For this week’s blog, I reached out to a friend who is a veteran Democratic operative with more than 20 years on national political campaigns, and currently a consultant for one of the remaining presidential hopefuls. In an anonymous interview, he offered an insider’s candid view of the race, billionaires, socialists, sexism, racism, and the relative odds of victory, wipeout, and the end of American democracy, among other things.
Here is part one of two….
DODGING THE PENDULUM
THE KING’S NECKTIE: Last week I had the exact same argument twice in a row. First — and I’m sure you experienced it even more heavily than I did — a huge chunk of the Democratic Party was suddenly shouting, “Bloomberg’s the great centrist hope!” And in response there was this kind of mass hysteria from the left wing of the party, and the Bernie folks were furious, saying things like, “I’d vote for most of these nominees, but I would never vote for Bloomberg!”
MR. X: That was a moment when Bloomberg had to prove himself. He put in all his chips — $350 million at that point, and now it’s about $500 million — and he looked strong and was polling well, and the Bernie people set their hair on fire because their view was that the nomination was being stolen by an oligarch. But we all know who Bloomberg is, which is a Republican in sheep’s clothing.
TKN: Right. But then, just as quickly, it was over — at least the delusion that he was going to be the hero who saved the party, for some — because he got clobbered in the debate.
MR. X: The idea that he actually went onto that debate stage struck me as the worst strategy of campaign thus far, period.
TKN: You think it was bad that he even went onstage, or just that he did poorly?
MR. X: I think you have to expect to do poorly. Basically he was called up from the minors in the middle of a pennant race and told, “It’s bottom of the ninth — hit a home run for us.” There was no way that debate stage was going to be his friend. If you remember, in 2016, Trump found ways to avoid debates he didn’t want to be in. Bloomberg absolutely could have skipped that one. And should have. He wasn’t even in the Nevada primary.
The other side of it is that the people he’s paying to prep him are never going to be as good as his actual adversaries. I mean, I’ve been in debate prep with senators and the like, and you’re just not as powerful as their opponent who has a vested interest in tearing them down. After all, as a staff-member, your vested interest is making them pay you. I’m sure every time he wanted a break his staff said, “Sure, sir.” And when someone hit him too hard he could go, “Oh, that’s not fair.” And they’d say, “Oh, you’re right.” And no doubt that phenomenon is even more pronounced with a billionaires who isn’t accustomed to ever being told no.
TKN: I would like to think that if I were preparing for a debate, I would get my staff to crucify me.
MR. X: Yes, a murder board. I’m sure that Elizabeth Warren has gone through that time and time again. She’s also a law professor; she’s a phenomenal debater. Buttigieg also holds his own, I think. And while I don’t like the way she operates, Klobuchar has skills. Let’s leave Biden out of this for now. Even Bernie stays on message — deeply. I’m not saying it’s good or bad, but his strength in the debate is that everything turns on that message and he never deviates from it. It’s a huge political strength to have that kind of discipline.
Bloomberg last debated in 2009 or something like that, and from an incumbent’s position of strength back then. He was like the Wizard of Oz, and they pulled back the curtain and there was this five foot six guy with an accent who rolls his eyes and huffs and puffs when he doesn’t get the fealty that one expects when you’re a billionaire.
TKN: So the very next day, the exact same mass hysteria and panic happened. It was like Groundhog Day…..except this time the roles were reversed. Now suddenly Bernie was the presumptive nominee, especially after the Nevada primary, and the centrists set their hair on fire.
MR. X: I don’t want to count out Bloomberg, who’s going on the attack against Bernie. I’m not sure if that will work or not — he’s certainly the wrong person to do it. When you hit someone in a multi-candidate race, you never win. But he could put $150 million in those Super Tuesday states against Bernie and rip his face off. If he wants to go down in flames with a scorched earth strategy, he will do his side of the Democratic Party a huge favor.
