Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Is Trump Running in 2024?

Not surprisingly, President Trump is considering announcing a 2024 run for the White House before he leaves office.  The obvious play by Trump is that at the very moment Joe Biden is raising his hand to take the oath of office at noon on January 20, 2021, Donald Trump will be making his re-election announcement.  In the ideal Trump world, the networks would offer a split screen of the two events.  Most networks wouldn't do that, but Fox News might.

I certainly have doubt that Trump would actually run for President in 2024.  But I have no doubt that Trump will announce a run and spend 2021, 2022 and 2023 raising money, and more importantly spending it, as if he were running for President in 2024.  Trump will freeze the Republican field for three years.   Few will dare announce their candidacy until the day Trump bows out.  The non-Trump candidates also won't be able to raise money until that happens.

Most analysts seem to believe that, despite Trump's talk of a 2024 run, he won't actually enter the 2024 race - that Trump is just trying to keep the Trump Show going post-presidency.  Agree. But some analysts go further,, saying that Trump's real motivation in flirting with a Grover Cleveland-esque second term is not to be a candidate himself, but that he wants to position himself as a "King Maker" within the Republican Party.  That way, the nominee would be someone who shares Trump's values and beliefs.  Disagree.

First, Trump has no "values and beliefs."  He doesn't really care about the issues.  Never did.  He cares about political power.

As far as being a "King Maker," Trump has rarely spent much effort helping others get elected, and would likely have little interest in helping others get elected President.  Trump wants to be King. He has no interest in helping anyone else being King, including his intellectually and ethically challenged adult children. 

Chris Cillizza of CNN gets it exactly right:
In theory then, if Trump stepped off the stage, Republicans would be in pretty good shape. Sure, they'd have a contested and contentious fight to see who the right person is to represent the party in 2024 but it would, generally speaking, be a fight between politicians who can be fit somewhere into the traditional spectrum.

From Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton on the far right to Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan in the center-ish, the party would spend the next few years choosing which brand of Republicanism or conservatism they preferred. But the debate would, largely, be about policy -- immigration, health care etc. -- and tone. It would not be first and foremost about personality.

To be clear: There's no question that for some swing voters, the residual cloud left by Trump to hang over the party would be a problem. The capitulation of the GOP (and its principles) at the altar of Trump's cult of personality over the past four years would still have consequences for plenty of people.

But with Trump not in contention in 2024, the ambitious 2024 candidates could make the "let's leave the past in the past" argument -- focusing instead on traditional GOP messages like small government, lower taxes and national security while casting Democrats as beholden to their liberal extremes.


All of that goes out the window if Trump is in the 2024 race. Trump would be, without question, the clear favorite for the presidential nomination and, as such, would suck up virtually all of the oxygen within the party. Even if somehow he lost, the race would revolve around him.... 
Unfortunately for Republicans, we know where that ends. In a loss at the presidential level. Because while voters seem perfectly comfortable sending Republicans to Congress and their state legislatures, not enough of them feel that same way about Trump.

Which means that if Trump runs in 2024, the Republican Party will be frozen in a sort of stasis -- unable to get beyond a person who they know is not only very unlikely to command a majority of the country's votes in the next presidential election but also who will continue to do damage to the party brand along the way.
OOP's short takes:
  • Of late, there has been much discussion of "pre-emptive pardons" for Rudy Giuliani, the three adult Trump children - Don, Jr., Ivanka and Eric, and even Trump himself.  Several legal analysts are saying acceptance of a pardon is an "admission of guilt."  When I clerked at the Indiana Court of Appeals, I helped draft a ground-breaking legal opinion on the effect of a pardon in the State of Indiana.  In doing that work, I researched how pardons are treated in every state and at the national level.  The fact is an executive could hand out a pardon to an innocent person so he avoids the emotional and financial impact of going through a trial on criminal charges that are pending or may be filed in the future.  The pardon does not mean that person is admitting that, at the end of that criminal trial, he would have been found guilty.   Rather than be forgiveness for a crime, a pardon is an executive act which wipes out the fact of the conviction.  That's Indiana's position, anyway, and I think it is correct.
  • While I definitely don't buy the "admission of guilt" argument, I am more open to the argument that a President cannot do a self-pardon.  Still, I lean in the other direction.  The Founding Fathers could have easily written the pardon power so it was clear the President of the United States can issue pardons to others, but not to himself.  They apparently chose not to do that.  The position against self-pardons seems based on tortured interpretation of constitutional language and/or the principle that no one can be a judge in their own case.  
  • But a President issuing a pardon is not being a "judge."  Whether you're charged with a crime and prosecuted is, almost entirely, an executive decision.  A pardon goes to that decision, not to a "judge" forgiving a crime that has been committed.  It seems that analysts are confusing a pardon with commutation, an executive act which keeps the conviction in place, but goes to the punishment for that crime.
  • It took a long time, but Attorney General Bill Barr has finally told the truth.  Now for saying the Justice Department has not been provided with any evidence of fraud that resulted in Trump losing the election, Barr is getting roasted in the Trump (I can't call it "conservative") media.  Poor Bill Barr.   Who knew that the Attorney General throwing away his reputation and integrity to cater to Trump's every whim wouldn't pay off? 
  • Fox Business News host Lou Dobbs said of Barr that is "either a liar or a fool or both,"  If anyone should know who is a "liar" and a "fool," it is Dobbs who has been both for decades.

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