It’s over, finally. Another series binged and in the books. This one certainly had its slambang scattershot episodes, with some genuinely dramatic moments. The coup de théâtre of the protagonist trying to effect a détente with a sworn enemy halfway through the third season was particularly inspired, even nail-biting.
The series finale, sadly, left much to be desired. Other than the forced battle scene, complete with J.J. Abrams-like intercutting, in the penultimate episode, it was otherwise anticlimactic. All I wanted to do during the credits was turn over and go to bed. Back to watching “The Office” reruns tomorrow like a happy little millennial.
But wait! What’s this? The “Play Next Episode” bar is auto-highlighted. And now it’s playing newly materialized episodes. Dash it! The curtain has rung up and won’t come down!
The Democrat-led, unprecedented second impeachment of the President for inciting the “cockle of rebellion, insolence, sedition” has effectively renewed “The Trump Show” for another season. Whereas congressional Republicans were eagerly looking forward to washing their hands of their former leader, and the quadrennial prep time for the Marco Rubio-Nikki Haley variety hour, the now-in-control Democrats have decided to also take the reins as showrunners and revive the series. As with most reboots of seminal shows, many questions hang in the air: Will the original cast of characters return? Is there an audience hunger for it? Will it be financially viable?
Here’s a new one for dramaturgical consideration: is it even constitutional?
Speaker Nancy Pelosi made record time in wrapping the impeachment article in a tidy package and dribbling it successfully through a House vote. Now it’s been passed to Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer, who must decide on whether or not to try a departed president. The series premier promises a first in the American republic: putting an impeached executive on the dock for the sole purpose of legally scotching a potential return to public office.
The statutory juries are still out on whether it’s constitutionally feasible. Jeffrey Rosen, president of the National Constitution Center, is of the opinion that the Senate has the authority to conduct an impeachment trial of an erstwhile president. “The Senate does have the power to try a former president,” he averred in Politico Playbook, the Washington insidery equivalent of the flashy gossip rags that line supermarket tills. Rosen continued: “And if the Senate agrees, the Supreme Court should not, and likely will not, intervene.” So much for Trump’s triumvirate at the High Court! The multi-season plotline of a lèse-majesté takeover of SCOTUS is already being retconned.
Other thinkers are less sanguine about the legal prospects of using the congressional impeachment authority against a defunct head of state. They may not head a fancy I.R.S.-designated 501(c)(3), but they’re literate enough to read the Constitution and suss out its original public meaning. On this basis, columnist Matthew Walther concludes, “for both grammatical and logical reasons—a person who is not being removed from office cannot incur a penalty that accompanies such a removal.” Debarring a president from once again assuming public office is sine qua non with impeachment qua impeachment. The former is not, to use more fancy Latin, salvatorious from the whole of Article II, Section 4.
Indeed, the Trump impeach redux stinks of overkill, as if the Pelosi party wagon hit a plump, peachy-orange gazelle and decided to throw the transmission in reverse and give it another once-over. It also has a twinge of desperation: why bar Trump from possibly returning to Pennsylvania Ave. if he’s an unpopular buffoon, a failed caudillo, a pathetic headline-chaser who breaks down in tears and frantic semaphore like a tantruming toddler?
In having their triumphalist soy-based, cruelty-free, local-ingredient-sourced cake and eating it too, Democrats are undermining their own party leader, Joe Biden, whose presidency will be subsumed by the all-encompassing attentional blob of his predecessor. There is no event boundary between administrations; no thick demarcation for Americans to rub their eyes and clear their heads for a new president.
The pin spot’s back on Trump; the follow-spotter never took it off the commandingly umberish presence. Meanwhile, Biden will spend his epochal “first 100 days” stravaging around the executive mansion in house slippers and a rumpled smoking jacket, shouting orders at nobody, while liberal apparatchiks toil unscrutinized within federal agencies.
Not out of office more than a week, Donald the Golden Goose’s egg production is flagging. Former FBI Director James Comey, who made bank off the Trumpian palace intrigue publishing cottage industry, just saw his second effort as a smug-advice dispenser belly flop. No Trumpy, no honey. Michael Brendan Dougherty calls it a “harbinger” for the rest of the click-rage industry, normally referred to as “the media.”
A new Pew poll shows nearly three quarters of Americans are ready to tune out of any more iterations of “The Trump Show.” But viewer preference is fickle. If the only alternative is Jill Biden’s hooked-on-phonics PBS specials, then Trump may once reclaim his natural role as an entertainment cynosure. The last time that happened, the Manhattan mogul leveraged the fame into something a teensy bit bigger than boosting NBC share prices.
Instead of tearing down the worn and tattered marque emblazoned with TRUMP in faux-gold gilt, Democratic lawmakers are flitting around like formica, recarpentering its support trusses so that it holds steady for another four years. C.S. Lewis was right: a society that pays too much attention to politics has a deeper affliction. “The Trump Show” carries on with split attention to a bi-administration: one in Washington and another in Palm Beachvignon. And we lack the luxury of commanding Siri to put something else on.