TKN: Let’s say he does that and it succeeds. He’s just thrown himself on the hand grenade that is Bernie Sanders to clear the way for who?
MR. X: Well, the only person would be Biden.
TKN: Bloomberg can’t do that and survive and be the candidate?
MR. X: No, he could. Because he’s got enough money, he could go two tracks and possibly run a huge amount of positive media at the same time he’s running a huge amount of anti-Bernie media. But that’s really hard. People love negative ads: it moves people, it changes people’s votes or keeps them at home. But they also hate the people who do them.
TKN: (laughs) What could be more American?
MR. X: In a dyad kind of race it works well because they’ve got nowhere to go but you. But in a multi-candidate race, the person who throws that punch ends up with a foot in their face.
THE DOUBLE STANDARD (TEXTBOOK EDITION)
TKN: Is that part of what happened with Warren? I know that all the candidates attacked Bloomberg in Las Vegas, but she really led the charge…..clearing the way for Bernie, not for herself!
MR. X: I don’t know what’s the story with her voters, because she reportedly had this terrific turnout engine, this amazing team in Iowa, and she came in nowhere. And then she’s in the state next to hers and she comes in effectively nowhere, given that she’s from Massachusetts. Dukakis was basically handed New Hampshire in ’88, but of course he wasn’t running against someone from Vermont. I just don’t understand it. She’s terrific in the debates. She’s had enough money to do the job. She’s supposedly had this amazing field machine, and she’s done this really interesting stuff in her campaign, like the selfie cycle. So is it what Michelle Wolf said at the end of 2016, that what this proved in the end is, we’re far more sexist then racist?
TKN: But by the time Iowa happened her campaign had already faded. And as a layman, I can only ascribe it to misogyny.
Initially when she announced I think there was a lot of skepticism….a sense of, “Oh, Warren is Hillary 2.0,” just because she’s a smart blond woman. Then she proved she had all those things you just described, proved she had this ground game, proved she was smart as a whip, proved she’s nothing like Hillary personality-wise. And last summer she was rising fast, as you know, and people were saying Bernie was toast, Warren had taken over his space. When Ukrainegate broke there were even headlines like, “Warren just secured the nomination.”
And then I felt like there was a moment of collective PTSD on the left, like, “Oh God, are we going to do this again? Is she going to be the nominee?” Both because she is superficially reminiscent of Hillary, and because she’s too progressive for lots of folks. And after that it she was done, for no good reason.
MR. X: I think it’s actually more complex than that, and it actually is policy-driven, shockingly enough. Everyone gave Bernie a total pass on Medicare for all. But they attacked her and they attacked her and they attacked her. “How are you gonna pay for all this?” Someone said at one point in one of these debates, “At least Bernie is honest, he’s not telling us anything!”
TKN: It’s the opposite though! Warren is answering the question that Bernie is evading, or not being asked at all. How is that more “honest” on his part?
MR. X: Exactly. So she said, “Wait, so here’s the deal. We’ll have to step this thing. Maybe we’ll have an interim,” which is basically Kamala Harris’s plan, to be fair. And the left went, “Oh, you’re not for us? I’m burning my Elizabeth Warren shirt and swag!”
Warren puts out an interim when she’d been pressed and pressed and pressed by every single other candidate — especially everyone’s favorite, Pete Buttigieg — to explain how she’d pay for this thing. By the way, Republicans never have to explain how they’d pay for anything. So she did that, and all of her support evaporated. The left no longer saw her as this pie-in-the-sky dream machine that they had in the summer of ’19. It was the same thing that AOC did a week ago or so when she said, we’ll take what we can get from the Congress and call it a win and then move forward. But it took the air out of Warren’s balloon.
TKN: So are you saying that Bernie’s very lack of specificity, the kind of outrageousness of his proposals without any armature supporting it, is the very thing that’s appealing to people?
