President Pardoning – It’s All About Timing

In stand-up comedy, timing is everything. President Donald Trump, who knows a thing or two about timing from his many years in show business, certainly has the knack.

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Although he was elected a year and a half ago, he continues to make raucous campaign appearances in red state locales. Basking in the adulation he craves, Trump masterfully deliveries set-up lines followed by perfectly timed punch lines. Indeed, in an alternate universe in which Alec Baldwin has been elected president, Donald Trump could have a regular gig spoofing him on Saturday Night Live.

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Regretfully, some of Trump’s most ardent supporters – most prominent among them, legal advisor Rudy Giuliani – have suggested that the president can legally pardon himself. But doing so might be political suicide.

Right now, the president is not the target any legal investigation. In fact, even if he should become a target, he may not be indicted. And even if he were indicted, it is problematic whether he could be tried, let alone convicted.

So what is to be gained by encouraging a discussion about the feasibility of the president pardoning himself? Surely, that would be the stay-of-of-jail-free card he would not need to produce until he was found guilty of a serious crime. What can possibly be gained by waving that card around months and months before that eventuality?

In the meanwhile, just raising the possibility of a pardon makes some people think he must be guilty. Why else would he be so worried?

Reacting to this talk of the president pardoning himself, not just Democrats but some prominent Republicans are proclaiming such a pardon pretty much a guarantee of impeachment. In the coming weeks, we can expect some polling on this issue.

It will be interesting to see how not just Democratic voters, but also independent and Republican voters respond to the question: If the president were to pardon himself, should Congress impeach him?

Whatever else might be said about Donald Trump, when communing with his supporters at political rallies, his timing is impeccable. It is truly amazing that for a man who has so masterfully applied his show business skills to American politics, he seems utterly incapable of using them to ensure his own political survival.

Steve Slavin has a PhD in economics from NYU, and taught for over thirty years at Brooklyn College, New York Institute of Technology, and New Jersey’s Union County College. He has written sixteen math and economics books including a widely used introductory economics textbook now in its eleventh edition (McGraw-Hill) and The Great American Economy (Prometheus Books) which was published last August.