By Victor Davis Hanson | American Greatness
Aside from the emotional issue that Democrats, NeverTrumpers, and celebrities loathe Donald Trump, recently Representative Al Green (D-Texas) reminded us why the Democrats are trying to impeach the president rather than just defeat him in the 2020 general election.
“To defeat him at the polls would do history a disservice, would do our nation a disservice,” Green said. “I’m concerned that if we don’t impeach the president, he will get re-elected.”
Translated, that means Green accepts either that Trump’s record is too formidable or that the agendas of his own party’s presidential candidates are too frightening for the American people to elect one of them. And that possibility is simply not permissible. Thus, impeachment is the only mechanism left to abort an eight-year Trump presidency—on a purely partisan vote to preclude an election, and thus contrary to the outlines of impeachment as set out by the Constitution.
Consider it another way: Why is it that the House is controlled by Democrats, yet its leadership is not pushing through any of the policy proposals voiced so openly on the Democratic primary stage?
Why aren’t progressive representatives introducing bills to pay reparations to African Americans, to legalize infanticide in some cases of late-term abortion, to offer free medical care to illegal aliens, to confiscate AR-15s, to extend Medicare for all, to impose a wealth tax and raise top rates to between 70 and 90 percent, to abolish student debt and ensure free college for all, or to grant blanket amnesty to those currently living in the country illegally?
Simple answer: none of those issues poll anywhere near 50 percent approval. And no Democratic candidate would expect to beat Trump as the emissary of such an agenda.
If the economy was in a recession, if we were embroiled in another Iraq-like or Vietnam-sort of war, and if Trump’s polls were below 40 percent, then the Democrats would just wait 13 months and defeat him at the polls.
But without a viable agenda and because they doubt they can stop Trump’s reelection bid, they feel they have no recourse but to impeach. If Trump were to be reelected, not a shred of Barack Obama’s “fundamental transformation” would be left, and the strict constructionist Supreme Court would haunt progressives for a quarter-century.
Why Impeachment Now?
The Democrats have exhausted every other mechanism for destroying Trump—and they are running out of time before November 2020 election.
Think of what we have witnessed since the 2016 election. Do we even remember charges that voting machines in the 2016 election were rigged, and the efforts to subvert Electoral College voting, or to invoke the Logan Act, the emoluments clause, and the 25th Amendment?
The “collusion” and “obstruction” fantasies of the Mueller investigation now seem like ancient history. So do the James Comey leaks, the palace coup of Andrew McCabe, the Trump tax records, the celebrity rhetoric about blowing up, shooting, stabbing, burning and variously killing off the president of the United States—along with the satellite frenzies of Stormy Daniels, Michael Avenatti, Charlottesville, Jussie Smollett, the Covington Kids, and the Kavanaugh hearings.
What is left but to try the new “Ukraine collusion”—especially given three other considerations?
First, volatile and always changing polls appearing to favor impeachment roughly reflect Trump’s own popularity (or lack of same). Around 45-46 percent of Americans do not want him impeached and about the same or slightly more say they do.
Second, the hard left-wing of the party might not yet control all the Democrats, but it does not matter because they are clearly younger, more energized, and better organized. And they want something to show for all their social media and photo-op grandstanding, given their socialist agenda is mysteriously moribund.
Third, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is said to oppose impeachment on pragmatic grounds, but I am not sure that is right. It’s the equivalent of saying Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) was opposed to the progressive character assassination of Brett Kavanaugh. Neither is or was true.
A better description would be that Pelosi and Feinstein simply go along with the perceived 51-plus percent surge of their party, and sit back gleefully watching the fireworks happen, willing to jump in or pull back depending on the atmospherics and polling. Impeachment, remember, will make the Kavanaugh hearings look like a seminar on etiquette, and so everything and anything can happen once dozens of unhinged leftists are unbound.
Be prepared for a half-dozen Christine Blasey Ford-type witnesses to pop up, and 20 or so unhinged Cory Booker-esque “I am Spartacus” performance acts, along with a whole slew of new Steele dossiers—all interspersed with breathless CNN bulletins announcing new fake news developments with “the walls are closing in” and “the end is near” prognostications. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) is already reading fantasies to the House Intelligence Committee and passing them off as the text of Trump’s phone call to Ukraine’s new president. Only after he was called on such absurdities did he describe his performance as a parody.
Facts Won’t Matter that Much
The Left is hellbent on impeachment and the absence of a case won’t matter. They do not care if they will sow the wind and reap the whirlwind.
In the coming days, after all, we will probably learn that the whistleblower’s “Schiff dossier” was prepared by ex-Lawfare-type lawyers in service to House Democrats, who just needed a vessel to pass off the hit as a genuine cry of the heart, rather than a scripted attack with all the Steele dossier/Mueller report/Comey memo fingerprints: classification obfuscations, footnotes to liberal media hit pieces, pseudo-scholarly references to court cases, and lawsuit-avoiding, preemptive disclaimers about not actually possessing firsthand knowledge of any of the evidence, prepped hearsay, supposition, and the subjunctive and optative mood composition.
In a sane world, the impeachers would worry their charges that Trump forced Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky to investigate his possible 2020 Democratic opponent Joe Biden might boomerang. After all, Trump never actually cut off Ukrainian aid. Nor did he outline a quid pro quo deal. Essentially he is accused of unduly asking a foreign president to clamp down on corruption in his midst going back to 2016. So what? Especially if there is something more to the strange antics of Hunter Biden and CrowdStrike.
