I’ve been a skeptic of impeachment for three years, but something profound has changed my mind on the matter. It isn’t just the current smoking gun of Trump’s extortion plot with Ukraine, or the clumsy conspiracy of dunces inside the White House and out. It wasn’t even the obvious obstruction in the Mueller Report.
As impeachment looms, it’s important to remember that Donald Trump is less a president and more of a gigantic shit golem animated into a husky-size suit with the singular superpower of blowing up everything around him in order to save his own bloated ass. For all that he’s utterly obvious in his corruption, and as much as the case for impeachment is writ large with every tweet, I was a reluctant convert to the impeachment movement.
Fuck it. Let’s roll.
It’s not simply that Trump richly deserves to be impeached for corruptions large and small, obstructing justice, lavish self-dealing to promote his mid-tier faux-luxury golf resorts and hotels, misuse of government office, abuse of executive powers, rampant cruelty, dickishness, necromancy (have you seen Steve Bannon lately?), and lying to the American people. Those are givens.
No, I’m in, but with the realization that the Democrats are incapable of holding Trump to any kind of account by relying on the traditional norms and processes of Washington, to say nothing of forcing the courts or federal agencies to respond to their lawful requests.
The genius of our constitutional system was how it was built to provide balance, tension, and countervailing forces between the branches of government. Donald Trump gives about as much of a damn about Congress and the courts as he does about starving Guatemalan kids in cages, which is to say, not at all.
Trump and Attorney General William Barr are in on a joke that the majority doesn’t understand; this is barely a republic any longer. They are breaking up what remained of the old world and replacing it with a maximalist exercise of executive power, slamming us head-first into a post-rule-of-law world.
Trump and Barr may have overshot their mark with their stiff-arm, fuck-you rejection of every request for information, testimony, and cooperation. The endless, spurious claims of executive privilege, the aggressive defiance of entirely legitimate requests from Congress have put them in legal and political peril, but still, we can always rely on the Democrats to fuck up a two-car motorcade.
Last week’s hearings told me that without setting off the impeachment investigation, Trump’s strategy had been better than the Democrats’ for a simple reason: the Spectacle Gap.
Democrats had been unable to effectively hold Trump or his crapulous minions to account for a simple reason: They’re playing by the old rules. They thought the courts can compel Trump’s White House to do, well, anything. They still think the attorney general plays by rules other than his desire to protect Trump and to ensure the triumph of his vision of maximalist executive power.
Bless their hearts.
As we enter the inevitable and richly deserved impeachment investigations and hearings, there are five rules of this new game.
Rule 1: This is a battle by, for, and of television.
Donald Trump is a reality-TV star. It’s all he understands. It’s the only thing that penetrates that gigantic bone dome concealing his tiny lizard brain. The hearings must be public, televised, media-friendly, and done in a way that emphasizes the scope and intensity of this investigation. Remember, America elected this orange jackhole in large measure because they saw him pretending to be a CEO on a reality-TV show. If Congress provides moments of critical gravity on-air, preferably live, Trump’s brain will melt.
Rule 2: Ignore the old rules. Trump certainly will.
The first rule of Trump Fight Club is that there are no rules. The real battle to come is one of spectacle, drama, loud noises, and made-for-TV confrontations, not careful legal proceedings and meticulous fact-finding. Democrats shouldn’t be trying to make an air-tight legal case; they should be making a vivid, powerful, political and public case against Trump’s lawbreaking, greed, and sleaze. Don’t get caught up in the petty details; work the big, brash picture.
Trump is playing to his strength. As a man without shame, his only goal is to create a larger explosion, a bigger shock, a more powerful emotional response. He’s playing to his base; if Democrats are playing to the New York Times editorial board, they’re fucked.
Rule 3: Expect fuckery from the Republicans.
Play back every hearing in the past year where Fredo Nunes, Jim Jordan, Matt Gaetz, Mark Meadows, or any other member of the Deep State Douche Caucus rolled out some bizarre attack utterly unrelated to the actual investigation.
They’re going to ramp this up by a factor of a million, using every procedural trick in the book to blow up every hearing. The chairmen of these hearings need to drop the goddamn hammer on these jerkoffs, and hard. Suspend rules, crack skulls, cut corners—just keep the conversation and the camera on the Trump scumbags in the dock for questioning.
Don’t expect any heroes from the GOP; Republican members view him with more fear than loathing, and that’s the ballgame. Some true believers will be there to detonate themselves in service to the Dear Leader; they’re the Trumphadi caucus, and guys like Gym Jordan are one televised hissy fit from strapping on a bomb vest and charging the gate at Chappaqua. Once the filing deadlines for the GOP primaries have passed, you might have a little more luck but, until then, expect nothing but trouble.
Rule 4: Cause pain.
So far, no one from Trump’s world has felt the slightest bit of pressure or pain from contempt, lying, withholding information, evading subpoenas or being a Trumpian cocknozzle. When sinister Trump-world shitbird Corey Lewandowski lied his ass off before the House Judiciary Committee and verbally abused members of Congress, he did everything but take a dump on Jerry Nadler’s desk, and still walked away scot-free. If the shoe was on the other partisan foot, Lewandowski would have been perp-walked out of the room and strip-searched in the Rotunda.
If “inherent contempt” isn’t in the Democrats’ playbook right now, then forget impeachment and plan for a season of stonewalling. So what if the law is vague or there’s going to be a big old habeas corpus fight? You’re looking for the video clip of some Trump fuckwit being heaved off his feet and dragged out of the hearing room in contempt, not a legal-eagle panel on MSNBC nodding sagely.
You have to attack Trump’s weak spots; his money, his taxes, and his kids. Raise the stakes for all of them. Press harder. Be more cruel and more determined, because the other side most certainly has decided to lie and stonewall until you lose patience. Drag all of them, even the most tangential characters in Trumpworld.
Rule 5: Let the professionals work.
I know every member of Congress wants to be the star of the impeachment hearings. That’s not how this game works. They need to treat this like a televised trial, not like a goddamn press availability at the East Bumfuck Rotary Club.
The Democrats need to get professional, outside prosecutors to serve as the lead interrogators for every Trump witness. Pipe-swinging attorneys asking meaningful and high-risk questions to the Trump witnesses is better television, better lawyering, and better at wrecking Trump’s headspace than the five-minute-rule boredom of normal hearings.
And one more rule, mostly for the press: Stop taking the bait.
The president of the United States of America is, as you may have noticed by now, a lying liar who lies. The people around him are more of the same.
You’re not required to edit his word salad into coherent video or quotes. You’re not required to cover every one of his lunatic accusations as if it were gospel fact. If Trump makes an outrageous claim, he depends on the reporters around him to merely amplify what he said and not to call bullshit. This is how Trump has hacked the media system to his advantage. Even his lies, when reported, are believed as truth.
It’s past time for the press to call bullshit. No one is required to report verbatim the details of the president’s outrageous lies, only that he told them.
Those are the new roles, to win a fight that is going to be long, bloody, and painful. We’re still at the beginning of the beginning, as much as we may wish otherwise.
Trump deserves impeachment. America deserves a Democratic Party that has the strength, discipline, focus, and determination to carry it off.