Halloween 2019: To Donald Trump and his supporters, America is back, made great again. The economy is booming. Unemployment is at record lows. China has kowtowed in the tariff war. The smartest president in history scored a foreign policy coup in Syria by withdrawing American troops (other than for protecting oil wells) letting the locals and Russia play in that huge sandbox. And Islamic Staste leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead.
No doubt, this is the best of times in Trumpworld.
To anti-Trumpists, life could hardly be worse. While unemployment is low, too many Americans are working more than one job to make ends meet. Private and public debt from student loans to the $22 trillion the U.S. government owes is a financial nuclear ticking time bomb. Growing gaps between rich and poor are outrageous. Swelling numbers of mass shootings and emergence of white supremacist and nationalist groups threaten Americans. Healthcare is unaffordable.
Internationally, withdrawal from treaties and agreements along with abandoning the Syrian Kurds and degrading allies elsewhere makes America less secure and less trustworthy, ceding the Middle East to Russia and Iran. Trump's disregard for the law has resulted in impeachable offenses to include obstruction of justice; violating the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution (calling it phony); and threatening the cutoff of appropriated funds to Ukraine unless Kiev provided damning evidence on the Bidens.
To them, this is the worst of times as long as Trump remains in the White House.
General and former Secretary of State Colin Powell has a different take. When he returned to America from Vietnam after his first tour, it was Nov. 22, 1963. President John Kennedy was killed that day. Indeed, driving from his parent's home in the Bronx to Atlanta, he was not allowed to stay in most motels en route south because of his skin color.
When Powell left for Vietnam again in 1968, President Lyndon Johnson announced he would not seek a second term. The January Tet Offensive had convinced Americans the Vietnam War was lost despite the offensive having been crushed by U.S. and South Vietnamese forces. That same year, Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy were killed and the nation torn apart by the war.
A few years later, a vice president would resign in disgrace. The October 1973 Middle East War led to a nuclear alert and a frightening standoff with the Soviet Union. Later, the president was forced to resign over Watergate.
The Carter presidency brought a misery index with double-digit measures of inflation and interest rates. While Carter never used the word "malaise" to describe America, many thought he had and it was appropriate. According to Powell, it took the positiveness of Ronald Reagan and "morning in America" to rally the nation.
Then, compared to today, seems a far worse time. But there is one huge exception: how much irreversible damage the impeachment of Donald Trump could do to the nation.
When Andrew Johnson was impeached in 1868, the nation had survived the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln's assassination. Johnson's conviction would have had little impact. When Richard Nixon faced impeachment, Congress acted in textbook fashion. While supporters saw Bill Clinton's impeachment as unfair, the president had lied under oath. The result of impeachment and Senate acquittal most believed was appropriate and the nation got on with its business.
Today, civility and compromise are absent from the Hill. Politics is zero sum: You are either with us or against us. A virulent form of mutual political hatred infects both sides of he aisle.
Worse, truth and fact no longer apply. While enough Republican senators to convict the president in a trial probably believe Trump is deeply flawed and deserves to go, fear of a President Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders and a majority Democratic Senate along with a backlash in home states will likely determine a vote to acquit.
In this environment, even if Trump violated the Emoluments Clause, strong-armed Ukraine for personal gain or broke the law, Republicans will deny what he did was illegal and/or impeachable. While Part B of the Mueller report lays out 10 scenarios that most grand juries would conclude were indictable for obstructing justice, Trump's claim of complete exoneration will be re-echoed. And Democrats may be too divided to devise a compelling political strategy for convincing the public and the Senate that Trump must be removed from office.
No matter how Congress acts, in today's polarized politics, too many Americans will reject any outcome whether to acquit or convict. Then what? One dire possibility: This will truly be the worst of political times, befitting Halloween.
Harlan Ullman is UPI's Arnaud de Borchgrave Distinguished Columnist and a senior adviser at the Atlantic Council. His latest book is "Anatomy of Failure: Why America Has Lost Every War It Starts." Follow him @harlankullman.