Matthew Miller’s reaction to the new Washington Post-ABC News poll Friday caught my eye. The poll showed just 18 percent of Americans believed President Trump should pardon Paul Manafort.
“This is the ‘shoot someone on 5th Avenue’ caucus, and it’s much lower than Trump would have you believe,” the former Obama-era Justice Department official tweeted.
.. How big is the “shoot someone on Fifth Avenue” caucus in America?
The answer I arrived at as anywhere from 1 in 8 to 1 in 5 Americans — between 12 and 20 percent, around where Miller pegged it. These are the people who seem prepared to justify and/or forgive pretty much anything Trump has done or even has threatened to do. It represents half or less of Trump supporters.
.. despite Trump’s approval hanging tough around 40 percent for his entire presidency, a significant portion of that isn’t completely thrilled with him. Those folks could feasibly at some point be convinced he’s gone too far — whether by shooting someone or for some other reason.
12 percent say it’s “acceptable for a presidential campaign to obtain information on a political opponent from a hostile foreign power” (Quinnipiac University)
.. 26 percent say Trump should be able to shut down news outlets for “bad behavior” (Reuters)
.. 12 percent say it’s not a “big deal” if Russia interferes to help Republicans (Yahoo-SurveyMonkey)
.. Fully 40 percent of Republicans said it was either “appropriate” or “not appropriate, but wouldn’t be a big deal” if Russia did that — despite foreign involvement in U.S. elections being clearly illegal.
.. 22 percent say if Trump shot someone on Fifth Avenue, they would approve of his job performance (Democratic pollster Public Policy Polling)
.. 15 percent say there is almost nothing Trump could do to lose their support (Public Religion Research Institute)
Credit to PRRI for the best way of asking this question. What Trump is really saying is that he could do pretty much anything and not lose his supporters, and this poll suggests 15 percent say that exemplifies them. Whether they’d actually follow through if Trump killed a guy? That’s less certain, for the reasons described in the previous item.
Why Trump Will Survive the Cohen Tape
Trump’s relationship with Cohen, a lawyer so disreputable that no one else would want his representation, is off the charts.
Q: What kind of lawyer tapes his client (as Trump has asked in recent days)? A: Cohen, whose lack of standards is what made him so useful in the first place.
.. Trump’s supporters (most of them) acknowledge his serious shortcomings but think it’s more important to focus on his agenda and accomplishments. It’s difficult to find a further personal peccadillo that can budge anyone from these trench lines, since there’s no real contest over his character to begin with.
.. The irony is that Trump’s detractors hate him so much that they have created, perhaps, an impossibly high standard for his misconduct.
- It’s not damning enough for them that the Russians interfered in our election and Trump is dismissive of it;
- Trump has to be a quasi-Russian agent who actively colluded with the Kremlin, perhaps going back decades.
- It’s not damning enough that Trump had affairs with a porn star and Playmate; he has to have committed some serious criminal offense in the course of covering his tracks... When Giuliani says that the Cohen tape is exculpatory, he doesn’t mean that it proves there was nothing to the McDougal story and where does his client go to get his reputation back? He means that Trump was upfront and transparent about buying her story — he wanted to do it by check.
.. With Trump having delivered on important priorities for the Right and enjoying a hysterical opposition that pushes Republicans toward him, the Fifth Avenue principle applies now more than ever. To update it for current circumstances, Trump could pay off Karen McDougal with a black satchel full of cash in the middle of Fifth Avenue and not lose any voters
.. Perhaps there will be some inescapable legal dilemma for Trump that emerges out of the Cohen imbroglio. But the president has a very wide margin for error. The lesson of these controversies so far is that there’s nothing low expectations won’t do.
Fifth Ave. and the GOP &c.
“I have the most loyal people . . . where I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters, okay? It’s like incredible.”
.. I nicknamed this phenomenon — the phenomenon of loyalty to Trump — “the Fifth Avenue Principle.”
.. “I can’t be doing so badly because I’m president and you’re not.”
.. And if Trump moves to the center, opposing conservative Republicans and making deals with Democrats, will his base follow him? I believe it will.