A lusty chant of “Four more years!” rattled the White House windows from the inside on Friday, but this was not the president of the United States thundering to an audience of one in the Clintons’ old shower.
A chorale of ecstatic voices shouted “We love you!” to the beleaguered chief executive, but they came not from the throats of Donald J. Trump’s current wife and his quintet of children, nor from Vice-President Mike Pence, though it may be that he truly does.
Meanwhile, a candidate for the presidency, well into his seventies and under enormous pressure as his poll numbers tumbled to new lows, suffered a heart attack and was rushed to the ICU for emergency surgery—but that wasn’t The Donald, either.
In fact, a stranger in the whitewashed mansion on the last afternoon of a hellish, perhaps politically fatal, week for the 45th president might have thought that he had slipped into an Inaugural Ball rather than a slough of impeachment, so sweet was the military band’s music from the Grand Foyer, and so joyful the crowing man with the unnatural hair.
Adding to the dizziness was the fact that nearly all of the people hooting and whooping and shouting out their adoration of Donald Trump were African-Americans in their twenties and thirties, dressed to party for the last political party you’d expect them to support in a fractured land allegedly on the verge—as the president re-tweeted the other day—of “civil war.”
….If the Democrats are successful in removing the President from office (which they will never be), it will cause a Civil War like fracture in this Nation from which our Country will never heal.” Pastor Robert Jeffress, @FoxNews
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 30, 2019
A CNN poll last week gave Mr. Trump the support of only three per cent of black women. If this is accurate, then all of them must have been in the East Room on Friday for the president’s valedictory to the Young Black Leadership Summit, cheering at the top of their lungs. While Sen. Bernie Sanders was being repaired in a Las Vegas hospital, and while Speaker Nancy Pelosi & Co. were delineating the precise parameters of Trump’s political auto-da-fé, the president got his groove back and rapped, coherently and otherwise, for a hour: defiant, combative, indestructible.
“I love the guy, I love the guy, I love the guy,” one attendee told Maclean’s in the White House. “When they punch him, he punches back harder.”
“What could the Democrats reveal that would make you turn on him?” the woman was asked.
“Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.”
“Could you please tell me your name?”
“No,” she replied. “I have a job to go back to.”
“It’s just a political impeachment,” a university student from Virginia agreed. “What I see are the record-low unemployment numbers and criminal-justice reform and the Democrats attacking him because he is so successful.”
“Could you please tell me your name?”
“No. I have to go back to school.”
Of all the bizarre episodes of these manic past 10 days, the strangest may have been Donald Trump boasting of his popularity among Americans of colour while the Democrats plotted to Send Him Back to his gilded New York penthouse in disgrace.
THE PRESIDENT: “You broke the sound barrier. I’ve never heard that. I’ve never heard it quite like that, and I appreciate it. We love you. We love you.”
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We love you!
THE PRESIDENT: The radical Democrats are willing to do anything to smear anyone and to lie about everything in their craven quest for power and money.
Or it may have been Trump claiming at a news conference on Wednesday with the president of Finland that “I know that I’m right and because I’m doing a great job for the American people, I’m very, very happy living the way I’m living,” and “You know, I—believe it or not, I watch my words very carefully.” And this came just one day before he tweeted that Speaker Pelosi and “Shifty” Adam Schiff were “wasting everyone’s time and energy on BULLSHIT.”
This is some of what occurred in Washington this week that wasn’t excremental:
- Former diplomat Kurt Volker, Trump’s special, but unpaid, envoy to Kyiv until he resigned a week ago, told a House committee that he had worked with attorney Rudy Giuliani to make it clear to the Ukrainians that American largesse, guns and money depended on them investigating “corruption” in general, and the business dealings of Joe and Hunter Biden in particular. Text messages among State Department staffers were presented that detailed these machinations.
- The president told reporters on the South Lawn that he was thinking about asking Chinese leader-for-life Xi Jinping to look into the Bidens as well, “because I’m sure that President Xi does not like being under that kind of scrutiny where billions of dollars is taken out of his country by a guy that just got kicked out of the Navy.”
- Sen. Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, called the president’s words “Wrong and appalling.” Sen. Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, on the other hand, said it might just have been a joke: “I don’t know if that’s a real request or him just needling the press knowing that you guys were gonna get outraged by it.”
- The Washington Post awarded Four Pinocchios—its most nasal possible condemnation—to Rep. Schiff for his false claim that he didn’t know about the now-famous “whistleblower’s report” about the president’s call with Volodymyr Zelensky until the White House released a redacted summary, when in fact the truth-spiller had approached Schiff’s own office several days before.
- Pelosi and her committee chairmen issued a subpoena to force the White House—and VP Pence himself—to provide all documents relevant to the impeachment inquiry, lest their refusal be added to the charges against Mr. Trump. The White House was said to be formulating a response that would say, in so many words, “Choke and die.”
- And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell allowed that, should the full House vote to impeach Donald Trump, he will have no choice but to take up the matter in his chamber.
What McConnell did not reveal is whether he would convene a formal trial, or table the matter within a few minutes and get back to making America great again.
Forty-five years ago, with impeachment and conviction a looming certainty, Richard Milhous Nixon spent his final night aboard the presidential yacht Sequoia playing “God Bless America” on the piano and drinking 20-year-old Ballantine’s scotch.
“Leave the bottle here,” the good ship’s captain recalled his commander saying.
But Donald Trump doesn’t play the piano, he doesn’t drink alcohol, and—so far, at least while he is in public view and earshot—he does not seem eager to surrender.
Out in the heartland, meanwhile, Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa—in a foretaste of the pressure that all Republican members soon will be feeling back home—was asked after a town hall meeting in the town of Templeton “whether she was concerned about the president’s mental state.”
“I think I would probably be upset if someone was constantly on me like that, too,” she replied. “But I can only handle myself. I can’t control what the president does or doesn’t do.”
Asked by a constituent “whether it’s okay for the president to extort other countries,” the freshman, who is running for re-election in 2020, said “we’re going to move onto another question.”