Gail Collins: Let Trump have a miserable little Christmas

(Jacquelyn Martin | AP) House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., listens during a House Judiciary Committee markup of the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Hey, it looks like we’ll have impeachment before Christmas. Talk about the holiday spirit.

“They said these two things — they’re not even a crime!” Donald Trump shrieked after Democratic leaders announced the House was going to vote on whether he should be impeached for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. This was at one of his trademark rallies during which he also referred to FBI agents as “scum” and claimed that Elizabeth Warren’s marriage was a “phony, disgusting deal.”

Ho, ho, ho.

Truly we live in not-boring times. Fifty years from now, kids who’ve been watching all this action from their college dorms will be able to answer their grandchildren’s questions about Trump’s bad hair and worse values. Advanced placement high school students might be writing profiles of Jerry Nadler.

There’s been so much action that almost nobody noticed this week when the New York attorney general announced Trump has coughed up $2 million to repay money he stole from his foundation. OK, “stole” is pretty harsh. What would you call it if somebody established a charity and then used a large chunk of other people’s donations to buy portraits of himself — one 6 feet tall — purchase sports memorabilia and pay off legal settlements for his private businesses?

Still waiting for the word …

The Trump charity scandal is an old story, but the impeachment process puts it in a new light. Particularly if you combine it with the money he’s piling up from his Scottish golf resort (thank you Air Force visitors), the Washington hotel (welcome, Saudi officials) and from what the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington estimated were more than 2,300 conflicts of interest between his personal finances and his day job.

A dreadful leader plus a greedy crook: It really does give us a leg up in the drive to make sure Trump goes down in history as the worst president ever. That honor’s traditionally gone to James Buchanan, who floundered in the run-up to the Civil War.

“Unlike Trump, Buchanan was a generous man,” said Robert Strauss, who happens to be the author of a biography of Buchanan titled “Worst. President. Ever.” Buchanan “took in college students who couldn’t afford their room and board,” Strauss added. He never reneged on a debt.

It was published in October 2016. Strauss is still sticking with Buchanan, whom he calls “a nice guy put in the wrong job.” Obviously, secession tops being laughed at by leaders of other democratic powers at a cocktail party. But Trump could qualify for the bottom of the barrel if you throw in personal behavior and presume it’s better to be a nice guy in the wrong job than an awful guy in the wrong job.

Andrew Johnson was another awful president and history’s impeachment star until now, but he was praised for his financial integrity. “After becoming president, when prominent New York merchants tried to give him a magnificent carriage and span of horses he refused the gift,” noted Brenda Wineapple, the author of a history of the Johnson impeachment. “‘Those occupying high official positions,’ he politely said, must ‘decline the offerings of kind and loyal friends.’”

Money always comes up somewhere in this story. “To Impeach a President who has proved through results, to have one of the most successful presidencies ever, and most importantly, who has done NOTHING wrong, is sheer Political Madness!” Trump himself wrote in an email to his supporters this week, adding quickly that he was activating “Emergency Double-Match on All Contributions.”

The House is expected to vote on impeachment sometime next week, before everybody goes home for the holidays. There have been some delays — you can’t keep members of Congress from going off to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge. Or, um, weekends.

While everybody’s waiting, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been moving some other stuff along. That trade deal with Mexico and Canada, and the Democrats’ plan to control the price of prescription drugs.

Do you think that’s a good plan? Some people don’t like the idea of distracting attention from the president’s evildoing. Take your pick:

A) Nobody should talk about anything but the terribleness of Donald Trump. I sculpted his head out of mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving and squished gravy all over it.

B) I started listening to the Judiciary debate the other day, fell asleep and missed my dinner date. Give these poor people a change of subject for a few hours.

C) Anything Nancy Pelosi does is a good idea. I never thought about her at all until a few months ago, but now I believe she’s a combination of Eleanor Roosevelt, Madame Curie and Meryl Streep.

Amazing times, huh? Of course, watching the impeachment drama loses a little zip when you remember that the Senate Republicans are never actually going to toss the president out of office. But that’s a story for 2020. Meanwhile, the holidays have to be a little bit brighter when you contemplate the fact that Donald Trump is definitely not having his best Christmas ever.

Gail Collins | The New York Times (CREDIT: Earl Wilson/The New York Times)

Gail Collins is an Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times.