MR. X: Because no one is willing to attack Bernie Sanders, he doesn’t have to support or bracket his policies with the stuff that you have to churn out when people are attacking you.
TKN: But why don’t they attack him?
MR. X: Because they see his supporters like the Republicans saw Trump supporters in ’16. They’re all so scared of the Bernie bros not turning out for them if they’re the nominee that they’re unwilling to attack him. So they’ve given him a pass, which has allowed him to steamroll in the same way that Trump did in ’16. And it’s going be disaster……
(laughs) Of course, I’m arguing it was a disaster for the Republican Party, but the Republican Party won, so I guess it’s doable. But to stop it, someone needs to do this Bloomberg thing, which is to be willing to jump on the hand grenade by going after Bernie, and be willing to die that day.
TRIUMPH OF THE EXTREMES
TKN: So what happens in the general election when Republicans are not afraid of alienating the Bernie bros, because they have no illusions about winning them over, and they will attack Bernie on all those specifics?
MR. X: You mean like he honeymooned in Moscow?
TKN: Yes, for sure. All that baggage. But also in a more substantive way of saying: defend your positions.
MR. X: When Bernie’s the candidate, he only has to respond to Trump, and Trump won’t do that, exactly. It’ll be in the water, though, like Bush and his minions did to Kerry.
But every Democratic Senate candidate will be attacked in this way, and that’s a concern downballot. Because if you’re running for Senate in Kansas, they’ll say, “Your party’s leader honeymooned in Moscow, and believes in democratic socialism, and wants to give everyone free college tuition: where do you stand on that?” And then they’re going to be up against a wall, which is going to be hellish.
TKN: I will say as an aside though, that I don’t think Donald Trump and his fans have any room to complain about the other guy cozying up to Russia. I know he’ll do it anyway, I know we’re in Bizarro World and doesn’t matter, but I just want to say that.
MR. X: But to be tarnished on that from the left is very different. Trump can sort of be Nixon in China. “I’m a Republican!” In fact, this week when the DNI said the Russians are busy infiltrating the Trump campaign, Republicans were like, “What? No! He’s tough on Russia!” So they’ve drunk the Kool Aid.
Although Bernie was on “60 Minutes” this weekend, and he makes this great point when he’s asked about it, saying that Castro did some fine things. He gave a spiel like, “I also said he did some bad things. You don’t see me writing to love letters to Kim Jong-un or cozying up to Putin.“ So he’s got his response to that issue.
As a strategist you have to say, most of Bernie’s positions — Medicare for all, free college, reparations — don’t get a majority of support. You can’t run on all minority support issues. To then add, “And I’m a socialist Jew” is a good way to put a pin in your candidacy. We’ve not seen a Jewish person run for president. We haven’t seen a socialist run for president since Eugene Debs. And he did it from jail.
TKN: But he wasn’t a major party candidate.
MR. X: He was not. But he got eight million votes, largest third party candidate support until Perot.
We’ve been conditioned as Americans, if you’re over the age of 42, to believe socialism and communism are the biggest anathema in the world. America is an engine to fight that. So to me, the idea of crossing that Rubicon, “Oh, I’ll vote for a socialist for president,” is maybe just a bridge a little too far and on a political strategy level, that’s scary.
TKN: Of course I share those same concerns. But then there’s a little part of me that thinks, well, the entire game has been changed. Nobody thought Trump could win. It’s absurd that he did win. But now we’re in a different world.
MR. X: But when it came to the tough issues that everyone hates Republicans for — the Paul Ryan issues, like gutting Medicare, Social Security and these things — Trump was like, “Oh, we won’t do that. Health care? I’m gonna give you the best healthcare in the world! How? Who knows?” But he made those promises during the race and then went full draconian Ryan/McConnell Republican after he was in office. This time we can pick apart Trump’s record, but before, he talked like Huey Long.
