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The Shifting Ground In Washington

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This morning I was listening to a discussion on the radio, in which DC journalists were marveling that Trump, when he is in trouble, has a habit of doubling down on politically dangerous behavior. They were wondering if he really does think he’s invulnerable, and is just daring his political enemies to go at him, or if he has a strategy here.

In her column today (paywalled), Peggy Noonan says that Trump’s behavior in the past couple of weeks has compelled the ground to shift somewhat in DC, over impeachment. Excerpts:

Here are three reasons to think the situation is more fluid than we realize.

First, the president, confident of acquittal, has chosen this moment to let his inner crazy flourish daily and dramatically—the fights and meltdowns, the insults, the Erdogan letter. Just when the president needs to be enacting a certain stability he enacts its opposite. It is possible he doesn’t appreciate the jeopardy he’s in with impeachment bearing down; it is possible he knows and what behavioral discipline he has is wearing down.

The second is that the Republican leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell, told his caucus this week to be prepared for a trial that will go six days a week and could last six to eight weeks. In September there had been talk the Senate might receive articles of impeachment and execute a quick, brief response—a short trial, or maybe a motion to dismiss. Mr. McConnell told CNBC then that the Senate would have “no choice” but to take up impeachment, but “how long you are on it is a different matter.” Now he sees the need for a major and lengthy undertaking. Part of the reason would be practical: He is blunting attack lines that the Republicans arrogantly refused to give impeachment the time it deserves. But his decision also gives room for the unexpected—big and serious charges that sweep public opinion and change senators’ votes. “There is a mood change in terms of how much they can tolerate,” said a former high Senate staffer. Senators never know day to day how bad things will get.

The third reason is the number of foreign-policy professionals who are not ducking testimony in the House but plan to testify or have already. Suppressed opposition to President Trump among foreign-service officers and others is busting out.

She goes on to observe that every single day, Trump does something that further erodes his position. But, she says, the needle on impeachment and removal will only move significantly against Trump if 1) the hearings are perceived as fair, and 2) something else emerges that makes people feel “alarm” over the conduct of foreign policy and national security policy under Trump. At this point, she says, we aren’t there.

Interesting column. It really is interesting to observe Trump’s natural brinksmanship, even when there is absolutely no upside to it for him. It has made me think this past week that the man really might be dangerously unstable.

I’m about to drive for the rest of the day. I’ll check in with y’all later.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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