It’s possible President Donald Trump is overjoyed tonight because Democrats have moved to impeach him. He might believe they just handed him a second term.
Do you think that’s a silly notion? Maybe.
But the increasingly brazen way he conducts business wasn’t normal, even for a President that believes rules are made to be broken. It was like he was daring House Democrats to make a formal attempt to remove him from office. If this is true, it will be the strangest re-election strategy ever by a sitting U.S. President.
But then, Trump might be the strangest President we’ve ever had.
Late Tuesday afternoon, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave in to increasing pressure from her party to begin the formal impeachment inquiry. The Washington Post story about Trump withholding $400 million in military aid to Ukraine, and then pressuring Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate the son of former vice president Joe Biden, was the last straw.
“The President is making lawlessness a virtue in our country,” Pelosi said Tuesday. “We don’t ask foreign governments to help us in our elections. That’s what we tried to stop with Russia. It’s wrong.”
U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Tampa) joined the impeachment chorus on Tuesday before Pelosi decided enough was enough.
“The impeachment inquiry should be put on the fast track, and all of the facts made plain,” she said in a news release. “My GOP colleagues are inexplicably silent in the face of the damage to the country emanating out of the White House.”
U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist (D-St. Petersburg) noted in a tweet, “President Trump is not above the law. Withholding aid from a sovereign, vulnerable nation in exchange for domestic political gain is a crime. This isn’t partisan. It’s about right vs. wrong.”
So, here we go.
The surest bet in Washington is that Democrats will issue formal articles of impeachment after the inquiry. A trial in the U.S. Senate will follow, where Trump will be acquitted. Even Democrats know that.
And from that point right up to Election Day in November 2020, Trump will play the victim card. He’ll roll out all the greatest hits: witch hunt, fake news, and so on. It doesn’t matter who the Democratic presidential nominee will be because he will run against Pelosi.
Horrible photoshopped images of Pelosi will scowl back at you from the TV screen. His followers will embrace their sacred duty to save the country from the godless socialists out to destroy America.
Trump will claim to be the most persecuted President in history (Abraham Lincoln and John Kennedy might disagree). He will shout to his almighty base that Democrats tried to steal the country from them, but failed. They will respond with raucous cheers and large checks.
And even though Trump is upside down in polls, Americans have been consistent in their disapproval about impeachment. Nate Silver on fivethirtyeight.com reported that since 2017, polls show about 38 percent favoring impeachment and 55 percent opposed.
Disapproval of impeachment could be the tipping point in a close election.
That brings me back to my original point.
In Trump World, impeachment may be the golden ticket to re-election, so it’s worth the risk. Remember, this is the man who said, “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, OK, and I wouldn’t lose any voters, OK?”
Anyone who thinks like that won’t sweat impeachment, especially with the outcome in the Republican-controlled Senate all but preordained. When Pelosi tried to pump the brakes on impeachment, Trump pushed the envelope harder.
The Ukraine charge is ghastly, but it won’t matter to his supporters. Withholding promised vital aid unless a foreign president digs up dirt on a Trump political rival is reprehensible. Trump supporters refuse to see it that way.
Anything he does is OK with them. And when confronted by proof of Trump’s wayward ways, they’ll come back with something about Hillary Clinton’s missing emails.
The House has a constitutional oversight role on the executive branch, and duty demands it proceeds with this inquiry.
Yes, it comes with political risk.
Duty outranks politics though, and that has never been truer than now.