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Scandals and the American Party System

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AP870319048

I argue that while the facts uncovered by the Mueller investigation will probably be as bad as Watergate and could well be much worse, given current partisan polarization the political effects are likely to be more like Iran-Contra:

The most common analogy will be Watergate, and the evidence that Trump committed obstruction of justice will only make the comparisons more common, given that this offense is exactly what did Nixon in. It is possible that Mueller will find something so damaging that Trump will be forced to resign or the necessary bipartisan supermajority in the Senate would plausibly convict him if he was impeached by a majority of the House.

Possible, but probably quite unlikely. Nixon’s resignation occurred in a very different political context. Not only did the Democratic Party control Congress, but the Republican Party had a much larger moderate wing than it does today. It is highly unlikely that President Nixon would have been forced out of office if he was working with today’s Congress. Mueller might find something so damaging that congressional Republicans conclude that it’s in their interests to abandon Trump. But I strongly doubt that confirmation of the obstruction of justice, which Trump all but admitted to already, would be sufficient.

As Washington Post political reporter David Weigel shrewdly observed, a comparison that is likely to be more apt is the Reagan administration’s Iran-Contra scandal. The discovery that officials within the administration had facilitated the sale of arms to Iran partly in order to illegally fund the Contra rebels in Nicaragua and partly to secure the freedom of some hostages was a substantial embarrassment, and lower-level officials were implicated in illegal activity. But it was never proven that Reagan himself was involved, and he was never seriously threatened with impeachment. With partisan polarization having intensified, this is probably the more likely scenario even if Trump’s actions turn out to be more like Nixon’s than Reagan’s.

Iran-Contra didn’t lead to Reagan’s removal, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t matter. Reagan’s approval rating dropped by roughly 20 points after the illegal arms deal was revealed. This caused the Reagan administration to pivot in a more moderate direction. Most notably, the collapse of Reagan’s popularity helped contribute to the defeat of Reagan’s Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork, which in turn almost certainly saved Roe v. Wade from being overruled.

Even if Trump survives Mueller’s investigation, then, it is still likely to hobble his administration politically. His already-weak approval ratings are more likely to get worse than better. This will make it harder for Republicans to retain the House in the 2018 midterms, and will also hobble the passage of the party’s already unpopular legislative agenda. Indeed, we may look back and conclude that Trump’s decision to fire Comey saved 24 million people from having their health insurance taken away.

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  • cleek

    if the Dems can pick up a chamber of Congress, we might see some moderation from the WH. otherwise, nah.

    Trump’s base thinks all of this stuff is just politics as usual. http://www.rawstory.com/2017/05/its-all-bullsht-trump-voters-have-no-regrets-because-they-dont-trust-reports-on-comey-and-russia/ . they don’t want any moderation, and they’d boot any Rep who tried it.

    • sigaba

      Bullshit rarionalizations have a way of breaking down and being rationalized into different bullshit rarionalizations.

      Credit these people for knowing Comey was fired, and they do seem to know that Trump is accused of bad things, but their response is just broad generalities: “Why can’t they just get along.” “Democrats wanted Comey’s head too.”

      It’s really easy to make the leap to “I wish he’d just get out of the way.” or “the liberals are going to use him to beat us.”

      Natch, these are all heavily self-selected accounts and subject to significant bias in how they were selected.

    • Brett

      It’s not impossible, but I mostly agree with you. Trump still has the support of the two most powerful constituencies in the Republican Party: conservative primary voters and the conservative media. As long as that’s the case, it’s extremely dangerous for a large number of Republican congressional representatives to put their necks out to take down Trump, and unsurprisingly the reaction from Paul Ryan and others has mostly been to kiss ass.

    • Dennis Orphen

      I’m in a purple semi-rural area of a blue state and the general impression that I get from talking to and listening to/overhearing the legion wingnuts and retirees around here is that this is the Democrats attempt to cheat the system and distract from and cover up their own criminal behavior. The rot goes deep.

      • Pat

        I’d like to also point out that most of the men with positions of power in the Republican Congress come from ruby-red districts, where Trump supporters are over-represented. They will be loyal to their constituents.

        Where it’s interesting is in the R+10 and R+15 districts, which are vulnerable in a D+22 wave.

        Many people have pointed out that independent prosecutors take time to do their thing. Interesting findings should be out by the summer of 2018.

  • keta

    The Mueller investigation might not nail Trump himself directly with election collusion with the Russians, but I remain quite certain that it’s going to uncover some snaky, sneaky Trump financial ties to shady, shifty Russian oligarchs.

    • ChrisS

      I think order no. 1 for Mueller is to subpoena personal finance records from the top of the trump campaign. I can’t imagine that this clown show is really good at covering their tracks. There was a lot of money from Russia flowing to Trump surrogates.

      • Murc

        I think order no. 1 for Mueller is to subpoena personal finance records from the top of the trump campaign.

        And if they tell Mueller to go screw?

        This isn’t a hypothetical; Mike Flynn is already playing this card, he just gave the middle finder to the Senate and told them he doesn’t regard their subpoena as being worth the paper it is printer on.

        Downthread and earlier today I said that I couldn’t see Flynn falling on his sword for Trump. I… might have been wrong. These are the actions of a man who either knows there’s something so damning on him he HAS to try to brazen it out, or a man who knows he has a pardon pen behind him.

        • econoclast

          Then Flynn will go to jail. If Trump, or maybe Pence, refuse to cooperate, then it’s a major constitutional crisis. Anyone lower in the chain is not in a position to say “nope”.

          • NonyNony

            Flynn goes to jail.

            Trump pardons him.

            Is that possible? Can Trump pardon someone who is in jail for ignoring a subpoena from Congress?

            • Murc

              He absolutely can.

              • rea

                I don’t think he can. You get jailed for noncompliance with a subpoena as a matter of civil contempt, not a criminal conviction. You have “the keys to the jail in your pocket,” as the standard metaphor goes–comply, and be released. Trump could pardon a federal criminal charge, but could not pardon away the duty to comply with a subpoena.

                • Manny Kant

                  Right, see this article: presidential pardon doesn’t apply to civil contempt.

            • efgoldman

              Trump pardons him.

              He’s certainly dumb enough. Pt will make fring Comey look like jaywalking.
              What happened to Flynn’s very public offer to testify in exchange for immunity? The assumption is He was ready to shovel dirt on someone else.
              Also, Flynn can be called back to active duty and court-martialed. Asshole could pardon that, too; but it’s likely Flynn will get at least busted down in rank and his pension reduced. That;s what happened to Petraus for a much lesser offense.

              ETA: As noted, doesn’t apply to contempt.

          • CaptainBringdown

            Somewhat surprisingly, enforcement of contempt of Congress isn’t that easy:

            A number of obstacles face Congress in any attempt to enforce a subpoena issued against an
            executive branch official. Although the courts have reaffirmed Congress’s constitutional authority
            to issue and enforce subpoenas, efforts to punish an executive branch official for non-compliance
            with a subpoena through criminal contempt will likely prove unavailing in many, if not most,
            circumstances.

            • This is how Harriet Myers was able to ignore a subpoena

            • Pat

              The FBI special prosecutor has much stronger subpoena powers, I would expect.

            • rea

              through criminal contempt

              But not civil contempt.

            • Hogan

              Flynn is no longer an executive official, though.

            • imwithher

              It would be civil contempt, either by the “inherent” power of Congress or through the courts, not criminal contempt. Also, Flynn is no longer an executive branch official.

              • efgoldman

                Flynn is no longer an executive branch official.

                Would it surprise you if his or Shitgibbon’s lawyers tried some kind of retroactive executive privilege?

    • petesh

      Mueller will almost certainly learn a great deal about unethical and criminal activity, but how long will it take? My suspicion is that he will assemble a team that does not talk, and they will be digging away for months before we know much. How his work ties in with public testimony to Congressional committees remains to be seen.

      How Trump reacts, in the medium term, is even harder to predict. We are moving out of governmental negotiation (at which he is objectively terrible) and into the kind of transactional world that Trump thinks he understands. He’s nowhere near as good at it as he thinks, and more foot-shooting may be the next visible step.

      • He’s nowhere near as good at it as he thinks, and more foot-shooting may be the next visible step.

