The Case for Impeachment, by Allan J. Lichtman; Great Again, by Donald J. Trump

Second paragraph of third chapter of The Case for Impeachment, by Allan J. Lichtman:

As a private citizen, Donald Trump has escaped serious retribution for his crimes and transgressions. He's settled civil lawsuits charging him with breaking racketeering and civil rights laws, paid fines that he could well afford, protracted litigation, and concealed lawbreaking for many years. There are two avenues of impeachment opened by Trump's practice of disregarding the law. First, although unlikely, the House of Representatives could vote articles of impeachment and the Senate could convict Trump for illegal acts that occurred prior to assuming office. The Constitution specifies no time limits on any of its enumerated impeachable offenses. There is no statute of limitations and no judicial review of decisions made by either the house of the Senate. Past actions could also become part of a larger impeachment.

Second paragraph of third chapter of Great Again: How to Fix Our Crippled America, by Donald J. Trump:

What I said only makes common sense. I speak to border patrol guards, and they tell us who we’re letting across our border. The countries south of us are not sending us their best people. The bad people are coming from places other than just Mexico. They’re coming from all over Central and South America, and they’re coming probably—probably—from the Middle East. Let me add now: Allowing tens of thousands of Syrian refugees in the door will certainly bring a lot of problems. But we won’t know how bad, because we have no protection and we have no competence. We don’t know what’s happening. It’s got to stop, and it’s got to stop quickly.

Two different friends, who both work in senior EU jobs, gave me these two books for my birthday in April. It's a very interesting contrast. Lichtman, a retired history professor, lays out the pathways that might lead to Trump's removal from office under the provisions in the Constitution, starting by looking at the record of their past use (Johnson, Nixon and Clinton) and then setting out the potential charge sheet, though here I think he veers into some wildly improbably territory (however much I disapprove of Trump's policies on climate, I don't see that as a likely ground for removal from office).

What becomes clear to me is that while all of this is useful fact, we are not yet remotely near the political circumstance where it's going to become politically relevant. Nate Silver had a good long piece last week looking at the circumstances which must align; most critically, you need a combination of obvious wrong-doing and relative unpopularity of the President to enable the President's own congressional allies to desert their man. Arguably in the Johnson case, the president was very unpopular but alleged wrong-doing was not obvious, and in the Clinton case, while it was clear that wrong had been done, the president remained popular; only in the Nixon case were both criteria fulfilled. We may be headed in that direction, but we are not there yet.

Trump's own words are frustrating and infuriating to read. The central narrative is that America is somehow broken (though in fact little evidence other than anecdotal is presented for this) and that only he can fix it (and again, little evidence other than his own self-belief is provided for this).

To my surprise, there were one or two points on which I found myself in agreement with the book. On health care, once one cuts through the animus towards Obama and the ACA, what Trump says he wants is not all that bad; it's just very far from what he has actually proposed once elected. On infrastructure, again he makes some very sensible points, but again it sounds like the proposals he has actually put forward in office are a long way from where American really needs to be.

For the rest, there is a rambling stream of consciousness from someone who watches only cable news and actually takes it seriously. We sometimes overanalyse in search of deeper policy meanings for Trump's words and actions (the ridiculous kerfuffle over "covfefe" last week was a good example, concentrating on a literal stupidity rather than a serious issue). Trump is not up to the job, and his presidency will probably end in failure; but it may not end prematurely.

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