount of courage. Trump and factions on the extreme right and left attack all who disagree with them. Cable TV and social media then amplify the size of the attacks and their importance.

Some days, our public discourse seems to be an endless stream of anger, retaliation and political maneuvers. Many Republicans and Democrats defend the rancor by claiming the other party is just as bad.

Sadly, both sides are right.

Sadder still: Neither side seems to understand that such a defense damns them as well as their enemies.

 

A native of Garden City, Julie Doll is a former journalist who has worked at newspapers in California, Indiana and New York, as well as across Kansas.