        If you want a picture of the future, imagine Trump shooting himself in the orange foot — forever.

        • Keaaukane

          Suddenly, the Future doesn’t seem so dark anymore. Thanks, Lee.

          • q-tip

            Yeah, that was surprisingly inspiring to me, too!

        • The Lorax

          Imagine his trying to shoot himself in the foot and failing because his feet are so small.

  • NonyNony

    Here’s the part I don’t get:

    and will also hobble the passage of the party’s already unpopular legislative agenda

    Why? As in what is the causal mechanism that says “Trump’s presidency is weakened by all of this scandals, therefore he won’t be able to pick up his pen and sign whatever Congress puts in front of him?”

    It would be different if Trump were an Obama or a Clinton or even a W type president – these were guys with agendas who sold the American public on their agendas and then pushed Congress to pass their agendas. Weakening them would lead to their agendas being shoved over by the wayside in favor of Congress’s agenda (see W’s Social Security privatization plan being dropped like a hot potato once he was unpopular enough to not be able to push it).

    But Trump wasn’t in that role even on election day. Even if it wasn’t obvious that he didn’t have pull with Congress to push anything then, it became pretty clear once the clustermess of the original attempt to pass their AHCA happened.

    So how does this weaken the Republican agenda at all? It seems more like Trump will be eager to sign anything that Congress hands to him so that he can look like a winner and it will in fact weaken his attempts to push them around (which, I think, would actually slow down the Republican agenda).

    • So how does this weaken the Republican agenda at all?

      Getting things through Congress isn’t easy and takes time. Not a lot of AHCA work is gonna get done in the days up to and after Comey testifies, for example. Fresh Trump outrages also make it more likely that Republican reps and senators get earfuls from constituents via phone or in person. If Trump could just keep his head down and play in truck cabs, Ryan and McConnell could do a lot more legislatively. As long as he’s lashing out and shooting himself in the foot, moving anything through Congress becomes a lot harder.

      • fellenst

        Exactly this. Just logistically, there’s less time to pass big legislation when you are forced (by your constituents) to hold more hearings and investigations. Sure once it hits Trump’s desk it’s easy, but getting it there is the hangup.

        • humanoid.panda

          Put simply: there are 39 legislative days left until the August recess. After that, there is debt ceiling and funding government fights, and then we approach the end of the year and winter recess. Which means that even if one could plausibly see the AHCA become law in the fall, tax reform might be pushed to early in next year, and there is a non-zero possibility the political world is consumed with indictments and such by then.

          • NonyNony

            I have to admit – one of the things that astounds me is that Ryan didn’t have a tax cut in his back pocket ready to go into committee from day one.

            I honestly think that this is what is hurting them more than Trump – they should be able to walk and chew bubble gum at the same time. The problem is that they have spent years doing nothing but saying “NO” and not actually preparing anything for when they had power again.

            The thing that is stopping them now is their own dysfunction far more than Trump. There are 238 Republicans in the House and only 24 of them are on the Oversight committee and 13 on Intelligence. I don’t think any of them overlap with Ways and Means, which is the group that would be working on the tax bill at this point.

            The problem is that that House can’t agree on anything and there’s no Dear Leader to push them into submission. But that was true independent of the Trump scandal machine, I think.

            • humanoid.panda

              I have to admit – one of the things that astounds me is that Ryan didn’t have a tax cut in his back pocket ready to go into committee from day one.

              Well, in Ryan’s defense (LOL) he did have a plan, but it was a plan that was hatched from him buying into the hype of himself as a giant man of fiscal probity: he wanted to cut income and capital taxes, and impose a VAT in-all-but name, and thus have a permanent shift of taxation from top 10% to the other 90%. Problem is that Senate laughed him out of the room.

              The problem is that that House can’t agree on anything and there’s no Dear Leader to push them into submission. But that was true independent of the Trump scandal machine, I think.

              It’s not even a “Dear leader” situation. The Republican delegation in Congress has
              238 House member and 52 Senators, with varying constituencies and ideological priors (say, Texas republicans are super-nativist, but are very much pro-trade). You need leadership to impose a structure on this group, and tell them this is where party is, and you are going to have find your way there. Trump can’t fulfill this role because he has neither gravitas nor interest in policy, McConnell has the gravitas but lacks any interest in actual policy, and Ryan has interest in policy, but lacks gravitas.

            • daves09

              Ryan,and all the others, really believe that just saying something makes it so.
              Ryan honestly believed that his asterisk, asterisk, tax and economic plans were the real thing. They weren’t.
              No one in the repub. caucus was actually interested enough to actually try to write a medical or tax bill. Someone not dead to shame would have died of it when after 2 years as speaker the only real tax plan they had was the WH’s one page wonder.
              And of course none of them think there’s any need to change the way they operate. Jared’s advice to Trump is not to change the way they communicate but to get better liars-they really are incapable of understanding that things are different in Washington.

              • rea

                Also, the plan was that they’d pass the Obamacare R & R bill through both houses immediately, leaving them with enough budget room for their preferred tax cuts. Without that, they have to deal with various procedural issues . . .

            • Dennis Orphen

              Their only skills are dealing from the bottom of the deck and silencing anyone who catches them at it.

            • efgoldman

              one of the things that astounds me is that Ryan didn’t have a tax cut in his back pocket ready to go

              Granny Starver is as bad at speakering as Velveeta Vermin is at presidenting. He’s just a lot quieter about it.

            • Ask Me Gently

              When you control both houses and you’ve got a truly wingnut president, the legislation just writes itself, right?

            • blackbox

              It’s certainly baffling to watch play out, but if you step back and think about one simple fact, it all makes sense: Paul Ryan is an incompetent idiot.

      • brewmn

        Let’s not forget CBO scoring of the bill House Republicans just passed comes out early next week. I don’t think that’s going to make passage of any of their legislation any easier.

    • royko

      I think the article overstates it, but the continued circus does make it harder for their party to stay united, focused, and on message. They’re going to be looking for cover from his approval ratings, and everyone will be trying to distance themselves from him, and there’s the loss of an important figure who can get disparate factions to work together. They’ll still pass nasty crap, just probably not as much of it.

      • SatanicPanic

        There’s going to be a lot of infighting between people in safe districts and swing districts. Some of these votes were going to be tough already, when the president’s approval rating was in the low 40s. If it drops into the 20s good luck getting anything done.

      • ASV

        Yes. They’re already asking a lot for the caucus to vote for a bunch of historically unpopular legislation in the face of terrible generic ballot polling; now those same representatives have to run interference for an impeachment pushback, too?

    • cleek

      right.

      Trump’s greatest strength has been his ability to weather things that would sink any other politician. and he does that by being shameless, literally.

      other politicians see the press closing in and they freak out, get scared, start looking weak and vulnerable, and that’s when their allies and voters abandon them. nobody likes a loser. but Trump just dismisses his critics, keeps his chin up, keeps the Strong Man appearance going, and his base adores him for it. that’s how he got through the election.

      so, even if there’s a howling cyclone of scandal and rumor around him, his reaction should be to scoff at his critics and keep the base on his side. that will keep the GOP Congress on his side, and that keeps him in office.

      • sigaba

        The sharks only circle when the target himself acts in a way that suggests he knows something’s wrong. The political press in particular simply won’t call a felony a felony unless there’s some sort of coverup– if Trump stays proud of everything he’s doing, every transgression befomes business as usual, you voted for it, he promised he’d do it. Who am I, the lowly NYT reporter, to question “the will of the voters?”

        • humanoid.panda

          Who am I, the lowly NYT reporter, to question “the will of the voter

          Which is why all the bombshells of the last week or so were brought to us by citizen bloggers, and not by the corrupt, corporatist, elite media.

          • Rob in CT

            Heh.

            But really, there’s a bunch of shady shit the Times & other media outlets could’ve done a better job investigating last year, when this could have been prevented. But, her emails.

            • brewmn

              NPR had a big piece last week on how the businesses Trump was most involved in, casinos and real estate, were the businesses most ripe for exploitation by money launderers. It also reported on how Trump’s casinos were considered among the most lax in implementing anti-money laundering controls.

