By Bernard-Henri Lévy
The American people can escape from the ordeal of Donald Trump’s presidency in one of three ways. But if and when they do is an irreducibly political question, not one that hinges on legal possibilities.
First, there’s the Nixonian method, in which the president, worn down by the fight, simply resigns, scared and unwilling to submit to the proceedings that he sees mounting around him. But could that really be the exit taken by Trump? Does he share with his distant Republican predecessor a strong enough predisposition to melancholy? Can one picture a childish man, compulsive and narcissistic, surrendering without a fight the larger-than-life toy that is the top job in the most powerful country on the planet? I doubt it.
But the current situation does not resemble those cases. Trump may be unstable and unfit to govern, as his detractors claim. But is he any more so now than he was when the American people elected him? Probably not.
Finally, there remains the remedy of impeachment, which is being discussed more and more openly in Washington these days, accompanied (in a sign of the times) by a book, The Case for Impeachment, by Allan J. Lichtman. (A political historian, Lichtman is famous for having devised a model that has enabled him to predict the election of every American president from Ronald Reagan to Donald Trump.)
Impeachment, set out in Article 2 of the Constitution, is a procedure for the removal from office of a president, vice president, or other top executive official (or judge) suspected of “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” It is a complex process that unfolds in two phases: first, the House of Representatives must decide, by a simple majority, that the charges are serious enough to be tried; second, a full-fledged trial is conducted in the Senate, which must reach a two-thirds majority to convict the official and trigger immediate removal from office.
There are two main reasons to doubt that impeachment would rid the world of Trump. First, there is the balance of power in the Senate. At least 19 Republican senators would have to join the Democrats to convict Trump. At the moment, at most five can be counted on to do so. The only two presidential precedents (Andrew Johnson, impeached in 1868 for abuse of power, and Bill Clinton, impeached in 1998 for perjury and obstruction of justice) are hardly encouraging: both ended in acquittal by the Senate.
Second, there is the reluctance of Democratic Party bosses to see ultraconservative Vice President Mike Pence assume the place vacated by a fallen Trump. Wouldn’t he enjoy the same state of grace enjoyed by recent vice presidents who entered the Oval Office under exceptional circumstances (Lyndon Johnson after Kennedy; Gerald Ford after Nixon)? And what if he remained in office, not only for the remainder of Trump’s term, but for two four-year terms of his own?
All of this is logical enough. But times have changed since Johnson, Ford, and even Clinton.
In post-modern democracies, there is one and only one boss: public opinion. And public opinion operates according to its own logic. How long will the American public tolerate the almost-daily doses of new evidence of conflicts of interest, starting with the licensing to Chinese investors, at the height of the presidential primary, of the Trump brand for use on spas, luxury hotels, and other real-estate projects?
What about Trump’s financial ties with Russia, and those of his associates, including his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and his former campaign manager, Paul Manafort? What leverage can be wielded by the Russian oligarchs who, in 2004, when Trump was mired in one of his bankruptcies, stepped in for the American banks that had blacklisted him to recapitalize his companies and bought – sight unseen and at premium prices – luxury apartments in Trump World Tower? Won’t all of this eventually take its toll?
And, finally, there is the gross obstruction of justice represented by the firing of FBI director James Comey, whose main offense seems to have been his refusal to exclude Trump from his investigation of the Kremlin’s criminal interference in the 2016 campaign. What will voters make of the damning revelations that are sure to come to light, now that Comey’s predecessor, Robert Mueller, has been appointed as special counsel to investigate the ties between Russia and Trump’s election campaign?
The signs of public disgust are mounting. A petition drive to impeach Trump, organized by Massachusetts lawyer John Bonifaz, has gathered more than a million signatures. Polls indicate that a majority of the electorate would favor Trump’s resignation if it were proved that his campaign colluded with Russia to sway the election. And growing numbers of voters are now saying as much to their representatives, who, sooner or later, will have to start listening if they want to avoid imperiling their own electoral chances.
For Trump, the real danger will come as the crowd he captivated and captured during the campaign begins to turn on him. That crowd, as astute political observers from Plato to de Tocqueville amply demonstrated, becomes harder to evade the more you make it master.
