AT the time of posting, it seems likely the hoax ‘impeachment’ trial of Donald Trump could be shut down with an acquittal by the weekend. The event signaling this is key swing senator Lamar Alexander’s announcement that he will not vote to allow the calling of witnesses. The Tennessee Republican says there is “no need” to do so. Politically, an acquittal is a triumph for the President, although Democrats and the media will pretend the earlier House vote – and the supposed ignominy of being impeached in the first place – sting Trump electorally (they don’t and won’t) and sully his standing in history. Like Germans in 1918, Democrats will take potshots till 11 am but the truth is witnesses would do more damage to their party and its 2020 prospects than to President Trump – and they know it. Certainly, former NSA John Bolton’s bitchy play to be invited to testify against the man who sacked him for his increasingly insane war doctrine got journalists licking their lips. But Bolton has never been a beloved figure and his views are now seen as old hat and dangerous by most Americans. He is no match for Trump. Tactically, Rand Paul’s attempt to have named the so-called “whistleblower” was brilliant – even if Chief Justice John Roberts refused to read the Kentucky senator’s question. Eric Ciaramella is the best-known ‘secret’ personality in the intelligence world since Valerie Plame (who took the title from James Bond). The funny and clever angle Senator Paul worked was the pretense of mystery surrounding Ciaramella’s identity. If nobody – including Adam Schiff and the Chief Justice – knows who he is, then how do they know his naming is legally indelicate? The Democrats know who he is because he’s one of them.
Senator Paul has grown in stature enormously over the past five years. He has moved well beyond father Ron’s puritanism while maintaining a very distinct reputation and public image for being his own man. That he has been stoic and formidable in support of President Trump throughout the dual Russia/Ukraine hoax has also burnished his credentials for national leadership with the GOP base – and could fuel his own run for the White House. There is very interesting history-making in real time going on here and the Trump-Paul interaction illustrates its nature. So does the unsentimental ouster of John Bolton.
This is a President who is not in the least beholden to ideological hangers-on and coat-pullers – as the two Bushes and Ronald Reagan were. Trump wants to discern what works – for the enrichment of the United States, the entrenchment of its global economic power and the sustainability of its foreign policy reach – and in every arena pragmatism eventually trumps dogma. Pragmatism is only bad when practitioners scuttle risky initiatives to protect their own seats (in both senses). A better word for this is expediency. Trump’s preference is to scuttle ideology instead – in favour of bottom-line returns. A downside of that has been a huge staff turnover as starry-eyed functionaries discover this Republican President is not running a libertarian or neo-conservative experiment. So be it.
If anything, the historically unprecedented hatred unleashed against him by cultural elites has only steeled Trump’s resolve to be Trump and be even more aggressively focused on results. There was a golden moment in an interview by Michael Parkinson of Michael Caine some years ago in which the legendary Cockney was asked about his famously imitable accent. Even he could do Michael Caine, said Caine, and then proceeded to do so. Likewise, there are so many hyperbolic caricatures of Trump that he sometimes joins in and does his own. The disadvantage of this is an occasional – his critics would say frequent – indiscretion. The upside of his obvious enjoyment of being (and overdoing) Donald Trump is that it enrages his foes to febrile extremes, driving them on herd-like to newer and more fantastical platforms and countermeasures. Even if some of their stances are worthy, they never come across that way; they come across as sour, insincere and unhinged. The impeachment disgrace – their disgrace – was the inevitable outcome of this phenomenon. The 2020 US Presidential Election begins officially on Monday in Iowa. If President Trump is acquitted before the big day, it will be a sweet thing for him and a defeat for Democrats. If by some procedural means an acquittal has to wait, it would result in the plainly crooked continuation of a ‘trial’ of the incumbent during a presidential campaign. That will also benefit Trump. He can’t lose either way. An enviable position to be in, it may also be propitious.