              I’m pretty sure all this information was available last summer. Might not have helped, but it would have shown that the media has some interest in covering the substance of Donald Trump, instead of covering empty podiums, crowds full of rabid bigots, and Hillary’s e-mails.

              • Rob in CT

                Damn right it was.

                A lot of this shit that’s coming to a head now was known/hinted at last summer.

                But her emails.

                • humanoid.panda

                  The problem with all this is of course that while there is a lot grounds to assume that Trump was involved in shady deals, there is very little specific information about any of his business dealings. Now, you could say that if the media could run with “questions asked” lines, but, let’s be honest: it was not a secret that he was corrupt. He basically boasted in it! Lacking a smoking gun, saying “Trump might have mob connections” doesn’t do you much.

                  And your last line captures it: Trump’s media coverage wasn’t perfect, but enough to make him a uniquely despised figure in the history of American presidential elections. The failure of the media was in that the way they covered Hillary made peopel think difference between candidates was degree, not kind.

                • Rob in CT

                  Now, you could say that if the media could run with “questions asked” lines

                  Yeah, I could say that!

                  “Trump might have mob connections” would’ve been far better than the thousandth story on Emails or the Clinton Foundation, or even pussy grabbing.

                • rea

                  Lacking a smoking gun, saying “Trump might have mob connections” doesn’t do you much.

                  Although saying,” Hillary might have mob connections” would work perfectly well.

                • efgoldman

                  Lacking a smoking gun, saying “Trump might have mob connections” doesn’t do you much.

                  NYT and WaPo don’t have subpoena and prosecutorial powers.

                • Brad Nailer

                  David Cay Johnston’s book, which documented Trump’s mob ties among other things, came out early in the year, maybe in the spring, as I recall. And this is not to mention that not only DCJ but several other people had been reporting on Trump for years. The media could’ve picked this up like a dog with an old shoe. Why they didn’t is anybody’s guess.

          • Pat

            I see the NY Times as the official mouthpiece of the Bush family.

          • sigaba

            They reported on that stuff because they all indicated inconsistencies in the WH story. They report on that all the time.

            What is never news is consistency. Consistently competent and taking credit for it, not news. Consistently obstructing justice and takig credit for it, not news. We’re still rolling for the weirdness of the last few days but if there aren’t any more documents or evidence of coverup the press will start to slink back into normalizing, and any attempt to call his crimes actual crimes will be labeled as merely one side of a c”omplex debate.”

            • humanoid.panda

              I’m sorry, but to me that sounds awfully close to “Liberal Media bias.” I mean: with the exceptions of reactions to his speech, the Syrian bombing, and the “Trump voters love Trump” beats, the media had been methodically uncovering shit on this administration. So, yes, the editorial/pundit side of things should be tightened, but it seems to me that you basically demand that the media make Trump non-president somehow.

              • humanoid.panda

                And, most basically, how do you know about his crimes, if not from the media?

    • Scott Lemieux

      Why? As in what is the causal mechanism that says “Trump’s presidency is weakened by all of this scandals, therefore he won’t be able to pick up his pen and sign whatever Congress puts in front of him?”

      Who thinks that Trump would veto anything Ryan and McConnell put on his desk? The question is whether a bill like the AHCA can get 50 votes in the Senate. The less popular Trump is, the greater the chance of either 3 defectors or a Senate bill that can’t produce a deal at conference. It’s not complicated.

      • NonyNony

        I’m dumb then, because I don’t see it. This is basic Republican agenda stuff – this isn’t stuff that Trump himself is pushing that they are grudgingly agreeing to because he’s president – tax cuts are what they want! It’s the only reason the billionaires that fund their campaigns keep them around as pets!

        Why would they suddenly stop wanting to do terrible things just because Trump is in trouble? Where are the defectors going to come from who don’t want to pass some horrible Republican legislation whose genesis lies from well before Trump ever thought of running for office?

        • Aaron Morrow

          As far as the general public knows, that horrible Republican legislation is associated with Trump, i.e. the Green Lantern theory of politics.

          If Trump’s popularity falls with the general public, you’re going to see more Establishment Republicans who weren’t going to vote for the first AHCA turn against Trump again, in order to shore up their general election campaigns. They want to win elections.

          If Trump’s popularity falls with the base, you’re going to see more Freedom Day Republicans who weren’t going to vote for the first AHCA turn against Trump again, in order to shore up their primary election campaigns. They want to win elections.

        • Scott Lemieux

          Tax cuts alone, sure. But the idea that AHCA is an easy lift is obviously silly. (If it was, it would have been in the Senate in March.) They didn’t do anything remotely like that under Bush.

          • humanoid.panda

            But then again, with the exception of the tax cuts, which ideologically conservative bills were pushed through by Bush?

            AFAIK, his big legislative achievement were NCLB, Medicare Part D, and TARP. None of these laws were good, but none of them was a ocnservative movement priority.

          • The big hold-up with taxes seems to be that the True Believers (including Ryan) want to use this opportunity to permanently “reform” the tax system to be more regressive, which means it needs to be arguably deficit-neutral to pass via reconciliation. Passing the AHCA was part of a gambit to cut both revenue and spending so the tax plan could start from a lower baseline.

            Congress probably would have already passed a Bush-style tax cut with a sunset provision, but Ryan and his ilk are greedy.

  • Steve LaBonne

    Trump is dangerous and I want him out ASAP, but having him continue fucking up Ryan’s legislative agenda and ultimately costing the GOP their House majority in 2018 is not bad for a consolation prize.

    • CP

      Yep. That’s why I want this dragged out, nice and long, at least until the 2018 midterms.

  • I want Trump in office in 2018. It takes a lot to get the lazy Americans to even bother to go vote. He’s a motivator.

    • BiloSagdiyev

      I understand. I’d hate for the average boob to think that the problem has been solved because Trump is gone.

    • petesh

      HRC would like a word.

      • rlc

        Is our lazy people learning? I am guessing, no.

        I sooooo want to be wrong.

    • CaptainBringdown

      I want Trump in office in 2018. It takes a lot to get the lazy Americans to even bother to go vote. He’s a motivator.

      I’m sympathetic to this view, but sometimes one should be careful for what one wishes for. Commander in Chief and all that.

      • Pat

        Man is going with the odds, after all, Captain. Most presidents serve for at least two years.

    • wengler

      Isn’t this admitting that you don’t think he’s a danger? I think every second this psycho is in office puts every man, woman and child in mortal peril.

      Everyone doing these political calculations reminds me of ‘impeachment is off the table’ Pelosi in 2006, and then ‘let’s look forward, not backward’ Obama in 2008. These are the attitudes that led to Trump in 2016. I really wish people would stop fucking around with this stuff. The short-term gain is going to destroy this country in the long run.

      • rea

        Everyone doing these political calculations reminds me of ‘impeachment is off the table’ Pelosi in 2006, and then ‘let’s look forward, not backward’ Obama in 2008. These are the attitudes that led to Trump in 2016.

        So you think a world in which Pelosi et al. attempt impeachment in ’06–and failed, because they didn’t have the votes–and Obama attempted to prosecute his predecessors in ’08–and failed, because the legal case was somewhat tenuous, regardless of how morally reprehensible the Bush administration’s behavior was–would have turned out differently in 2016? Perhaps, mostly likely because Romney gets re-elected.

        • LosGatosCA

          Robo-signing/foreclosure atrocities would have been pretty easy to prosecute.

          They chose not to.

          It’s a real stain on Geithner/Holder/Obama.

          OTOH, Attempts for a Bush impeachment would have been a serious error -even in 2007.

      • As of right now , there is no way a vote for impeachment will go anywhere in the House, nor to convict in the Senate. BUT , even the lazy people got out and voted for O in 2008 b/c W was screwing up on domestic and foreign fronts like no one had ever seen–and it was still close.

        BUT , 2 yrs of Trump might get our folks off their butts and down to the polls.

        I think there are 2 kinds of lazy–institutional and apathetic. The 1st group will give you 100 excuses for not voting and the second just doesn’t care. Sadly , both groups need the intervention of gubbmint more than the people in line at the voting precincts.

