Some Cases Should be Settled
Likely, the most interesting conversation happening today surrounds the end of the Trump administration. It does not seem like a bold prediction that those who felt betrayed would abandon him as his power waned. That is how people behave. Especially in politics.
I am not sure who the long-term thinkers are with respect to the end of the presidency of Donald Trump, or even if there are any, though I hope there are. In fact, I hope there are both Democrats and Republicans and I hope they are talking with each other. It could require a vision not generally found among politicians, and business leaders might need to intervene.
The desire for revenge against a man who has treated his enemies so badly while in a position of power is quite understandable.
Various social media platforms have expelled him, which, as private companies, they have a right to do. (Many disagree with that notion based on monopolistic arguments, but curiously they stammer when you bring up the analogy to Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers.)
The PGA has removed its 2022 tournament from the Trump golf course in New Jersey, which, again, it has a right to do.
These decisions can be understood in the context of defending their brands, which private companies would be remiss if they did not do.
He has been impeached for a second time though he has but a few days left in office. The January 6 riot was appalling, and it seems clear the President fueled the flames. Yet the proponents of a second impeachment stammer when asked about the riots last summer and the proponents of that violence.
We tend to disfavor revenge as a motivation, but that should not mean we disregard it as a contributor. It is a human emotion that is a factor in many decisions.
What We Have Learned About Donald Trump
We have had many years of exposure to the outgoing President from which we should surely have learned something. We have also had many years of exposure to other human beings from whom lessons should also have been learned.
Backing people into corners – especially people who have backed others into corners – is tempting, but rarely well advised. When escape is no longer possible, they tend to lash out, and the consequences of that can be even worse. You can’t really back a person too deep into a corner if you expect him to behave rationally.
The President faces personal financial challenges. He is said to owe $400 million and his long-time bank has refused to do further business with him. The banker herself has resigned. True, others might seize the moment to have him as a customer, but institutions with credit committees are unlikely to overlook his past treatment of lenders and of contracts generally.
Brinksmanship comes easily to President Trump. He is more comfortable with conflict and adversarial behavior than others and he uses his additional tolerance to his advantage.
The President likes the spotlight and, as children sometimes do, he makes no distinction between positive and negative attention. To be adored is best but to be criticized – no matter how strongly – is better than to be ignored.
Donald Trump is Not Without Cards to Play
Based on the experience of a childhood spent significantly in Austria in the 1950s, I am wary of creating martyrs. The Germans and Austrians seemed keenly aware of that possibility in the immediate post World War II years.
That experience strikes me as valuable especially if applied to countering the most extreme punitive suggestions. Personally, I would take only those actions against the President that led to a demonstrable future benefit, rather than merely seeking revenge.
Domestically, he received more than 70 million votes, the second most received by any candidate ever. People loyal to him remain in control of the Republican National Committee, state Republican parties and various other political enterprises.
The desire on the part of elected officials to avoid primary challengers gives the President and his supporters considerable pull in their preferred direction.
Domestic politics might muddle through and eventually find some level of accommodation in our duopoly, but there are international interests that might not.
After four years of the highest level of security briefings (and the prospect that they will continue after his Presidency ends), Donald Trump has learned a lot. What is to stop him from monetizing that information?
What if Vladimir Putin bailed him out in exchange for weeks and weeks of FSB briefings? That would seem to be a pretty low-cost purchase on their part.
He could renounce his citizenship, flee the country and go to live in Moscow or maybe in some more hospitable part of Russia, have all of his debts repaid and simply turn his back on all aspects of his prior life, though it would surely require considerable advance research into the status of extradition treaties with various countries.
I suppose the next question would be what about his family? He seems to care about them. Could all of them defect to someplace else and do reasonably well in a less hostile environment? I suppose it might be some leverage over him if they could not? Would they stick together, or would they become fractious?
A Case for Settling
Is there a deal to be struck that would alleviate some of his potential pain in exchange for his exit from public life? To say nothing of our national security interests.
“Impeachment lite” could be used to preclude Donald Trump from ever again holding federal office. That is useful if he plans to run in 2024. Kicking a person out of office who has already left seems to cross the line into revenge.
He is a negotiator and lives happily on the brink. This would be the ultimate in brinksmanship. His life for his country.
If this case gets settled, I won’t be objecting. And I hope there are people thinking carefully about it.