By Timothy L. O’Brien / Bloomberg Opinion
Regrets, I’ve had a few
But then again, too few to mention
I did, what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption; Yes, there were times I’m sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew
But through it all when there was doubt
I ate it up and spit it outI faced it all
And I stood tall
And did it my way.
— Frank Sinatra, “My Way”
Predictably, Donald Trump says he wasn’t responsible for inciting a deadly insurrection in Washington last week, deems his incendiary language there suitable for the setting, and isn’t worried about being removed from office. No regrets.”We want no violence. Never violence,” he said on the White House lawn Tuesday, memory-holing the myriad times he’s reveled in violence over the last five years. “And on the impeachment, it’s really a continuation of the greatest witch hunt in the history of politics. It’s ridiculous. … I want no violence.”
You could read that as, “I want no violence, but you never know,” but let’s move along.
When he arrived later in Alamo, Texas, a town named after the site of a famous last stand, he refused to take any responsibility for the Capitol siege (just as he didn’t last year for covid-19) and said he had “zero risk” of being defenestrated by the 25th Amendment. He also said the flame-throwing he engaged in when speaking at his Washington rally was “totally appropriate,” and revived his old standby that he’s the victim of a hoax and a witch hunt.
It’s tricky labeling something a witch hunt when witches are actually involved, but Trump has tended to adopt that phrase anytime he’s been scrutinized or prosecuted (think Robert Mueller). And while he was correct about the 25th Amendment — Vice President Mike Pence declined Tuesday night to use it to strip Trump’s powers — he is certainly going to be impeached in the House of Representatives.
The proceeding is anything but a hoax. Trump is charged with inciting insurrection, which he most surely did in phone calls to Georgia officials seeking to rig election results there, and in the upheaval he orchestrated in Washington last week. Trump’s sheer lawlessness and malice is manifestly obvious. Even some Republicans plan to join the Democratic majority in the House and vote to impeach him.
“The President of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob and lit the flame of this attack. Everything that followed was his doing,” Rep. Liz Cheney, the third-ranking Republican in the House, wrote in a statement. “There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”
Three other Republicans, Reps. Adam Kinzinger, John Katko and Fred Upton, issued similar declarations. At least 20 other Republicans are expected to join them. A more seismic disclosure came from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who, according to the New York Times, has told associates that Trump committed impeachable offenses. McConnell is said to be glad Democrats are impeaching the president because it will make it simpler to flush him out of the GOP.
The fact that a political purge may await him might be just as lost on Trump as the new record he will hold: The first U.S. president to be impeached twice. It only took 232 years, but he did it. He has also debased his office, unwound national security and a broader sense of community, sullied his country’s reputation overseas, undermined the U.S.’s standing as flagbearer for democracy and upended hundreds of millions of lives.
Some of those around Trump still say they’re perplexed about his unwillingness to concede defeat or acknowledge the fissures he opened that are now swallowing him. “He does not ever, ever, ever want to appear weak or that he might have been wrong,” his former chief of staff, John Kelly, said at an agriculture conference Tuesday. “His kind of manhood is at issue here. I don’t understand it, but I used to have to deal with it every day.”
Trump grew up in a household dominated by a father who believed the world was populated by just two groups: winners and losers. He has spent 74 years pretending he’s only a winner, and has had enough wealth and celebrity to insulate him from various catastrophes. And he’s repeatedly trampled people, institutions and the law along the way because he’s devoid of guilt or remorse, the sort of feelings that more emotionally and psychologically healthy people rely on to course-correct.
As Trump self-immolates, and possibly encounters setbacks he hasn’t experienced since the early 1990s when his businesses and personal life collapsed around him, he’s likely to sail forward with few regrets; but with plenty of plans for payback.
Timothy L. O’Brien is a senior columnist for Bloomberg Opinion.