  • But it was never proven that Reagan himself was involved

    This is a pretty big distinction to wave away in a single sentence. I don’t know what Mueller is going to find if he gets up in Flynn’s shit, and I don’t know how willing or able he’ll be to pull at other threads (Trump’s Russian business dealings, tax fraud, regular fraud, obstruction of justice, etc.). But it’s very clear that the big man himself is in this up to and above his fake hair.

    The more apt Reagan Iran-Contra comparison would seem to be the Alzheimer’s. The difference being that Reagan had a shitload of loyal and capable people around him to protect him, whereas Trump does not. Oliver North, for example, was never going to be cut loose and knew it when he testified. Flynn has already been cut loose and knows it.

    • Origami Isopod

      +1. A lot of people liked Reagan, even liberals who should have known better. Does anyone actually like Trump personally? And that’s before you get into his utter lack of loyalty to anyone.

      That said, I’m skeptical that Trump’s popularity rating could drop even lower. It’s down to the hard authoritarian core, and they have no ethics, morals, or other values other than “Fuck everyone who’s not like me. I don’t care if I get it, too, so long as they get it harder.” And, as Cleek says, any news they don’t like is fake.

      • Murc

        A lot of people liked Reagan, even liberals who should have known better.

        More to the point, Reagan had a baffling ability to inspire loyalty in his underlings.

        The reason that nothing was “proven” in Iran-Contra is because a bunch of dudes perjured themselves, and some went to prison, to protect Saint Ronaldus. Can anyone envision a scenario in which, if Mueller has his hands around Flynn’s neck, Flynn allows himself to be choked out for Donnie Trump, of all people?

        The fly in the ointment, of course, is that it is now perfectly acceptable for presidents to pardon people who commit crimes to protect them. Trump could, at some point, simply issue a shit-ton of pardons to kill any potential investigation. I’m a bit surprised this hasn’t happened already.

        That said, I’m skeptical that Trump’s popularity rating could drop even lower.

        He’s still above Bush at his nadir, and Bush was both a better president and more personally likable.

        • humanoid.panda

          And it took him 8 years to get to nadir, while we are at day 119.

        • NonyNony

          Trump could, at some point, simply issue a shit-ton of pardons to kill any potential investigation. I’m a bit surprised this hasn’t happened already.

          I’m sure this will happen. I think part of the reason why it hasn’t happened yet is that Trump a) doesn’t know what he needs to pardon and b) he wants to see how loyal Flynn is.

          If Flynn hangs him out to dry, no pardon. If Flynn goes all Ollie North, he gets a pardon. Plain and simple.

          He’s still above Bush at his nadir, and Bush was both a better president and more personally likable.

          Bush at his nadir was when the economy had tanked hard AND Republicans finally woke up to realizing that there was going to be a Democrat in the White House and that Democrat was going to be black. And keep in mind that even then his approval rating with Republicans was between 55 and 60% at its lowest.

        • sigaba

          I’m a bit surprised this hasn’t happened already.

          I suspect the pardons would essentially hand the Washington Post a To Do list of stories for the next five years. It would be difficult to pardon everyone who’s tainted in such a way that didn’t give observers a big arrow pointing at other parties. At that point they’re essentially admitting they’re all guilty.

          Also I’m not clear if the pardons would quash state prosecutions.

          Don’t pardons have to be specifically petitioned for?

          • efgoldman

            I’m not clear if the pardons would quash state prosecutions.

            Absolutely not. Outside presidential authority.

            At that point they’re essentially admitting they’re all guilty.

            Also, once pardoned they MUST testify, because they no longer need fifth amendment protections. Two-edged sword.

        • liberalrob

          Bush was both a better president and more personally likable.

          And that’s saying something, because Bush was an execrable president and personally an asshole.

          • LosGatosCA

            Yeah, the difference between Bush and Trump is exactly the same as the difference between Wolfowitz/Condi Rice and Flynn/Bannon.

            The former pair had unearned establishment cred while the latter pair don’t.

            At the end of the day Trump will be hard pressed to come up with four bigger fuck ups than 9/11-Guantanamo/torture, Iraq, Katrina, and the Great Recession.

            He’ll give it a good run for its money no doubt, but no one should mistake Bush for a better president than Trump, he just wasn’t as out of control on a personal, public level.

      • fellenst

        Last I checked, Trump’s approval with Republicans was still +75%. Still plenty of room for him to drop there, although I’m not sure what that floor is.

        • NonyNony

          W – after tanking the economy and setting things up so a black Democrat was likely to be his successor – managed to drop to as low as 55% among Republicans according to Gallup.

          I’d actually be pleasantly shocked if Trump had a lower floor. My guess is 60%.

          (Don’t forget that these polls don’t track people who stop calling themselves Republican. As support for the president bleeds off, marginal Republicans become right-leaning independents who disapprove of the president, so there’s some self-selection going on there).

      • humanoid.panda

        That said, I’m skeptical that Trump’s popularity rating could drop even lower. It’s down to the hard authoritarian core, and they have no ethics, morals, or other values other than “Fuck everyone who’s not like me. I don’t care if I get it, too, so long as they get it harder.” And, as Cleek says, any news they don’t like is fake.

        If you look closely at his approval ratings, they went from, roughly 44 approve, of which 80% approve strongly, to 40% approval, of which 50% approve strongly. So, right now, 20% of the public approves of Trump, but is not enamored with him blindly. He still has ways to go down before he is down to the core.

        • Domino

          What do you think the size of his core is? 27%?

          • humanoid.panda

            I’d cautiously put it at 80% of the people who strongly (because some will hide misgivings when talking to fake media) ,and 20% of approve (because maybe there are some shy Trumpers after all). So, let’s say, 20%? Add to this 10% Republicans who just support him because Neil Gorsuch and not Hillary, and that gives you a floor of 30%, as long as economy stays solid.

      • brendalu

        If you look at the disappointed Trump voters Twitter feed (I can’t remember the specific name), half or more of the tweets captured are hard core nut jobs who want their wall NOW. so I do think there’s a possibility that the more Trump (and Ryan) are stymied and mired in Russia stuff, some of those folks turn on him as a RINO sellout and carve away at the base from below.

        (Then they all go join militias and we’ve got a different problem.)

    • NonyNony

      I actually don’t think it matters. Because while it might have mattered with Reagan (and I’m not sure it would have) we’ve gotten more polarized and the GOP has gotten more cutthroat. They have less need to be perceived as statesmen and more of a need to be loyal Republicans than they did in the 80s.

      Impeachment proceedings need to start in the House and then require a super-majority to convict in the Senate. Point me at the Senators and House members that are going to do that even if presented with undeniable proof that Trump both obstructed justice and was proud of doing so.

      • Impeachment would be nice, 25th Amendment would be nice, but for my money coronary/resignation is the most likely “Trump Out!” scenario. By all accounts, being President is a lot less fun and enjoyable than he thought it was going to be, and he’s routinely having rage-fits when things don’t go his way. You only get so many of those as an obese 70-year-old who probably hasn’t seen a competent doctor in decades. I could also see him resigning if he got to play the victim forever and Pence promised to wave the pardon wand so he can keep his “empire”.

        I wouldn’t put odds on any of those scenarios, or even on whether or not he finishes his term, but given how erratic he is and how many screamingly obvious health problems he has, the focus on legal means removing him rather than medical ones kinda puzzles me.

        • Thom

          His parents’ average age at death was 91.

        • efgoldman

          I could also see him resigning if he got to play the victim forever and Pence promised to wave the pardon wand so he can keep his “empire”.

          Pence can’t pardon him for state crimes in New York. Apparently NY AG Schneiderman is running a grand jury investigating sate RICO charges.

    • Phil Perspective

      Flynn has already been cut loose and knows it.

      Not according to today’s news. Trump is supposedly sending messages to Flynn to keep his chin up and hang in there.

      • Per Murc above, Trump with pardon power is a definite complication, but think of it from Flynn’s perspective. Say your choices are twenty years in federal prison, or Trump promising to pardon you after you’ve had a trial, kept your mouth shut, and been convicted. Is it worth risking most of the rest of your life on the off-chance that Trump, or whoever is whispering in his ear, will remember or care six months from now?

        • Murc

          It’s worth noting that dealmaking doesn’t stop post-trial. Inmates can cut further deals for better treatment and sentence reduction.

