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    Opinion | George Will: Maybe Trump indictment is rock bottom for U.S. politics


    “Wherever I have gone in this country,” said Kansas Gov. Alf Landon, the Republicans’ 1936 presidential nominee, “I have found Americans.” Time was, the nation rejected what it now needs: banal politics. Today’s embarrassments — Donald Trump, his prosecutorial adversaries, the tribalism on both sides — might be a foretaste of degradations proving that there is no rock bottom in U.S. politics.

    Before the jerry-built case brought against Trump by Manhattan’s elected Democratic District Attorney Alvin Bragg collapses, as it likely will in a courtroom, an elected Democratic prosecutor in Georgia might weigh in. And a federal prosecutor is considering Trump’s possession of classified documents in Mar-a-Lago and his possible obstruction of the investigation thereof. Trump might think: The more the merrier. Martyrdom might sell.

    In “Three Felonies a Day,” civil libertarian Harvey A. Silverglate’s 2009 book about how easy it is in our law-clotted society to be accused of a felony, he tells of a game some prosecutors play in private: For what crime could they have indicted, say, Mother Teresa? Scofflaws such as Trump spoil the game, but in the future there will be less obvious political targets, and somewhere an elected prosecutor — always an awful idea — with a constituency as red as Bragg’s is blue might be taking notes and making plans.

    The Republican nominating electorate, although not invariably farsighted, surely will recognize that if Trump is the Republican nominee, his November 2024 defeat is highly probable: A national majority of voters dislike him and hate the chaos he promises and delivers. Besides, is anyone undecided about him?

    Trump, however, evidently believes, as much as he believes anything, that it is impossible for him — martyr and Superman — to lose in any unrigged process. So, if he is defeated for the Republican nomination, his inexhaustible spite might motivate him to try to doom the Republican nominee. If Trump urges his supporters not to vote, enough might obey to defeat whoever is the nominee of the party that has lost the popular vote in seven of the past eight presidential elections.

    Republicans should try to avoid this by fielding, before the first candidates debate in August, an array of aspirants from their strong bench. Granted, it is risky to divide the non-Trump vote. It is, however, riskier today to wager everything, about nine months before Iowa begins the delegate selection, on one person.

    Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is defining himself before his rivals can define him, but not to his advantage. He seems intelligent but unpleasant, forthright but prickly, accomplished but incapable of political grace notes. He also seems tightly scripted — perhaps for good reasons.

    His unforced errors include describing Russia’s war of annihilation against Ukraine as a “territorial dispute.” And backing a ban on abortion after six weeks, which is before women often know they are pregnant. (Is he trying to forfeit the female vote in suburbia, where the 2024 election might be decided?) And vowing, unintelligibly (see the Constitution’s Article IV, Section 2), that he will “not assist” any extradition of Trump from Florida.

    In politics as in baseball, at which the young DeSantis excelled, “AAAA players” are those who excel in AAA ball, the highest minor league, but fail above that. A presidential campaign is a rigorous apprenticeship that DeSantis, although still not an announced candidate, is, less than a mile into the marathon, flunking.

    His improvement might be possible. It is not, however, inevitable. Neither is a still-unannounced Joe Biden reelection campaign.

    Largely because of the nation’s generally dyspeptic mood, Biden’s job approval is the second lowest of any president at this point in a first term in more than 30 years. (Trump’s was lower.) It is unlikely to suddenly improve. The increasing improbability of a second Trump term erases Biden’s principal rationale for seeking reelection. This gives him an opportunity to perform something vanishingly rare: a nation-healing act of statesmanship.

    Declining to run again would permanently elevate Biden’s standing with a nation eager for the torch to be passed to a new generation. And it would spare his reputation the stain of irresponsibility if, running with a manifestly unqualified vice president, he tries to be president into the second half of his ninth decade.

    John McCain’s mordant humor made him say that it is always darkest before it turns pitch black. However, it is possible that this acutely embarrassing moment in U.S. history actually is rock bottom, with a bounce coming.



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