Tom Friedman’s Christmas fantasy

On Christmas, Thomas Friedman delivers a column better suited for April Fool’s Day. He recommends that Republicans “threaten to fire” President Trump. Friedman writes:

I believe that the only responsible choice for the Republican Party today is an intervention with the president that makes clear that if there is not a radical change in how he conducts himself — and I think that is unlikely — the party’s leadership will have no choice but to press for his resignation or join calls for his impeachment.

Why does Tom Friedman, a liberal Democrat, think he has standing to advise Republicans on their approach to President Trump? Because Friedman, though bereft of insight and objectivity, is long on nerve. It’s his defining attribute.

His column is just a cleverly-packaged rehash of standard anti-Trump talking points. Clever packaging is Friedman’s defining skill.

Friedman argues that Trump was elected because voters saw him as a disrupter. Friedman claims to be on board with some disruption, but he objects to Trump’s disruption of sacred cows like the EU and NATO.

But Friedman never explains why the EU is sacred or why it’s in America’s interest to assist in its preservation. Friedman touts the “web of global institutions and alliances built after World War II which, with all their imperfections, have provided the connective tissues that have created this unprecedented era of peace and prosperity.” But the EU was constructed many decades after World War II, at a time when peace and prosperity had already been established. Today, it’s doubtful that the EU, with its suffocating bureaucracy, is promoting prosperity.

NATO is a valuable institution, even post-Cold War. But that doesn’t mean its members should be allowed to avoid meeting minimum financial commitments to it, as Trump has insisted they do.

The broader response to Friedman is that disruption, bad manners, and advisers Friedman doesn’t rate aren’t grounds for impeachment. Neither is disagreeing with Friedman’s policy preferences. Under the Constitution, there must be “high crimes and misdemeanors.” Friedman doesn’t even argue that Trump has committed any.

Finally, as a political matter, it would be suicidal for Republican Senators to try to remove Trump now. He remains popular with a large number of Republicans and is lionized by a portion of the party’s base. As things stand now, few GOP Senators could be reelected without the support of Trump’s base.

Republicans may have nominated Trump because he’s a disrupter, but Trump was elected primarily because he was the alternative to Hillary Clinton and four more years of Democratic rule. As long as Trump remains a viable candidate in 2020, Republicans are well-advised to stick with him, rather than starting a civil war that would likely lead to the presidency of, say, Kamala Harris or Beto O’Rourke.

If Trump ceases to be viable, the remedy is for Republicans to defeat him in the primaries, not to join with Democrats in forcing him out before his term expires. Absent a sound case that Trump has committed an impeachable offense — and that does not include firing James Comey or committing a technical campaign finance law violation — removal via congressional action should remain a Tom Friedman/Democrat fantasy.

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