        • Karen24

          My guess is that Flynn is not loyal to Trump but is actually afraid of the Russian mob. Federal prison is a cakewalk compared to polonium poisoning. The interesting point is going to be when Mueller finds clear evidence of a connection between Trump’s people and the mob, at which point Trump is no longer an asset to the oilogopoly in Moscow.

        • efgoldman

          Trump promising to pardon you after you’ve had a trial, kept your mouth shut, and been convicted.

          Once pardoned, Flynn (or anyone else) can be compelled to testify because fifth amendment protections are moot.

      • Maybe Flynn has blackmail material on Trump?

        • LosGatosCA

          I don’t think Flynn can possibly think he can trust Trump to keep any deal they would make. #1 – when has he ever? #2 Who knows if he’ll be around to do the pardoning, especially if Trump will need pardoning himself?

          But all these people are so delusionally fucked up who can tell what they are capable of processing or how?

    • Slothrop2

      Scooped by Woo. Or you were Wooed.

  • SatanicPanic

    Doesn’t the possibility that Trump knew something kind of complicate this analogy though?

    • Scott Lemieux

      I would recommend reading the post again.

      • SatanicPanic

        OK, I get that you’re saying the result will probably look the same, I’m just quibbling with the analogy.

        • Scott Lemieux

          I mean, you only have to read the first sentence of the post to see what analogy I’m making. I don’t think I’m asking too much.

          • SatanicPanic

            Mr. Lemieux taken it easy, alright, I withdraw my quibble. It was still early here when I made it. Mea culpa.

  • NewishLawyer

    Yeah we would probably be lucky if this ended up being Iran-Contra but the thing is as right-wing and early stage dementia as Reagan was, he was still a more level-headed person than Trump and even the 1980s was a less partisan time. And this is when the Democrats were still reeling from huge defeats in 1980 and 1984 and just the start of social-identity issues really being important to liberalism. SSM was a pipe dream back then and ACT UP was just starting. On the other side, Talk Radio was still in its infancy and there was no Fox News.

    Basically both parties were much more white and moderate Republicanism of the Northeast type was still a thing.

    Now the GOP is much more reactionary and the Democratic Party is shedding the old DLC stuff.

    Trump also doesn’t have the temperament to moderate if anything I suspect he will dig further into the trenches.

    Most of the nation was embarrassed by Trump’s Coast Guard commencement speech yesterday but his core base shares the prosecution complex and seemingly sees Trump as their avatar of aggreviation. He expresses their ID.

  • Denverite

    My guess is that Mueller doesn’t make it to the end of June. Once Trump realizes that the bad press doesn’t really cost him with the base, he’ll fire him forthwith.

    • fellenst

      If Trump survives firing Comey and Mueller, we’re fucked as a country.

      • Denverite

        That’s what the “witch hunt” tweets are foreshadowing. He’ll just say the dems and the media are out to get him, hunker down, and so long as 50%+ of the Republican voters are ok with it, he doesn’t care what anyone else thinks.

        • fellenst

          I’m not saying he won’t do it, Trump is certainly dumb enough. But if 2 nakedly “I’m above the law” firings can’t get half of Republicans (in & out of Congress) on board for impeachment, then we are headed to a very dark place.

          • NonyNony

            I suspect we’re already in that dark place, have been for years, and are only now realizing it.

            • fellenst

              Fair point. I was thinking more suspension of elections and/or civil war, but we are certainly already in a dark place.

              • liberalrob

                That’s what comes next.

        • But Mueller was appointed by his own guy, Rosenstein. He’d probably have to fire Rosenstein to get someone to fire Mueller. Who’s going to be his Bork?

          If the Republicans do decide to impeach Trump, they get Pence. I don’t think it requires any any great degree of respectability or decency on the part of congressional Republicans to think that at some point Trump will be so toxic that they’re willing to take the short-term backlash from the base to get Pence in office long enough to sign a bunch of shit for them.

    • mds

      Once Trump realizes that the bad press doesn’t really cost him with the base, he’ll fire him forthwith.

      If he gets the impression that Mueller dissed him personally, or something, certainly. Otherwise, it would be interesting to see if Trump or someone around him gets slightly more subtle. Because given that bad press doesn’t really cost him with the base, what difference does it make whether Mueller keeps the gig or not? What could he find that would hurt Trump with his base? Ongoing collusion with Hillary Clinton? A secret gay marriage to Barack Obama? What?

      • humanoid.panda

        But then, if LOL Nothing Matters (TM), why was Flynn fired? Why was Mueller appointed?

        • NonyNony

          Mueller was appointed by Rosenstein, not by Trump.

          And Rosenstein has his own reputation to look out for. Hell he may be hoping that Trump fires him to to get back the credibility he lost by writing that memo for Sessions and letting Trump make him the fall guy for firing Comey.

          • humanoid.panda

            Yes, sure. But Rosenstein is not the only person with reputation (and congressional minorities, and markets etc, etc) to protect. In the end, it can’t be Bannon and Kush alone in the room.

            • humanoid.panda

              Also, more narrowly: CBS reported that Mueller was given civil service protections, so Trump can’t fire him at will.

              • Denverite

                This I didn’t know, so if that’s true, never mind.

              • NonyNony

                Now that’s interesting. I wonder if it was Mueller’s condition for accepting the job, or if Rosenstein came up with that on his own.

                • jim, some guy in iowa

                  well, hell, it’s *both* these guys’ business to know and want that kind of protection when they’re going after fricken *trump*, whose second-greatest claim to fame is a tv show where he “fired” people for kicks and grins

              • Aaron Morrow

                Followup from CBS’s Portnoy

                To be clear, regs say a special counsel can only be fired for “good cause” — diff from officials who serve at the pleasure of the president

                That cause — with a “specific reason” — has to be put in writing. The rule makes it HARDER to fire a special counsel, but not impossible.

                • JustRuss

                  a special counsel can only be fired for “good cause” — diff from officials who serve at the pleasure of the president

                  Well thank FSM, i got so sick of hearing pundits trot out “serves at the pleasure of the president” during Shrub’s tenure. I think it was in regards to the AG firings, but don’t recall for sure.

        • daves09

          Flynn was fired because Trump had to choose between him anf Pence. Trump likes(loves?) Flynn, but Pence is much more useful.
          Flynn obviously represents something very important to Trump. And we may never know precisely what it is, but it’s there.

    • Joe_JP

      Given current regulations, how will Trump fire Mueller?

      • Denverite

        Tell Sessions to fire Rosenstein if he won’t do it, and rinse and repeat until a Deputy AG will.

        • Joe_JP

          so indirectly

      • Craigo

        Current regulations can be repealed by the current administration.

    • SatanicPanic

      But his base aren’t the only people who matter. Everyone running for re-election is going to have to contend with some non-based people. What am I missing?

      • I don’t get the mindset where people think that someone who won the White House on a razor-thin technicality is going to just shrug off four years of unprecedented scandal. If Trump manages to retain literally all of his voters from 2016 in 2020, I think he still loses simply due to opposition turnout, demographic changes, fewer third party defections, and (hopefully) a better Democratic candidate. If he loses even 5% of his 2016 voters there’s no chance of him winning.

        I also suspect that “currently approves of Trump” is correlated more strongly with “is willing to admit to voting for Trump” than with “actually voted for Trump”. My understanding is that the literature suggests that self-reported voting choices tend to be fudged in favor of popular incumbents and against unpopular incumbents.

  • WinningerR

    I don’t disagree, but it’s important to note that, unlike Reagan, Trump is generally loathed by his fellow Republicans (the politicos, not the voters). They know he’s incompetent, a significant obstacle to their agenda, and a blight on the party. Some of the smarter ones will even concede, privately, that he’s a danger to the nation. That will certainly enter into the political calculus.

    • LosGatosCA

      Let’s put some weights on those items – relative to motivating responsible decision making leading to actions in the best interests of the nation:

      1. Loathed by establishment Republicans – 0%
      Not only is this a non-factor, if they could have done anything they would have done it in the primaries
      2. They know he’s incompetent – 0%
      Quayle, Bush, Palin prove this is not a serious consideration for Republican leadership or the base
      3. A significant obstacle to their agenda – 49%
      Now we’re getting serious but the same problem as #1 – if they could do anything about it, it would have already been done.
      4. A blight on their party – 0%
      We’re talking about Republicsns here. They are a blight on society individually and collectively. They also don’t have consciences which means #3 dominates any consideration on this point.
      5. A danger to the nation. 0%
      These people have been all in on every counterproductive national security strategy and operation for 25 years. So no. Again #3 dominates this. Only if Trump becomes a danger to the MIIC/Neicon grift is he a problem.

