December 8, 2019

Tailwinds Easing Trump’s Re-election: A Strong Economy and a Weak Impeachment.

by Hal Gershowitz

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Our readers know, we are not fans of President Trump. While we have given him credit where we believe credit is due, we believe, for the many reasons we have expressed many times in these essays, he has been an impulsive, corrosive and divisive force in our body politic. We believe he has endangered our constitutional democracy by his crass attacks on his political opponents, his contempt for our free press, his tactic of personal destruction aimed at just about anyone who criticizes him or who he believes stands in his way, and his outsized trust in his own intuition over all other counsel. That being said, we believe he is well on his way to a second term.

All seven national polls comprising the Real Clear Politics survey of President Trump’s job approval with respect to the economy give the President a thumbs up, four of them by double digits. None of them, none, are in negative territory. Trump, as of now, is in good shape to win re-election next November. To paraphrase former democratic political operative, James Carville, it is the economy stupid, and, yes, we would add, it’s also the impeachment, stupid.

President’s generally don’t lose elections in a strong economy. They just don’t. The American voter has a pretty consistent criterion for choosing a President. Do they believe they are better off today than they were yesterday? Well, economically, they are, or at least, they believe they are. Most economists and, frankly, most politicians know that the relationship between the strength of the economy and the occupant of the oval office is, generally, circumstantial. Generally, but not always. President Trump’s voracious dismantling of those federal regulations deemed by many to hamper commerce and investment has, no doubt, had a salutary effect on economic growth, and his revamping of our tax laws has put real dollars in the tills of business, and more money in the hands of working men and women. To whatever extent the economy plays a favorable role in returning presidents to office, President Trump has the wind to his back.

Now comes the paramount headline-dominating issue of our time. Does the American Public believe President Trump should be impeached? Here, opinions change, somewhat, as developments change. But it is clear, as of now, that support for impeachment has steadily diminished over time. While national polls show a slight leaning for impeachment, polls in the all-important, so-called battleground states show a majority opposed to impeachment. That’s how the majority of voters feel in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Wisconsin. And, we suspect, when the impeachment contretemps moves to the United States Senate, where it will be, primarily, a Republican-controlled show, the majority in those key states will grow stronger. And here’s the thing; the Democrats cannot win this election without carrying most of those states.

Also, for reasons we can’t quite fathom, Speaker Pelosi has insisted on a rapid determination of the House verdict, thereby negating any chance for the courts to judge the reasonableness of Trump’s embargo on any Administration witnesses or documents that could have bolstered the case for impeachment. She has also restricted the impeachment inquiry to a very narrow scope; Trump’s alleged attempt to “bribe” Ukrainian President Zelensky to launch an investigation of political opponent, former Vice President, Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden—or at a minimum, to announce that he (Zelinsky) intends to launch such an investigation. This was a flawed case for impeaching a President. To bet that an impeachment process would so tarnish the President that he would be incapable of securing a second term even if he was acquitted in the Senate was a bewildering strategy, especially for a politician as astute as Speaker Pelosi. It was always, strategically, a high risk with a low probability of success.

A wise friend once advised me to be wary of overusing the word “clearly,” especially when expressing opinions either editorially in print or simply in verbal combat. “Clearly” suggests a degree of certitude that too often falls short of expectations. President Trump’s telephone conversation with President Zelensky was not “clearly” a cause for impeachment as the Democrats contend. For example, when Ukrainian President Zelensky informed President Trump that he was almost ready to purchase American Javelin anti-tank missiles, the President could have responded that he had one condition before he would let the sale go through—that is, that Zelensky investigate Biden. Or, he could have said, but first, you have to this for me. That would rather clearly justify the case that President Trump tried to “bribe” President Zelensky. But instead, President Trump responded, “I have a favor to ask of you, though.”  That arguably gave President Zelensky the latitude to say, “I can’t do that.” And President Trump arguably could have responded, “Okay, I thought I would ask because we’re worried about the history of corruption in your country.”

I have a favor to ask though is simply not a demand strong enough to warrant impeachment. Okay, the reader understands that we harbor no illusion about what President Trump was up to. The conversation may have been sleazy, but it is a stretch to call it “clearly” impeachable. Especially, this close to an election. Especially when the issue will be decided in a Republican-controlled Senate. President Trump’s ham-handed “perfect” telephone conversation with President Zelensky was crude, but it constituted weak grounds for a late-term impeachment.

As we’ve written recently, the Democrats have traded a strong campaign issue for a weak impeachment issue. As a result, they will have neither.

All comments regarding these essays, whether they express agreement, disagreement, or an alternate view, are appreciated and welcome. Comments that do not pertain to the subject of the essay or which are ad hominem references to other commenters are not acceptable and will be deleted.

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11 responses to “Tailwinds Easing Trump’s Re-election: A Strong Economy and a Weak Impeachment.”

  1. Sheila says:

    Hal, three out of four constitutional lawyers—professors of constitutional law at the most esteemed law schools in the country have agreed that the mere fact of asking for the favor “though” before the missiles would be released , and withholding a coveted White House meeting, constitute extortion and bribery— bribery is “clearly” identified in the constitution as an impeachable high crime. To reiterate the now hackneyed example of the attempted bank robbery.—the mere fact of the attempt is a crime- even if it was not successful. In this case the money had been allocated by Congress for a specific purpose— I need not elaborate further here. The crime was in asking for the favor , though.

