The just-released transcript of Trump’s call with Ukraine’s president Zelensky is nothing short of staggering.
Trump’s self-regard, swagger, and extreme narcissism are all on display. You get the sense that he is so eager to strut his stuff and have the public see it, that it overwhelms any sense on his part that this particular strut could be the stuff of impeachment.
And of course, the transcript can’t be read in isolation. Just days before, as Trump now admits, he withheld $400 million in military aid to Ukraine. There would have been no reason to do this except as leverage.
So now we have a smoking gun, every bit as damaging and self-inflicted as the Nixon tapes.
And irony of ironies, we have Trump up against another president who began as a TV entertainer. Except that Zelensky, who once played a president on Ukrainian TV, seems to have navigated the transition to actual president a lot better than Trump.
There are also reports that Trump has withdrawn his efforts to prevent the whistle-blower from testifying to Congress because of pressure from Republican legislators. And this is the second game changer. As flat-out illegal behavior is documented, expect more Republicans to defect.
As one who has been advocating impeachment for months, I’m always amazed at the tendency of pundits to make straight-line extrapolations from the current state of public and elite opinion. But public opinion is dynamic.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has taken a lot of grief from progressives for waiting so long. As things turned out, she played it exactly right. She waited until she had a transgression that the public could easily grasp, until she had the overwhelming majority of the Democratic Caucus with her, and then she went all in.