Can former Vice President Joe Biden or Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., actually defeat President Trump in the 2020 presidential election? Democrats watching Trump’s Minneapolis rally Thursday night have to wonder.
President Trump wowed the crowd in blue-state Minnesota. And what a crowd it was; tens of thousands inside the arena chanting and cheering, while hundreds more stood outside hoping to get in. The energy in the room was extraordinary, especially considering that the president, buoyed by his fans, spoke for an exhausting hour and 45 minutes.
Forget the polls, forget the partisan impeachment inquiry; the enthusiasm of those Minnesota supporters reminds us how powerful Trump is on the campaign trail and how lackluster Democratic candidates look in comparison.
Could Biden rouse such a crowd? Warren?
Trump’s enduring popularity with Republicans reminds us, too, that GOP senators would be committing political suicide if they voted to toss the president from office in an impeachment trial. They won’t do it.
How does President Trump excite his supporters? It’s his authenticity. Democrats will mock that claim. They protest that Trump lies and exaggerates; they fact-check his speeches and burrow in on discrepancies, but they miss the big picture.
President Trump famously goes “off-script” at such gatherings, and sometimes the results are painful. Saying Biden “kissed Obama’s ass” was vulgar; Trump should not have gone there.
Hating Donald Trump is not a compelling platform.
But sometimes, Trump’s best moments are when he recounts scenes he has experienced as president, like witnessing the coffins of fallen soldiers come off a plane from some hostile land. He recalls the anguish of the families who just minutes before were “fine,” but who are then devastated by that tragic sight. There is no doubt that Trump, too, is crushed by the loss of another fine young American.
There is also no doubt that those scenes have prompted Trump’s much-criticized decision to pull out of Syria. The entire foreign policy establishment has declared his move reckless; he has been denounced for “betraying” the Kurds by friends and foes alike.
But, as with so many issues where Trump has upset the established order, there is a kernel of common sense behind the president’s move.
Americans do not want to be the lone policeman in the Middle East. We expect our European allies, in particular, to also step up. Their refusal to take any responsibility for dealing with ISIS prisoners, for instance, is unacceptable; they, too, have been attacked by terrorists.
From the day he took office, President Trump told the State Department and the Pentagon he wanted to bring our troops home. Both those agencies are accustomed to operating as they choose; they did not take his demands seriously and failed to produce a plan to fulfill that campaign promise.
This is what drives his enemies crazy and his fans to love him more. The president, I am told, keeps a chart on a wall outside his office listing the promises he made to voters. Some are checked off – like reducing taxes, moving our embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, and exiting the Paris Climate Accords. Some remain undone. Those remaining pledges drive his policymaking.
Which president has ever done such a thing? None that I know of.
In Minneapolis, Trump talked up his administration’s job creation and strong economy – a powerful message backed up by another spike in consumer sentiment – and also took potshots at rival Biden.
A local ABC affiliate covering the speech reported: “Trump has been spreading groundless claims that the Bidens used their family name to get China and Ukraine to pay them millions of dollars.”
Are those claims “groundless?” Not really. Who doubts that Hunter Biden cashed in on his father’s prominence as vice president and as point person for the Obama administration in Ukraine and China? Hunter traveled with his father on Air Force Two to China and within a matter of weeks Hunter’s barely-there firm Rosemont Seneca entered into a new partnership with state-owned Bank of China and went on to raise $1.5 billion.
Trump rightly told the Minnesota crowd that the Chinese are tough negotiators and do not part with their money easily.
There may have been no legal lines crossed by the Bidens, but Hunter’s business dealings and Joe’s tolerance of them do not appear ethical.
Similarly, the president may not have broken the law when he asked Ukraine’s president to investigate the former vice president and his son, but his now-notorious phone call appears underhanded. Does it rise to the level of “high crimes and misdemeanors?” Democrats must think so. They apparently believe that impeaching President Trump will help them win in 2020.
Democrats are encouraged by polling that shows most Americans open to the impeachment inquiry. That’s because our country is fair-minded and considers no one above the law.
On the other hand, Americans expect such a serious task as an impeachment inquiry to be done openly and in a nonpartisan manner. That is not what is taking place.
In putting Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., in charge of the probe, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., eliminated any possibility that Trump supporters would view the proceedings as above-board.
Schiff is reviled by many for having spun endless false charges that the president colluded with Russia, lying repeatedly that he had conclusive “proof.”
Now it turns out that Schiff lied again, denying that his office had met with the whistleblower, shredding Americans’ confidence in the proceedings. At the same time, he is holding closed-door interviews and testimony, all seemingly designed to keep the public from knowing what Trump did or did not do.
Recent polling shows little increase in support for impeachment since the investigation got underway.
My guess: enthusiasm for the proceedings will wane further as voters become disgusted with how Schiff is managing the investigation, and as no new charges result from the endless interviews and subpoenas.
What will Democrats run on then? They have not passed the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal, or an immigration compromise, or an infrastructure bill, nor have they done anything serious about prescription drug prices.
Hating Donald Trump is not a compelling platform.