Impeachment Impact

* “If we don’t make a deal, we will substantially raise those tariffs.”–President Donald Trump on status of trade negotiations with China. Less than consoling to soybean farmers.

* “I’m a big fan.”–Trump’s take on Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the autocratic Turkish president, who recently visited the White House.

* Interesting that Mark Mulvaney is still Trump’s acting chief of staff. It’s been more than 10 months–and he’s still in “acting” mode? Maybe he’ll “get over it.”

* Not that we’re naive and didn’t expect the impeachment hearings to look like made-for-TV partisanship, but Sean Hannity’s football-spiking after the first day said it all. It was, the Fox flack declared, “a lousy day for the corrupt, do-nothing-for-three-years, radical extreme socialist Democrats.” And Reps. Devin Nunes and Jim Jordan doubled down from there.

* It’s obvious that the only way Nunes, Jordan & Co. will acknowledge the impeachment relevance of the Donald Trump-Volodymyr Zelenskiy phone conversation would be a transcript of a self-incriminating conversation that not even Donald Trump would engage in. To wit: “Look, Volo–OK, if I call you that?–here’s the deal. Take it or–leave it up to Putin. You’ve got about $400 million in military aid headed your way–from the great-again United States of America–that you and I both know Ukraine needs. You need it to survive. But I’m not signing off, Volvo, until you do me a perfect personal favor. I need political dirt on somebody who could be my opponent in 2020, Joe Biden. Perhaps you’ve heard of him–or his son Hunter, who used to sit on the board of, I think it’s called, the Burisma Group. Whatever, I want you to announce a public investigation into corruption that would smear and likely eliminate Biden as my main election threat. You put that out there, and the money is Ukraine’s. If not, lots of luck surviving what Putin has in mind for you. You do know, Zorro, that you have zero leverage here, right? So, what do you say? I need an answer now before I get back to Putin.”

* As we’ve been seeing, Richard Nixon and the Watergate hearings are back in the news cycle for obvious reasons. But the differences are notable between the authoritarian, unhinged, utterly unprepared Trump and Nixon, the dark and deceitful president who pre-empted impeachment conviction by his unprecedented resignation.

First, there was a “smoking gun” tape recording that left no disingenuous wiggle room. Second, an ultimate insider, John Dean, testified credibly and convincingly. Third, Nixon, however deplorable, was not unqualified for the office. Duke law school, Naval service, congressman, senator and vice president. He was the Eisenhower Administration’s point man in Cold War relations with the Soviet Union and historically engaged with Chairman Mao’s China and pushed for the establishment of the EPA during his presidential tenure. Fourth, Nixon didn’t have his own TV network back in the day when the Watergate hearings, sans partisan agendas and ratings-driven hype and optics, were broadcast by PBS with rotating coverage by ABC, CBS and NBC.

* Maybe it’s pathological or karmic. But what Trumpian irony that, having seemingly dodged a Mueller Report bullet on the 2016 Russian meddling in the U.S. election and subsequent cover-up efforts, Trump returns to the impeachment well again to use a foreign country, Ukraine, to meddle in the U.S. 2020 presidential election on his behalf. Then he tampers and intimidates tweetingly with a witness, former Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, while–WHILE–she is testifying before the House Intelligence Committee, thus gifting House Dems with another impeachment box checked.

Maybe it is pathological. Or karmic. Or maybe it’s part of a Faustian end-game.

* Die-hard Republicans can’t credibly countenance Bill Weld (former Massachusetts governor), Mark Sanford (former South Carolina governor) or Joe Walsh (former Illinois congressman) as alternatives to Trump. And it’s past the time for Utah Sen. Mitt Romney. Much more likely to be the GOP’s first post-Trump nominee is Nikki Haley, former governor of South Carolina and former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, who would be running to appeal to the Trump base in 2024.

Haley calculatingly left the Trump Administration on her own terms and she, of course, has a book out to expedite more media attention. As a female former governor of (Indian) color, she would appear the antithesis of Trump while still a self-serving loyalist. She’s also anti-abortion, has impressive government and UN experience and has been accusing former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and former White House chief of staff John Kelly of having sought her aid in undermining the president’s policy aims. And given the last three years, Haley knows that being a high-profile, female supporter of the most reviled misogynist in the country won’t, incredulously, count against her in today’s Trump-remade Republican Party.

* Just in from Kanye West: “All of that arrogance and cockiness that ya’ll have seen from me … Jesus has won the victory. Now the greatest artist that God has ever created is now working for him.” Wonder what Jesus thinks.  

* Another reminder of why a second term for Trump would be a disaster: Trump could further add to the conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 86, has been missing court arguments recently because she’s not well. She likely won’t make it through another presidential term. A re-elected or newly-elected president in 2020 will name her replacement.

* He’s a respected and successful professional. He’s smart and has a sense of humor. Old school conservative as well, I suspected. The topic turned briefly to politics. He said his views probably made him a “Trump supporter.” The overarching reason: “He keeps his promises. Politicians don’t do that.”    

Normally, this would be game on. Only this time the pushback was minimal. Civility and brevity prevailed. I mentioned that those on the other side of the spectrum would probably contend that a number of promises actually haven’t be kept, and some that were, never should have been made. That’s as far as I took it.

I didn’t get specific–as in who is actually paying for “The Wall,” what the tariff war has done for a lot of farmers, what the tax cut has done for the middle class, what reality the “Dreamers” now face or whatever happened to the ban on e-cigarette flavors. And why credit someone for keeping their word to gut the EPA, pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement, drop out of the Trans Pacific Partnership and exit from the Iran nuclear deal? We moved on to other, more immediate, non-political topics. I had my reasons.

He’s my doctor.

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