Would Donald J. Trump follow suit? For better or worse, it will be (at least) another week before the new year starts at this site.
Our new year will focus on "Aristotle's error." But for at least one additional week, the excitement will have to wait.
For today, we'll direct your attention to Michael Tomasky's column in today's New York Times. He lists the downsides to impeachment. On balance, we agree with his point of view.
We met Tomasky once or twice many moons ago; we liked the cut of his jib. That said, we think he skips an important point today. The problem is lurking here:
TOMASKY (1/14/19): While impeachment is clearly a valid exercise of power, so is another method of removal, also prescribed by the Constitution: an election. This is how Americans like to ditch presidents and parties they don’t like—presidential power has changed hands 44 times in this country’s history.We strongly agree with Tomasky's main point. Absent some devastating finding by Mueller—we refer to a demonstrated finding, not to a sensible allegation—impeachment would be deeply divisive, whether it was followed by removal from office or not.
In addition, nine incumbent presidents have lost re-election, including three in the last half-century, and all have peacefully (if not always gracefully) yielded power. In contrast, only two presidents, Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, have been impeached by the House, though both were acquitted in the Senate. Richard Nixon, facing certain and imminent impeachment, resigned.
That’s a historical record that suggests that an electoral outcome will be much more widely accepted. Mr. Trump’s partisans will whine about the unfairness of it all in either case—they’ll blame “voter fraud,” or George Soros, or the “fake news media.” But if the voters have rebuffed the president, the whining will sound to most Americans like just that.
A Trump defeat in 2020 would be a whole different barrel of worms. But here's the point we thought we saw Tomasky skip past:
Nine incumbent presidents have lost re-election and all have peacefully yielded power...Richard Nixon, facing certain and imminent impeachment, resigned.Just for the record, Nixon was also facing likely removal.
Nine or ten presidents did the right thing. That said, do you feel certain that Donald J. Trump would follow suit?
We don't feel sure about that at all! Whistling past the question of possible mental illness/disorder, Tomasky fails to wonder or ask.
If Trump is facing electoral defeat next September, what might he choose to do? What if he's facing electoral defeat in a situation where leaving office might subject him to prosecution?
What could a president do, you might ask. A president with mental illness problems could do many things! Most obviously, he could start a war, then attempt to postpone the election.
You might say that the second part wouldn't work. That leaves the president starting a war—in the vernacular, wagging the dog. Meanwhile, how about if he starts a war next June to avoid falling behind in the polls? It might not work, but everyone knows that the country has tended to rally behind a president at the onset of war.
In Donald J. Trump crazy enough to do these things? We have no idea. If you feel sure that he isn't that bad, we'd like to take a big long gulp of the artichoke milk shake you're on.
We like the cut of Tomasky's jib. That said, as we read his column today, it almost seemed that he started to raise this point, then decided to hurry on past it.
How disordered is Donald J. Trump? In a very serious pinch, what sorts of things might he do?
This time last year, the Times said we mustn't discuss Trump's mental health. The rest of the press fell in line.
During 2017, Yale psychiatrist Bandy Lee had tried to raise these points of concern. Just like that, she got disappeared.
A note concerning our sources: We've consulted on these questions with the gloomy group we've long described as "future anthropologists huddled in caves." They communicate via a strange "time travel" technology born in the blasts of the conflagration they describe as Mister Trump's War.
The analysts report that Cassandra keeps raising these same points with them, always quite late at night. It sounds us like these earnest young people have simply been having bad dreams.