Biden’s problems are not such thought crimes, but are confirmed by his own boasting: that he used the clout of the United States to help his own family financially, by threatening to cut off U.S. aid unless a Ukrainian state prosecutor looking into his own son’s suspicious lobbying was fired within six hours. And in Biden’s own words, “Son of a bitch,” he was fired.
In contrast, Trump might have been all over the map in his call, but he kept the aid to Ukraine coming without demanding the scalp of any Ukrainian official. In some sense, Trump’s culpability boils down to one issue: progressives believe that in not-too-veiled a manner, he threatened a foreign government to start going after the Biden family without cause, whose patriarch Joe might be Trump’s 2020 election opponent.
The other half of the country believes that what is material is not Biden’s current transient electoral status (he is not now and may not be the Democratic nominee), but the fact that he was vice president of the United States when he used his office to threaten the loss of foreign aid to stop investigations of his son, who was using his father’s position to further his own profiteering.
Given that Trump denies any quid pro quo and his call supports that fact, while Biden, on the other hand, openly brags that he made threats which made the Ukrainian to cave (“in six hours”), one can draw one’s own conclusions.
For now, we await more documents—with caveats that the canny Ukrainians, for their own self-interest, will predicate their release of information on the likelihood of which party will win the 2020 election.
The Left hints it has lots of incriminating documents outlining a quid pro quo threat; conservatives suspect that Ukrainian and legal documents will show the prosecutor was neither unethical nor uninterested in Hunter Biden, but was fired precisely because he was not corrupt and very much concerned with Biden.
As far as precedent, there is a good recent example. Barack Obama got caught promising to consider cuts in Eastern-European-based missile defense if Vladimir Putin would give him some room during his reelection campaign.
Translated into Adam Schiff’s Mafiosi parody lingo: Putin would calm down on the international stage to make the U.S.-Russia “reset” look good, Obama would then get rid of Eastern-European missile defense, and Obama would get reelected in 2012.
And all three of those events transpired as planned—one can surmise whether any of the three would have happened without Obama compliance with Russian conditions. Remember, Obama’s quid pro quo was caught on a hot mic on the premise that what he said to Russian President Medvedev was never supposed to be heard. “On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this can be solved,” Obama said. “But it’s important for him [Putin] to give me space . . . This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility.”
Once that understanding was excused, and the media was mute about such collusion, can any notion of collusion as a crime still exist?
Finally, who are the winners in these impeachment psychodramas, both short-term and long-term?
Short-term, Trump may lose traction due to the media frenzy. He lost some of his ongoing momentum that had recently seen his polls steadily creeping up. He gave a fine speech at the United Nations and sounded presidential in his talks with foreign leaders—all overshadowed or now forgotten due to the impeachment psychodrama.
Trump’s critics have become emboldened, Left and Right. The Drudge Report has flip-flopped and is as anti-Trump as Vox or Slate. Many at National Review call for or anticipate impeachment without much regret. Likewise, some at Fox News—Shepard Smith, Andrew Napolitano, and Chris Wallace—are nonstop critics of Trump and hardly disguise their contempt.
The leftist media is on uppers, and completely ecstatic in moth-to-flame fashion, as if it were May 2017 again and Trump’s demise was a day away.
Because Joe Biden faces far more legal exposure than Trump, he is mentioned (if even to contextualize and exonerate him) in every news account of Ukraine. Whether or not Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) or her erstwhile henchwoman, Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), was behind this gambit, does not matter. (Nothing much from either one had worked to slow down Biden in the last six months). Biden is simply not physically or mentally up to a year of cross-examination. And Hunter Biden is more unsteady than Joe and will thus be hard to locate.
We are starting to see the outlines of a progressive fantasy on the horizon: Biden will be sacrificed. The party will unite around Warren. The left-wing media narrative will be, “We took out one of our own, now it is your turn to depose Trump.” Chaos overload for two or three weeks might keep Trump’s polling low.
Long-term, however, Trump wins.
We still have a number of government audits coming from Michael Horowitz, John Durham, and John Huber—and the targets are not Trump. The Senate will not convict the president under any foreseeable circumstances. The full story of the whistleblower has not been told, but there are a lot of narratives to come about the sudden rules allowing hearsay, DNC involvement, and who knew far in advance about the complainant’s writ. Once the Democratic debates continue, the candidates’ screaming and hysterics return, and the impeachment hearings descend into a Kavanaugh-esque farce, the public will begin to get scared again by the Left’s shrieking Jacobins. Schiff’s “parody” is a small foretaste of what’s to come. Voters soon will surmise that the only thing between their 401k plans and socialism is Donald J. Trump.
Warren or her possible facsimile is a weaker candidate than even the enfeebled Biden. Her lack of viability will be of enormous advantage in NeverHillary-fashion to Trump. His fundraising, already ascendant, will hit the stratosphere. The idea that the new and old NeverTrumpers will be on the side of socialism will finally discredit them. Wall Street and Silicon Valley will keep trashing Trump, but privately write checks to stop Warren’s wealth tax that would be only the beginning of her Venezuelization of America.
So if Trump’s health holds out, if we don’t have a recession, if there is not an optional war, and Trump endures the next few weeks of 360-degree, 24/7 targeting, 2020 will be far more favorable than ever imaginable for him.
Victor Davis Hanson is an American military historian, columnist, former classics professor, and scholar of ancient warfare. He was a professor of classics at California State University, Fresno, and is currently the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He has been a visiting professor at Hillsdale College since 2004.