There are two things about modern politics that are depressingly true. The first is that “our” side is always right, regardless of the facts. The second is that inflicting harm on the other side is often more important than getting something useful done. Both truths have their origins in the politics of the United States of America, which has been waging a permanent, unending political campaign since about 1992. Because election campaigns last for 18 months, and there are elections every two years, the United States gets about six months every two years for actual Governing. The current Presidential campaign, which will not conclude until November next year, has been running now for about six months already. One candidate, Kamala Harris, has raised and spent twenty-five million dollars in pursuit of the Presidency – and she’s lost. Out of the race before a vote has been even cast.
The impeachment of President Trump should be seen in this context. First and foremost, it is a fundraising bonanza for Democrats, and Republicans, alike. Millions of ordinary Americans are receiving frantic emails from candidates for just about every office demanding support to “hold Trump to account”, or to “stop the partisan impeachment”.
The outcome, of course, is not in doubt. President Trump will not be impeached. He will be acquitted in the Senate and will face the voters on schedule next November. In truth, if there was any realistic prospect of Trump being impeached, Democrats would never have done it. Having Trump on the ballot is the best way to turn out their voters next November and raise money. When the Republicans say that this is a partisan impeachment, they are, of course, totally correct. It is about politics, nothing more.
On the other hand, just because impeachment is partisan and political, pretending that President Trump is blameless is just as partisan, and just as political.
It’s always worth doing a thought experiment, in these situations. Imagine, if you can, that a recording emerged tomorrow of Leo Varadkar, in conversation with the President of a third world country. Imagine that Mr. Varadkar was on tape, strongly implying that Irish development aid would only go to that country if its Government investigated a business belonging to a Fianna Fáil TD.
Would you, in those circumstances, be saying that Mr. Varadkar did nothing wrong? Or might you be saying that the Government is corrupt and should be removed from office? And if it is the latter, why is there a different standard for the President of the United States?
Donald Trump is, in general, a vastly under-rated President. Because his tweets and controversies dominate the conversation, and because the Irish and European media are fanatically opposed to him, Irish audiences rarely hear about his successes. But those successes are real.
The President’s economic policy has unleashed a long and sustained period of growth, just four years after his predecessor, Mr. Obama, said that “the era of 4% growth is over”. Well, that was wrong. More Americans are in work today than at any time since 2008. His trade policies, though very controversial on even in his own party, have brought the Chinese government to the negotiating table. On foreign policy, while there have been some horrible decisions (especially if you are a Kurd) his muscular approach to NATO has strengthened the alliance, rather than weakened it, by making others pull their weight.
On the immigration issue, the President is benefitting from the incoherence of his critics. On the one hand, he was mocked for years for suggesting that there was a crisis at the Mexican border. On the other hand, his critics lambast him for interning hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants at that same border. Americans who are not exposed to the filter of the Irish Times or RTE are well aware that on the subject of the border, President Trump is right – there is a crisis. And most of them prefer his solutions to those offered by the Democrats.
President Trump’s weakness has always been his personal conduct. He remains the man, and this is not in dispute, who embarked on an affair with a porn star shortly after the birth of his own son. Far too many women have alleged sexual impropriety on his behalf for any reasonable person not to at least harbour significant doubts about his conduct with women. This week alone, he referenced a widow, Debbie Dingell, and implied that her late husband, a Democrat, was “looking up” at the impeachment proceedings from hell. He is not a nice man, nor a good man.
He is a President, not a King. The correct way to hold him to account for his record, both the good parts, and the bad parts, is at the ballot box. The Americans have yet another election in just under a year. That is where Trumps fate should be decided, not in an impeachment