TKN: Recently a friend of mine was saying that the whole concept of electability has inverted. What we used to think of as a conventionally electable candidate is the exact thing that you cannot get elected with now……which is to say, a sort of reasonable person with actual policies, who speaks carefully and runs the risk of seeming inauthentic to the electorate. Whereas a radical, whether it’s Bernie or Trump — and I’m not equating them, but somebody who’s extreme — is perceived as authentic precisely because of their extremity.
MR. X: Authenticity is vitally important, but in these cases, it’s not their authenticity, but the moderation that I think is the story. Things are so bad and so disrupted that it’s not just the Trump voters who are like, “Things have to change,” but also part of the Democratic base. These Bernie people, if they’re young, are probably looking at a society where their parents had it better off than their parents did before them, and their parents’ parents’ before that. Even more so than in 2016, the rage now is huge. Whether you’re an angry white man, or a recent graduate drowning in college debt. It’s so bad that I don’t think Obama could be elected in 2020. Maybe he could as an African-American person, that kind of change. But he was a moderate.
TKN: Though a black guy named Barack Hussein Obama — even though he wasn’t a “rage” candidate — defies traditional ideas of “electability.” So that makes two norm-breaking presidents in a row.
The question is, is it possible that this rage that you’re describing — which is palpable, we all feel it — is it possible that that could translate into something that would propel Bernie to victory even with all his baggage?
MR. X: Yes. I’m not saying Bernie can’t win. But swing voters are not moderates. Moderates are moderates. Every moderate is really a secret Republican or a secret Democrat, but they’re not swing voters necessarily. True swing voters are people who are low information voters who are willing to go with whoever sells. Anyone who can swing from Obama in ’12 to Trump in ’16 doesn’t have a political agenda, OK?
So what that means is, to get those people to swing your direction is not about tacking to the center necessarily. On the contrary: these are people who apt to say, “Fuck this bullshit. I want to change this.” Does Bernie offer change when you’ve already got a change agent in the White House?
TKN: Maybe, if the thing you most urgently want to change is that guy in the White House.
MR. X: Yes. But typically you beat someone with their antithesis. So to replace angry, I’m-going-to-tear-everything-down Trump with angry, I’m-going-to-tear-everything-down Bernie traditionally hasn’t happened. But what’s traditional in politics today is dead.
TKN: I hear you in terms of, typically you’d go from Bush to Obama to Trump. But here the pendulum would be swinging in a different way if you went from a right wing demagogue like Trump to a socialist of a sort that we’ve never had ever, like Bernie. Ideologically that would be a radical reversal.
MR. X: But ideology is not what the presidency is about. Democrats run on ideology somewhat, but Republicans never run on ideology. There’s abortion and the religious right, and they will speak to that, but it’s not ideological per se. That’s why conservatism is so backward looking, to me. It’s a cultural thing and Trump’s politics are certainly cultural politics, not one based on policies.
BERNIE’S PATH TO PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE
TKN: So let’s say Bernie is the candidate —
MR. X: The only way he can’t be is if Biden wins in South Carolina and somehow comes up with parity on Super Tuesday. Does he have the money to compete in those states? The money’s not gonna come in and make a difference in three days. There are Super Tuesday states that look a lot like South Carolina from a primary perspective, which can benefit Biden. There’s also California.
TKN: What about a brokered convention, or the Democratic powers-that-be saying, “We just can’t let Bernie be nominee”?
MR. X: The powers-that-be are not going to do that. They know that would be a net loss. They’d rather go down in flames with their guy. If we do end up with Bernie, or frankly whoever it is, my only hope is that the party says, “Let’s give it everything we’ve got.”
The good news is, Bernie has the opportunity to do what Trump did, which is turn out these people who weren’t voting before. The bad news is that old people are like, “Oh, I’m mad! I’m gonna vote.” Young people are like, “I’m mad. I’m gonna start an organic butcher shop!”
