The nation was buzzing Tuesday as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi finally announced a formal impeachment inquiry into President Trump.
Pelosi clearly won the day, both over the president who undermined a speech he gave at the United Nations General Assembly in the morning that was supposed to convey strength, only to hop on social media later and bellyache about being harassed, and over fellow Democrats who kept calling for impeachment earlier (me included).
Pelosi’s statement that Trump would essentially impeach himself now seems prophetic. She recognized a few things about Trump that would lead to his downfall and showed us all that patience is still a virtue.
First, Trump governs our country like the leader of a poorly run business. The big city socialite and former Democrat has no core beliefs or political positions.
The president thinks primarily in terms of transactions. In other words, if I give you X item, what do I get in return in the short term?
He uses his gut and instincts to govern instead of long established norms and protocols. Much like he ran his businesses, this approach is hit or miss and can often reduce governing to gambling.
Worse still, it puts him in danger. Those norms were established because they fit within the confines of the law. Speaker Pelosi simply waited until Trump stepped over the line.
The other thing Pelosi waited for was for the president’s irrepressible vindictiveness to surface again. Trump is Machiavellian in that he cannot brush off an insult or even a slight criticism. He tries to destroy anyone who questions or disagrees with him even one time.
Pelosi banked on the fact that his notoriously thin skin would cause him to transgress the law. The speaker was in Washington during the early 1970s and witnessed what intolerance for opposition can do to a presidency. Crushing your opposition works for leaders in the Middle East and North Korea but not in the United States.
Trump’s one major asset is his ardent and clamorous base, for whom he is a near deity and can do no wrong.
To his credit, Trump has cultivated the most loyal political base in perhaps all of American history. They feed on his claims of victimization and lash out irately at anyone who publicly questions him.
Republican lawmakers are scared to death of the Trump base -- so much so that they don’t challenge the president’s racially divisive rhetoric, juvenile tweets, lack of transparency, or reckless trade policy.
Some believe his Biden-Ukraine phone call in July was all part of Trump’s reelection plan to galvanize his followers.
If this is true, it would be a poor calculation on the president’s part. His base was already fired up over the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
They could have easily baited the left on that, as well as continued to feed the base red meat on their perpetual (and perceived) enemies: academia, feminism, immigrants, and Black activists. However, the president was thinking about yet another transaction and the opportunity to destroy a political rival.
I have also argued that there is a world of difference between a Trump supporter and a Trump voter. Supporters believe Trump will Make America Great Again – just like they think it was in the 1950s when my parents couldn’t eat in Southern restaurants or use public restrooms.
Trump voters are persuadable fiscal conservatives who lean Republican but are uncomfortable with the constant controversies coming out of the White House. There are more Trump voters than supporters. Pelosi could very well be looking into the minds of Trump voters with her earlier hesitance about impeachment.
On the other hand, Pelosi’s reluctance to go forward with impeachment may have just been patience.
Impeachment is a very rare occurrence and has never led to the removal of a sitting president. It is, in essence, a more serious and formal censure.
While the House of Representatives is tasked with oversight of the Executive Branch and not with making political calculations, the Pelosi Doctrine involves hitting two birds with one stone -- or rather -- waiting for a bird to hit himself with two stones.