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Stipulate that no one really knows how impeachment is going to play out in the House, in the Senate, and in the 2020 presidential election.
Even the conventional wisdom that is most widely accepted by elites – that Joe Biden’s presidential campaign will be doomed by the focus on Ukraine – is more conventional than wisdom at this point, actually.
Of course, Team Trump was going to study the Bill-Clinton-survives-impeachment playbook and cherry-pick the most effective parts.
Am I surprised that Trump so quickly went right to the core of 42’s stayin’-alive messge?
I am not.
“They’re trying to stop me because I’m fighting for you, and I’ll never let that happen,” Donald J. Trump said in a tweeted video shot at the White House, in which he also flaunted the general election issues on which he will run and which his pollsters tell him will both rev up the base and appeal to enough of the center to beat Elizabeth Warren (or whoever).
My take: Expect to hear this message a lot over the coming months. It doesn’t come as naturally to Donald Trump as it does to Bill Clinton to talk about how the voters are more important than he is, but he already knows this is his strongest hand.
The biggest questions, then.
1. Is impeachment in the House a sure thing?
In Austin Saturday night: “Pelosi indicated that there were no foregone conclusions that the House would deliver an impeachment for trial in the U.S. Senate.” (Texas Tribune)
Despite what the Speaker said, it is hard to see how this train stops – for the very same reasons it started in motion and went from 0 to 120 in less than a week.
2. Assuming the House impeaches, what are the chances of a Senate conviction?
The Associated Press: “Trump’s hold on the Republican Party makes it nearly impossible to foresee a scenario in which the GOP-controlled Senate convicts Trump if he were impeached by the Democratic-run House.”
Ross Douthat calls a Senate conviction “a political near-impossibility.”
And Politico correctly points out that Mitch McConnell might not even hold a trial.
3. If the House impeaches and there is no Senate conviction, what does that do to Trump’s reelection chances?
Christopher Buskirk, in his New York Times op ed, agrees that conviction is not in the cards and says this is a major political problem for the Democrats.
This piece will cause Team Trump to breathe a sigh of relief. Pro-impeachment Americans should read it and explain to themselves where it is wrong.
John Cassidy in the New Yorker: “It is hard to say how televised impeachment proceedings—limited in duration and narrowly focussed on the Ukraine scandal and perhaps a couple of other Trump misdeeds, as some Democrats have proposed—would play with the American public. One possible outcome that hasn’t received much attention is that they wouldn’t have much impact at all on the President’s reëlection prospects. Voters who detest Trump or support him will probably interpret the proceedings as supportive of their preëxisting views. Less committed and less informed voters may write the hearings off as just another partisan battle in Washington.”
My take: Here is the order of likelihood now (remembering, please, that there is a difference between what is and what ought to be):
1. House impeaches, Senate does not convict, Trump reelection is helped (because the right is riled up, the left is deflated, and the eventual Democratic presidential nominee never truly prepares to win a general election).
2. House impeaches, Senate does not convict, Trump’s reelection is hurt (because independents are angered by the evidence revealed in the House and the failure of either McConnell to hold a trial or Republicans to vote on the up-and-up in the Senate).
3. House fails to impeach (because the evidence fizzles, the whistleblower fizzles, or some other thing happens).
4. House impeaches, Senate convicts.
That’s the order today. But by noon on Monday, I might have a different point of view. In fact, I could change my mind today based on what happens on the Sunday morning public affairs programs.
Three essential reading pieces to start your post-Wide World of News Sunday:
1. The New York Times with the most meticulous and brilliant journalism of the last week, explaining “The Donald and Rudy Show” and how we got where we are.
2. The Washington Post with a sober and fair accounting of Hunter Biden’s Ukraine involvement. Note the many questions that Team Biden refuses to answer, which doesn’t mean crimes were committed, or anything improper was done, but does suggest that there is more digging ahead.
3. The Washington Post, again, with a piece as compelling as it is bizarre, on the on-going investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server. Harmless tying up of loose ends, Trump administration abuse of power, or ticking time bomb? You make the call.
The season premiere of “Saturday Night Live” featured an Alec Baldwin cold open on Trump and impeachment and a sketch about many of the Democratic presidential candidates.
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