President Donald Trump did not want to leave the stage.
For just over two hours on Wednesday night, he regaled a crowd in Michigan with tales of light bulbs and showers, how great he was doing in the polls, how newspapers run fake polls, his favorite Fox News hosts, his least favorite cable channels, the economy, electric cars, Bill Clinton, and Tom Cruise (“good guy, by the way”).
Once he left the stage, the roar of the adoring crowd would be gone and he’d have to face the fact that minutes after he began speaking, he’d become the third president ever to be impeached by the House of Representatives. Each time it seemed Trump was barreling toward the “and we will make America great again” that is his hallmark rally sign-off, he veered into another tangent — how he could be loved in Germany, his parents, NATO. It was the longest rally he has held since being sworn in as president.
Many of us watch these rallies to see Trump unhinged, particularly at moments of high stress. This time he’s really gonna let it rip! But what they really show is Trump at his most banal. Yes, he lashed out at impeachment, as he has before. “The Democrats,” he said, “are declaring their deep hatred and disdain for the American voter,” he said, reading off the teleprompter. He called the process “a political suicide march” for the Democratic Party, a “perversion.” “They don’t even have any crime!”
But mainly Trump was mean and petty. He joked that John Dingell, a member of Congress who died in February, might be in hell (his wife said, in response, that “you have brought me down in a way you can never imagine” as she prepared for her “first holiday season without the man I love”). He said Rep. Adam Schiff “is not exactly the best-looking guy we’ve ever seen,” seconds after saying that “with #MeToo, I never think about looks anymore.” He called out Rep. Carolyn Maloney, a New York Democrat who he says he used to donate to, and who voted for impeachment, calling her “a longtime nothing much” and saying she should return the money. “He used to kiss my ass, Chuck Schumer,” he said, referring to the New York senator he also used to donate to. “Chuck, give all that money back please! Carolyn Maloney, give that money back. Every penny should come back. They act so pompous; they act so righteous. They’re not righteous. They’re bad people.”
Literally one hour after he was impeached, the president of the United States was on a stage yelling about light bulbs. “So we’re bringing back the old light bulb. It sounds like a little, but it’s big stuff. We’re doing it with a lot of other things — dishwashers.” He also hinted that he wanted to talk about toilets, something he has held forth on before, but didn’t want to say the word, because the press would have a field day.
Because, as the events leading up to impeachment have shown, Trump believes he should be able to say and do whatever he wants with no scrutiny or judgment — be it asking the president of Ukraine to investigate his political rival, or standing before a crowd in Battle Creek, Michigan, talking about water pressure in sinks and showers. He won the election and why won’t everyone just leave him alone?