Opinion: Trump uses trademark madcap strategy to win impeachment fight
The impeachment of President Donald Trump is just the most recent installment in a long-running series of scandals, imbroglios and brouhahas that would have brought down other presidents, but somehow has left this one not only standing, but gloating.
The main reason the impeachment process — and more broadly all the Trump scandals — have bewildered or turned off many Americans is that this audacious New Yorker has employed to perfection the strategy he always follows: keep 'em guessing.
His execution of this strategy best explains why Trump is an unprecedented president who makes people’s heads spin in a nonstop swirl. While his predecessors sought to clarify their views and place them in some logical progression, Trump’s goal is to sow chaos and confusion at every turn. He says one thing one day — Nancy and I can work together on climate change; I’ll cooperate with Democrats on a huuuuge! infrastructure plan; I’m dying to testify to Bob Mueller, eager to tell my story to the impeachment committees — then says the opposite the next day.
As he pursues this madcap approach, Trump is one-upping Republican icon Ronald Reagan, an earlier entertainer-turned-politician.
Reagan made his foes underestimate him by playing dumb. He rode his aw-shucks, seemingly simplistic demeanor to two terms in the White House and a high place on historians’ subsequent presidential rankings.
Trump, by contrast, is in your face every day — boasting shamelessly, denying endlessly, lying so baldly and repeatedly that major news organizations assign reporters to do nothing other than count and document his fibs running into the thousands.
The political pandemonium Trump orchestrates like some crazy symphony conductor has helped produce bizarre sets of bedfellows that the impeachment process has revealed:
►Liberals have long been against our intelligence agencies, going back decades to when the CIA overturned democratic elections in Chile, Iraq and beyond, and continuing through the cooked-up WMD intel used to justify the disastrous 2003 Iraq invasion. Now, however, Democrats view as gospel the intel agencies’ joint finding that Russia meddled in the 2016 election, and they’ve turned former intel chiefs James Clapper and John Brennan into rabbinical fonts of wisdom.
►John Bolton was long viewed by liberals as a wild man for his ultra-hawkish neocon promotion of regime change in the Middle East. Now they’ve repackaged him into the great seer who walked out on the “drug deal” Trump pitched to Ukraine and is about to come out with a Book of Revelations the Dems are regarding with the reverential awe Jews reserve for scrolling open the Torah on the High Holy Days.
►Mitt Romney was castigated by Democrats as a conservative zealot with wacky Mormon beliefs when he ran for president in 2012 against incumbent Barack Obama. Now they’ve transformed the Michigan native (and high school graduate of Cranbrook School in Bloomfield Hills) into a senator of Lincolnian fortitude for insisting on witnesses in the Trump impeachment trial.
►Sen. Lindsey Graham, with his stalwart ally the late John McCain, built a reputation for political courage during the second Bush presidency. He stood up to Vice President Dick Cheney in opposing the use of torture while interrogating accused terrorists; he insisted that they retain some core legal rights during military commission trials. It was that conservative centrist who branded Trump a “race-baiting, xenophobic” bigot in 2015, and urged fellow Republicans later that year: “Tell Donald Trump to go to hell.” Now the South Carolinian will vote to acquit Trump of obstructing justice Wednesday in the Senate impeachment trial’s scheduled conclusion after having acknowledged that he’d made up his mind before the trial even started.
We know what Trump will do after the Senate acquits him: He’ll tweet that he’s been totally vindicated, and he’ll tell roaring campaign crowds that he beat the witch hunt like a drum.
On TV and online, pundits will make the same mistake they’ve been making about the brash billionaire for almost five years: He got lucky, they’ll say. He cowed chicken-hearted congressional Republicans. He did his Houdini act again, escaping from certain downfall.
In all these and more conclusions, the commentators will miss the impossible truth right in front of their eyes:
Trump did it with madness. Calculated, tumultuous, impossible madness.
Get ready for more madness in the coming White House campaign months. And should this most unlikely of presidents gain reelection, gird yourself for four more years of life in a national political asylum.
James Rosen is a longtime Washington correspondent who’s covered Congress, the Pentagon and the White House.