- - Monday, April 30, 2018

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Sometimes “the filthy rich” among us do great and good things with their money. More than a few American towns and cities have libraries today because Andrew Carnegie, a steel baron of an earlier age, dedicated his wealth to getting them started. Many of Henry Ford’s millions were dedicated to improving education, though some of those millions wound up in dubious places. Rockefeller millions and Walton millions have done much to enrich schools, museums and art galleries.

But some of our modern billionaires have only proved that being rich doesn’t necessarily make you smart. Tom Steyer, a San Francisco hedge-fund operator, has built a net worth of $1.6 billion, which puts him in the top 1 percent of the 1 percenters whom the far left routinely vilifies. He’s tolerated because he spreads his wealth around to an array of Democratic candidates and left-wing causes.

Lately he has been on a spending spree to impeach Donald Trump. So far he has spent $40 million, competing with Rep. Maxine Waters of California to be the recognized face of the Impeach Trump folly. To be sure, $40 million is chump change for a man with moneybags the size of Mr. Steyer‘s, but some wiser Democrats think that $40 million could be more effectively spent on partisan projects that might even succeed.

Mr. Steyer’s one-man crusade is called “Need to Impeach,” and he wants to get on with the proceedings before anyone has come up with impeachable evidence. He has been crisscrossing the country renting hotel space for town hall-style events, inviting sufferers of Trump Derangement Syndrome to come inside to listen to his scheme to persuade the Republican Congress to impeach a Republican president.

“Donald Trump has brought us to the brink of nuclear war, obstructed justice, and taken money from foreign governments,” he says on his Needtoimpeach.com website. “We need to impeach this dangerous president.” The president, unable as usual to stifle himself and let others make his case, snaps eagerly at the bait, calling Mr. Steyer “wacky and totally unhinged.”



Mr. Steyer, for his part, seems determined to make the president’s point. In Largo, Md., the other night one persuaded member of a sparse crowd told The Washington Post, “I’m just glad to be here. It was either this or scream into my pillow some more.”

Most Democrats, with a credible expectation of making deep cuts in the Republican majority in the House of Representatives this fall, are walking a fine line trying to keep at arm’s length Mr. Steyer, but not his money. They look with lust at the $10 million he has spent already on television and drool at the prospect of what that money might actually do in wiser hands.

Mr. Steyer, who lives in House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi’s district, hosted a fundraiser last summer that raised nearly $600,000 for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Mrs. Pelosi is one of the Democrats eager to take Mr. Steyer’s cash, but thinks the path back to a Democratic majority runs through reality, not fantasy, no matter how well-funded. She says (in other words, to be sure) that she would be pleased if Mr. Steyer would tend to his investment portfolios, and shut up.

Two procedural votes on impeachment forced by Democrats in December and January attracted only 58 and 66 votes in the House, but gave the unhinged a way to make a little harmless noise. A recent Marist poll, conducted for NPR and PBS, shows the size of the job ahead for Mr. Steyer, Mrs. Waters and the like-minded struggling to overcome the symptoms of Trump Derangement Syndrome.

The poll of 827 registered voters, taken April 10-13, found that only 42 percent of voters would vote for a candidate determined to impeach the president, and 47 percent would vote against such a candidate. Ten percent said they were not sure.

The wise Democrats understand that impeaching Donald Trump, however it might make them tingle all the way down to their toes, is no substitute for an agenda to run on, this year and two years hence when the party is expected to field a candidate to run against Mr. Trump. They’ll need all the billionaires they can find.

Mr. Steyer, with his billions to squander, invites the taunt that “if you’re so rich, why ain’t you smart?” Don Quixote is regarded by history as a little bit wacky and totally deranged, which makes him not much of an inspiration for unhinged hedge-fund billionaires. Don Quixote finished his crusade with a broken lance, and the windmills are still there. Lesson unlearned.

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