Monday, October 7, 2019

What did Donald Trump do today?

He whistled past the graveyard of impeachment.

Today, at a White House event, Trump was asked by a reporter to comment on a letter that White House lawyers were planning to send to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. In response, Trump launched into a rambling, minutes-long, stream-of-consciousness answer. Among the things he said was this interesting claim:

TRUMP: This [impeachment] is a scam.  And the people are wise to it.  And that’s why my polls went up, I think they said, 17 points in the last two or three days.  I’ve never had that one.  I’ve never had that one.

He still hasn't.

Trump's approval rating has not gone up 17 points, or any points, since the corruption scandal that is now likely to lead to his impeachment broke two weeks ago. Since his administration was caught trying to suppress a whistleblower with knowledge of his attempt to get Ukraine to intervene in the election, his numbers have dropped in all major polls.

Meanwhile, support for his impeachment and/or removal from office has sharply risen. A slight majority of Americans now favor impeachment. Before the Ukraine story broke, Americans opposed impeachment by an average of about 11 points.

UPDATE, 10/8: A new Washington Post/Schar School poll reports that 58% of Americans support the impeachment inquiry, and that 49% of Americans say they already believe there is enough evidence to warrant Trump being removed from office. With the impeachment inquiry barely underway, almost 1 in 5 Republicans (18%) already support Trump's removal.

It's likely Trump, who is no stranger to simply making up stories on the spot, just invented the number. But pretending he's popular (or even that a bare majority of Americans don't want him tossed out of office) is probably a survival strategy for Trump, who is deeply personally unpopular with the Republican senators who will serve as jurors in any impeachment trial. Former Republican senator Jeff Flake, among others, has said that if the vote to convict were done by secret ballot, 35 of the chamber's 53 Republicans would vote to remove Trump from office.

Trump further angered many of those Republican senators today with his plan to, in his "great and unmatched wisdom," completely abandon America's Kurdish allies in Syria and force them into an alliance with the Iran/Russia/Islamic State axis. Among the Republican senators furious with this sudden and radical change in America's military stance and speaking out today were Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), and Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT).

Why should I care about this?

  • Politicians who are genuinely popular don't need to lie about their popularity.
  • In a democracy, "the people" tell presidents how they feel about them, not the other way around.
  • It's bad if the president makes a snap decision that will help the United States' enemies without consulting American officials because a foreign leader told him to.