House of Cards

by John Quiggin on May 17, 2017

So, we finally joined the 21st Century and got Netflix. We are watching House of Cards (US version), an episode most nights. Based on one season per year of time passed in the show, that’s about four weeks of dystopian fantasy per night. But, when we wake up in the morning, the day’s news almost always has more and crazier stuff packed into it than that, with subplots and story arcs being passed over for lack of space ( will the emoluments clause come back to bite Trump? did he suggest that Comey should imprison journalists? Who can keep track of it all).

Looking at the main plotline of Season 1, what would it take for life to imitate art and elevate Pence to the White House? There’s clearly no likelihood that the House Repubs will impeach Trump as long as they still hope to push through a big tax cut for corporations (which apparently depends, for arcane procedural reasons, on passing some kind of repeal of Obamacare). As Liam Donovan says in Politico

The criticisms may grow louder with each unforced error by the White House, but as long as the legislative dream is still alive it’s hard to imagine any sort of full-scale break. If that dream dies, however, it’s every man for himself.

But maybe this really is a house of cards. Suppose that three Republican Senators defected to the Democrats. That would kill the dream, at which point lots of Republicans might start thinking that a fresh start with Pence would offer them a better chance of survival in 2018. And, hey, they got Gorsuch. Once a dozen or so jumped, it would indeed by sauve qui peut for the rest.

It’s easy to name two Repub Senators (McCain and Collins) for whom it would make personal and political sense to switch sides. Given two, there must surely be a third. Still, I can’t see it happening any time soon. On the other hand, every day brings a new humiliation. Perhaps someone will find a hidden reserve of decency, or just frustration, and say that enough is enough.

Coming back to the show, I found it a bit disappointing where it followed the storyline of the British original, but better once they diverged. Urquart is a more compelling villain than Underwood, and I found both Matty and Roger O’Neill more relatable than their US counterparts. But Claire Underwood is a huge improvement on Mrs Urquart (I can’t remember if her first name was ever revealed), a one-dimensional Lady MacBeth. Doug Stamper is also more interesting, if a bit over the top than his British namesake. The same is true of Underwood’s political allies and antagonists, who don’t roll over as easily as Urquart’s victims. Partly, all this reflects the fact that the US writers could plan on multiple seasons, while the British version, based on the book by Michael Dobbs, was planned to wrap up in one, with the sequels coming only when the series was a success.

{ 55 comments }

1

Jerry Vinokurov 05.17.17 at 4:15 am

It’s easy to name two Repub Senators (McCain and Collins) for whom it would make personal and political sense to switch sides.

John, do you mean actually switch parties? I do not see that as even a remote possibility; McCain in particular has voted for everything that Trump has put forth while making concerned noises that are ultimately meaningless.

2

John Quiggin 05.17.17 at 4:29 am

I do mean switch parties, and I agree it seems unlikely. But it would make personal and political sense for them, nonetheless.

Not only has McCain been personally insulted by Trump, but his whole political reputation is based on his claim (much eroded now, as you say) to be an independent maverick. Pulling down the House of Cards would cement that once and for all.

As for Collins, she’d be virtually certain of re-election as a Democrat in 2020, much less so if she sticks with the Repubs to the bitter end. And while I don’t place much stock in her alleged moderation, I have to think that she would find Trump and Trumpism pretty unpalatable.

3

John Burke 05.17.17 at 4:36 am

I think Ian Richardson does a strain of malicious glee–stirring the pot for the sheer fun, or boredom relief–tha Spacey doesn’t seem to have in his repertoire. The relish with which he says “Put a bit of stick about!” is more fun for me than any of Spacey’s understated styles.

4

JanieM 05.17.17 at 4:53 am

I agree with Jerry and would apply his last sentence to Collins as well. McCain and Collins both tend to get a lot of publicity for taking splashy contrarian stands, then there’s no publicity whatsoever a few days/weeks/whatever later when they cave in and fall into line when the chips are down.

I live in Maine and my sense (from a non-involved distance) is that within the dynamics of the parties here, it’s highly unlikely she’d ever switch. For a long time I wished she’d get up the courage and good sense to pull a Margaret Chase Smith, but I’ve long since given up hope of that. I’d say she doesn’t remotely identify “Trump and Trumpism” with Republicanism. It’s like a radically progressive nun said to me long ago about the Catholic Church, at a time when I had long since left it: “It’s my church too [i.e. not just the Pope’s], why should I leave?”

5

Harry 05.17.17 at 7:05 am

Collins –and others — are more likely just to quit. Collins is looking at the Governorship, apparently.