The people Bernie’s relying on are non-voters and young people….and those people don’t vote! It’s like saying, “I’ve got this great football team with me. I just don’t have any players.” It’s hard to win when they don’t show up on the field. And to count on them is a big, dangerous mistake. But that’s what it comes down to for him: getting those people to finally show up and vote.
I will say this: Bloomberg was never, ever gonna make those people say, “Yeah! I want to vote!” But Bernie might. He’s certainly doesn’t look like them, but he’s got a lot to offer to those people, and talking about stuff — the same stuff that Elizabeth Warren is talking about — that speaks to Latinx and black parts of the electorate. Democrats have spent every cycle courting these demographics, but they have to follow through. You know, Black Lives Matter — yeah, for the three hours when we are at the polls. Other than that, forget it.
Also, higher turnout doesn’t necessarily mean we win, by the way. Those people who never voted before 2016 and who are now standing in line overnight to see Trump at a rally are the scariest part of American politics in my opinion.
The interesting question is who will be Bernie’s running mate. Bernie’s been saying the same thing since 1985. Great. It’s working for him right now and that’s terrific. But when it comes to the nuts and bolts of winning a national campaign, he needs to find the right partner. You’ve gotta balance the ticket.
TKN: So who is his ideal VP?
MR. X: Maybe it’s Kamala Harris, she’s quasi African-American and she’s from California, totally another part of the country. She speaks to a different demographic. Also Julian or Joaquin Castro would be an interesting choice; a Latino running mate would make a big difference for him. For Trump, Pence really shored up that wavering religious right. The religious right loves Trump now, but back then, a three time divorcee picking a guy who won’t eat lunch without his wife there certainly helped.
Because he himself is so unconventional, Bernie needs a Tim Kaine. It’s the opposite of what Hillary needed. If she’d picked someone a little more outside the box, she’d be president right now.
TKN: (laughs) Are you blaming Tim Kaine for 2016? Because, I have to tell you, I have not heard that before….
MR. X: (laughs) No, I’m not blaming Tim Kaine. But I’m saying if Hillary had done something that excited people, it would have been different. It was only 70,000 votes in three states — Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania — that decided the election. Trump had an inside straight that no one’s ever seen before. I mean, if the border of Illinois was, I think it’s like 400 yards farther north, then he would not have won. If she’d had someone who inspired African-American people in Milwaukee, she’d be president.
TKN: But this is Michael Lewis’s Undoing Project, where you ask those “if only” questions that are 11th hour things that come to mind, but we don’t go back and question bigger things, like “If Donald Trump had been born with a vagina, he wouldn’t be president.”
MR. X: I am with you all the way. I am just making the case that whoever the Democratic nominee is, they have to be very careful and pick someone who really adds to the ticket, because all of the Democrats have holes. Anyone who’s not Bernie can very easily pick Stacey Abrams and be done.
TKN: You don’t think Stacey would be a good running mate for Bernie?
MR. X: She’s too far left for Bernie. And he would be showing his willingness to compromise with who he picks as a running mate. He doesn’t have to compromise on any of his values; he just has to pick someone who is moderate. If you want to win, that is the easiest compromise to make, and the smartest one. You’re not compromising any of your values. You’re parking somebody, even though you’re giving them a leg up in the next election. The vice presidency means as much or as little as you want it to mean. In this current administration, I think it means very little. In the Bush years it was everything.
TKN: So for Bernie, Kamala certainly comes to mind right off the bat, as you say. It would help me, for sure, just on a visceral level. But do you think he would do that? Pick her?
MR. X: Yes.
TKN: Do you think Kamala would do it?
MR. X: In a heartbeat. God, it’s a step! And she’s a career politician, bless her heart. As John Nance Gardner said, the vice presidency isn’t worth a bucket of warm spit, and it’s true… unless the president dies. Kamala and Gavin Newsom are competing to see who gets the presidency first. That would be a ladder, in “Chutes and Ladders.” She’d be the heir apparent and also have the chance to put some gravitas underneath her sails.