    But I agree that this conversation is probably academic unless by some miracle the Republican Senators suddenly tap into their collective conscience to really see impact of this Administration on our institutions. It is unlikely that this will occur. Our only hope is the 2020 election and while the indicators may lean toward a Trump reelection , we still have time yet- if the right candidate emerges and takes over the field.

  2. Perry says:

    Regarding Shella’s comment one must remember that political
    dissent and free speech is pretty much denied on the 3 partisan
    academics who testified in the hearings. Their contempt for the
    POTUS in their minds was quite evident. The lone academic who
    was also not a Trump fan was quite impartial in reaching a
    conclusion of “Smoke but no gun”.

  3. Roberta Conner says:

    I agree with Perry and strongly disagree with Sheila. The testimony of the three left-wing constitutional law professors was embarrassing. They were so biased in their opinions that it completely destroyed their effectiveness. God bless the intellectually honest and courageous Professor Jonathan Turley (an Obama and Clinton voter) who values the basic tenets of our constitution more that the hackneyed liberal opinions of those three ivory-towered partisans.

    And by the way – another giant legal scholar – Alan Dershowitz, an avowed democrat, fully supports Turley’s opinion that Trump should not be impeached on the facts being presented in this kangaroo court setting.

    Sheila, if you want to see a brief video of Representative Matt Gaetz exposing the jaw-dropping shallowness of snarky professors Feldman, Karlan and Gerhardt, check this out:

  4. James Fisher says:

    Hal – I appreciate your giving President Trump credit for the amazing economic times we find ourselves in. Two minor points:

    My recollection of the transcript of the infamous telephone call is that when President Trump said to Ukranian President Zelensky, “I have a favor to ask of you, though.” He was NOT referring to the Bidens. He was specifically referring to an investigation into the issues surrounding our 2016 elections. He has every right – and even an obligation – to do that.

    Secondly, if 63 million Americans vote for the person (Trump) they want for their president in 2016 – and – as you predict – an even higher number vote for him in 2020 that means that the MAJORITY of American voters like his policies and what he is doing for us. Doesn’t that make your minority opinion/evaluation of him inherently wrong? After all – majority rules.

  5. Peggy Jacobs says:

    Couldn’t agree more with your analysis. It feels like the “genius” laid a perfect trap and the Democrats are trapped.

  6. Betty Wolf says:

    Another erudite distillation, Hal. I appreciate Mr. Fisher’s points.

    I would like to share an article by Jake Novak, political analyst, where he calls Trump ‘the junkyard dog that digs it all out’ , that he is nasty and breaks rules…and is why he won and why he is defying polls as 2020 approaches.
    Be well.

  7. James Fisher says:

    Thank you for sharing Betty. What a wonderfully insightful article by Mr. Novak. He really has figured it out. Results are what matters most for our country and for our people.

  8. Bobbi Holland says:

    Hal, Is it at all possible that Nancy Polosi will stop the process before it goes to the Senate. I have disagreed with the inquiry from the beginning and sorry that the Speaker caved in. Maybe cooler heads will prevail, and like you, will realize where this is leading. Can’t she just say, they have exposed what the Potus has done—that was their objective, there is no need to go further. I don’t really know how but she is so smart that I keep hoping she will find a way to get us out of the hole they have dug for us.

  9. Irwin Yablans says:

    the abomination of Donald trump’s presidency and the ensuing polarization of the national discourse reminds me of The great intellectual Bertrand Russell and his reply to the english fascist Mosely.
    “It is always difficult to decide on how to respond to people whose ethos’s is so alien and, in fact repellent to ones own. it is is not that I take exception to the general points made by you but that every ounce of my energy has been devoted to an active opposition to cruel bigotry, compulsive violence, and the sadistic persecution of fascism.
    I feel obliged to say that the emotional universes we inhabit are so distinct and in deepest ways opposed that nothing fruitful could ever emerge from association between us.
    I should like you to understand the intensity of this conviction on my part, not out of any attempt to be rude.I say this because of all that I value in human experience and human achievement.”
    Sadly ,those sentiments seem appropriate in 2019 America as the crimes of this president are exposed for all who would see.

  10. Marc J. Belgrad says:

    I respectfully disagree that it’s “the economy, stupid.” I believe that at least as important as people’s feelings about the economy – and I use the word “feelings” deliberately” – even more important is what a candidate represents intangibly, emotionally and values-wise. Can I see myself in this person? Will s/he really have my interests at heart? Do her/his statements represent the way in which I see, experience and understand the world.

    The economy has been growing for approximately a decade. Trump’s policies may or may not have helped to continue that; it might have happened anyway. And it’s not clear to me that there is more money in the hands of the “working people,” as the middle class contracts and the wealth gap has grown to its largest ever? In quite some time?

    Some people may have voted for Trump because they saw in him someone who represented their financial interests, independent of what they thought of his character, behavior and immorality. Many though, I think, voted for him because his conduct and his statements reflect how they understand themselves and their forgotten place in this country and in the Democrats’ articulation of what, and whom, they stand for.

  11. Sheila says:

    If you want an understanding of what is occuring in our country, I would urge everyone to read this important little book before the 2020 election . Or better yet, read it before the Senate trial. Then decide, is this what you want for your children and grandchildren:

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