If there’s one thing we know about President Donald Trump, it’s that he is an unapologetic egomaniac who is obsessed with public opinion. He retweets positive approval ratings while labeling any polls showing negative ratings as “fake.” Throughout decades in public life, Trump has repeatedly lied about his wealth. The entirety of his life is choreographed to appear rich, strong and powerful. Trump’s narcissism, however, reveals a fragility that congressional Democrats would be wise to exploit as they continue to debate whether or not they should initiate impeachment proceedings against the president.
To this point, Democrats have been trapped in a box of their own making. On the one hand, they issue strong statements claiming that the president “is not above the law.” On the other, Democratic leaders like House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., say that “you cannot impeach a president if the American people will not support it.”
By trying to have it both ways, congressional leaders have only telegraphed to Trump that they don’t have the stomach for an impeachment fight. Trump undoubtedly interprets their hesitancy as weakness and feels empowered by it.
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More and more, Democrats are looking like the kid in class who doesn’t want to be called on by the teacher. They appear reluctant and unsure of their own footing.
Appearing recently on "Jimmy Kimmel Live," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that Trump “knows it’s not a good idea to be impeached, but the silver lining for him is then he believes he would be exonerated by the United States Senate, and there’s a school of thought that says if the Senate acquits you, why bring charges against him in the private sector when he’s no longer president?”
Trump doesn't want an impeachment legacy
With all due respect to Pelosi, I think she is drastically underestimating how much Trump wants to avoid going down in history as a president who was impeached by the House of Representatives. Trump may very well be the most legacy-conscious person to ever occupy the Oval Office. We are, after all, talking about a man who plasters his name on every building and property he can get his hands on. The entire composition of Trump’s psychology would be shattered if the House were to impeach him.
Trump is a bully. His theatrics and rhetoric are a mask to hide his deep-rooted insecurities and fears. Why else would a person declare that he is an “extremely stable genius”? Why else would a person brag that he has a “much better apartment” than his detractors? Trump is wired to believe that if he shouts the loudest and longest, he’ll win any fight.
Call Trump's bluff and put presidents on notice
It’s time for Pelosi and congressional Democrats to call his bluff. If they don’t, they are sending the message that from here on out, it is OK for the president of the United States to ignore the oversight authority of the legislative branch. That it’s OK for the executive branch to ignore the rulings of the judicial branch. That it’s OK for a president to commit crimes and obstruct justice.
We teach our children that actions have consequences. There is no punishment more fitting for Donald Trump than one that stains his name for the rest of history. One that will be affixed to his legacy long after he leaves office and long after he leaves this life: a condemnation and a recorded vote from the House of Representatives, the “People’s House,” impeaching Donald J. Trump, president of the United States, for high crimes and misdemeanors.
Kurt Bardella, a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors and a Democrat who left the Republican Party in 2017, was spokesperson and senior adviser for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee from 2009-13. Follow him on Twitter: @kurtbardella
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Impeachment would send Trump and his ego into a tailspin. Democrats should just do it.