To understand Trump/Giuliani et al, you need to know the name of Grover Norquist.
Norquist is the boss at Americans for Tax Reform and a major Republican lobbyist and voice for decades. His most famous quote is:
“I’m not in favor of abolishing the government. I just want to shrink it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.’’
And with that, Ladies and Gentlemen, you have the animating spirit of the Republican Party for the last three decades and the straight-line from Ronald Reagan to Newt Gingrich to Donald Trump and the current Republican Senate.
The modern Republican Party has taken that quote to an extreme that is now being tested across government. This effort to strangle institutions has been ongoing and aggressive.
Give them credit. The Republicans have won this rhetorical battle. Most Americans now see government has vaguely incompetent, unable to do its job – bridge building, environmental protection, processing tax returns etc.
This strangulation has reached its zenith under Trump, not because he believes in smaller government, but because he saw the opportunity for political gain and fame.
Now – with the Trump impeachment investigation, we are going to see whether or not that strangulation has so weakened our institutions that they cannot deal with this guy.
We are going to see an historic confrontation between the executive and legislative branches of government. Trump is betting on the lessons learned from his mentor Roy Cohn (“Don’t ever give in”) and thinks he can bully and intimidate the Congress into backing down.
We are going to see the Trump people stiff Congress at every turn. They will refuse to testify. They will refuse to cooperate. They will refuse to recognize the authority of Congress to perform their oversight duties.
Trump is making this bet: that government institutions – intelligence, justice, Congress, among others – are now so weak that he can beat them, intimidate them into caving by using Fox News and his base.
This is very different than Richard Nixon. Remember, Nixon resigned in 1974 while facing an impeachment investigation. Nixon was a bad guy who ordered the CIA to shut down an FBI investigation of his administration. When that deed was disclosed on an Oval Office tape, the Republican leadership from Congress went to the Oval Office and told Nixon his support was gone. (That moment has not yet come for Trump.)
Unlike Trump, Nixon had shame, respect for government and some of his colleagues. We will never know what would have happened if Nixon had refused to resign and fought it out. But he resigned before that test.
Trump and his people have no shame. They have learned from the Internet, Fox News and its ilk that you can win if you stick it out and fight. Nixon gave in.
Trump will fight to the end for the following reasons:
- He loves the spotlight.
- He can not stomach giving up.
- And he thinks he can win.
He believes that government institutions are now so weakened that he can prevail.
Speaker Pelosi still believes in the integrity of government and the strength of the institutions.
That’s the argument.