Do “us” a favor

I didn’t actually watch much of the impeachment speeches yesterday because it was honestly too distressing to listen to all the bald-faced, bad-faith lies that Republicans were spouting.  Multi-volume books could be written on the preposterous defenses of the president.  But, one I noticed emphasized was the do “us” a favor, though.  My thought at the time… “are you serious, do you think we are this dumb.”  The answer, of course, is that they clearly think Republican voters are that dumb (or, to be fair, blinded by partisan motivated reasoning).  We’re honestly supposed to believe that since Trump used first person plural instead of first person singular he was not after personal gain.  So stupid.  And, as Jonathan Bernstein points out, completely undermined by the reality of how Trump (and many people) talks:

The part that struck me had to do with Trump’s defense against the allegations that led to his impeachment. Democrats have charged that Trump abused his power when he attempted to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy into investigating former Vice President Joe Biden — Trump’s potential opponent in 2020 — in exchange for official favors. In a crucial phone call with Zelenskiy in July, Trump made a key statement: “I would like you to do us a favor, though.”

To House Democrats, this seemed to be the point at which the president was attempting to coerce a foreign leader into giving him political assistance. But Trump and his allies have insisted on another reading. They emphasize the “us” and claim that Trump was asking, as president, for something that the country as a whole wanted. On Dec. 4, Trump spelled it out on Twitter: “With the word `us’ I am referring to the United States, our Country.” In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi this week, he reiterated the point: “I said do us a favor, not me, and our country, not a campaign.”

This has been a critical part of Trump’s defense. His allies have made the same distinction over and over; Republicans made it a central plank of their case during impeachment hearings. Representative Steve Scalise made the point again in an interview just yesterday. And yet the whole thing rests on the premise that the president wouldn’t use the royal “we” — the first person plural — to refer to himself. And so what does Trump say in Michigan to kick off his rally, just as the House is voting on impeachment?

As CNN’s Kaitlan Collins reported:

“It doesn’t really feel like we’re being impeached,” President Trump tells the Michigan crowd. “The country is doing better than ever before…We did nothing wrong. We have tremendous support in the Republican party.”

“We’re being impeached.” “We did nothing wrong.” “We have tremendous support.” No, this doesn’t prove Trump’s intent on the phone call. But it obliterates the idea that he wouldn’t say “us” to refer to himself personally. It certainly doesn’t help his case. Either he was unable to control himself for a few days after making this argument, or he was unable to realize the connection, or he just doesn’t care whether he’s consistent from one minute to the next. Most likely, it was some combination of all three.

And that, right there, is the president of the United States.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

One Response to Do “us” a favor

  1. R. Jenrette says:

    “Us” could have been about Trump and his administration too. Lots of his people were pressuring
    the Ukraine President. Or, Trump could believe he and America are one and the same. What’s good for Trump is good for America. Now, where have we heard something like that before?

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