Making the click-through worthwhile: Congress is in the middle of only the fourth impeachment process against a president in American history, and yet the general public is generally tuned out or bored by it all; New York slides back towards its pre-Giuliani status, showcasing how violent crime can decline but the public can still feel less safe; an ugly spat gets all too public; and some of the weirder and surprisingly enjoyable offerings from Christmas television offerings.
For Something Allegedly Momentous, Americans Sure Seem Bored by Impeachment
This ongoing impeachment process is weird. We all have a good sense of the outcome, and just about all of the intermediate steps. There’s little to no dispute about what the president did, said, or intended. If the Democrats believed they would reap a great political benefit from this, it hasn’t happened yet. It could well force senators Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, and Michael Bennet (yes, he’s still running) to spend weeks or months away from the presidential campaign trail. Former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter may well be called as witnesses in the Senate. (Pete Buttigieg must have been born under a lucky star.) President Trump may get a fundraising boost out of it, but the Trump 2020 campaign was never going to rise or fall based upon fundraising. (Ask the president or his supporters: would you rather have the money, or would you rather not have this ongoing impeachment process?)
Everyone involved in impeachment is going to come out of this with less than they expected. Support for removal is now at 47.7 percent support in the FiveThirtyEight aggregation, and 44.1 percent oppose Trump’s removal from office. The Washington Post notes that support for impeachment is the minority view in most of the swing states and that Trump’s approval rating hasn’t changed much since the process started.
CNN’s Harry Enten writes a sentence that says a great deal about our current era: “Voters feel impeachment is not all that important in the grand scheme of things.” He notes that a poll conducted by the network found that out of eight issues, respondents ranked impeachment last in importance. Just 42 percent of independents said the impeachment inquiry would be extremely or very important to their 2020 vote.
It’s not hard to find analysts, usually Trump-leaning, scoffing and confidently predicting that the Democrats will not pass a single article of impeachment. That scenario is hard to envision. The House not impeaching Trump after all of this would set off a civil war within the Democratic party. That scenario would require 15 House Democrats to quietly and privately go to Nancy Pelosi and tell her they can’t vote for impeachment. Only two House Democrats voted against starting the inquiry. Recall that about ten years ago, a lot of House Democrats voted for Obamacare, knowing it would probably cost them their seats; back then, support for Obamacare was lower than the current support for impeachment, around 40 percent in most polls. When the Democratic party really wants to pass legislation, its leaders can make legislators take votes that will end their careers in order to get something passed.
Also note that if the Democrats bring multiple articles of impeachment up for a vote, some House Democrats may split the difference: “A few moderates have actually encouraged leadership to let them vote against some articles of impeachment on the House floor while backing others, a move that would allow centrists taking heat back home to show a degree of independence from their party’s left flank and their leadership.”
To a lot of Trump supporters, not only is all of impeachment a joke and a partisan witch hunt, the notion that the president did anything wrong at all is unthinkable nonsense. The call was, as Trump insists, perfect. Hunter Biden’s role on Burisma while he was the vice president’s son was corruption, and if the Ukrainian government would just look into it, they would find proof of crimes. Trump’s previous bad experiences with the Federal Bureau of Investigation meant he couldn’t trust Christopher Wray or the rest of the Department of Justice, and he had no choice but to have his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, run it all from outside the government. Trump’s “I want you to do me a favor” comment to President Volodymyr Zelensky was nothing more than the routine give-and-take between heads of state.
To a lot of Democrats and Trump critics in either party, this is clearest slam dunk in the history of presidential misbehavior. And because it involves an effort to find dirt on a potential rival candidate, this decision cannot be left to the voters in November 2020. The fact that there’s never been a snowball’s chance in heck of 20 Republican senators joining 47 Democratic senators in support of removal is hand-waved away as immaterial or irrelevant to the decision. Do the right thing in the name of justice, and don’t worry about the consequences. Over at The Bulwark, they speculate about “twelve Senate Republicans who might vote to remove Trump from office.” That list includes the two most plausible rebels — Mitt Romney, Lisa Murkowski — and Richard Burr, because he’s run the Senate Intelligence Committee in a fairly amiable manner with Democrat senator Mark Warner. They include the retiring senators who wouldn’t fear a backlash at the ballot box — Lamar Alexander, Mike Enzi, and Pat Roberts. That gets removal to 53 — and then The Bulwark imagines Susan Collins, Cory Gardner, Martha McSally, Joni Ernst, Thom Tillis and John Cornyn deciding they would prefer to be admired by historians than winning reelection. You might as well imagine scenarios where senators get secretly replaced by ideologically reversed lookalikes like the president in the movie Dave.
