World War Trump

President Donald Trump in the Oval Office in Washington, Oct. 8. Photo: brendan smialowski/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

This presidency as normally understood is over. The only way to comprehend what is going on every day now is in terms of the 2020 election campaign. The rest of the world won’t stop. Turkish invasions of Syria and the like will still happen. But here in the U.S., we’re done for the next 13 months. A war is on.

Like World War II, the Trump War—now in its third year with no end in sight—has been waged in several theaters. We have been through the Russian collusion theater, the obstruction theater and the Stormy Daniels theater. The allied Trump forces mostly prevailed but have taken many casualties, from hangers-on to generals.

It now appears the impeachment theater will host the decisive battles. Fortunately, the impeachment fights of the past few weeks have revealed the basic campaign strategies that Mr. Trump and the Democrats will pursue the next 13 months.

It is clear that Mr. Trump’s interest in Ukraine was to take out Joe Biden, whose campaign has been based exclusively on offering relief from the never-ending Trump political wars. Sensing the viability of this threat, Mr. Trump sicced Rudy Giuliani on Mr. Biden and the murk of Hunter Biden’s business deals in Ukraine.

Here, the obligatory political disclosure: I don’t think this is an impeachable offense. It is hardball politics, and the American people, with votes, will get their say about it next year.

If Rudy could dig up enough dirt to drive down Mr. Biden’s chances of being the nominee, Mr. Trump’s expectation was that the Democrats would default to the unelectable Elizabeth Warren. Faced with the prospect of voting for Sen. Warren and her lynch-mob politics, Mr. Trump’s rhetoric and personality would recede as issues.

Mr. Trump has begun to make this argument at his rallies. You may not like me, he says, but you’re going to have to vote for me to save your 401(k). Against Ms. Warren, whose “plans” are virtually alien to the idea of economic growth, this is a plausible strategy: It’s me or the deep blue sea.

For Democrats, impeaching Donald Trump is just one big bomb in a larger strategy for the long march back to power next year. Their plan is to make the country’s political life so intolerable that the American people simply run up the white flag on the Trump presidency. No más!

Democrats know the Trump base, maybe 40% of the electorate, will never surrender. They are targeting a less committed 10% to 15% in the expectation these voters will decide that making accommodations between policy and personality has become impossible and that four more years of this would be too much to endure, even accepting 401(k) losses as the price of deliverance.

This, too, is a plausible strategy. The Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll this week has 55% of respondents at least supporting a Ukraine-based impeachment inquiry. The presidential discomfiture index is rising.

Hats off, by the way, to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has emerged from her party’s internecine conflicts as supreme commander of its strategy for 2020. Most of the Democratic presidential candidates have begun to look like minor officers in the Pelosi divisions. Even Joe Biden fell in yesterday, saying for the first time that Mr. Trump should be impeached.

An intriguing question for the future is whether the Democrats could have run a successful Trump-exhaustion strategy without a formal impeachment, instead relying on guaranteed anti-Trump publicity from their oversight hearings. The Journal/NBC poll shows nearly 40% think Mr. Trump should be allowed to finish his term. By insisting on impeachment, the Democrats are forcing voters to confront an unsettling constitutional issue rather than just bloodless politics.

Even now, the Beltway press purports neutrality in this war, but it is about as neutral as Italy in 1939. It is now part of the Democratic alliance, which makes it hard to take seriously the media’s crocodile tears about how so few Republicans are abandoning President Trump over Ukraine.

If the Republicans pull down Mr. Trump at this stage, they’d obviously elevate Joe Biden or Elizabeth Warren, and weaken their beleaguered incumbents in the Senate and House. How complicated to report is that? The press’s insistence that every GOP act of self-interest obliges moral denunciation is starting to look ridiculous to anyone beyond their Twitter compounds.

Still, wars are often won or lost on unchangeable realities, and one is that Donald Trump makes enemies too easily. He appears to have done that over Ukraine with most of the State Department’s permanent bureaucracy. His enemies are real enough, but he has never much cared about adding more, even from his own side.

Historians may muse one day on what it would have been like if the press had chosen in January 2017 to cover Donald Trump’s presidency, however unruly, as a matter of expectably intense policy disputes, rather than launch a permanent takedown project.

For now, get a helmet. World War Trump is on.

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