Sunday, February 02, 2020


Some perspective:
[Liberals'] hand-wringing about their structural disadvantages ignores the advantages that Trump keeps giving them — the fact that in the best economy in 20 years he can’t stop making people hate him, can’t stop missing opportunities to expand his base, can’t stop forcing vulnerable Republicans to kiss his ring and thereby weaken their own prospects.

Impeachment has only extended this pattern, with Republicans voting to shorten the trial even when it makes them look like lackeys, and too cowed in many cases to even take the acquit-but-still-condemn approach that Democrats took with Bill Clinton. So now most of the country thinks the president did something wrong, most of the country thinks Republicans are protecting him, and most of the country is open, entirely open, to voting Trump and the most vulnerable Republican senators out in nine short months.

... American liberals are fortunate to have Trump as their Great Foe. If he were merely as disciplined and competent as Boris Johnson or Viktor Orban, to choose leaders with whom he has a few things in common, he would be coasting to re-election.
I withheld the name of the pundit who wrote those words, because I assumed you wouldn't read them if I told you in advance. It's Ross Douthat. He's right about this. Trump may appear triumphant now, but he's very beatable.

The gloomy response to the failure of impeachment is: Now Trump will be free to ask every country in the world to sabotage the election. But it's not at all clear that he'll have sufficient mental focus to do that. It seems more likely to me that he'll fixate on how he can punish Mitt Romney for voting in favor of witnesses. (Mitch McConnell will talk Trump out of trying to punish Susan Collins because she's up for reelection in a purple state.) Or he could just as easily get distracted by a feud with a TV news presenter or random celebrity. The Daily Beast has just published an excerpt from Lachlan Markay and Asawin Suebsaeng's forthcoming book Sinking in the Swamp: How Trump’s Minions and Misfits Poisoned Washington that reminds us of Trump's many feuds with media figures -- Meghan McCain ("One confidant to whom the president vented his grievances ... put the phone on mute, hit the speakerphone button, and allowed others present to hear President Trump bash Meghan McCain’s cheeks and ... her waistline"), Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, Katy Tur (whose biological father is trans and who, according to Markay and Suebsaeng, is referred to by Trump as "that bitch with the tranny dad"). A different man would consolidate power now. Trump might just obsess over defeating Adam Schiff.

Trump's poll numbers have improved somewhat during the impeachment period, but so did Bill Clinton's: According to Gallup, Clinton's job approval rating, which ranged from 54% to 62% in 1997, increased to 69% in late January 1998, just after the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke. After nearly a year consistently in the 60s, Clinton got his best job approval number, 73%, just as he was being impeached, in a Gallup poll conducted December 19 and 20, 1998. As he being acquitted, Clinton registered at 68% in a Gallup survey; by April, however, he was at 59%, and his numbers stayed in the high 50s and low 60s -- still impressive, but well below his peak -- from then until Election Day 2000.

If Trump reverts to his pre-Ukraine-scandal numbers, he's in trouble in November. I think there's a good chance he will revert -- Trump's approval numbers seem to go down when the news cycle is focused on some new outrageous act or utterance of his. For a couple of months we've been focused on his past acts, but we're mostly watching members of Congress debate him. Now he can freely hijack the news cycle any time he pleases, with behavior that will cheer the base and disgust everyone else. All this as it dawns on non-deplorable America that the arrogant blowhard got away with a crime most of the country thinks he committed. As I said on Twitter yesterday, he's now President O.J. -- although he doesn't even believe that the acts he was tried for were crimes.

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