Tuesday, September 24, 2019


I wrote a post called "Does Trump Want to Be Impeached?" and now I learn that Ross Douthat is asking the same question.
Does Donald Trump Want to Be Impeached?

Four reasons the president might welcome articles of impeachment.
Douthat begins by citing Meghan McCain's husband:
That Donald Trump actually wants to be impeached is an argument that Ben Domenech, the publisher of The Federalist, has been making for some time — that the president isn’t stumbling backward toward impeachment, but is actually eager for the fight.
Or it may be that Domenech is projecting his own eagerness on Trump:

On Domenech's last point, I don't think the increasing number of swing-district Democrats who are embracing impeachment are doing so because they're listen to lefty podcasts. They seem able to know when it's prudent to agree with progressives and when it isn't -- they're not reflexively prog, but unlike Pelosi and other left-centrist elders, they're not reflexively anti-prog, either. They feel they can make a strong argument for this to their voters, so they're going for it.

(I continue to believe that the bad poll numbers for impeachment aren't etched in stone -- it feels to me like the kind of opinion people express to pollsters because they need to say something, not because it's visceral for them. All Republicans and some Democrats think impeachment is a mistake, so that feels like the consensus opinion, which makes it the safe, middle-of-the-road opinion to express to pollsters. This can change if public figures change the way they talk about impeachment. It may be changing now.)

But back to Mr. Douthat. What's are his four reasons Trump might want impeachment?
First, if the Democrats impeach him they will be doing something unpopular instead of something popular. ... the current shape of public opinion is the boring, basic reason that Trump seems to want to be impeached more than Nancy Pelosi wants to impeach him: The Democratic agenda is more popular than the Republican agenda (whatever that is), the likely Democratic nominees are all more popular than Trump, and so anything that puts the Democrats on the wrong side of public opinion may look better, through Trump’s eyes, than the status quo.
Trump doesn't believe his agenda is unpopular. He doesn't believe the Democratic agenda is popular. He doesn't think he'd lose to any Democrat other than Biden, maybe. He thinks there are two kinds of people in America: (1) Trump supporters and (2) a motley assortment of Hollywood weirdos, soy boys, dark-skinned second-class citizens, and foreigners voting illegally, who somehow cast three million more votes for Hillary Clinton than for him in 2016. (I'm sure he thinks the largest of the groups is the undocumented contingent.) He's not thinking, "Hey, our agenda has no real answers for a shrinking middle class whose wages have been flat or falling for forty years and who are now sinking in a morass of debt, job uncertainty, and opioid addiction, while Democrats have pricey but clearly compelling ideas, so let's gin up a distraction." He's not smart enough for that.
Second, Trump is happy to pit his overt abuses of power against the soft corruption of his foes. ... Trump has always sold himself as the candidate of a more honest form of graft — presenting his open cynicism as preferable to carefully legal self-dealing, exquisitely laundered self-enrichment, the spirit of the spirit of “hey, it’s totally normal for the vice president’s son to get paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by the Ukrainians or the Chinese so long as every disclosure form gets filled out and his dad doesn’t talk to him about the business.”
I think, like every Republican candidate, and like every dyed-in-the-wool Republican voter, Trump genuinely believes that if he does it, it's not illegal or immoral, and if Democrats do exactly the same thing, or even commit a minor infraction -- making a slight bow to a Saudi leader, wearing a tan suit, playing golf -- it's a hanging offense. I don't think he's parsing this in an "honest graft/dishonest graft" way. If he and one of his sons did exactly what he says Joe and Hunter Biden did, it would be fine, because it's him.
Third, an impeachment battle would give Trump a last chance to solidify his hold on the souls and reputations of his possible Republican successors. ... He knows that he could well lose the next election, but there’s no reason a mere general-election defeat will prevent him from wielding power over the Republican Party, via Twitter and other means, for many years to come. And what better way to consolidate that power (or at least the feeling of that power) in the last year of his administration than seeing all his would-be successors, all the bright younger men of the Senate especially, come down and kiss the ring one last time?
I don't think Trump really believes he can lose in 2020 -- and if he does lose, he'll be on to the next thing, or the thing he would have been doing if he'd lost in 2020 2016 (sniping at Democrats on Fox while planning a rival network and continuing to try to build huge towers in countries run by corrupt dictators). In the moment, he'll want Marco Rubio kissing his ring, but not in a "one last time" sense, because he doesn't believe it's over. (In fact, I think if he loses in 2020, he'll immediately declare his 2024 candidacy.)
Which brings us to the last reason Trump might kind of like to be impeached: Because the circus is the part of politics that he fundamentally enjoys. ... I’m pretty sure that when he ranted on Twitter about the “Twelve Angry Democrats” and “WITCH HUNT” and “NO COLLUSION,” he was more engaged, more alive, more fully his full self than at any point during the legislative battles over tax reform or Obamacare repeal.
I think Douthat is absolutely right about this -- but I don't think he fully grasps the implications. As I said in my post, Trump has a danger addict's need to experience risk until he goes too far. Which means that if he survives this and is reelected, he'll do something even more impeachable. He'll keep testing the limits until he's brought down. He can't help it. He needs the high.

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