6

Collin Street 05.17.17 at 8:49 am

Sure. What makes sense is for Malcolm Turnbull to quit the liberal party and sit on the cross-benches.

They won’t, because sensible intelligent people of good faith do not become conservative politicians. Because conservative politics is a-priori stupid[1]. Only idiots and grifters, and since most grifters overestimate their ability to actually “grift” rather than just beg for fuck-off money there’s more overlap between the two than most realise.

[1] Because “conservatism” inherently lags the evidence, see? Definitionally.

7

C. Landee 05.17.17 at 11:36 am

The big tax cut for the wealthy is Republican Goal #1; it is always Goal #1. By eliminating Obamacare, the extra taxes on the wealthy that form the financial base of Obamacare will be eliminated, a major step towards Goal #1. There is nothing arcane about it.

8

Layman 05.17.17 at 11:42 am

McCain’s ‘maverick’ label is largely unearned. His recurring act is to make noises about integrity and seriousness and patriotism (Country First!) and then vote with the party line. There is no issue on which he can be relied on to buck that party line. Even torture, the issue which supposedly set him in opposition to Bush / Cheney never produced any political act in actual opposition to Bush / Cheney. The media like him because he’s good for an exciting headline (McCain Troubled By ________!) and always available to talk. He even provides them with a tire swing.

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=tire%20swing

On the broader question, I don’t think Republicans will do anything to depose Trump unless and until they conclude he’s an obstacle to their legislative agenda. It’s possible, evenly likely, that some Republican Senators will oppose the House’s health care act, and the initiative may die as a result, but the more likely outcome is a slightly-less-evil version that gets sent back to the House for passage. Ryan has his sights set on privatizing (i.e. killing) Medicare and Social Security, and as long as Trump is a robosigner for bills like that, there will be no revolt. Certainly no Senator will switch parties.

9

chris s 05.17.17 at 12:31 pm

“I do mean switch parties, and I agree it seems unlikely. But it would make personal and political sense for them, nonetheless. “

I think the reason it’s highly unlikely is that the Republican Party has become analogous to the Tory party in the UK, their goal above all – and what ultimately keeps them together – is the desire to keep power above all ideology.

At this point, if they haven’t switched sides already they are unlikely to do so.

10

Lee A. Arnold 05.17.17 at 12:47 pm

President Pence will be happy to sign the whole Republican legislative agenda: “repeal & replace” healthcare, tax breaks for the richest people in the galaxy, whatever else hits his desk. Pence even looks a little bit like Spiro Agnew, “straight from central casting”.

The House’s problem with initiating the impeachment is not the chances for the GOP legislative agenda, & it is not in the Senate. The problem is their own voters: the House’s own gerrymandered districts haven’t turned against Trump, — or at least, not up to yesterday… (Of course, a few of the House members are full-mooners, and they will go down with The Good Ship Trump.)

On the other hand, the Senate, as it stands now, would vote TODAY to convict on the impeachment charges with the required two-thirds, or more. The Senate Republicans all know that Trump is shallow, short-sighted, rash and reckless, they just don’t want to say it. They shut up as soon as he won the primaries.

11

reason 05.17.17 at 12:48 pm

Both the Republican Party and the Tories are the consequence of first past the past voting, in which power concentrates as a function of discipline (rather than responsiveness to the electorate). I wish left of center would see and understand that.

12

Layman 05.17.17 at 12:49 pm

Cutting taxes via gutting Obamacare can be done through reconciliation because the changes are in theory budget neutral – the tax cuts are balanced with the elimination of spending on benefits. Reconciliation can be done without any Democratic votes in the Senate, so no negotiations or concessions are necessary to get those votes.

A standalone tax reform bill, at least the kind we can expect from team R, is unlikely to be budget neutral as it will cut taxes largely for the wealthy but be offset by no spending cuts of substance, and it is not therefore a candidate for reconciliation. To pass it the Senate, it will require 60 votes, and getting those votes will require concessions to the Democrats.

This is why Ryan has insisted on the strategy of first repealing Obamacare, then addressing tax reform. He knows he can deliver on the goal of some tax cuts for the wealthy with the former, and that allows the Republicans to be tougher negotiators on the latter.

