A reporter asked Donald Trump during a brief Q&A yesterday whether he takes "any responsibility" for his likely impeachment.
I won't pretend to know whether Trump actually believes his own claims, though at face value, Americans are once again supposed to see him as a victim. The president, pure as the driven snow, was minding his own business, governing responsibly and properly, when rascally Democrats, hellbent on mischief, launched impeachment proceedings for no reason.
He's not the bully, the argument goes, he's the bullied. He's not the perpetrator of wrongdoing; he's the one who was wronged.
I'm reminded anew of this Associated Press analysis, published last month as public hearing testimony wrapped up, which summarized nicely much of what we've learned about the president's misconduct.
Trump explicitly ordered U.S. government officials to work with his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani on matters related to Ukraine, a country deeply dependent on Washington's help to fend off Russian aggression. The Republican president pushed Ukraine to launch investigations into political rivals, leaning on a discredited conspiracy theory his own advisers disputed. And both American and Ukrainian officials feared that Trump froze a much-needed package of military aid until Kyiv announced it was launching those probes.Those facts were confirmed by a dozen witnesses, mostly staid career government officials who served both Democratic and Republican administrations. They relied on emails, text messages and contemporaneous notes to back up their recollections from the past year.Stitched together, their hours of televised testimony paint a portrait of an American president willing to leverage his powerful office to push a foreign government for personal political help.
And yet, there's Trump, wondering why in the world he's being picked on, as if he were falsely identified by a mistaken witness of a crime he had nothing to do with.
It'd be less jarring if the president chose a more reality-based defense. He could say his actions were minor transgressions of no lasting consequence. He could pretend his predecessors took similar steps, so there's a precedent for his actions. He could claim that he made fleeting misjudgments that do not rise to the level of impeachment.
But as the nation confronts the obvious fact that he extorted a foreign ally to advance his interests above the nation's interests, Trump's response is to cling to an alternate reality in which he wasn't caught.
Is it any wonder the debate over impeachment is so exasperating?