The widely applauded decision to name a special counsel won’t resolve some momentous matters raised by the Russia affair. Robert Mueller’s investigation is limited to considering criminal acts. His purview doesn’t include determining whether Trump should be held to account for serious noncriminal misdeeds he or his associates may have committed with regard to his election, or violations of his constitutional duties as president. The point that largely got lost in the excitement over the appointment is that there are presidential actions that aren’t crimes but that can constitute impeachable offenses, which the Constitution defines as “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”
Disturbingly early in the Trump administration a great many Americans didn’t know if they could believe the president of the United States. The compulsive lying by Trump and those who spoke for him threatened to undermine his ability to govern. And then there are the not-exactly-lies but Trump’s strange versions of reality that he seems to believe: such as when he insists that the sun was shining during his inaugural speech, which it wasn’t; and this is an easily checkable fact. Could we believe him in the event of an international crisis—or know if it was indeed a crisis?
All American elections tend to be touted as historic, for all American culture tends toward the condition of hype. Flummoxing, then, to be confronted with a struggle for political power in which, for once, all is at stake. We have long since forfeited the words to confront it, rendering superlatives threadbare, impotent.
Ratf**ked: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America’s Democracy
by David Daley
Ratf**ked: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America’s Democracy is a sobering and convincing account of how the Republicans figured out the way to gain power in the state legislatures and, as a consequence, in the federal government through an unprecedented national effort of partisan redistricting.
Trump may stumble at times, but his shrewdness is not to be minimized: his anti-immigration rhetoric could well be an effective way to get his base—considered to be about 35 percent of the voters—to the polls. Not enough to win but a sizable chunk to keep on his side as he prepares to run for re-election in 2020. As for their effect on 2018, they could also motivate Democrats to get themselves to the polls. Elections are supposed to be our way of peacefully resolving our differences, but one seemingly inescapable outcome this time around is that, thanks to the president’s heavy participation in them, this midterm election will leave an already riven country even more divided than before.
Republicans have been implacable in their determination to put an end to Obama’s proudest legislative achievement ever since it was passed in March 2010. This has as much to do with disdain for our first black president as it does resistance to a historic expansion of government. But the Republicans didn’t reckon on two things: that the program would become popular once people signed on to it; and that after two terms Obama would end up one of our most liked presidents.
A lot of Republicans who had deep misgivings about Trump went along with him because they assumed that he could produce legislation dear to their hearts. But what if it turns out that he can’t? Politicians are highly pragmatic people; they will support a president as long as he isn’t too costly to them. But if he becomes too expensive to their own reelection, all bets are off. On the Senate floor the other day, a cluster of Republicans jocularly made a pool on the way in which they think Trump will be forced to leave office.