“To be one of only three impeached presidents in American history, even if you are not convicted by the Senate, is to know an asterisk will be forever attached to your presidency, your offenses prominently recorded,” wrote Ezra Klein at Vox back in September. “It’s a humiliation for you and a warning to your successors.”
Considering Trump’s inevitable acquittal in the Senate, the proverbial asterisk has likely been the Democrats’ goal all along. To them, they wanted to permanently blemish his record for the history books, because everyone knows just how humiliating it is to be impeached, right?
Just ask Bill Clinton.
Do you remember the aftermath of his impeachment and acquittal in the Senate, when he spent the remainder of his time in office hanging his head down in shame, and he quietly departed from public life after leaving office? How about his inability to earn a living off high-priced speaking engagements because of that darn asterisk on his record? Do you remember how, when he went down to Ground Zero shortly after the 9/11 attacks, and the public mocked him as “that president who was impeached a few years ago?”
I don’t remember any of that.
I remember a president who saw his popularity go up, who left office with historically high approval. I remember a president who could charge more for a single speaking engagement than the average American makes in a year. I remember a president who remained beloved by his party, and even relatively popular amongst Republicans, despite his impeachment. The only real hit to his popularity came in the wake of the #MeToo Movement, when it was relatively safe for Democrats to admit that he’d acted improperly with women, and abused his authority with an intern. But otherwise, Bill Clinton’s asterisk has been more of a parenthetical clause that many people, believe it or not, have forgotten about.
After Trump was elected, it was amusing to see liberals take to social media with promises that he’ll be impeached. They typically didn’t understand to process and once they were reminded that impeachment doesn’t equal removal, “Bill Clinton was impeached, but not removed, you know?” I can remember such remarks as “What? Bill Clinton wasn’t impeached!” or “Yeah, but he was impeached for sex!”
The left either conveniently forgets Clinton was impeached or minimizes its significance. They don’t see Clinton’s presidency as being marked with an asterisk, and you can bet that Trump’s supporters won’t either. While the left believes the significance of Clinton’s impeachment can be diminished by the claim he was impeached “over sex,” Trump supporters will rightfully point out that he was impeached for defeating Hillary Clinton, that not a single Republican supported impeachment, and that Democrats had been itching to impeach him since his surprise victory in November 2016. They’ll be confident that history will look back on this impeachment as a partisan abuse of power by the Democratic Party, and look their efforts to impeach him as a symbol of pride. “Trump was so effective fighting for the people, the Democrats wanted to impeach him.” “They knew they couldn’t beat him in 2020 so they tried (and failed) to kick him out of office.”
And leading that charge will be Trump himself, using the Democrats’ partisan impeachment witchhunt to rally his base. As the Democrats voted to impeach Wednesday evening, Trump was holding a rally Battle Creek, Michigan. He didn’t sound like a president concerned about a black mark on his record. “It doesn’t really feel like we’re being impeached,” Trump said. Then he turned the tables on the Democrats, calling their impeachment efforts a “political suicide march,” and saying they have “branded themselves with an eternal mark of shame.”
President Trump wasn’t battered and broken. He was defiant, effectively telling the Democrats “Kiss my Asterisk!”
— Margolis & Cox Editorial Cartoons (@MargolisandCox) December 19, 2019
Matt Margolis is the author of Trumping Obama: How President Trump Saved Us From Barack Obama’s Legacy and the bestselling book The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis