What we can expect to be remembered about this sorry episode is, sadly, “fake history.”
And fake history, it should be noted, is about to have a big weekend. Amazon is running an ad in the Super Bowl Sunday to promote Alexa. In a very funny commercial featuring Ellen DeGeneres wondering aloud what life was like before Alexa, a series of made-up events in history are amusingly recalled to contrast life today with life before Alexa was around. (The Post is owned by Jeff Bezos, who founded Amazon.)
The last sequence — funny even to me, the president of the Nixon Foundation — shows a make-believe Richard M. Nixon in the Oval Office telling an assistant to “remind me to delete those tapes.” (The assistant is shown balking at Nixon’s “request.”)
Of course, Nixon never ordered the tapes deleted.
But it would not surprise me if, in the future, when someone asks Alexa, “Alexa, what’s an example of ‘fake history’?” the device answers this way: “A television commercial about Alexa in the 2020 Super Bowl is an example of ‘fake history.’”
I raise this possibility as a reminder that our collective memory about an event often turns out very differently than the event itself. Trump is going to be acquitted, but what will the Super Bowl ads of 2070 say? Perhaps the writers of Sunday’s Alexa ad genuinely thought Nixon ordered his tapes deleted, or perhaps they didn’t care and wanted a laugh. The effect, though, will be to promote “fake history.” And “fake history” distorts collective memory.
An example: People today believe that at the time of his confirmation, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was guilty of sexual harassment of Anita Hill. That is not what was believed at the time. A New York Times/CBS News poll taken Oct. 28, 1991, found the opposite: 58 percent of the respondents then believed Thomas’s account; 29 percent believed Hill’s.
We won’t know for 50 years what the impeachment of Trump does to his place in history, and we won’t know how today’s impressions will change tomorrow’s opinions.
My guess? Not much, given his outsize personality and growing list of achievements. These include (and you might want to take a seat here, Trump haters): rebuilding a U.S. military with a current budget of $716 billion (and a new service branch, the Space Force); the appointments of (so far) two Supreme Court justices, 50 appeals court judges and 133 district court judges; a massive tax cut; 3.5 percent unemployment; the country’s exit from the Iran deal and the Paris climate accords; clarity on China as the nation’s chief strategic competitor; a renewed Israeli alliance anchored in the relocation of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem; the caliphate of the Islamic State destroyed and “most wanted” terrorists Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and Qasem Soleimani eliminated; partial construction of the border wall and significant immigration reform through executive order; a massive regulatory rollback; the passage of the USMCA; Obamacare’s individual mandate repealed; and “right to try” and justice reform legislation passed.
A partisan House’s impeachment is a pebble thrown at the political battleship that is that list. His most significant failing may lie ahead in the slow-out-of-the-gate response to the Wuhan coronavirus, but it surely won’t be his phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Trump accomplished all of the above despite the burden of the Mueller investigation, which could not, despite massive investment and effort, prove any collusion whatsoever between Russia and the Trump campaign in Russia’s attack on our 2016 election. That investigation was followed by this impeachment charade.
All that remains are ashes of the left’s hopes and a scar on the Constitution. And perhaps a forced attention on the Beltway when all eyes ought to have been on Wuhan.