There is another motive at work, though, and it is as troubling as naked fear and my-party-right-or-wrong. Lots of Republicans sincerely believe in an all-powerful presidency, at least when one of their own occupies it. Their vote to acquit is the culmination of half a century of conservative thought in that direction.
For all the uniqueness of Trump, this deference to executive power will not vanish when he goes.
And for all the uniqueness of Trump, his special knack for reducing once-serious conservatives to jelly, this deference to executive power will not vanish when he goes.
After likening Franklin Roosevelt to a monarch, conservatives rather came to terms with presidential power. They cited the unique exigencies of a world hegemon. Richard Nixon assumed wide discretion to prosecute the Vietnam war. Ronald Reagan needed legal cover for secret operations in Central America. Under Bush, it was the war on terror that justified a new round of centralisation, with Cheney as the de facto if not de jure beneficiary.
Thus did the party of small government come to deify the White House. Thus did a party of constitutional originalists read sweeping powers into parsimonious text. It took a big-government liberal, Arthur Schlesinger, that fixture of Camelot, to deplore the imperial presidency.
In China, the US has a different challenger now, but the Republican answer a free hand for the commander-in-chief never changes. It is all the more urgent, they would say, in a world of rising autocracies. Some conservatives fear for Americas viability as a superpower if its leader has to act with less freedom than is enjoyed by Xi Jinping (or Vladimir Putin in Russia or Turkeys Recep Tayyip Erdogan).
This tension between limited government and national grandeur is innate to conservatism.
When liberals accuse the GOP of strongman-worship, they tend to mean a shallow and pathetic adulation, a schoolyard crush on the tough kid. If only. It is more thought through than that. It is a legal doctrine backed by a political analysis.
At its core are misgivings about whether checks and balances, as presently constituted, are reconcilable with great-power status. This tension between limited government and national grandeur is innate to conservatism. John Locke does not always prevail over Thomas Hobbes.
A case in point is the Republican defence of this president. At times, it does not contest the facts so much as question all the fuss, as though there were something herbivorous and emasculating about constitutional niceties in a world governed by raw power.
For all the focus on Trump, a President Mike Pompeo (now Secretary of State) or a President Nikki Haley (the recent UN ambassador) could count on no less awesome latitude from Republicans.
The partisanship behind the coming acquittal is aired often. It is the main part of the story, no doubt, but it is also the domestic part.
The global dimension of what is the first impeachment over foreign policy is sometimes missed. For 50 years, conservatives have wondered if the president is too trammelled to guard US interests in a brutal world.
It is not a frivolous concern. There are Europeans with similar qualms about the fragmented, consensualist EU in an age of unitary autocrats.
Still, we are left to guess how Republicans will feel about an imperial presidency when it is Bernie Sanders or another Democrat atop the Augustan throne.
– Financial Times