Democrats Set a Bear Trap
Pelosi thinks she has Trump’s number. She may be right, though Biden won’t escape this scandal.
Every time I imagine Elizabeth Warren debating Donald Trump, I picture him rumbling onto the stage like a big white bear — roaring “Grrr grrrr,” towering over her, paws flailing, claws extended. She’ll stand there looking up at him in the lights, and you’ll wonder if she’s trembling, cowering, because clearly she’s about to be crushed. And then she’ll take a brisk step forward and punch him hard and sharp in the kidney. And he’ll howl — “Aarrrrggg!” — because he’s surprised and it hurts and he assumed he’d easily chase her around the stage.
She’ll say, “Mr. President, I know everyone’s supposed to be afraid of you and your rough ways, but I don’t find you so tough. And I’m not afraid of you.” (Transcript: “Applause, cheers.”) Then she’ll call him soft, corrupt, incompetent — a phony martyr who doesn’t respect his own supporters enough to fake respectability.
He’ll call her a left-wing nut who’ll ruin the economy, destroy capitalism, kill our greatness, steal our private health insurance.
We’ll be off. And no one will know where it’s going.
That is my impeachment thought: Nobody knows where this is going. The politically obsessed may think they do, but something wild and unpredictable has been let loose. The charges are serious and credible. But America is as divided as it was in 2016, America is still in play, and it’s all up for grabs.
Everything, the entire outcome, will depend on public opinion.
The charge is that the American president went to the leader of Ukraine and invited him to take part in the 2020 presidential election by investigating one of the president’s likely competitors. Mr. Trump might have added pressure by delaying U.S. aid.
What is immediately striking is that no one who has spoken in defense of the president, including his spokesmen, has said these words: “Donald Trump would never do that!” Or, “That would be unlike him!” That will be the president’s problem as public opinion develops: everyone knows he would do it, everyone knows it is like him. There’s no mystique of goodness to be destroyed.
If everything depends on public opinion then a lot depends on how the House comports itself. Will the Democrats be sober, steady, fair-minded? Or will they be disorganized divas who play to their base and win over no one else? Are they capable of rising to the moment?
The guess here is that articles of impeachment will be drawn, presented and pass the House.
Impeachment is a grave constitutional and governmental act, but it is also a political one that requires public support. Speaker Nancy Pelosi has calculated that the case is strong and the people will come along. She wouldn’t have moved forward if she didn’t think she was going to win. The president is wrong when he says she’s finally bowed to the mad progressives of her party, who are so colorfully belligerent, who last summer pushed to impeach William Barr and last week wanted to impeach Brett Kavanaugh. Mrs. Pelosi is an attentive vote-counter and a practical pol. I think she’s moving now because she thinks she got him and the jig is up.
At an off-the-record meeting in New York Monday, the night before she announced the impeachment push, she looked like someone whose old hesitation was gone. In its place was the joy of the hunt.
As for the Senate, the understandable and previously reliable common wisdom was that Republicans there will keep the needed 67 votes for conviction from materializing. That’s probably still likely, but it’s no sure thing. Tuesday the Senate voted unanimously for the whistleblower’s complaint to be made public. (On Thursday it was.) Senators didn’t say, “This is just another partisan witch hunt. Grrr grrr.” Why not? Because the charges were serious and they couldn’t refuse to ask for more information. Because they wanted to signal to the White House that they couldn’t accept the idea that aid to Ukraine could have been held up over something like this. Because they had to assume more bad information was coming. And because they’re four years into the Trump era and are tired of having to excuse and explain everything the president does that is surprising, illogical, unprofessional, dubious.
Most of them wouldn’t miss him if he were gone. They’d happily peel off if public opinion back home seemed to shift.
Among Trump supporters right now, the Ukraine story would look like a Washington-centric phony drama — more partisan nonsense, business as usual, ignore it. But if the story gets bad, if it comes to be thought of as a real national-security question, as the whistleblower charged in his report, they will pay attention and care.
So much depends on who’s called to testify and what they say and how ugly a picture they paint.
Wholly anecdotal but perhaps significant, I heard this week from two separate Trump supporters, one in the past passionate, the other whose support was always softer, who shared their dismay at the Ukraine story. Both said these words: “Maybe Pence wouldn’t be so bad.” They were exhausted by the drama and wrongness. Why not the man with the soft white hair?
In the end, in purely practical political terms, the one person who will be hurt by this story will be Joe Biden. Every telling of this story necessitates pointing out that Mr. Biden’s son Hunter had cozy financial relationships with other countries, including Ukraine. It’s real swamp stuff. It looks bad, say the former vice president’s friends. No, it is bad.
It is infuriating that members of America’s leadership class so often show themselves to the world as self-enriching. As a nation we spent the 20th century presenting ourselves to the world as a truly moral leader, a self sacrificing country, one to be looked up to. In the 21st century our political figures and their families too often look like scrounging grifters — Americans with connections who can be hired, who leverage connections to fame for profit. There’s a fairly constant air of soft corruption, of an easy, seamy reality of big-power back scratching.
It makes America look bad. It makes us look weak and craven, like we can be bought.
There should be something called the Class Act. If you have any class, you don’t profit financially from a relative in power in the world’s greatest democracy. You don’t embarrass your country that way. Because, you know, you have class. You’re lucky to be from a respected family. A president or vice president might say, “It’s unfair to make my child sacrifice a deal because of what his father does!” Actually, no one asked you to ask for power; no one told you to want it. If you get it, it’s an honor. Do your job. Yes, your family should sacrifice, as should you.
The story of Hunter Biden and his business adventures isn’t new, and yet sometimes stories come alive in new ways. This one will probably come into focus for a while and be emblematic of the swamp.
Joe Biden probably thought it was old news, already dissected and dismissed. But it’s back, and will hit him like a kidney punch.
Republished by permission from peggynoonan.com.