No matter how bleak things may look for President Donald Trump (and right now, with record-low unemployment and a base of supporters who would drink battery acid if he asked them to, things don’t look all that bleak), he will always have an ace up his sleeve.
With the next election now in full swing, it appears more than possible — likely, even — that the party is going to wage an internal war over whether to spend precious months on impeachment proceedings.
Proponents of impeachment come from three blocs: progressive pundits who have no idea what it takes to win office; occupants of safe seats in gerrymandered Democratic districts; and the Justin Amash wing of the Republican Party, population: one.
They make a very reasonable moral argument that people who transgress the law should be held accountable. However, Congress is not a seminar in moral philosophy, nor has Trump ever shown any interest in the subject.
The perfect outcome for Democrats would be the chastisement of Trump, the cleansing of the White House and the humiliation of complicit Republicans. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and her team are the pragmatists struggling to avoid a fatal collision.
Having heeded Robert Mueller’s advice to read the special counsel’s report (or to have key staff members read it), Pelosi and company understand all of its parts. In Volume I, investigators documented efforts by the Russian government, including computer hacking by the Russian military, intended to undermine the United States by exacerbating internal conflict. However, the investigation did not find that Trump’s campaign conspired with this effort.
In Volume II, the Mueller team traced a series of largely unsuccessful attempts by Trump to undermine and even obstruct the investigation. Because Justice Department policy holds that a sitting president cannot be charged with a federal crime, the team never decided whether these attempts added up to a crime.
Thus the question is whether to impeach Trump for trying (but mostly failing) to interfere with an investigation of a nonconspiracy. What’s the high crime here? Buffoonery?
Pelosi is making the political judgment that this is not a winner for her party. Say what you wish about Pelosi. She scrapped her way upward and for more than 15 years has reigned as the highest-ranking female elected official in U.S. history. She knows a thing or two about politics.
Meanwhile, who is goading the Democrats to impeach with every trick and prod in his arsenal of provocation? Trump. His outrageous tweets and flamboyant defiance of Congress are designed to turn the next six months into all-out war in which Democrats hound him into the U.S. Senate to stand trial — and he prevails.
Claiming exoneration, he can go to the voters as an unbowed victim of, to borrow from one formerly impeached president, the politics of personal destruction.
This is Trump’s best option. He’s heading into his reelection campaign minus the trade deal with China that he promised; minus the big infrastructure program that he promised; minus the Mideast peace that he promised; minus the big, beautiful wall that he promised; minus the money from Mexico that he promised; minus the good, clean government that he promised; minus the balanced budget that he promised; minus the revived coal industry that he promised.
To win, he needs a villain to blame for these unfulfilled promises and he is casting impeachment-mad Democrats for the role. Surely, by now, even his most righteous opponents can see that Trump is a master of this game.
In listening to Mueller’s sober, straightforward statement reviewing his actions and his report, the pro-impeachment crowd took heart from his allusion to constitutional means for holding the president accountable. But are they forgetting the most obvious one?
You know: winning a majority of the electoral votes.