13

Lee A. Arnold 05.17.17 at 1:03 pm

Annals of the short-sighted & reckless, (cont.):

Foreign Policy magazine reported 2 days ago that the NATO alliance is asking heads-of-state to keep their talks to 2 to 4 minutes, so as not to overload Trump’s short attention-span:

http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/05/15/nato-frantically-tries-to-trump-proof-presidents-first-visit-alliance-europe-brussels/

NYTimes reported yesterday that, “There is fear among some of Mr. Trump’s senior advisors about leaving him alone in meetings with foreign leaders out of concern he might speak out of turn. General McMaster, in particular, has tried to insert caveats or gentle corrections into conversations when he believes the President is straying off topic or onto boggy diplomatic ground.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/16/us/white-house-staff.html

Bloomberg News reported 9 days ago that Trump is not getting along with McMaster.

https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-05-08/washington-loves-general-mcmaster-but-trump-doesn-t

14

steven t johnson 05.17.17 at 1:17 pm

House of Cards fails as a US series in my opinion because the US is not a parliamentary system and FU’s rise to power does rely on his opposition rolling over. They don’t do it gracefully but they do it, if only because of FU’s magical ability to somehow mold the entire political environment, especially the media storm du jour. The thing is, in the real world US politician’s are much more holders of a McDonald’s or KFC franchise. They are independent businessmen who’ve entered into an arrangement where the advertising and the expertise are bought from the national operation. But their goal is their sales and profit, not advancement in the national firm. That makes a difference, I think.

15

JimV 05.17.17 at 1:44 pm

The British series, which was shown here in the USA on PBS, was excellent. I gave up on the US version after two episodes and cancelled my Netflix trial. (These are matters of taste and personal chemistry, of course.)

Republicans who have any sense should realize they would be better off under Pence than Trump. The only effect, if any, on their goals would be to make them easier to achieve. The only downside I see to an impeachment or 25th Amendment process (with some fig-leaf of mental deterioration) for them, is that it would take time away from and postpone their battle campaign against the New Deal/Civil Rights/Medicare/Environmental Protection.

16

Anarcissie 05.17.17 at 2:16 pm

I associate McCain (and a good many other Republicans) with the neocon faction currently struggling mightily against Trump. It was McCain who opened the delegitimation phase of the struggle with the dossier of tales of Russian prostitutes back in January. There are many Democrats in leadership positions with a similar worldview. Instead of changing parties, they could hook up more overtly and publicly in a sort of Emergency Coalition for National Salvation. The biggest items in the deal might be ‘We (the Republicans) will help you get rid of Trump, if you (the Democrats) don’t block our nice corporate tax cut.’

However, I’m wondering what the reaction of Trump’s numerous foot soldiers among the proles might be if he is deposed.

17

T 05.17.17 at 3:04 pm

JQ – That just doesn’t happen in modern US politics with the exception of the Southern Dems turning Republican – and that was mostly new repubs winning over old dems rather than affiliation switches. And that process began with the Dems passing Civil Rights legislation. It’s really a non-starter today. Given that many dem senators in red states are up for reelection in 2018, it will be hard for dems to take the senate in any case. The house is another story but still difficult given the safe gerrymandered congressional districts in most states. However, there is a lot of precedence for big house swings — 1994, 2010, and others. Typically the president’s party losses seats in the mid-term.

The Politico has it right. The repub agenda is to massively cuts taxes for the rich and screw the poor on spending — food stamps, health care, etc. The Ryan types want to take that further, to cut Medicare and Social Security and screw the middle class as well. (More room to cut taxes.) Trump earned temporary bona fides when he jettisoned all his former healthcare rhetoric and signed on with Ryan. The repub establishment will put up with him as long as he doesn’t get in the way. Now that Trump is becoming a burden, they’d be very happy w/Pense, a former senator who they can deal with and who is way to the right on the social and economic issues. But they’ll be looking over their shoulder at their constituents before dumping Trump. They ain’t becoming dems.

18

RD 05.17.17 at 3:28 pm

So Manchin and Heitkamp go (R).
Neener neener!
Remember that the US is a one party system with 2 wings.

19

Heliopause 05.17.17 at 3:31 pm

“at which point lots of Republicans might start thinking that a fresh start with Pence would offer them a better chance of survival in 2018. “

Forget the Republicans for a moment, the Democrats have clearly signaled where their priorities lie:

“Dear #GOP: If Trump leaves, you get VP Pence. You can still get your stupid tax cut for the rich. But at least our nation won’t be in chaos.”

That’s Ted Lieu, D-California. So, you got that? Dems don’t care what horrible policies get enacted so long as the cocktail circuit goes back to normal. Sure looks like we’re going to keep swirling down this toilet regardless of who is the titular head of state.

20

Ben 05.17.17 at 4:13 pm

It’s right to focus on whether or not Republican goals can still happen with Trump in office, but if they can’t, then impeachment probably won’t be the mechanism to get him out of office.

