Tom Steyer: 'Maybe we can have, like, a nuclear war...'

Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer tells Rolling Stone magazine it could take a nuclear war for people to decide it’s time for a “real course correction.” Steyer’s comments, which he retracted moments later, came in the midst of a discussion over whether his aggressive push for impeachment was the best way to respond to President Trump:

Rolling Stone: Maybe I wasn’t clear, the idea is that Democrats, returning to power in the House, would have subpoena power. [Pelosi] pointed to how she dealt with George W. Bush – whom many wanted to impeach. She believes the decision to take impeachment off the table helped Democrats take the House in 2006, and paved a path to Obama and a deeper correction.

Tom Steyer: I remember 2006. What happened is that George W. Bush, he put us in two disastrous wars and we were headed toward the biggest financial disaster since the Great Depression. So if the answer is that we need those three things to happen for a course correction, I’d prefer to move a little quicker. How about that? But I take your point. Maybe we can have, like, a nuclear war and then we get a real course correction.

Steyer isn’t saying he hopes for a nuclear war. He’s saying that normal politics, i.e. letting the electorate vote, shouldn’t be relied upon to get rid of Trump. He’s counseling impatience and using nuclear war as an offhand argument for the dangers of not being impatient enough.

But isn’t the way he’s saying this pretty significant? Part of Steyer’s whole pitch is that Trump doesn’t have the temperament to be president. He’s too dangerous and unstable to allow him to remain in office, i.e. he could start a war! But here’s Steyer using nuclear war as a debating point as if he’s a 14-year-old blogger. In fact, even Tom Steyer admits he went too far with that one:

Rolling Stone: Wow – that’s…sobering.

Tom Steyer: We’re trying to do what’s right. And 2006/2008 did not happen because George W. Bush didn’t get impeached, is what I’m saying. I should be a little bit more tempered: I take back that remark about nuclear war.

Maybe Steyer isn’t the best messenger for the idea that we need someone sober and thoughtful running the country. Steyer could reflect on that a bit but he probably won’t. This is, after all, the same guy who created that obnoxious Mother’s Day ad that suggested every young person who joins the GOP is a Tiki-torch bearing racist. Sober and thoughtful language isn’t really Steyer’s forte.

There have been rumors that Steyer isn’t just thinking about removing Trump but also about a future run for office of his own. His campaign for impeachment could be laying the groundwork for that run.

Steyer’s team is hardly coy about his political ambitions. Mack confirmed that Steyer not only eyed a run for California governor and Dianne Feinstein’s Senate seat, but also polled how he would do in those contests. The results aren’t known. But Mack did reveal that among those on the Need to Impeach mail list, Steyer enjoys an 89 percent name recognition and an 86 percent popularity rating.

“Tom’s number one priority is winning back the House in 2018. We see that as the first step in the impeachment process,” said Mack. “If that doesn’t occur, I think Tom will look at all his options and make the decision he thinks is best for the country.”

As campaign messages go, ‘sorry about the idle nuclear war remark’ probably isn’t a winner. Can anyone look at Steyer and really see him as a sober alternative?

Of course, that assumes that all of the people on the left currently talking about the importance of temperament, stability, and institutional norms really care about that stuff. I’m not convinced they do. Remember how the anti-war movement evaporated the moment Obama was elected? They claimed their opposition to Bush was about principle but once their guy was in office the principle seemed a lot less motivating. Even the creation of a drone kill list didn’t get most of them back in the streets. Mostly they just wanted to be back in power. Maybe that’s what Tom Steyer is counting on.

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