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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Impeach President Trump

Anybody who actually wants to be president should be automatically disqualified.

I know he hasn't even won the nomination yet, but I want to be able to say I was the first to suggest it. Impeach President Trump.

Actually I think Trump would be cool with that. According to a former staff member, Trump just wanted to shake up the system. He never thought he'd end up as a front runner. Now he can't stop.

It might seem like the presidency has always been a race for the power-hungry and the narcissistic. But it hasn't.

George Washington, as we all know, didn't want the job. He wrote to a friend that in accepting the office he had given up “all expectations of private happiness in the world.”

Our most reluctant president was James A. Garfield. During the convention, a friend told Garfield that he was being considered for the nomination. His reply: “I am going to vote for [John] Sherman and I will be loyal to him. My name must not be used!” Garfield insisted that no man has a right to vote for someone without that person's permission. Unfortunately for him, he got outvoted on that point.

But the election that most resembles the 2016 election is the 1912 one. William Howard Taft was a great conservative constitutionalist who was handpicked by Teddy Roosevelt, who believed Taft would continue his trust-busting, big-stick policies. When Roosevelt discovered his protégé was not to his liking, he left the Republican National Convention and started his own Progressive Party (known as the Bull Moose party) and ran against him. It became a four-man race, with socialist Eugene Debs getting 6% of the vote. TR's ego handed the presidency to the disastrous Woodrow Wilson.

Another good one was Grover Cleveland, who was famous for his honesty and his commitment to the principles of small government classical liberalism. He was what we would call today a libertarian. He reduced the number of federal employees and opposed welfare subsidies.

Taft, Garfield, and Cleveland didn't lead us into any catastrophic wars. They didn't crash the economy, at least not by themselves. They didn't bow down to the Saudi* leaders or criticize America from abroad, and they didn't build monuments to their greatness. To my mind, these are the things that make a president great.

In my book, though, it was Calvin Coolidge who was our greatest president.

Silent Cal acted as though he followed the principles of Lao-Tzu: to control by doing nothing. Lao-Tzu wrote: those who know don't speak, those who speak don't know. Coolidge practiced it. A lady once told him she had made a bet that she could get at least three words of conversation from him. His famous reply: “You lose.”

Now we have a guy who not only won't shut up, but according to a former member of his staff, did not expect to win and, at least at first, knew he was hopelessly unqualified for the job. But this staffer describes how his ego took over and made him the bombastic candidate we endlessly argue about.

I don't know Trump personally, but I'm all too familiar with the type. They reach their goal by virtue of their boundless self-confidence, which convinces others that they know what they're doing. They honestly believe they're brilliant. They make promises they can't keep, sincerely believing their brilliance will make it happen. When confronted, they cover up their lack of knowledge with snow jobs, blame-casting, confusing or dishonest statements, and by firing or trying to destroy anyone who threatens them. Even though they could be good leaders if only they could admit their lack of knowledge, they can't. They tend to keep a death grip on the levers of power.

If what this staffer says is true, it would be consistent with Trump's character never to withdraw from the race. But he might create a situation whereby he gets himself cheated out of the presidency. How might he accomplish it?

Maybe his real goal is to get impeached. Or maybe he plans to resign. Then he'll be able to say he won the presidency, which according to the staffer is all he really wants, yet avoid getting blamed for all that bad stuff that happened afterward.

That's why we need to pay close attention to his running mate. Beware: a vote for Trump might well be a vote for Chris Christie.

The ones who desired the presidency least governed the best. The others wanted power, or they were ideologues who saw the world as it could be if only the things they believed were true. To get what they wanted they had to make government bigger. Maybe we should have a rule: if you want the job you are automatically disqualified.

William Tecumseh Sherman famously said “If drafted, I will not run; if nominated, I will not accept; if elected, I will not serve.” That's a sign that he could have been a truly great president.

The Southerners might not have liked it, but if it were up to me, they should have marched Sherman into the White House at gunpoint. Anybody who hates the job that much has got to be good.

* Yes, I know it wasn't called Saudi Arabia until 1932. But you know what I mean.

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