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.