      So you’ve missed the main issue – can someone make the case to their primary voting constituents that they are better off without Trump? 51%

      The only hope for the nation is if enough Republicans see very unfavorable general election results for themselves and decide to retire rather than run and then decide to act on #5 before they exit. Personally I just don’t see it. It’s not in them.They are petty, hateful people just like Trump.

  • Peterr

    Most notably, the collapse of Reagan’s popularity helped contribute to the defeat of Reagan’s Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork, which in turn almost certainly saved Roe v. Wade from being overruled.

    Bork’s willingness to fire Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox after AG Elliot Richardson and Deputy AG William Ruckleshaus both refused and resigned/were fired by Nixon also contributed to Bork’s downfall.

    • NeonTrotsky

      So did public knowledge of his actual stated positions

      • postmodulator

        I thought I remembered hearing that Bork was told by Richardson or Ruckleshaus, “Look, fire the guy, eventually he’ll get to someone who’ll do it anyway. Us resigning will get the point across.”

        • Denverite

          I was told this by someone in the SG’s office at the time.

          • postmodulator

            I might have heard it here, from you, now that I think of it.

          • Peterr

            That certainly sounds like something Solicitor General Bork would like his minions to say.

            • Denverite

              Yeah, the person who told me this definitely would be sympathetic to Bork, so that’s a distinct possibility.

        • LosGatosCA

          Elliot Richardson has publicly confirmed this I believe.

          He and Ruckelshaus had publicly committed to the Senate that they would not fire Cox and they felt honor bound to resign instead. Then in turn implored Bork to stay from a continuity perspective since he wasn’t bound by the same commitment. Remember these guys followed the two, soon to be convicted AGs, Mitchell and Kleindienst.

          Personally, I would have said, hey I’m not taking the shitty end of the stick here, I’ve got my own reputation for integrity to think of as well. But then again I can’t really imagine Bork thinking this was any kind of test of his integrity. I could see Richardson construing the events this way to help Bork out. Someone has to be the collaborator, we can’t let chaos reign on a completely decimated DOJ.

          The Wikipedia appears to corroborate it as well –

          U.S. Attorney General Elliot Richardson had appointed Cox in May, after promising the House Committee on the Judiciary that he would appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the events surrounding the break-in of the Democratic National Committee’s offices at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C., on June 17, 1972. The appointment was created as a career reserved position in the Justice department, meaning it came under the authority of the attorney general who could only remove the special prosecutor “for cause”, e.g., gross improprieties or malfeasance in office. Richardson had, in his confirmation hearings before the U.S. Senate, promised not to use his authority to dismiss the Watergate special prosecutor, unless for cause.

  • mongolia

    the one silver lining of increased partisan polarization is that with the stickiness of partisan affiliation, and given the fact that younger voters lean dem anyways, the scandalous nature of this admin may shift younger marginal r voters to i, and marginal i voters to dem for the long term. obviously doesn’t help at this moment, but could lead to a situation in 10-12+ years where a serious rebrand of the r’s might be necessary in order to win nationally.* think of it this way: for those under 35, they have seen 2 moderately-to-very successful democratic presidencies, and 2 disastrous republican administrations, and among my friends (mostly ages 25-40) the easiest way to hammer in to them that they needed to vote hillary was “remember how nader lead to bush?” hopefully this scandal ends up touching the entire party leadership and tarnishes the entire goddamn brand

    *with the caveat we still have free & fair elections, there hasn’t been a race war, etc.

    • brewmn

      Most of the young people I know are still going on about what a terrible candidate Hillary Clinton was. So, I remain skeptical that they is learning anything from the constitutional crisis swirling around us.

  • CrunchyFrog

    So the official story now is that Reagan personally recruited Howard Baker to be his new chief of staff at the start of 1987 and that Reagan was chipper and alert when the men met and throughout the rest of his Presidency. But that whitewashes a lot of history. If you dig back you’ll find that in 1988 a book was released in which it was revealed that upon Baker’s arrive some senior white house staff recommended to him that section 4 of amendment 25 be invoked to remove Reagan due to mental incompetence. Baker, at the time, acknowledged the recommendation but said that he’d found Reagan to be very sharp and on the ball so didn’t pursue it.

    Knowing what we know today it’s clear Baker was lying – but he’d always been a supreme diplomat so that would have been the kind of diplomatic white lie he’d tell.

    The unofficial story – and I can’t find a reference to support it right now but it’s been around since the late 1980s – is that senior members of Congress from both parties recognized the situation and decided that rather than put the country through a drawn out impeachment process again so soon after Nixon or put them through a 25th amendment process that they’d get Reagan to agree to bring in Howard Baker. Baker, who had been a legitimate Presidential candidate and was on the short list of expected candidates for 1988, agreed and effectively ran the white house while letting Reagan think he still was doing so for the last two years, cleaning up the messes in the process. Baker had always been seen as a centrist and was well respected by both sides so this made sense.

    So that’s how impeachment was avoided with Iran Contra. Unfortunately, that scenario is the least likely in 2017, as there is no equivalent to Howard Baker today who everyone could agree upon.

    • Downpuppy

      Also, Trump won’t sit quietly playing with his toys and chatting with old Hollywood buddies between naps.

    • CP

      Even if there was, the simple fact that he was acceptable to Democrats would make him instantly unacceptable to Republicans.

    • LeeEsq

      There is too much bad blood between both parties to perform a Howard Baker situation to. The Republicans see the entire Democratic Party as Stalinist demons. Democratic politicians probably find nearly all Republicans personally and ideologically repugnant.

      • scott_theotherone

        Democratic politicians probably find nearly all Republicans personally and ideologically repugnant.

        I hope that’s true. Sadly, I suspect most Democratic politicians—at least the senators—find nearly all Republican politicians to be good people personally, and believe they merely put on an act for the GOP base.

        • LosGatosCA

          Lots of evidence for this- just with Obama and Biden and RBG.

          RBG thought Scalia was a friend and worthy adversary instead of the petty political operator Reid could see he was.

          Obama was friends with Coburn.

          Biden said the country was in good hands after his meetings with Pence.

          This is exactly one of the points I emphasize on why Democrats don’t understand the game they are in.

          1.Even if these people are sociable on an individual basis, so what? It doesn’t incent them to act like human beings on governance.
          2. It’s clear that every time Democrats play nice (like giving them Daddy jobs) there’s just no payoff.

    • Karen24

      Back during the last set of impeachment hearings* I had a coworker who had been on the staff of Lloyd Bentsen when Bentsen was in the Senate. She reported that Bentsen and Senator Inoye of Hawaii flatly refused to support the 25th Amendment proceeding even though Reagan was so far gone he couldn’t remember the names of his children. They thought that Watergate had been quite enough drama and that there wasn’t enough time left in Reagan’s term to make the procedure worthwhile. Also, FWIW the Cold War had calmed down considerably by that point and there were enough people in the White House to keep things functioning. Also, Reagan was very popular, and no one likes to be seen abusing a popular old guy who’s gotten sick.

      *I thought this morning that there had been exactly one impeachment proceeding in the first 183 years the Constitution had been in effect, and there have been three in the last 43 years. Make of that what you will.

      • bender

        So despite the 25th Amendment, Reagan’s incapacity was handled like Woodrow Wilson’s.

        I first knew Reagan as Governor of California. I didn’t like him and I was no fan of his politics. But retrospectively, they may have made the right choice of how to handle it. The cooling down of the Cold War is a big factor in my assessment. During Reagan’s first term he initiated a new arms race and made bellicose speeches; I thought we were headed for nuclear war. Things really turned around in his second term.

        • humanoid.panda

          So despite the 25th Amendment, Reagan’s incapacity was handled like Woodrow Wilson’s.

          Given that presidents are not just executive but also ersatz monarchs and tribal symbols, I am very skeptical that the 25th amendment would ever be enabled, perhaps outside of the context of some kid of public meltdown.