Trump’s in it for the money. He’s getting revenue from government functions at Trump properties, foreign investment in Trump properties to curry favor with him, and the post-presidency bump in trading on his name.

Should those no longer be lucrative, he’ll quit. And they can be threatened well short of impeachment proceedings.

21

RobinM 05.17.17 at 4:25 pm

I can’t remember at which point I gave up on the American version of House of Cards. It became, as I saw it, too locked into a sort of comment on/exploitation of the latest (at the time of presentation) DC concerns. It also became more and more clearly just another of those almost endless American soap operas.

Wrt the ongoing Trump soap opera, it seems to me Heliopause has it right: so much horror at the over-the-top Trump; too little horror at what both the congressional parties have signalled they can live with.

22

Harry 05.17.17 at 4:52 pm

I don’t really want to seem to be defending the Republicans but…

i) a failed coup is worse than no coup at all
ii) up till now they have faced huge pressure from their electorate to cooperate with Trump
iii) steven t johnson’s analysis upthread is spot on. And this gives rise to a massive and hard-to-solve collective action problem for them. Any 1 or 3 Senators, or 10 congresspeople can defect from Trump, but it is really hard for them to know others will fall in line, even if the others have agreed to do so. They cannot trust each other.
iv) a failed coup is worse than no coup at all (esp for the plotters!)

So they could all, individually, find the current situation unacceptable, but still wouldn’t act to change it. Of course, you can say, we’d like to see some moral fiber! Yes, sure, but you don’t seriously expect that from congresspeople or senators (of either party) do you? My defence of them is framed by the soft tyranny of low expectations.

If the polls or markets get much worse it will get easier for them to solve their collective action problem.

ON topic: JQs final point seems right to me: I’d add that a great deal of the substantive artistic differences between UK and US tv historically can be explained by the differences in formats.

23

Layman 05.17.17 at 4:53 pm

Anarcissie: “The biggest items in the deal might be ‘We (the Republicans) will help you get rid of Trump, if you (the Democrats) don’t block our nice corporate tax cut.’”

The problem with this analysis is the near-certainty that the Republican tax cut proposal will get a party-line vote, that virtually no Democrats will vote for it. In fact, I’m willing to consider a bet with you about that, of the form: You pay me X for every Democrat who votes against the final bill, and I’ll pay you 10X for everyone who votes for it. Interested?

Heliopause: “That’s Ted Lieu, D-California.”

I’d say that’s a spectacularly uncharitable reading of Lieu. I’ll offer you the same bet, and even consider a bonus if it turns out that Lieu votes for the bill.

24

NickUrfe 05.17.17 at 6:18 pm

I don’t think either the British or American House(s) of Cards succeeds, but the British version certainly is more compelling and entertaining than the American. Urquart is the more compelling antihero in part because there is genuine nobility in his quest for power. At the start of Season 1, he is wronged by the PM, and wronged specifically for doing what he does best, manipulating smaller players in service to the party. He is, in other words, scorned for having been himself successfully. This is a conflict that produces genuine drama (or at least, melodrama) and carries through to the excellent Season 2, in which Urquart goes to war with the King. While there’s something obvious in choosing the King as the PM’s foil, Urquart’s motivations are not purely selfish. [Spoilers] Think of the ultimate scene between Urquart and the King, when FU demands the King’s abdication. He says to the King, “It is *you* I want to destroy – not the monarchy. My family came south with James I. We were defenders of the English throne before your family was ever heard of. It is to preserve the ideal of a Constitutional Monarchy that I now demand your abdication.” Whatever the measures Urquart took to thwart the King, the King violated his own duty in becoming political in the first place. What makes the British drama compelling is not Urquart’s ruthlessness and self-aggrandizement, but rather, the sense that *some* commitment to genuine principle underlies his wrath and political machinations.

With Frank Underwood, by contrast, the American House of Cards wallows in the machinations, treating political manipulation and gamesmanship as ends in themselves. Many politicians no doubt behave this way – but whence the conflict? The show tips us off to this problematic dynamic in its opening scene, when Frank puts down a dog with his bare hands: he shows that there is no brutality from which he will shrink. But when you combine a personality like Frank’s with a purely cynical politics *at the outset*, there is no room for Macbeth, and the drama becomes false and sentimental: we already know that Frank will always win, because every character with whom he conflicts has *some* principle the character will not violate. Frank exploits that ‘weakness’, achieves his aim, rinse and repeat. The show advances by ‘revealing’ the depths of Frank’s cynicism, literally showing that Frank will do things the audience hadn’t yet thought of – not that his character is changing, but that the audience lacks imagination. To this extent, the ‘revelations’ about what Frank will do are almost pornographic: we *know* Frank will do anything, and so we are encouraged to tune in *to see him do it*. [Again, spoiler] The menage a trois between Frank, Claire, and Meacham betrays the pornographic sensibility with brazen obviousness. Not only are the mis en scene and camerawork pornographic, but the dramatic purpose of the scene is to *show* yet another depth to which Frank will sink that the audience hadn’t yet considered.