TKN: What about a really out-of-the-box VP choice? I would think — and this is just my bias — but if it was Bernie Sanders and Admiral Bill McRaven, an American military hero credentialed to the hilt and a staunch critic of Trump….
MR. X: That would be incredible. I also think that Steve Bullock would be another good one. But two white guys is problematic. I think that if you want to have this turnout thing, you need to show people that you get them, and that means someone of color.
TKN: How about Deval Patrick?
MR. X: Well, the problem is now you’re stuck in the Northeast.
TKN: What about — don’t laugh — Bernie/Bloomberg?
MR. X: Who would be at the top of that ticket?
TKN: I understand it would be a major ego come-down for Mike Bloomberg….
MR. X: Oh, Bloomberg is at the bottom of that ticket? Not in a million year is that going to happen.
TKN: Because Bloomberg wouldn’t do it, or because Bernie wouldn’t do it?
MR. X: Bloomberg wouldn’t do it AND Bernie wouldn’t do it.
TKN: And it’s still two white guys, and two Jewish guys to boot. But Bloomberg has said, and I take him at his word, that he’s going to put his fortune into this no matter who the nominee is. He can be the war chest that the Democrats need to fight the Republican war chest.
MR. X: But the difference is, if he’s the nominee, he’ll put $1 billion in on top of anything. And if it’s not him, he’ll put $100 million in, which is not nothing….
TKN: He’s already put in $500 million…..
MR. X: For himself. But he wants to beat Trump as much as anybody. And if he’s knocked out fair and square, I think that he’s gonna live up to his word.
TKN: But now Bernie’s saying he won’t take the money, and Bloomberg’s saying, well then, I’m not gonna offer it. As if we haven’t voluntarily saddled ourselves with enough disadvantages.
JOE’S SLOW FAREWELL
TKN: You predicted Biden’s collapse months ago.
MR. X: I think the reason they kept him in this Rose Garden strategy for so long was because Biden isn’t Biden anymore. He used to be verbose but fast-talking, thought he was smarter than everybody else in the room, etc. Now he just seems superannuated in a way that Bernie doesn’t. Bernie’s that old guy that’s like, “Hey you kids, get off my lawn!” but he’s still making some good points. Joe can’t finish a sentence without it being a run-on, and then having three subordinate clauses that go nowhere.
The thing I would say, though, is that he’d still be a fine president! (laughs) Debate is a unique situation, both formal and improvisational, and it’s not something that happens often. If you’re worried about a president saying stupid things off-the-cuff to foreign leaders, we have one already, so it’d be a fair trade.
Biden’s just not raising money, which he could’ve done, his organization is obviously shoddy, and the ads are not that great. Put all those things together and you’ve got a problem.
Amy’s ads are terrible. Bennett’s ads were horrible. Buttigieg’s are like Hillary’s in ’08, him at a rally saying supposedly highfalutin things that make you want to salute the flag. But the only things that come out of Pete’s mouth are highfalutin things.
TKN: So you’re down on Pete? I don’t mean that in an attacking way. I’m just curious.
MR. X: I agree with everything Elizabeth Warren says about him. When she attacked Pete as being a McKinsey consultant, teleprompter reading, rehash-giving automaton, I think that was really right. He is great at slashing attacks with a smile on his face, like Alfred E. Newman, or maybe Alfred E. Newman crossed with Pee Wee. But I think that his positions are lackluster. He’s a moderate and he sounded really good in the spring of 2019 when we were looking for someone. I’d date him, but when it’s time to get married, when you really vote, that’s not what I’m looking for.
He’s also so young and he’s done so little. He’s a guy who’s led a town of 100,000 people. And I don’t have the facts, mind you, but firing the first black police commissioner and the black fire commissioner… there’s something horribly wrong going on in that town.
TKN: There are definitely people who feel like Pete embodies a certain kind of white male privilege.