          I first knew Reagan as Governor of California. I didn’t like him and I was no fan of his politics. But retrospectively, they may have made the right choice of how to handle it. The cooling down of the Cold War is a big factor in my assessment. During Reagan’s first term he initiated a new arms race and made bellicose speeches; I thought we were headed for nuclear war. Things really turned around in his second term.

          Honestly, I find it hard to settle the accounts of Reagan as a senile do nothing with what histories of the end of the Cold War tell us about him.

          • LosGatosCA

            Print the legend.

            The truth is Harry Truman won the Cold War. It was every president’s job after that to not let that win turn into a loss.

            Reagan just happened to be the guy who shoveled all that money at the MIIC right before the lights got turned out when the party was over.

      • Hogan

        there have been three in the last 43 years.

        Nixon, Clinton, and . . . ?

        • Karen24

          I think this one will lead to something more than Iran – Contra.

    • Craigo

      Baker refused to move on the 25th Amendment because, unlike most people who cite it, he’d actually read it and realized that there was precisely zero chance that two-thirds of Congress would block Reagan’s return.

      • CrunchyFrog

        Who knows if that is the real reason? Given what has been reported about his condition then I think, if made known to congress, they’d have had no problem wishing Ronald well but putting GHWB in charge.

        A more likely reason, IMHO, is that a) GHWB *was* implicated in Iran-Contra, although they’d managed to hide it, and putting him in the oval office meant still risking impeachment proceedings and b) Baker really loved being effective President.

  • tonycpsu
  • NickUrfe

    Are Nixon-level offenses really the worst-case scenario, though? Suppose Mueller finds that Trump can be charged not only with obstruction of justice, but (say) campaign finance violations, emoluments violations (linked to Russian payments), etc. Isn’t it conceivable that worse offenses will force the hand of a more partisan Congress?

    Related point: for Nixon, we cite obstruction of justice because it’s the head shot, but that doesn’t mean that a thousand cuts weren’t waiting to be uncovered by further investigation and a trial. What remains to be seen isn’t whether Trump committed Nixonian crimes, but rather, at what point Republicans will believe that the investigations will only get worse. Partisanship certainly pushes this point further, but that doesn’t mean that the calculation for today’s GOP isn’t the same as it was for Nixon’s.

    Also, I think you’re right that the lessons from Iran-Contra as well as the Lewinsky scandal are instructive. Reagan succeeded in inoculating himself from the activities of his subordinates, regardless of whether he actually knew about the weapons sales. Clinton, in contrast, succeeded in portraying his impeachment investigation and proceedings as partisan witch hunts. Trump appears to be opting for the latter strategy, which seems foolish, given that Republicans control all branches of government and a Jeff Sessions’s hand-picked AAG appointed Mueller. A Reagan strategy of personal inoculation seems optimal, but for personal (and perhaps other…) reasons, Trump seems incapable of *not* acting as thought investigations aren’t targeting him, personally.

    • Scott Lemieux

      Are Nixon-level offenses really the worst-case scenario, though?

      Has literally anybody argued that they are?

      • efgoldman

        Has literally anybody argued that they are?

        The house judiciary committee considered a wide variety of charges other than obstruction, (authorizing the break in at Elssburg’s shrink’s office, war crimes in SE Asia, many more) but decided they would only complicate matters and were likely to be voted down anyway.

      • NickUrfe

        Your article suggests two relevant analogies: Nixon’s impeachment and Reagan with Iran-Contra. You say Trump is unlikely to reach Nixon impeachment conditions because partisanship; that indeed, even Nixon would today be unlikely to reach Nixon impeachment conditions because partisanship. My point is that the partisanship explanation requires two implicit assumptions to push us to Iran Contra: that Nixon was impeached only for obstruction (i.e. that he met only the minimum conditions for impeachment), and that Trump has not done worse than what Nixon has done. So…literally you argued that they are.

    • Caepan

      at what point Republicans will believe that the investigations will only get worse

      Well, since the Washington Post has a recording of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy telling his fellow Republicans that he thinks that Trump is on Russia’s payroll, only to have Speaker Paul Ryan make everyone promise to keep quiet about it (Ryan: “No leaks. . . . This is how we know we’re a real family here.” Just like a mob boss!), the Republican House Leadership might just be investigated for what they know about Russian money laundering through GOP fundraising as well.

      Those theories about a President Orrin Hatch don’t seem to be as far-fetched to me as they did a few days ago.

      • Rob in CT

        “No leaks. . . . This is how we know we’re a real family here.”

        The sheer, unmitigated GALL of these assholes…

        GOP delenda est.

    • Caepan

      at what point Republicans will believe that the investigations will only get worse

      Well, since the Washington Post has a recording of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy telling his fellow Republicans that he thinks that Trump is on Russia’s payroll, only to have Speaker Paul Ryan make everyone promise to keep quiet about it (Ryan: “No leaks… This is how we know we’re a real family here.” Just like a mob boss!), the Republican House Leadership might just be investigated for what they know about Russian money laundering through GOP fundraising as well.

      Those theories about a President Orrin Hatch don’t seem to be as far-fetched to me as they did a few days ago.

      • Caepan

        Sorry about the double post. I blame the media. And Hillary. And… I dunno… Comey?

        • MyNameIsZweig

          I blame expansive readings of the commerce clause.

    • CrunchyFrog

      Related point: for Nixon, we cite obstruction of justice because it’s the head shot, but that doesn’t mean that a thousand cuts weren’t waiting to be uncovered by further investigation and a trial.

      And those were cited at the time. A lot of his defenders held firm that obstruction by itself wasn’t enough blah blah blah. Then came the smoking gun tape of June 23, 1972, in which not only was every charge confirmed and Nixon proven a bald faced liar, but his authoritarian beliefs and disparaging attitude towards the institutions and laws of the government were laid bare. At that point even the 10 GOP critters who had been hold outs on the impeachment committee relented and confirmed they would vote for impeachment because Nixon was simply not suitable for the office. At that point it was apparently that every accusation leveled against Nixon was probably true.

      Of course, authoritarians being who they are, it didn’t take long before they were whitewashing history, forgetting those kind of details and inventing new ones, and eventually arguing that he’d been unfairly hounded from office by a liberal media.

      • LosGatosCA

        The stabbed in the back meme works EVERY SINGLE time with the cult.

        It’s the very essence of ‘conservatism can’t fail, it can only be failed.’

  • John F

    From RedState, a pretty good description of the thinking of the GOP base:

    We’ve just emerged from eight years of the utterly corrupt, constantly lying, law-violating and national security breaching Democrat Barack Obama Administration. About all of which Republicans did…almost exactly nothing. Lots of hearings and press releases – nothing of substance.
    Republicans were led out of the Obama wilderness – by now-President Donald Trump. Against whom they fought – ten times as hard as they ever did against Obama. And now that Trump is in office – and doing lots of really great less government things – the GOP is doing next to nothing to back him.
    This Russia-Trump collusion story – is a ten-month-and-counting giant nothing. There remains ZERO evidence to back any claim. Yet we just yesterday had the announcement of a special prosecutor (or whatever). And you have already long had GOP Wobblies all over the place wringing their hands and chattering their teeth – over this enormous NOTHING. Way to hang tough.

    These folks truly believe that HRC committed felonies as SOS, Benghazi, the email server, etc. They were gobsmacked that the Benghazi hearing went south the way it did. They truly believe that Obama used Constitution themed toilet paper. So of course they believe that not only is there o fore with respect to Comey/Russia, but there is no smoke either- the Dems and the librul MSM are using a fog machine or something.
    So these are the people who have to turn on Trump before the average GOP Pol does- NEVER EVER gonna happen.

    • mongolia

      this demonstrates the pickle the gop is in – this is their base, and these guys are with trump until the end. however, the non-kool-aid-drinking part of the gop was already fairly meh on trump, but were willing to go along for tax cuts and being anti-obama/-libruls, but being in a coalition with the base in trying to push a positive agenda is fairly hard when you can’t afford defections.

      hopefully they tear themselves apart and manage destroy each other in the process.

