our first openly Hefnerian president gets impeached
.. If Trump were impeached and removed from the White House, the presidency would devolve to precisely the kind of man whom much of pre-Trump religious conservatism insisted that it wanted in the Oval Office: an evangelical Christian family man with a bluenose’s temperament and a boring Reaganite checklist of beliefs.
.. evangelical leaders currently fretting about Trump’s political position would face a case where doing the consistent thing — namely, returning to their Bill Clinton-era position that character counts in presidents and using illegal means to conceal gross infidelities are impeachable offenses — would actually deliver something closer to what they claimed to want, not so very long ago: not a liberal in the White House, but President Mike Pence.
.. We do not have a parliamentary system where party leaders fight internal battles and get replaced by their internal rivals on the regular; instead, we elect a quasi-monarch, whose removal seems as traumatic as a regicide. And thus party loyalists tend to identify with their leaders the way royalists identify with their kings, and regard the prospect of impeachment not as an opportunity for a change of leadership but a revolutionary threat... Sure, making use of Donald Trump to keep Hillary Clinton from being president is a fascinating flourish by history’s Author, but the idea that the Almighty might use a porn star to make Mike Pence president represents, if anything, an even more amazing miracle... So anyone interested in looking for the hand of God in history should probably welcome that miracle’s arrival.. That God is using Trump not as an agent of his good work but as a kind of ongoing test of everyone else’s moral character seems like a not-unreasonable inference to draw.
.. And for those same religious conservatives to pass up the chance, preferring a scorched-earth battle in defense of priapism, would be a sad confirmation of the point that a beloved Christian author made many years ago: The doors of hell are locked on the inside.
When the mainstream media fawned over the Obama administration, I was glad to have the conservative media as an alternative because much of the criticism was pointed and thoughtful. But now that we have an administration I usually agree with on policy led by a president who is, at best, a deeply flawed man, I find the cable coverage almost completely useless. Much of the opposition to Trump is unhinged — though, having had some time to reflect on it, the natural impulse of Trump critics to conflate policy disagreements with personal revulsion over Trump’s character is, if not excusable, at least understandable. Even Trump fans (and there are many we’ve visited with in California) tend to temper their praise with grumbling over the president’s antics. Meanwhile, much of conservative media sounds eerily like the mainstream media during the administration of Bill Clinton, even as comparisons to that deeply flawed man have become the leitmotif of Trump apologia.
.. It is simply not a defense of Trump to argue that Clinton did worse. President Clinton, as Fox commentators were wont to remind viewers not so long ago, was not impeached over sexual improprieties. He was impeached over illegal and unethical actions taken to cover up sexual improprieties, the untimely revelation of which might have cost him the presidency. Parading out Juanita Broderick and Paula Jones as a reminder of how bad Clinton was, and how indifferent the media was to how bad Clinton was, does not improve Trump’s perilous position. In the mid-to-late Nineties, we on the right full-throatedly argued that Clinton was unfit for office not merely because of the tawdry behavior (though that certainly was relevant), but because of the fraudulent abuses undertaken to conceal the tawdry behavior, some of which involved actionable misconduct.
.. the lesson from Clinton’s impeachment that I tried to draw in Faithless Execution: The further removed misconduct is from the core responsibilities of the presidency, the less political support there will be for the president’s removal from office.
.. A lot of the commentary about Clifford is of the all-or-nothing variety: Staunch Trump critics believe her every word; staunch Trump defenders reject her in toto. In nearly 20 years as a prosecutor, dealing with countless witnesses of suspect character, I learned that things rarely work that way.
.. There appears to be no doubt at this point that: (a) Cohen paid Clifford $130,000 for her silence; (b) the payment came on the eve of an election that Trump appeared to have little chance of winning and won by the narrowest of margins, meaning disclosure would likely have been fatal; and (c) the agreement went to absurd lengths to obfuscate Trump’s involvement, including the use of pseudonyms for Trump (Dennis Denniston) and Clifford (Peggy Peterson) and the use of an obscure Delaware company (Essential Consultants LLC) as a vehicle to make the payment. Even though Cohen has risibly claimed that he paid Clifford on his own accord, with no involvement by his client (Trump) or the Trump organization, at least two Trump lawyers (Cohen and Jill Martin) have been involved in the energetic legal efforts to keep Clifford silent — efforts that President Trump has now formally joined... it does not matter that one may not be a fan of the campaign-finance laws — they are the law, and as we’ve seen, they can be enforced by criminal prosecution. It does not matter that one may not be a fan of the special-counsel appointment of Robert Mueller — he is the prosecutor, and it is a commonplace for prosecutors, and especially quasi-independent prosecutors, to investigate crimes that are disconnected from the original rationale for the investigation (compare, e.g., Kenneth Starr’s shift from Whitewater to the Lewinsky scandal in the investigation of President Clinton).
Correct. Trump is really good at “driving a media agenda.” He takes bold, beyond-the-Overton-window positions; he gets combative in interviews, he insults critics, he insists solutions are simple and that only a conspiracy of the malevolent and foolish stands in the way of enacting them.
.. I used to joke that Bill Clinton was the only guy who could distract attention from a fundraising scandal by getting into a sex scandal.
.. Trump figured out how to overload the system, generating so many headline-grabbing surprises, controversies and personnel changes that few if any really had the time to leave a lasting impression.
.. just during a couple months in the campaign, we saw Trump contending that a federal judge couldn’t rule fairly because “he’s a Mexican;” mock Carly Fiorina’s face; get into a war of words with a slain soldier’s father. Any one of those would have defined and politically destroyed a lesser-known figure.
.. Think about how Obama and the Democrats spent almost all of 2009 and a chunk of 2010 focused on what became Obamacare. But the amount of consistent focus — and presidential persuasion — needed to pass a legislative agenda is completely different from the amount needed to dominate a news cycle.
Every time it seems the president has zeroed in on an issue, and appears determined to see it through — guns and immigration are just the two latest examples — he moves on to something else. And Congress, which isn’t designed to respond swiftly to national events and the wishes of the White House even in the least distracted of circumstances, simply can’t keep up.
The constant whiplash of priorities is getting on lawmakers’ nerves.
“It’s unbelievable to me,” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). “The attention span just seems to be. . . it’s a real problem.”
Remember the Clinton scandals. They provoked no decisive legal thunderbolt but a series of agonizing, consequential defeats.
It’s happening again.
.. If you want to talk about foreign influence on elections, the funneling of Chinese money into the 1996 Clinton presidential campaign is still stunning, even these many years later.
.. If the Clinton wing of the Democratic party is honest with itself, it has to understand the price it paid for its corruption. In 2000, the Democrats lost a presidential election they should have won. After all, in a previous time of peace and prosperity, the Republicans got three terms, even when the vice president wasn’t half the political talent that Ronald Reagan was. In 2000, America was on an economic roll, there was an actual budget surplus, and the threat of jihad was barely on the national radar screen. Yet Gore felt as if he had to distance himself from Clinton. He had to distance himself from the drama.
.. she lost a general-election campaign to the most disliked politician in the history of favorability ratings of presidential candidates.
.. While it may well be the case (though I’m skeptical) that some sort of climactic scandal will topple Trump, I think it’s far more likely that he’ll live the way he’s always lived — the way the Clintons always lived — doing what he wants, when he wants, as a phalanx of lawyers clean up his mess and a squadron of associates and allies take the fall.