Wednesday, October 09, 2019


I almost feel sorry for Republicans.* (*No, I don't really.)
As President Donald Trump navigates an impeachment process that is upending his presidency, Republicans in the trenches are offering blunt advice: Shut up about impeachment.

The fear emanating from Capitol Hill and other corners of the GOP is that Trump’s proclivity for going on the attack is harming his long-term political prospects....

“He should issue an ever-increasing stream of policy initiatives that have nothing to do with impeachment,” said Dick Morris, the longtime GOP political consultant who informally advised President Bill Clinton when he too was facing impeachment. “You just have to make sausage every day and put it up on a nail,” he added. “The public will look for other stuff to follow. And that will be what Trump is putting out there.”

Inside the White House, there has been an effort to get Trump to play the role that Clinton did to great effect two decades ago: a president appearing unburdened by the impeachment drama unfolding around him as he focuses on the other tasks of governance.
Trump has made fitful attempts to do some presidenting, but he keeps getting distracted.
Over the past few weeks, Trump has made speeches touting border security, prescription drug prices, and Medicare Advantage. He has pursued massive alterations to U.S. foreign policy and pushed forward on bilateral trade deals.

But through it all, his attention has drifted back to impeachment....
Border security? That's more red meat for the same folks who love Trump's mad-dog approach to impeachment. Prescription drug prices -- you mean the initiative that keeps getting watered down by the White House when it isn't being shot down by the courts? Medicare Advantage -- isn't that part of a "reform" effort that, if put into practice, would eviscerate Medicare as we know it?

I don't think the increase in support for impeachment right now is entirely the result of outrage at the specific charges currently being leveled at Trump. I think Americans have been sick of Trump for a while now -- sick of his style as much as they are of his policies, if not more so. Trump fighting impeachment is Trump in attack mode, and that's precisely the Trump the country can't tolerate anymore (the GOP base excepted).

Trump could win some swing voters back with real presidential accomplishments, but they'd require effort. Staffers would have to work hard to generate a real infrastructure plan, or a real plan for universal health coverage. They'd have to find solutions to intractable problems -- Middle East peace, the decades-long standoff between North Korea and most of the world.

All of that is unimaginable -- Team Trump doesn't do policy and doesn't do effort. Alternately, the Trumpers could try a little genuine populism -- hey, remember when candidate Trump fleetingly proposed closing the carried interest loophole that allows hedge-fund zillionaires to pay a lower tax rate than ordinary workers, a proposal he still mentions every now and then? His White House could devise a serious plan to get that accomplished. That would be a domestic Nixon-goes-to-China moment. It would upend the news cycle, at least momentarily. I'd support Trump if he did that.

But it's the last thing he'd do, even if Ivanka whispered in his ear that he should. (She won't.) So Trump will just continue to be Trump. Impeachment is bringing out the worst, least likable side of him, just as we're entering election season. That's a good thing.

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