Much like pornography, the American House of Cards advances only by a sort of escalation that is not only inevitable, but ultimately and most damningly, uninteresting and unsatisfying.

25

Suzanne 05.17.17 at 10:36 pm

The UK “House of Cards” was no masterpiece, but it looks like one next to the US version. (I admit I didn’t get past the first few episodes of the latter.) I would say the difference is made not only because Richardson was – so sorry to have to use the past tense – better at this sort of thing than Spacey is but more crucially, Urquhart is a plausible Tory type operating in a recognizable political context — the Thatcherite era that the show is commenting on — so that it retains some connection to reality no matter how absurd the plot developments get. The US version is nuts.

Oh, Collins always has her “concerns” (“My proposed healthcare legislation won’t kill as many people and it kills them more gradually”) and her little frowny face. One just wants to slap her.

The modern-day Republican “moderates” are hopelessly invertebrate, and their consequent inability to stand up to anything and general nonaggressiveness may have contributed to their evolutionary decline so that they are now at vanishing point. No one will miss them.

If the Republicans try to get rid of Trump, there is no way the process isn’t slow and ugly. Trump will not go quietly and he certainly won’t step aside graciously for the dullard he tried to dump from his ticket and watch Pence waltz into the Oval Office.

26

Val 05.18.17 at 12:25 am

For some reason I didn’t ever watch the British version – caught bits but didn’t follow it – but I did watch quite a lot of the American version. I found it interesting although I don’t like the relentless cynicism of the show – but after Underwood became President, it seemed to become stupid.

Maybe I should watch it again, because real life has turned out to be even more stupid. I don’t think you can compare Underwood and Trump though can you? Underwood seemed intelligent and ruthless – Trump … well intelligent doesn’t seem to be the right word.

Of course Robin Wright carried a lot of it, in a chilling and yet somehow vulnerable way.

27

Faustusnotes 05.18.17 at 4:39 am

I think the republican calculation will be that keeping trump in is the right move so long as his antics are not more damaging for the mid terms than the spectacle of removal. Once his antics become more damaging than the spectacle of removal my guess is they will use the 25th(?) to get rid of him, avoiding the drama of impeachment and also conveniently burying all the bodies. Today one senator started talking about Alzheimer’s so I guess that’s the line they’ll take. There is no benefit to them of jumping on the impeachment bandwagon. From the perspective of the mid terms I think the dems should refuse any appeals to use the 25th and insist on a full inquiry.

Trumps best way out of this is war.

John once you have done with house of cards I recommend you get straight onto the expanse. It’s brilliant.

28

John Quiggin 05.18.17 at 6:18 am

I find all the comments about the implausibility of my scenario pretty convincing. On the other hand
(i) the same is true, even more so, for impeachment by the Congress with its current alignment, let alone Article 25
(ii) It seems inconceivable that Trump can make it through to 2018.

The OP was written before the appointment of the special prosecutor, the McCarthy leak, Putin’s endorsement etc, but anyone watching the show knows that we get something like this with each daily episode. And, having jumped the shark, they need bigger and more frequent shocks every day. Can the writers really come up with another 500 days like this, and not have the Repubs react?

29

Ed 05.18.17 at 1:35 pm

Just to comment on the 25th Amendment, the bar is actually higher than with impeachment and removal if the President contests the process. A two thirds majority in each House of Congress is required to back up a contested removal using the 25th Amendment, while the requirement for impeachment is only a House majority plus two thirds of the Senate.

The 25th Amendment process only really works if the President co-operates, which have been the case every time it has been used. It could also be used in a situation where the President is able to neither co-operate or contest the procedures. That is really what it is designed for.

Impeachment and removal only seems more difficult because of the quasi-judicial trappings that have become associated with the process, which are not constitutionally necessary.

30

Ed 05.18.17 at 2:51 pm

Impeachment and removal has been done in the last year in two presidential systems, South Korea and Brazil, and in Brazil apparently on the grounds that the President was NOT crooked, and I think people over-estimate the difficulty of the procedures. One of the US states is in the process of impeaching and removing its governor.