Chad Pergram, a Fox News reporter on Capitol Hill, reported, “a member of Pelosi’s leadership team today told Fox that the backlog of bills up this month in the House ‘works against’ a December impeachment vote. And the Democrat noted that impeachment ‘doesn’t fit the holiday spirit.’ That means impeachment could wait until 2020.”
First, if Trump is this law-breaking menace to the Constitution, who is such a clear and proven threat to American values and the processes of our government that this cannot be left to voters . . . why is he getting a reprieve for Christmas?
The House pushed back its holiday vacation from December 12 to December 20. Right now, it isn’t scheduled to reconvene until January 7, 2020.
Petty Crime Can Create More Than Petty Fear
Last week I mentioned that we perceive crime to be getting worse, even as national statistics indicate it is declining. Over in the New York Post, Karol Marcowicz observes that New Yorkers are witnessing minor, usually nonviolent crimes occurring in broad daylight: subway turnstile jumping, public urination, gangs of teens harassing passersby. If you’re seeing minor or petty crime occurring in broad daylight, you start to feel less safe, even if you’re not being assaulted.
It’s hard not to notice crimes being committed in plain sight, and no one seems to care. The smell of marijuana isn’t new in the Big Apple, but now it’s prevalent everywhere, including on playgrounds on Saturday afternoons — and even when police officers are around.
Mentally ill people behaving violently on the subway, or urinating on the streets in broad daylight, are common. Instead of doing anything about it, the mayor issued an edict telling police not to call them “emotionally disturbed persons.” Thanks, Mr. Mayor, that bit of language policing is sure to fix the underlying problem.
Will Someone Please Take the Phones Away from the Conways?
A few people seem to be enjoying the public spat on Twitter between Kellyanne Conway and George Conway. I’d just like to see them work it out someplace beyond the public spotlight and social media. Just about every couple fights, or at least has vigorous disagreements, but as James Gagliano and I noted yesterday, there’s something really troubling about watching a couple attempt to undermine and humiliate each other publicly. For most people, when a stranger criticizes your spouse, you reflexively want to register your objection across the bridge of their nose. Even if you think your spouse is nuts sometimes, that’s your call to make; nobody else gets to speak badly of the one you love, at least not in your presence. In this case, the husband is publicly concurring with people denouncing his wife. I’ve pulled three muscles from cringing so hard.
It’s like the entire country got invited to a dinner party, and right as we took off our coats, the hosting couple started fighting. Now we’re stuck sitting through a long, awkward dinner as they snipe at each other, avoiding eye contact and trying to figure out a good excuse to get out of there.
“Um, maybe we should go…”
“No! I insist you stay! You have to hear about the latest lunatic thing she did!”
“Only if he tells you about how he nearly wrecked the car!”
“If you hadn’t distracted me while I was driving—”
ADDENDA: The end of the year is usually a good time for oddities outside the realm of politics. A hearty congratulations to the ad agency for Peloton exercise bikes, for creating a commercial that makes an already-fit wife look like she’s making a hostage tape. “Ma’am, if you’re under duress, blink twice.”
. . . Last night brought the annual airing of the stop-motion Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Christmas special, giving me another chance to point out that the Santa in that story behaves like Kim Jong-un, complete with compulsory community sing-alongs about how everyone loves their work; that Rudolph quickly forgives years of mockery and ostracization that literally drives him out of society over a genetic defect, and that the Island of Misfit Toys is a refugee camp for those deemed genetically impure. The spectacular weirdness of this story, and the sense that it was written by somebody who was never allowed to apply to dental school by their parents and who never got over it, is probably what makes it so enduring . . .
You know what was a really good Christmas movie for the family? I mean, besides Die Hard. And besides National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, which my family inevitably unintentionally emulates every time we put up the Christmas lights. Netflix’s Klaus, which came out a few weeks ago and features a real old-school Disney vibe. It’s about a lazy, bumbling mailman who is exiled to a remote Nordic village, “the unhappiest place on earth.” He accidentally starts the story of Santa Claus with his friendship with an old hermit who lives in the wintry woods. The hand-drawn animation and great voice work by Jason Schwartzman, J. K. Simmons, and Joan Cusack make this feel like a Christmas movie that could have come out a half-century ago, in the best way.