The worst case is never inevitable. May the mob of the populist tide become once again the great American people, a people of citizens. When that happens, Trump will be history.
Bernard-Henri Lévy is one of the founders of the “Nouveaux Philosophes” (New Philosophers) movement. His works include “Left in Dark Times: A Stand Against the New Barbarism,” and “American Vertigo: Traveling America in the Footsteps of Tocqueville.” He writes the Bloc-notes column at Le Point. © Project Syndicate.
Note: FlaglerLive is proud to be one of only nine publications that carry Project Syndicate’s content in the United States, and the only publication to do so in the South. Please consider helping pay our licensing costs by making a donation to FlaglerLive.
Trump will do at least 4 years in office.
Following the essay’s link to various polling results, I note that even with 4 months of Trump under our belt, Hillary is still relatively weak as a presidential contender, preferred by 49 percent, compared to 54 percent for Biden and 52 percent for Bernie Sanders.
Trump’s strongest opposition seems to be coming from the FBI (past and present) and the intelligence community. Whether those forces can ignite a successful impeachment campaign against Trump is a longshot bet, but not impossible. Ironically, Vladimir Putin may be the final arbiter. If he does something to test NATO & US resolve, such as putting more pressure on Ukraine, he becomes Trump’s nemesis and empowers the military-industrial hawks waiting in the wings.
” And growing numbers of voters are now saying as much to their representatives, who, sooner or later, will have to start listening if they want to avoid imperiling their own electoral chances.”
This illustrates the biggest problem our political system faces today … Representatives that pass/reject legislation based upon whether it “imperils their own electoral chances” – and the hell with whether it is good or bad for the city/county/state/country/world.
President Cheetos is nothing but a snake oil salesman. Little by little people with half a brain are starting to see they’ve been had. There will be those that will never admit that the man they voted for has done a bait and switch on them.Those people will forever defend their guy,even if it’s proven that the trump campaign colluded with the Russians and that he is a big fat liar.
Talk about un-American. What happened to love of country, the Constitution.? Is one man more important( a crook none the less) then being an patriotic American.
There will be no wall, there will be no trumpcare, there will be no tax reform that benefit the rich only,there will be no Muslim ban, and all the other absurd policies that this idiot promised in the campaign……Thank goodness.
So for those of us that were not blinded, 2018 will be the start of anew, followed by 2020, with a grownup in the White House, either it be a Democrat ,Republican or Independent.
another vet says
maybe the dems should have put someone besides crooked clinton to run against him…. just saying
Sherry Epley says
Take a moment to click through to the Public Policy Polling press release. . . trump voters are actually starting to realize how they have been massively manipulated by trump AND the Republican Congress:
I do not want to replace Trump! Think about it. He’s a cartoonish buffoon… a liar, a braggart and a bully. But he’s visible. We can target him, his family and his policies (?) and ride his failures to victory in November 2018 and November 2020. If you replace Trump, you get the religious fanatic, Pence, and you give the nation a false sense of relief, of recovery from the cartoonish Trump and his dysfunctional and chaotic administration. You get the staid, calm and insidious neo-Puritanism of a Pence administration. In short, you give the nation over to the Franklin Grahams and their radical evangelism. A creeping theocracy. That what we want?
So, let’s keep Trump up front, eviscerate him with a Democratic Congress in 2018 and wipe the slate clean in 2020.
Vincent A. Liguori says
To Dems-How about Maxine Waters or Nancy Pelosi for president? Give me a break!
The headline reads Awaking from the Trump Nighmate. Really for most Americans we are awakening from the Obama Nightmare that ruined this country. God bless America and God bless Donald Trump!
Sherry Epley says
@ Ws. . . YOU most assuredly do NOT speak for most Americans! Read the polls. . . Oh that’s right. . . actual FACTS mean nothing to those that are misguided enough to continue to support trump.
Saying that, I agree with you completely Knighwatch . . . I would rather have trump the complete “Buffoon” in office. . . and resist everything he tries to do. . . than to have Pence in there. Pence could be “effectively” dangerous.
The comments by Rush Limbaugh’s centipede are like the breath of a wino with gum disease. They can’t do any better or differently. Trump is gangrene they can’t smell. We don’t have that excuse. The surgeon needs to act quickly.