31

RD 05.18.17 at 4:52 pm

Will post again re Dementia:
3 family members, a Geriatric RN, a Clinical Psychologist and a SW for an Assisted Living Facility came to the same conclusion independently- DT is demented.
Also: cannot find latest odds in UK on DT not lasting 4 years, but pre inauguration they hads Impeachment at 50/50.
Other less probable scenarios:
1.Resigns
2.Dies.
3.25th
4.Assasinated

32

Suzanne 05.18.17 at 8:05 pm

Ed @29 & 30: We don’t ever want the current iteration of the Republican Party to get the idea that impeachment is not that tough.

33

Paul Davis 05.18.17 at 8:27 pm

john @ 28:

It seems inconceivable that Trump can make it through to 2018.

to most of us, it seemed inconceivable that he could win the nomination. it seemed inconceivable that he could win the election. i’m out of the predictions game at this point. even so, i think the “inconceivable” position betrays a remarkable lack of imagination.

34

rea 05.18.17 at 10:14 pm

Forget the Republicans for a moment, the Democrats have clearly signaled where their priorities lie:

“Dear #GOP: If Trump leaves, you get VP Pence. You can still get your stupid tax cut for the rich. But at least our nation won’t be in chaos.”

That’s Ted Lieu, D-California. So, you got that? Dems don’t care what horrible policies get enacted so long as the cocktail circuit goes back to normal.

That’s not a signal about priorities. That’s just recognition that the Republicans control both Houses of Congress and the Presidency. If the Republicans don’t stop themselves, the Democrats can’t.

35

Jerry Vinokurov 05.18.17 at 10:30 pm

I find all the comments about the implausibility of my scenario pretty convincing. On the other hand
(i) the same is true, even more so, for impeachment by the Congress with its current alignment, let alone Article 25
(ii) It seems inconceivable that Trump can make it through to 2018.

Can the writers really come up with another 500 days like this, and not have the Repubs react?

But of course they can. Republicans do not actually care about anything other than fleecing the country and killing the poor in the process. Trump takes them to where they want to go, so they’ve glommed on to him like barnacles and they’re going to ride this train to the end of the line, be that the 2018 or the 2020 elections. They’ll make their concerned noises and then just go back to what they were doing anyway.

I know, it seems incredible than an entire political party has not only won every branch of government but also decided that burning the country down is the way forward. But the evidence indicates that this is exactly what has happened. I don’t know whether or not Trump makes it to 2018, but stranger things have transpired.

36

Layman 05.18.17 at 10:36 pm

Ed: “Impeachment and removal only seems more difficult because of the quasi-judicial trappings that have become associated with the process, which are not constitutionally necessary.”

That’s not the reason I think impeachment is unlikely. I think it’s unlikely because the Republicans in Congress – particularly in the House – have nothing to gain by impeaching a Republican President who is amenable to their agenda; and they lack the basic ability to feel shame for supporting a manifestly incompetent, lying, crooked bungler. I bet this Congress wouldn’t impeach Nixon, as long as he remained willing to sign their bills to cut taxes for the wealthy and privatize the social safety net.

37

John Quiggin 05.18.17 at 11:18 pm

Paul Davis @33 I keep using that word. Perhaps it doesn’t mean what I think it means.

38

Faustusnotes 05.19.17 at 12:33 am

I think the repubs will be more inclined to use the 25th to keep the impeachment proceedings from consuming them all. Not yet but if the inquiry starts to look like it’s threatening to dig up serious shit on the house elite, they might try and get the dems to drop all impeachment related stuff in exchange for a quick fix.

Everyone who was in that room when McCarthy said putin pays trump – everyone there knows something. Look at the expression on McConnell s face when he was told about mueller- he is very worried. Pence must have know about Flynn and probably lied to congress about it. These guys are up to their necks in this conspiracy and they’re just starting to realize that many of the key players are both very bad at concealing shit and have pissed off the entire FBI. And to top off all that their figurehead is a demented fool and their only competent dude – sessions – can’t interfere. And they humiliated the guy acting in for him, and that guy is clearly out for revenge. I think in a few months they’re going to come to terms with the fact that they’re incompetent and out of their depth and start thinking about cutting on each other.

Underneath all of this it’s like that movie A Simple Plan. Except that everyone in that movie was ten times smarter and way more disciplined than trump.

39

steven t johnson 05.19.17 at 1:29 am

Quite aside from the improbability of the Republican franchise holders deciding en masse that Trump wrecking the national party somehow really does matter to them personally, there is the little problem that Republican misuse of impeachment against Clinton has thoroughly blunted that sword.

The US has already I think had a demented President and nobody minded then. Don’t know why it would be different now.

