David A. Graham: ‘Get over it’ is the real Trump doctrine
Erick Erickson, the Trump opponent turned backer, pleads for “better spin” in a recent column, an acknowledgment of how bad the facts are for Trump. Still, some Trump defenders will stick to the idea that although Trump tried to pressure a foreign government to interfere in the election, and used the leverage of U.S. government policy to benefit himself politically, that was perfectly fine.
Others, however, will realize how absurd that sounds and will feel unwilling. That will drive them toward option 2. Ari Fleischer, the George W. Bush spinmeister, lays out a template for how that would look:
Many Republican senators are doing anything they can to avoid commenting, but a few of the ones who have been willing to speak already have taken a similar tack. Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, for example, told the Associated Press earlier this month that the July 25 call was “inappropriate,” but added that impeachment “would be a mistake.” As the inquiry moves forward, however, with more evidence against Trump, the ability to withhold judgment is melting away. Perhaps by the time the inquiry is over, some Republicans in both chambers will have decided that impeachment and removal are appropriate. But many will probably end up in the second camp.
That’s where many Democrats landed during the Clinton impeachment, too. They couldn’t produce substantive defenses of Bill Clinton’s affair with an intern, nor could they offer a persuasive defense of his lies about it. (Like Trump-supporting Republicans, they downplayed obstruction as a “process crime,” or argued that Clinton should never have been in a position to be asked questions about the affair—neither of which is really a defense.) A substantial number of Democrats were intrigued by the idea of censuring but not impeaching or removing Clinton, a prospect that never materialized.
Read: The Clinton impeachment, as told by the people who lived it
It points back to the Watergate example. The smoking gun was a smoking gun because most people, from the White House on down, acknowledged it was bad. But not everyone was willing to concede that. The Nixon aide Pat Buchanan—now often viewed as an ideological harbinger of Trumpism—felt differently. As Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein report in The Final Days, their chronicle of Nixon’s downfall, “Buchanan looked at the tapes essentially as a public-relations problem. He believed there was a way to live with everything … If the media were handled properly, the damage could be minimized.”