I read a funny joke the other day. What’s the difference between Richard Nixon and Donald Trump? When we elected Nixon we didn’t know he was a crook.
Adam Frank says
I got a good laugh watching Hillary Clinton mis-remember Nixon’s “impeachment”, which is ironic because she was removed from the Nixon impeachment investigation for having questionable ethics.She hasn’t changed one bit since then.
It’s hilarious how the trumpsters try to rewrite history. When Obama was elected in 2008, he had inherited a total mess from Bush. It took a second term for Obama to finally get the country in the right direction, with no help from the republicans.So the “nightmare” was created from republicans.The Fake….I mean Fox News channel audience were and still are in a alt reality. God Bless Obama and his lovely family!
Edith Campins says
Trumpians keep bringing up Hilary to deflect from the obvious disaster that is the Trump presidency. They keep saying he has already accomplished so much but can’t come up with a single specific.
Having just come back from an extended stay various European countries can tell you he is an embarrassment to all of us. The most frequently asked question was something along the lines of what were you thinking. People all over the world held the US as a model of democracy and now they think we are in a downward spiral. Wether they were talking about climate, healthcare, women’s rights, education it was evident European think we have taken a huge step backwards.
Al Cycle says
Sherry E. Facts are when I was watching CNN on election eve, covering Florida’s vote…Flagler, Volusia & St.John turned Florida RED! I was so proud that we all helped in our great Presidents complete rout of the Crooked Clintons!
@ Adam Frank
Speaking of misremember – you sure do.
Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?
– Joseph N. Welch
Q: Hillary Clinton was fired from the House Judiciary Committee’s Watergate investigation by Chief Counsel Jerry Zeifman?
@ Edith Campins
Looks like Trump was right about one thing:
“I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”
– donald j trump
Al Cycle says
Edith C., Downward sprial? Hey its Europa that is turning Sharia! They are now lost! Where did you go to not find this?BTW, How about , Jobs. Jobs, jobs….! MAGA
The title of this article is so misleading, “Awakening from the Trump Nightmare”, people the nightmare has just started, each year until Trumps rein is over, will be a sequel of craziness from Washington.
Things will never be perfect in this world. Myself and many others, that got Trump elected,
are sure delighted to have him in office. For 8 years Obama has slowly, insidiously, worked
on setting our country up to be a Muslim nation. In effect, he’s part of their 100 year plan to
destroy our Nation from the inside out. Obama still has his agenda to take out Trump, esp. as
President Trump is attempting to undo some of Obama’s Legacy. (Vomit; not because of the
color of his skin either!) Now with Obama’s appointed judges trying to usurp our President, this
clearly is a high RISK that when the President makes an order…..if they can in any way attempt
to make it look racist & block him………….the Muslims will have a clear, protected path to take over
our Nation….all in good time. They also claim they will out breed Americans, so eventually they
will be able to control who’s elected President. They will have their Sharia Law: child wives,
women as dirt, killing infidels. God only knows where that leaves the rest of us and our country
as we have known it. *Read about their 100 year plan. Those of you that want to allow this to
spread like Cancer are nuts! God Bless Mr. Trump for attempting to Stop the INSANITY!
Awwwww Al Cycle. . . how very sad that you do not realize that there is actual “life”, and even highly civilized people and societies beyond “backwards” Flagler country, “backwards” Florida, and even beyond the USA. Now don’t you go and get sand in your ears from sticking your head in it.
Here, during our travels in Greece, and now Spain we are constantly asked if Americans have gone “insane” for electing such a person as president. We are constantly embarrassed and down right humiliated to have such a “buffoon” and “sexual predator” in such a position.
Pogo. . . as usual, you are right on!
Clinton still LOST ……and the RIGHT is going to pick SUPREME COURT JUSTICES & FED JUDGES for the next 3-8 yrs….These choices will influence the USA for the next 20-30 years
@ Sherry most times I agree with you, but you forget Bill Clinton was a sexual predator as well. We elected him as well even after his affairs while gov of ARK and lets not forget his fantastic “I didn’t have sex with that woman” speech while President in the White House. He did the dirty while in office.oh and his impeachment as well. They just don’t make presidential candidates like they used to.
