June 4, 2019
Apparently it was necessary for Robert Mueller to deliver an address informing us that the report of his investigation meant what it said. Following his recent public oral summary of the report, news media and various Democrats suddenly and dramatically announced their awareness of its message, including its reminder that Congress has the power to remove a president.
It is true that the report is bland, cautious and indirect. However, Mueller’s recital was no less so. The report is long, but its executive summaries made the same points that he made in his brief speech. Perhaps Democrats and the media learn only aurally, in the case of the latter an ironic trait as they attempt to persuade people to read newspapers or web pages.
Now that the reminder has been underscored, perhaps Nancy Pelosi’s somewhat puzzling reticence will be overcome. Democrats shouldn’t fall for the argument that Trump is goading them into impeaching him, calculating that he can play the martyr on his way to reelection. He is afraid of impeachment, as he has been afraid of disclosures about virtually any aspect of his life.
Many Democrats and pundits think that impeaching Trump is not worth the political risk. They may be worrying too much about 2020, and overstating the likelihood of Trump’s reelection. Trump lost in 2016 by 2.8 million votes; only the peculiarity of the electoral system saved him, and that by fewer than 78,000 votes scattered over three states. A focus on critical states, largely absent last time, could bring a different result. As to the popular vote, it’s difficult to imagine that anti-Trump voters last time will vote for him next time around, and easy to think that a few of his backers have had enough. Polls continue to show negative favorability and job performance numbers for Trump, and thus far straw polls show some of the Democratic candidates leading him for 2020. All of that could change, but if Democrats can’t defeat a candidate as unqualified as Donald Trump, they may as well disband.
Why does Trump want to be reelected? He has so little interest in governance and is so removed from any coherent philosophy that another run, which clearly is underway, seems to have nothing to do with politics, in the usual sense. True, he will advocate border control, but that is more opportunistic than principled. He will support lower taxes, but that is a matter of private interest. Winning again serves two needs: extending his immunity from prosecution, and caressing his ego.
That ego is fragile. He reacts dramatically to any perceived slight. At some level, Trump may know that he is a loser, and not only at the ballot box. Treating him with caution is the wrong approach; he should be challenged, constantly and systematically, the latter best achieved through an impeachment proceeding. The House Democrats should learn a lesson from the Mueller restatement: Trump’s unfitness has been public knowledge from the beginning, but it may take a formal, broadcast recital to drive the point home. Televised impeachment hearings could be the vehicle.
When the House Judiciary Committee considered impeachment of Richard Nixon, it was criticized for conducting a compilation rather than an investigation. A systematic, public, televised compilation of Trump’s abuse of his office is just what is needed now; many of the facts already are known; they need to be gathered and dramatically displayed. (A good preliminary summary appeared in Dana Milbank’s Post column on June 3, but effective only for those who read).
A cap spotted on a Trump doll in the anti-Trump protest in London read: “Make America Great Again. Impeach Me.” Congress, there’s yet another hint. (I liked “Build a wall to keep Trump out” too).