Maurice Knobbe was a man unafraid of speaking up, no matter how unpopular the words were he shared.
He would write a letter to the editor each week, sometimes two, a primary reason why then-editor Bernard L. Stein started limiting how often letter-writers could appear in the pages of The Riverdale Press in the late 1990s.
When he died in October 2, 1998 at the age of 74, Stein memorialized him in this very space, revealing Knobbe’s three decades of contributions to the paper were rivaled only by The Press founders David and Celia Stein.
Born Morris Knobbe — he used “Maurice” as a pen name of sorts — Knobbe grew up on Morris Avenue, and really never left the borough, except to serve in World War II as part of the U.S. Army Air Corps. Later, he spent 23 years protecting the communities he loved as a member of the New York Police Department.
But even as the Bronx skewed further and further to the left politically, Knobbe firmly grasped his conservative roots. And they showed in his final letter to the editor, published on Oct. 8, 1998, soon after articles of impeachment were introduced against President Bill Clinton.
“Stop idolizing Clinton,” the headline roared over Knobbe’s letter, directed at “over-educated” who were typically “semi-affluent, sophisticated, liberal,” but were “credulous and idolatrous” with regard to the president.
“Clinton can do no wrong in their eyes, despite overwhelming evidence,” Knobbe wrote. “They are of the same mindset as the diehards who espouse that O.J. Simpson is innocent and that Tawana Brawley told the truth. In fact, they are so emotionally infatuated with him, in violation of their own common sense, they would willingly purchase an East River bridge from Bill Clinton.”
Although some aspects of Knobbe’s letter hasn’t aged well in the last 21 years — some might have to retreat to Google to find out who Brawley and her false rape allegations are — there are other facets that might ring true today, as we gear up for another polarizing impeachment inquiry.
Clinton certainly made a lot of mistakes in the name of honesty and decency, especially when it came to covering up his alleged affairs with a number of women, including White House intern Monica Lewinsky that should never be tolerated today, and certainly should not have been acceptable in 1998.
Yet, Republicans screamed and yelled about these issues, and felt they warranted removing an elected president from office. It didn’t matter to them he had just a year or so remaining in his final term. Defending the U.S. Constitution was that important, and no one — not even the President of the United States — was above approach.
Now it’s the Democrats’ turn, and it’s not about lies while in office, or covering up extra-marital affairs. Now it’s about the actions of Donald Trump in his capacity as President of the United States — and if such actions not only violated federal law, but his oath of office, and the promise he made to the American people on Jan. 20, 2017, he would “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
Yet there are many — including those some might call “over-educated” and “sophisticated” — who simply don’t believe such actions rise to the level of impeachment, or that they are wrong at all.
Trump himself has labeled the investigations against him almost since his first day in office as a “witch hunt,” especially in the years-long Robert Mueller special counsel investigation. Some super left-leaning Democrats in office have actually tried to introduce articles of impeachment against Trump from the very beginning as well.
Yet, nothing thrown at Trump seemed to stick. Not even obstruction of justice, which soon after the May 2017 firing of FBI director James Comey, appeared to be a slam dunk. It got to the point where it really did feel like Democrats were grasping at straws wherever they could, hoping something — anything — would allow them to finally get rid of this “accidental” president.
That’s where this White House whistleblower stepped in. He or she took all the appropriate steps, and even put his or her career on the line, because what was learned was so egregious, it must be shared.
Trump fielded what would normally be a routine call with his counterpart in Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskiy. Before the call, Trump had frozen military aid to Europe’s largest country not shared with any other continents. And that was big, because Ukraine needed that help to stave off a Russian neighbor intent on returning the country into its old “empire.”
In the middle of talking about that aid, Trump changed his focus to something much closer to home — his upcoming election, and the current Democratic frontrunner, Joe Biden. The former vice president’s son, Hunter Biden, was involved in a Ukranian company that, at times, was investigated by its home country. Yet, neither the company — nor the younger Biden — were ever implicated in any wrongdoing.
Trump, however, remembers Joe Biden calling for the ouster of Ukraine’s top law enforcement official at the same time, and told Zelenskiy this was a clear sign of Biden’s corruption — despite the fact many in the international community, including Biden, had called for the removal of Ukranian prosecutor Viktor Shokin over his softness on the corruption plaguing his country.
There appears to be nothing to investigate where it comes to the Bidens — but even if there were, the fact that Trump solicited a foreign power to influence an American election violates the very essence of what this country was built upon, not to mention federal law. Even if there was no quid pro quo, as Trump likes to point out, the president could indeed be guilty of violating these laws that date back to the very founding of this country.
A democracy works when its people decide who leads for them, not a foreign power. Ukraine knows this all too well, still smarting from the Russian annexation of Crimea.
If Maurice Knobbe were alive today, what position would he have taken? Probably the president’s. But, if Trump is indeed guilty of soliciting such foreign interference, he has no right to occupy the Oval Office.