American Media, Domestic enemy. Fun watching the folks in DC go goofy because their free rides are going down the tube. DTS. Term Limits. We have too many millionaires riding on the backs of the American public. Will be more fun seeing Ivanka become the first female elected to the Oval Office. By then it might be a 7-2 Supreme Court, too! Life is good.
al cycle says
Sherry, Awwwwww, I am so glad you picked 2 of the most looser, deplorable Country’s to use as examples!!! Spain who brought us the Inquisition, plunder of the Americas & Frankie Franco, who supported & hid NAZIS from Nuremberg trials!! What a roll model! BTW, they should stop occupying Basque! Then Greece, of all places…..most Greeks can not wait till they get ‘the hell out’ & come to the USA to start restaurants!! Greece does not have 2 nickels to rub!! They still wonder what happened to Constantinople & Cypress?? These are your examples of ‘Highly civilized societies’ & LIFE?? BTW, I am so proud of Flagler Co. being the County that helped turn Florida ‘RED’ & MAGA!! So please tell all those highly civilized people to stay away from such a sandy eared backward state…. we do not need them!!!!
Jaded Veteran says
The mainstream media, CNN is now the prime example, has basically decided to destroy this presidency. Over 80% of all their news is targeting Trump – their coverage is 90% negative. While there may be some fire in all that smoke, these same so called ‘reporters’ saw nothing evil in the IRS targeting groups who were against President Obama. This same media went to great lengths in creating an anti-police narrative in Ferguson, New York, Baltimore and Baton Rouge. These narratives, which have turned out to be ‘counter factual’ (ah, they were proven wrong by the actual facts), in most cases, were nevertheless continually pushed until police officers were targeted by terrorist sympathizers and supporters of that incorrect narrative. This same mainstream media which now is giving us this constant anti-Trump narrative is the same media whose hands are covered in the blood of those police officers. This media, like a broken clock, may be correct on some points, but I am not able to depend upon them for an unbiased view of the world. I now distrust everything they say. If Trump has committed some crime – someone please provide the actual statue number and date/time/ place of occurrence. Then lets prosecute. Until then, he IS the duly legally elected president of the United States and he has a job to do. The media should be able to provide news as information without narrative. They have failed.
It is so appropriate, especially in the current administration,that the color red represents the republicans.
Communist and the devil. That is what is in the White House. All you communists trumpsters should go live in Russia, since you agree with the liar-in-chief.
Hillary lost the election and in turn Americans lost big time.
Some of the limbaugh – trump supporters remind one of children petting a baby skunk and fawning over their pretty kitty. As trump says – sad.
Others remind one of the spiteful mindless hate and suicidal destructiveness of ISIS’s zombies and dead enders. They destroy traditions, antiquities, and commit grotesque atrocities in a frenzy of ignorance and insane hate.
The reactions of the leaders forced to endure trump’s attendance at the NATO summit say it all. They’re the survivors of the last time the world saw the rise of a trump. They know what MAGA really means – Making All Grotesque and Awful.
Where they burn books, at the end they also burn people.
– Heinrich Heine
I certainly agree Pogo. . . a mostly uneducated, insecure, easily brainwashed lot filled with tremendous fear and self loathing. . . that some have now turned into hatred of others. . . those that they blame for their unhappy lives. Pathetic Really!
The good news is that some of the more intelligent trump voters are starting to see how they’ve been completely “duped”. . . by him and the Republican congress! There is still hope for a return to sanity in our country. . . in spite of the FOX Zombies!
Sherry, your blanket slander of Trump supporters is just plain ignorant. I support and voted for him, have a college degree, am very secure, not brainwashed and am a 26 year US Navy veteran. So I guess millions of people like me are deplorables that elected him while your candidate wasn’t smart enough to campaign in a couple of states.
Al Cycle says
Vet, Thank you for your service! I agree with you opinion. Flager County helped turn Florida’ s electiorial vote to Trump! The start of the sweep to victory….MAGA!
Mr G says
its almost October
time to get over lol lol lol
I say not gonna happen but an interesting read nonetheless. Didnt vote for the Donald but have hope for the best in the Commander in Chief.