      • so-in-so

        Unfortunately, we expected that BEFORE Nov. 8th, and it didn’t happen. We can continue to hope that with time and an on-going drip-drip of stories only the hardest of the hard-core will remain with him. As long as they don’t include major institutions (and don’t take up actual arms in his defense)the collapse may eventually happen.

        I doubt there is anything actually left to reform in the GOP; either the GOP dies (or becomes a rump regional party) or its next evolution will be to become the single party with all others outlawed.

        • Either the Republican party dies or the Republic dies.

      • ColBatGuano

        My question is: Where do the money men go? All those 0.1%ers that have been funding the conservative ascension for 50 years won’t disappear if Trump manages to tear the party apart.

    • LeeEsq

      They like to invoke Al Capone when you point out that nobody has prove HRC did anything wrong. They are despicable and immune to logic.

      • bender

        I like to point to Al Capone too. All these people are guilty of financial crimes and multiple state-run investigations are in progress.

      • rea

        nobody has prove HRC did anything wrong.

        Nobody has even a coherent theory as to what HRC supposedly should have been charged with.

    • Rob in CT

      Propoganda works. Especially when the audience really wants to believe.

    • efgoldman

      These folks truly believe that HRC committed felonies as SOS….

      Planet Delusia is a wonderful place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.

  • MacK

    In 1974 there were 56/7 Democratic senators (some R’s dies and were replaced with D) and 1, Harry Byrd that caucused with the Democrats. A trial in the Senate requires 2/3 of the Senators present to not to convict (abstentions count as a no.) So the Democrats needed to pick up 9 Republican votes. The Democrats had a majority of 74 in the House so there was not question they could pass the Articles of Impeachment.

    Today – and probably after November 2018, the Democrats will have to secure 16-19 Republican votes. That would be a much bigger hill to climb than in 1974, even if the Republicans were not so lockstep extreme.

    Consider – if the polls are linear, Trump would have to be polling at 23% before he’d be below 50% with Republicans, and he’d still probably be over 50% in most Red States and Republicans districts. He’d have to be polling 80% plus disapproval with the the public before he’d even close on 50% disapproval with Republicans.

  • Steve

    Yes but I don’t remember Reagan getting on tv and twitter and constantly implicating himself and undermining the stories his underlings were telling. Either he knew enough to shut up or his handlers were able to keep him out of it. Trump can’t help himself and his “councel” is apparently really bad at his job.

  • Joe_JP

    troll alert: Randy Barnett is very concerned on Twitter:

    The true “constitutional crisis” is the concerted effort to “resist” or undermine the “norm” of a peaceful transfer of power after election.

    [adds various examples … presumption of liberty, Randy?]

    • Murc

      The true “constitutional crisis” is the concerted effort to “resist” or undermine the “norm” of a peaceful transfer of power after election.

      I’m not familiar with the efforts to undermine this norm. Does the esteemed Mr. Barnett have any actual examples of it?

      • Joe_JP

        “actual” would be an appropriate qualifier, looking at his alleged examples

        • Aaron Morrow

          To Be Scrupulously Fair, the Brooks Brothers Riot was a concerted Republican effort to “resist” or undermine the “norm” of a peaceful transfer of power after election, and thus okey-dokey.

          • Dennis Orphen

            Just another arson fire to cover up the far worse (and continuing) crimes inside the building.

    • MyNameIsZweig

      Who is this asshole and why should I care, exactly?

  • fellenst

    I still firmly believe we’re in uncharted territory with this investigation. POTUS and the VP are already directly implicated in at least the cover up, Ryan is on tape imitating a mafia boss when the subject comes up, and Chaffetz is acting completely bizarrely. I know historical comparisons are inevitable, and comparing it to Iran-Contra is a nice way to temper expectations. But this honestly feels new and different.

    • CrunchyFrog

      It’s completely different than anything before.

      GOP leadership has devolved to a bunch of people who can funnel government cash to their sponsors but have no actual ability to define and implement policy; nor do they have a clear vision for what they want to achieve except 1) money, and 2) remain in power; and finally they have no one to lead (that is, define a plan, get everyone to follow it). Things were getting that way during the Rove/Cheney administration, but back then A) Rove led domestic matters with an iron hand, so at least there was a consistent message and some predictability, and B) there were still enough old timer GOP policy wonks around from before the Gingrich era to keep things more or less running on a detailed level. And most of the individual GOP leaders now believe most of the lies that they’ve been feeding the rubes for the past 25 years and as a consequence are incapable of defining the problem accurately nor identifying a solution.

      The media has devolved into people who do only personality reporting and “who won the day” and have no clue about policy or how things get done. Furthermore, the media leaders, on and off screen, all favor the GOP for economic reasons and are loathe to portray the Democrats in a better light than the GOP for fear their taxes will go up.

      In other words, all institutions have failed.

      • Dennis Orphen

        Yep. Time to get out and start walking. Let the long march begin. If a passing Canadian, Japanese or western European happens to drive by they can just as easily pick you up and give you a ride someplace if you’re walking down the road as they could if you were waiting in your car. And if they don’t drive by, or stop and get you if they do, you have a better chance of making it somewhere.

  • Caepan

    Frankly, for all the talk about colluding with Russia to swing the election to Trump, the worse stuff will be investigations – particularly by the NYAG’s office – into Trump’s Russian mob money connections with his real estate deals.

    My theory (which is my theory, the theory that is mine) is that by the middle of next year, Eric, Donnie Jr., Jared and Ivanka will be indicted on money laundering, corruption, and RICO charges, which triggers the seizing of the Trump family assets. No money coming in, and all the bad will that their father has created will come home to roost. When he sees that his kids – and especially his son-in-law – have the choice of either going to bad-boy federal prison or talk, Trump will resign. Of course he’ll blame the media, Hillary and Obama for being exposed as the crook he’s always been.

    I’m even willing to put a date on it – November 23, 2019, the Friday after Thanksgiving, when most everyone is out shopping or home watching college football. (The anniversary of JFK’s assassination will be used as some sort of “metaphor” about how he himself has been “virtually assassinated,” repulsing Americans even more.)

    Plus, it wouldn’t surprise me if Trump expects Pence to be his fall guy for the whole Russian influence thing. Pence is stupid, but he’s not THAT stupid.

    • Caepan

      I mean November 23, 2018. I was told there would be no math.

      Ooh, and that doesn’t even include the possibility of Democrats taking the House in the 2018 midterms, ensuring much more serious investigations into Trump/Russia.

      That, along with his kids’ having to choose between ratting out their father or spending 20+ years in Lewisburg, might cause Trump to “sacrifice” his bestest preniduncy EVAH!

    • Dennis Orphen

      You should have a desk in Lt. Daniels’ Major Crimes Unit Mueller’s DOJ Shop.

  • Aaron Morrow

    it was never proven that Reagan himself was involved

    I’d like to believe that was the main reason why Reagan was treated differently by Republicans than Nixon was, but I expect that reality will prove that hypothesis to be false.

    as Trump has learned the hard way, firing Mueller would have the political effect of a guilty plea.

    I’m remain doubtful that firing Mueller would convince enough Senate Republicans would vote to convict Trump even if he were to be impeached by the House. (Is there any evidence that Trump has learned a thing?)

  • Rob in CT

    54.3% disapprove, 39.5% approve on the 538 tracker, and falling.

  • Bruce Vail

    I’m inclined to think you are right on this, Scott. Mueller has never been in the business of overthrowing conservative Republican presidents, and he isn’t going to start now.

    His job is to contain this mess to Flynn-Manafort-Stone so that the rest of the Republicans can get back to business.

    • TopsyJane

      His job is to contain this mess to Flynn-Manafort-Stone so that the rest of the Republicans can get back to business.

      According to TPM, this is sinking in with some Dems. Rosenstein ducked all questions, citing Mueller’s investigation, and Republicans are cheerfully pointing out that you should be careful what you ask for.

  • Bitter Scribe

    One of these days, someone’s going to get to the bottom of exactly how the Reagan people got the hostages released the day of the inauguration. And I hope it hits hard enough to change the name of that airport.

    • LosGatosCA

      The Ayatollah made the decision to personally embarrass Carter. He helped bring down a US president there wasn’t much upside after Reagan was sworn in.

      It’s not rocket surgery.

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