Every time I imagine Elizabeth Warren debating Donald Trump, I picture him rumbling onto the stage like a big white bear—roaring “Grrr grrrr,” towering over her, paws flailing, claws extended. She’ll stand there looking up at him in the lights, and you’ll wonder if she’s trembling, cowering, because clearly she’s about to be crushed. And then she’ll take a brisk step forward and punch him hard and sharp in the kidney. And he’ll howl—“Aarrrrggg!”—because he’s surprised and it hurts and he assumed he’d easily chase her around the stage.
She’ll say, “Mr. President, I know everyone’s supposed to be afraid of you and your rough ways, but I don’t find you so tough. And I’m not afraid of you.” (Transcript: “Applause, cheers.”) Then she’ll call him soft, corrupt, incompetent—a phony martyr who doesn’t respect his own supporters enough to fake respectability.
He’ll call her a left-wing nut who’ll ruin the economy, destroy capitalism, kill our greatness, steal our private health insurance.
We’ll be off. And no one will know where it’s going.
That is my impeachment thought: Nobody knows where this is going. The politically obsessed may think they do, but something wild and unpredictable has been let loose. The charges are serious and credible. But America is as divided as it was in 2016, America is still in play, and it’s all up for grabs.
Everything, the entire outcome, will depend on public opinion.
When presidents are undone, it’s generally by something simple and human that the public—and the headline writers—can grab onto: a break-in of an opponent’s headquarters; the remnants of a hasty tryst on an intern’s blue dress. Iran-Contra was far too complex a scandal for the public to latch on to. The Russian interference in our most recent presidential election has proven to be just as difficult, and Trump has not been hobbled. A one-sentence description is necessary. An American president asking a foreign leader to investigate his Democratic opponent, or lose almost $400 million in military aid—is another matter altogether. It’s a story that anyone can understand and should be repulsed by.
My guess is that if and when Ukraine-gate heads toward its rightful conclusion, Trump’s enablers—even Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, House minority leader Kevin McCarthy, and the president’s Fox News cheerleading squad—will eventually scatter the way cockroaches do when the kitchen lights go on. Then Trump will truly be on his own, save for his brain trust of Eric, Jarvanka, and Don junior. And even their loyalties are in doubt. Given the obvious decline in the president’s mental abilities—signaled in part by the ever shrinking arsenal of words at his disposal, not to mention his opinions, accusations, and actions—he could ask for leniency based on mental impairment. And he’d have some justification in doing so.
Even before seeing the transcript of the July 25 call between President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Nancy Pelosi threw the door wide open to the impeachment of Donald Trump by the Democratic House.
Though the transcript did not remotely justify the advanced billing of a “quid pro quo,” Pelosi set in motion a process that is already producing a sea change in the politics of 2020.
The great Beltway battle for the balance of this year, and perhaps next, will be over whether the Democrats can effect a coup against a president many of them have never recognized as legitimate and have sought to bring down since before he took the oath of office.
Pelosi on Tuesday started this rock rolling down the hill.
She has made impeachment, which did not even come up in the last Democratic debate, the issue of 2020. She has foreclosed bipartisan compromise on gun control, the cost of prescription drugs and infrastructure. She has just put her own and her party’s fate and future on the line.
With Pelosi’s assent that she is now open to impeachment, she turned what was becoming a cold case into a blazing issue. If the Democrats march up impeachment hill, fail and fall back, or if they vote impeachment only to see the Senate exonerate the president, that will be the climactic moment of Pelosi’s career. She is betting the future of the House, and her party’s hopes of capturing the presidency, on the belief she and her colleagues can persuade the country to support the indictment of a president for high crimes.