40

faustusnotes 05.19.17 at 3:00 am

I think the Republican party will change their position on that very rapidly if they think that Trump is an albatross around their necks. Unlike previous curses (e.g. dubya) they can actually lift this one using the 25th – he’s manifestly unfit, dementia etc. But impeachment will mean that his misdeeds are being dragged into the news every day for the next 18 months. And they know that the FBI is going to be doing all it can to make sure the worst info sees the light of day. If they put on a high moral dudgeon and pretend to be acting in the interests of the country they can stake out a claim to use the 25th, and dare the Dems to eschew a quick end to this mess in favour of a long drawn-out scandal. I hope the Dems take the latter. I want to see all these people nailed to the wall for their treachery and viciousness, and I want to see the entire Republican party permanently associated with Trump, Pence and Flynn’s treachery.

41

Mike 05.19.17 at 4:26 am

Do the Repubs think they will be in office 2 or 4 yes from now? If so, why? Have they underestimated the popular revolt or the gradual decline in general support? Take a look at the upcoming elections. If you are in the US are you pontificating in Cali or actually working locally on elections, donating money, working with Indivisible, etc. I also find it VERY interesting/annoying that most CT conversations now seem to be ignoring the klept/oligarchical/corporatist aspect in politics here and going for a more (anti)populist/centrist/progressive viewpoint. Be concerned with the Rax as well.

42

J-D 05.19.17 at 5:53 am

Invocation of section 4 of the Twenty-fifth Amendment requires the agreement of the Vice-President and a majority of the principal officers of the executive departments. That’s Pence and any eight out of Tillerson, Mnuchin, Mattis, Sessions, Zinke, Perdue, Ross, Acosta, Price, Carson, Chao, Perry, DeVos, Shulkin, and Kelly. All of these people (unlike the members of Congress) owe their positions directly to nomination by Donald Trump. I know little or nothing about most of them: can anybody say what would make each of them likely or unlikely to subscribe to a written declaration of Trump’s disability?

43

faustusnotes 05.19.17 at 6:24 am

Haha, once the inquiry gets rolling those dudes are going to be trapped in a kind of prisoner’s dilemma – maybe cutting a deal can spare you the criminal consequences of your actions, but maybe if you stick together you can ride it out. I wonder which one will turn on the others first? There must be some pretty lethal side-eye rolling around the whitehouse at the moment …

44

Layman 05.19.17 at 3:50 pm

“there is the little problem that Republican misuse of impeachment against Clinton has thoroughly blunted that sword”

Not sure what this even means. Nothing about the Clinton impeachment resulted in making impeachment either more difficult or less likely. It’s still right there, in the constitution, the same process, vote threshold, etc.

45

Heliopause 05.19.17 at 5:00 pm

@34
“That’s not a signal about priorities. That’s just recognition that the Republicans control both Houses of Congress and the Presidency.”

No it’s not. The Dems are the minority party in regards to the Russia stuff, too, remember? They’re throwing a hissy over anything Russia related, and it’s working. So will they do that over the vastly more important issue of tax policy? Lieu says no, because he’s garbage.

46

Heliopause 05.19.17 at 5:24 pm

If I may amplify a bit, Lieu’s tweet is a quid pro quo; you give us Trump’s head over Russia and related matters and we’ll give you President Pence (if anything, worse than Trump on policy) and a gargantuan transfer of wealth to the already wealthy. What a sickening thing to say, coming from a prominent member of the alleged left-leaning party. What an absolute betrayal of the high ground on the issue of wealth inequality, arguably the most important issue facing the Western world today. Or was it a hilarious joke and I just didn’t get it?

47

dbk 05.19.17 at 8:48 pm

Oddly enough, I too have begun watching the American version of House of Cards this past week–I’d seen scattered episodes in the past, but have never watched it straight through.

I’ve also seen the British version (several times), and agree that it was outstanding.

But I’m not sure that comparisons between the two are especially helpful. American politics is, well, a different creature altogether than British politics. Personally, I’m finding the American version pretty compelling and, at least in Season 1, realistic–at least based on my following Congress as a highly interested citizen.

With regard to the real deal currently: I believe that Democrats would do well to be careful what they wish for; a President Pence is a prospect Democrats (and even more, progressive Democrats) should not be eagerly anticipating.

48

mary s 05.19.17 at 9:57 pm

Heliopause, you didn’t get it. I don’t know much about Rep. Lieu — I live in San Francisco and he recently took over Henry Waxman’s LA-area seat (some big shoes to fill, in my opinion). But I agree with Rea (@34) and I can say with confidence that you completely missed Lieu’s sarcasm and disdain for the Republican agenda. He’s not the greatest prose stylist but his use of the word “stupid” should have clued you in. Here’s a press release with his response to the Trump budget proposal, fyi:

https://lieu.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/rep-lieu-statement-trump-2018-budget-blueprint

Personally, I think Veep is a much better US appropriation than House of Cards.

