If Donald Trump told Michael Cohen to pay hush money to Stormy Daniels about a one-night stand a decade ago, that, says Jerome Nadler, incoming chair of House Judiciary, would be an “impeachable offense.”
This tells you what social media, cable TV and the great herd of talking heads will be consumed with for the next two years — the peccadillos and misdeeds of Trump, almost all of which occurred before being chosen as president of the United States.
“Everywhere President Trump looks,” writes The Washington Times’ Rowan Scarborough, “there are Democrats targeting him from New York to Washington to Maryland… lawmakers, state attorneys general, opposition researchers, bureaucrats and activist defense lawyers.
“They are aiming at Russia collusion, the Trump Organization, the Trump Foundation, a Trump hotel, Trump tax returns, Trump campaign finances and supposed money laundering.”
The full-court press is on. Day and night we will be hearing debate on the great question: Will the elites that loathe him succeed in bringing Trump down, driving him from office, and prosecuting and putting him in jail?
Says Adam Schiff, the incoming chair of the House intelligence committee: “Donald Trump may be the first president in quite some time to face the real prospect of jail time.”
And what will a watching world be thinking when it sees the once-great republic preoccupied with breaking yet another president?
Will that world think: Why can’t we be more like America?
Does the world still envy us our free press, which it sees tirelessly digging up dirt on political figures and flaying them with abandon?
Among the reasons democracy is in discredit and retreat worldwide is that its exemplar and champion, the USA, is beginning to resemble France’s Third Republic in its last days before World War II.
Also, democracy no longer has the field largely to itself as to how to create a prosperous and powerful nation-state.
This century, China has shown aspiring rulers how a single-party regime can create a world power, and how democracy is not a necessary precondition for extraordinary economic progress.
Vladimir Putin, an autocratic nationalist, has shown how a ruined nation can be restored to a great power in the eyes of its people and the world, commanding a new deference and respect.
Democracy is a bus you get off when it reaches your stop, says Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan. After the attempted coup in the summer of 2017, Erdogan purged his government and military of tens of thousands of enemies and jailed more journalists than any other nation.
Yet he is welcomed in the capitals of the world.
What does American democracy now offer the world as its foremost attribute, its claim to greatness?
“Our diversity is our strength!” proclaims this generation.
We have become a unique nation composed of peoples from every continent and country, every race, ethnicity, culture and creed on earth.
But is not diversity what Europe is openly fleeing from?
Is there any country of the Old Continent clamoring for more migrants from the Maghreb, sub-Sahara or Middle East?
Broadly, it seems more true to say that the world is turning away from transnationalism toward tribalism, and away from diversity and back to the ethno-nationalism whence the nations came.
The diversity our democracy has on offer is not selling.
Ethnic, racial and religious minorities, such as the Uighurs and Tibetans in China, the Rohingya in Myanmar, minority black tribes in sub-Sahara Africa and white farmers in South Africa, can testify that popular majority rule often means mandated restrictions or even an end to minority rights.
In the Middle East, free elections produced a Muslim Brotherhood president in Egypt, Hamas in Palestine, Hezbollah in Lebanon. After this, a disillusioned Bush 43 White House called off the democracy crusade.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, relates how one minority is treated in much of the Muslim world:
“Christians face daily the threat of violence, murder, intimidation, prejudice and poverty…”
“In the last few years, they have been slaughtered by so-called Islamic State. … Hundreds of thousands have been forced from their homes. Many have been killed, enslaved and persecuted or forcibly converted. Even those who remain ask the question, ‘Why stay?’
“Christian communities that were the foundation of the universal Church now face the threat of imminent extinction.”
And all the while this horror is going on, Ronald Reagan’s treaty that banned all U.S. and Soviet nuclear missiles with a range between 310 and 3,400 miles faces collapse. And President Trump’s initiative to bring about a nuclear-free North Korea appears in peril.
Yet, for the next two years, we will be preoccupied with whether paying hush money to Stormy Daniels justifies removing a president, and exactly when Michael Cohen stopped talking to the Russians about his boss building a Trump Tower in Moscow.
We are an unserious nation, engaged in trivial pursuits, in a deadly serious world.