If this had happened to President Obama, a lot of people would have been in jail by now.” So went President Trump’s morning-after remarks, following the GOP-controlled Senate’s acquittal vote, the denouement of the Democrat-controlled House’s approval of two thin-gruel articles of impeachment.
To say the president is defiant, that he is without remorse, understates the matter.
In a midweek speech explaining her not-guilty vote, Senator Susan Collins (R., Maine) maintained that the president had “learned his lesson.” By week’s end, she sheepishly allowed that her assessment had been “aspirational” — Collins’ aspiration, that is, not Trump’s.
The president would not pretend to be either sorry or grateful for his reprieve. This is a big part of what ardent Trump supporters love about their man. Alas, it is just as big a part of why the president’s approval numbers languish in the 40s when they ought to be in the 60s, with a humming economy, record low unemployment, and the nation at relative peace.
President Clinton was not sorry either — not really. As shown by his occasional outbursts in recent years, he internalized the storyline that he was the victim, not the villain, of the Lewinsky scandal that led to his impeachment. But 21 years ago, his peerless political instincts told him, a just-acquitted sitting president, that it was important to feign contrition. He apologized to the American people, conceding that his misdeeds were shameful and had put the country and the Congress through a painful ordeal.
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