49

Layman 05.19.17 at 10:00 pm

Heliopause: “If I may amplify a bit, Lieu’s tweet is a quid pro quo; you give us Trump’s head over Russia and related matters and we’ll give you President Pence (if anything, worse than Trump on policy) and a gargantuan transfer of wealth to the already wealthy.”

If I may amplify a bit, that’s not the only way to read his comment, and far from a charitable reading. My offer still stands, if you really believe what you’re saying.

50

Faustusnotes 05.19.17 at 11:08 pm

Dbk, that’s why they should drag this out until the mid terms. A president pence crying at his desk as he signs a veto proof planned parenthood funding bill is a great thing to look forward to…

51

Heliopause 05.20.17 at 12:07 am

@48
Yes, a politician joking that he cares little about important policy issues but does care about narrow partisan advantage is absolutely hilarious. Side-splitting, in fact. Hard to fathom why 120 million or so Americans don’t participate in the system at all given all the awesome yuks these comedians are handing out.

Mary, I’m gonna give it to you straight; Democrats would be virtually unbeatable at the national level if they could tempt even 10% of those non-voters to pull the lever for them and thus come within spitting distance of voter participation numbers in other developed countries. But they don’t want those votes, as is evident from attitudes like Lieu’s. They don’t want the responsibility. Instead of 90% Russia conspiracy theories to 10% actual policy they’d have to reverse those numbers, and that would be real work.

52

steven t johnson 05.20.17 at 1:42 pm

Layman @44 “Nothing about the Clinton impeachment resulted in making impeachment either more difficult or less likely. It’s still right there, in the constitution, the same process, vote threshold, etc.”

The complete failure of the Clinton impeachment makes it much more difficult politically, no matter that the formal technicalities are unchanged. A trivial impeachment will not win popular support for the long haul. Manufacturing a media storm among the usual suspects won’t serve for the drawn out process of going from shrieks about the blue dress to actually removing the President. Further, the complete failure of impeachment to visibly impair Clinton means there’s no upside to possible failure, which is a significant obstacle to impeachment in itself. There’s no half a loaf.

Losing the House in 2018 wouldn’t guarantee impeachment either, because it’s not at all certain the Democrats would make the mistake of putting a viable candidate like Pence into office.

On the other hand, despite the rather rigorous requirements of the 25th, there aren’t precedents that restrict finesse.

53

Layman 05.20.17 at 6:00 pm

“The complete failure of the Clinton impeachment makes it much more difficult politically, no matter that the formal technicalities are unchanged.”

I don’t agree. The Republicans never had the votes to convict Clinton in the Senate, and they knew it, so to a great extent the impeachment effort was about claiming credit for the effort, rather than about succeeding. Much like casting a million votes to repeal Obamacare. Their miscalculation was their failure to realize that Clinton was popular, in fact in the end more popular than they were, so instead of credit they got blame. But in another scenario – one where there are potentially the votes on one side, and the sitting president on the other side is deeply unpopular, it’s more than possible; if anything, I’d say it’s likely, given today’s ‘no norms’ approach to politics.

54

John Quiggin 05.20.17 at 11:40 pm

I’m an optimist about President Pence. His reactionary social attitudes don’t matter. He can’t directly do much as President, and he is so far out of line with public opinion that his possession of the “bully pulpit” won’t matter. For the same reasons, he’s not a strong candidate for 2020.

Presumably, he won’t be as dysfunctional as Trump, and therefore less of an obstacle to the Repubs pushing their agenda through Congress. But he’s already tainted by Trump and by the time Mueller is finished investigating the transition team he headed, he’s bound to look a lot worse. And in any case, the failure of the Congressional Repubs is mostly down to them, not Trump.

55

Dave Maier 05.21.17 at 12:34 am

I am amazed by people (not only here) discussing the 25th Amendment route like it’s a real possibility, as if all that had to happen would be for Congressional Republicans to become disillusioned with his ability to cut taxes on the wealthy and hey presto: President Pence. That’s not how the Amendment works (as others have noted). It’s clearly for cases where the President has a stroke or something. Petulant tweets are not even in the ballpark. Also, his loyal fan base – which comprises, even now, a strong majority of Republican voters – would (and not without reason) throw such a monumental shit-fit that it could be seen from space. Of course, things could change. But they’d have to change a whole lot; that’s all I’m saying.

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