Thursday, September 26, 2019


Many terrible pundits will write terrible columns about impeachment in the coming weeks and months, but in the contest for the absolute worst column on the subject, this Frank Bruni piece is already the one to beat.
Why a Trump Impeachment Should Terrify You

What’s just and what’s wise aren’t always the same.

President Trump deserves to be impeached. But the prospect terrifies me, and it should terrify you, too.

That’s not to say that it’s the wrong move. Arguably, it’s the only move, at least in terms of fidelity to the Constitution and to basic decency. From the moment that Trump stepped into the office of the presidency, he has degraded it — with words that a president has no business speaking (or tweeting); with ceaseless lies; with infantile and often unhinged behavior; with raging conflicts of interest; with managerial ineptitude; with a rapacious ego that’s never sated; and with foreign dealings that compromise America’s values, independence and interests. How can principled lawmakers not tell him, in the most emphatic manner available, that enough is enough?
I know what you're thinking: Well, the lede is awful, but he's right about Trump, isn't he? Read on, though, and you'll see why that counts for nothing.
... Any scenario is possible, including one in which impeachment redounds to Trump’s benefit and increases the chances of his re-election, because he paints himself a martyr, eludes conviction in the Senate, frames that as exoneration and watches his fans mobilize and turn out as never before.
I shouldn't single out Bruni, because a lot of people say this, but I would welcome a moratorium on the following talking point: Impeachment will help Trump because it will energize his base. Folks, everything energizes Trump's base. A random tweet from a Trump-skeptical pundit at three in the morning can lead the Trump base to paroxysms of rage. Please understand one basic truth: Trump's base is maximally energized all the time, and will be energized no matter what's going on. You can't lull them. You can only outvote them.
And a second Trump term wouldn’t just be the sadly suboptimal byproduct of a noble stand; it would be disastrous. Morally as well as practically, limiting this unfit, amoral, unsteady man’s time in the presidency takes precedence over any small cluster of sentences written centuries ago.
Constitution, schmonstitution.
But while an impeachment’s impact on November 2020 is unknowable, its effect on us as a nation is almost certain. A dangerously polarized and often viciously partisan country would grow more so, with people on opposing sides hunkering down deeper in their camps and clinging harder to their chosen narratives as the president — concerned only with himself — ratcheted up his insistence that truth itself was subjective and up for grabs.
And none of that would happen in the absence of impeachment in (checks notes) an election year when Donald Trump will be running against a Democrat. Right. Got it.
That’s not a reason to blink, but it’s a reality to brace for. At a juncture when we so desperately need to rediscover common ground, we’d be widening the fault lines. Bringing the country together afterward would call for more than a talented politician; it would demand a miracle worker. None of the Democratic presidential candidates qualify.
"None of the Democratic presidential candidates qualify" -- nice backhand slap there, Frank. I wonder who Bruni thinks could bring us together. My guess is John Kasich or Jim Mattis.
Impeachment should terrify you because it would mean a continued, relentless, overwhelming focus on Trump’s lawlessness, antics, fictions and inane tweets.
In other words, it would be like every day in America since the summer of 2015?
He would win in the short term — and all Americans would lose — because as long as most of the oxygen in Washington is consumed by the ghastly carnival of this barker, there’s too little left for the nation’s very real problems and for scrutiny of his substantive inadequacy in addressing them.
Yes, and we were thisclose to bipartisan agreement on all of America's problems until impeachment mucked it up!
From the House Republicans’ persecution of Hillary Clinton through the permanent hysteria of House Democrats under Trump, Washington has devolved ever further into a place where process muscles out progress, grandstanding eclipses governing and noise muffles any meaningful signal. To be engaged in politics is to be engaged in battle — and that shouldn’t and needn’t always be so.
Ahh, yes -- "the permanent hysteria of House Democrats under Trump." I know, right? You know what House Democrats say about Trump? They say: "From the moment that Trump stepped into the office of the presidency, he has degraded it — with words that a president has no business speaking (or tweeting); with ceaseless lies; with infantile and often unhinged behavior; with raging conflicts of interest; with managerial ineptitude; with a rapacious ego that’s never sated; and with foreign dealings that compromise America’s values, independence and interests." No, wait -- those are the words of Frank Bruni, a few paragraphs up.

Please explain this to me, Frank: If Trump is as awful as that, why is House Democrats' distaste for him "hysteria"?

Oh, never mind. Go on:
Where’s the infrastructure plan that we’re — oh — a quarter-century late in implementing? Where are the fixes to a health care system whose problems go far beyond the tens of millions of Americans still uninsured? What about education? Impeachment would shove all of those issues even further to the margins than they already are.
Where are all those things? I think some of them were passed by the House and are now in a shredder in Mitch McConnell's office. Why don't you ask him, Frank?
During the Democratic primary and then the general election, the Trump melodrama and the Trump spectacle would overshadow all else.
So ... just like four years ago?
If you’re horribly offended and utterly exhausted by Trump, you’re tempted to cheer impeachment as long-sought justice and prayed-for release and forget that it’s just the prelude to the main act, which is a trial in the Senate. That chamber is controlled by Republicans, who, based on current conditions, are as likely to convict Trump as they are to co-sponsor Elizabeth Warren’s wealth tax.
Raise your hand if you knew that.
So Trump’s supporters would wind up furious that he was put through what they regarded as an overwrought exercise with a foregone conclusion...
And when are Trump's supporters not furious?
... while the frustration of Trump’s detractors would be exponentially multiplied.
Unless impeachment provides the 60% of Americans who don't want Trump reelected with a vivid reminder of (a) his criminality and (b) Republicans' complicity, just before an election campaign. Anti-Trump voter outrage at the entire GOP wouldn't be frustrating to me.
... Meanwhile, Trump. How vulnerable will drawn-out impeachment proceedings make him feel? How impotent? How desperate? To flex his power, vent his fury or distract the audience, what would he do? He’s untethered by scruple. He’s capable of anything. Maybe it’s not just a culture war that he’d whip up. Maybe it’s the real thing.

Certainly he’d do all he could to persuade Americans of the nefariousness of Democrats, and absolutely his strategy would be to smear the people, the procedures and the institutions arrayed against him as utterly unworthy of trust. If holding on to power meant ruling over rubble, so be it. Trump is beholden only to Trump, and he’d simply declare the rubble gold dust.
Let me make a prediction: Sooner or later, someone -- quite possibly Frank Bruni -- will write a column arguing that Trump is an odious, appalling, loathsome, morally bankrupt person who is incontrovertibly unfit to be president -- yet America can't possibly endure what would happen if he were defeated, so we should all vote for him and hope he's reelected. That would be Bruni's argument here taken to its logical extent.

The worst -- Bruni's column is the worst, at least so far.

David Brooks, top that.

No comments: