He claims it in part by appearing to have no character at all in the classic sense – an internal compass that operates independently of his garish public performance. Even Richard Nixon had sullen and tormented dimensions in his personality, which suggested a conscience, which in turn prompted him to try and hide cynical and illegal behavior under a mask of righteous piety. In contrast, news and book revelations of Trump’s scandalous behavior in private are not remotely in tension with the way Trump presents himself in public. He acts as if self-absorption, self-delusion, bullying, bragging, and disregard for rules or precedents or property standards are all good things.
Here’s the uncomfortable truth, highlighted by another indictment: are good things, if the goal is to get supporters and enemies to obsess over you in the final hours of a defeated presidency, and even after that presidency ends, while a successor feebly tries to draw attention to a new presidency.
And that’s good if the goal is to be the iconic figure of an ethically-driven generation where the goal of politics is not to illuminate and resolve big arguments – it is rather to continue the arguments ad infinitum, whatever the circumstances.
If debate in the Senate follows the example of the House, the impeachment exercise will crumble to a rumbling and ashen end. What should be clear – it is wrong to claim a ‘stolen’ election without evidence, to push a crowd into action with demagogic rhetoric – will somehow get muddy in an overwhelmingly partisan vote. There may be a slight chance that the complexion of the Senate will be different.
If so, it would require breaking a very old cycle. Trump’s generation – people born in the 1940s, who came of age in the 1960s, and dominating public life even now in the 1970s – grew up as a result of what Tom Brokaw commemorated as “the most great generation ”, the one who fought the Second World War. young and saw the end of the cold war at the end of their careers. At least in political terms, these baby boomers, now behind in their own careers, are a contender for the worst generation. As with the worst presidents, there are other candidates. But there aren’t many who argued so much and clarified so little.
Discuss ideological wars, cultural wars, identity politics, who is the real victim, who divides, who is the biggest hypocrite and threatens decency. Trump’s generation – which includes Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, and George W. Bush – has championed these issues for more than half a century. It’s no surprise that there were raspy versions of familiar standards in Wednesday’s impeachment debate.
Trump is also the generation – the one that included Roger Ailes and Rush Limbaugh – that invented commercialized contempt and a politico-media complex that profits from malice, division, and outrage. For accounting purposes it doesn’t matter if they are real or simulated.
To most of the Democrats and ten Republicans who backed impeachment, it seemed obvious Wednesday’s disgust and misunderstanding was genuine: How isn’t Trump’s post-election behavior beyond defense?
There were two standard responses. One, with at least a measure of plausibility, came from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who said what Trump had done was wrong but a rushed vote on impeaching a president about to leave is an inconvenient and divisive remedy. He said he would have backed a censorship resolution, but Democrats were not happy. With considerable understatement, he said, “I understand that for some this call for unity may ring hollow.”
But Trump’s main defense was to practice his own brand of irrelevant accusation and distraction. What about the rude things Robert De Niro, or Madonna or Kathy Griffin – all referred to by Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) – have said about Trump? What about the unruly elements of Black Lives Matter? What about the Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, Va. That didn’t want to serve Trump’s press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders?
“Where is the responsibility of the left after having encouraged and normalized violence?” said Rep. Lauren Boebert, also a Republican from Colorado. “I call bullshit when I hear Democrats calling for unity.”
Boebert is 34 – 40 years younger than Trump – and a reminder that the brand of self-righteous and accusatory politics invented by an older generation is a transferable legacy.
Representative Cedric Richmond (D-La.), Who is leaving for Joe Biden’s White House, said Trump’s misrepresentation and erratic behavior during the transition was just an extension of behavior throughout his life. presidency. “Simply put, we told you,” Richmond scoffed.
In all fairness, a previous generation of Conservatives might also claim that you were told that. This old criticism of baby boomer culture was that it was too indulgent, too permissive, too willing to blur the old lines of good and evil. Once you start letting the standards erode the line is gone, you may find that the foundations of a civilized and functioning society are more fragile than you might think.
How many Republican leaders, in their private thoughts, could recognize that this is a fair description of the compromise the GOP made in embracing Trump and his brand of disruptive politics?
How many congressional leaders from both parties would recognize that letting old standards of institutional respect erode is what often makes life in their branch so unpleasant and unproductive?
In a week, Joe Biden, 78, will take office. Other most important figures in Washington include House of Commons Speaker Nancy Pelosi, 80, Mitch McConnell, 78, on the verge of moving from leading a narrow majority in the Senate to a small minority in the Senate, and Chuck, 70. Schumer, taking over as Senate Majority Leader.
In the final phase of their careers, they might decide that they want to retire from racing for the worst generation. The way to do that is to find something more constructive to do than continue a discussion about Donald Trump.