MR. X: African-American people look at him and see a guy who’s literally has gotten every privilege. If you’re a black person and you see a 37 year old guy running for president from a tiny town, you say, “This is like every asshole who’s cut in front of me ’cause they’re white, in every shape and every form,“ and you just hate that.
TKN: I suspect it’s a little like being a woman and watching the most qualified candidate for president in American history lose to the least qualified candidate in American history in large part because of her gender.
MR. X: Yes, but you were talking before about authenticity. I worked for her, and Hillary Clinton is, for all her great strengths, really the least authentic person to walk the earth.
TKN: Yeah. But she was beaten by a guy who’s only authentic in being an asshole.
MR. X: True. But if you’re saying, “Oh, all he had to offer was assholedom,” maybe that’s what America is more like than you realize.
TKN: Oh, I’m learning that.
THE AFTERMATH OF UKRAINEGATE
TKN: Turning back to Joe Biden, David Frum had a tweet recently saying that Trump’s Ukraine scam paid off because it destroyed Biden’s campaign.
MR. X: You know, I was worried about that, but Biden’s candidacy wasn’t destroyed by that. If Biden had raised 40 million bucks he would have knocked people out and scared people away and the like. But he was a weak frontrunner to begin with. To run for president you gotta raise a lot of money and you gotta be out there stumping. If you watch those debates, afterward all the other candidates go and talk to Chris Matthews or CNN or whoever. When I fell in love with Warren was when she was on after the second debate, I think it was, and she was literally still debating with all five of them from the panel on CNN. And I thought, that is really impressive. Joe didn’t do any of those things. His campaign tried to play this sort of above the fray thing.
I think it was a wash. It didn’t help Joe Biden to be the center of this Ukraine thing, although it did give him some great lines at a couple debates, like, “Trump is scared of me. That’s why he’s trying to destroy me. And if anyone has a right to be pissed at Republicans, it’s me.” I think that that’s a pretty sticky wicket for Trump: “Let me possibly lose my presidency trying to smear a rival.” In the end it strengthened his presidency, as we saw, but it certainly did not necessarily have to go that way —
TKN: You think impeachment strengthened his presidency?
MR. X: Well, look where his numbers are now.
TKN: But I don’t think it matters. This is a completely different interview by the way, but I think the downside of not holding him to account was much worse.
MR. X: Absolutely true. But his emboldened nature from being exonerated by the lackeys in his party is troubling.
TKN: Yes, I agree with you by that definition. It’s “strengthened” his presidency in the sense that now he is positive that no one in Congress — which is to say the GOP — is going to hold him accountable and he can behave in an even more unconscionable way, which is exactly what he has done since that day. But I think he was gonna go there anyway. There was no way that he was going to be a good boy, a la Susan Collins, no matter what. He was going to find something to gin up those crazies: if it wasn’t impeachment, it’d be something else. So I think impeachment was the right thing to do, and If there’s an America left in 2021, history will judge us kindly.
MR. X: Impeachment was absolutely the right thing to do. There is no doubt about that. And Nancy Pelosi was great, and she also sort of field tested it, saw that Jerry Nadler was not the guy to do it and turned to Adam Schiff, and he did a phenomenal job. It was certainly possible that Bolton could have testified and the roof would have blown off this thing and the Senate would have been forced to act. I don’t think he would have been voted out of office anyway, but I think that probably a group of twelve Republican Senators would have walked into the Oval Office and said, “Donald, It’s time for you to go.”
TKN: You mean like in 1974?
MR. X: Right.
TKN: But it didn’t happen. Barry Goldwater’s dead. Can you believe that Barry Goldwater now looks like the voice of reason?
In part two, Mr. X discusses what the Democratic Party has to do in order to turn out the African-American vote, the chances Trump won’t yield power, and whether the republic will still be standing in 2021.
Illustration: Steve Bernstein