Trump impeachment trial: Is US politics beyond the point of repair?

Nancy Pelosi, Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell

The new decade in American politics has started with a hangover that keeps on getting worse - a quickening of the downward democratic spiral we have witnessed over the past 30 years.

So much of what has gone awry has been resident in the trial of Donald Trump.

The partisan vitriol. The degradation of debate. The use of what were previously rarely used weapons - in this instance impeachment - to escalate America's ceaseless political war.

This sorry saga has offered yet more proof that, far from being an aberration, the Trump era is a culmination.

The hyperpartisanship of Republicans and Democrats has been evident in the party-line votes to impeach and acquit. The coarseness and ugliness of political discourse we have heard every day, which prompted the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Roberts to tell both sides to dial back the rhetoric.

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Joe Biden: A frontrunner stumbles in the age of #MeToo

Joe Biden Image copyright Alamy

The most damaging political scandals are usually those that draw attention to an existing vulnerability in a candidate's public persona.

The Hillary Clinton email controversy reinforced a reputation for evasion and also the sense the Clintons did not feel bound by rules that applied to lesser mortals.

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Bill Clinton acquittal: Echoes of a sex scandal 20 years on

A collage of Monica Lewinsky, Bill Clinton and Donald Trump Image copyright Getty Images

The paradox of the Bill Clinton impeachment saga was that it made it easier for Donald Trump to become president and harder for his wife, Hillary. Twenty years after his acquittal, it's clearer to see how that seismic event shaped American politics and culture today.

In a quarter century of covering US politics, I only have ever got round to framing two newspaper front pages. The first was when President Bill Clinton was impeached in December 1998. The second was when he was acquitted at the conclusion of his Senate trial the following February.

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George HW Bush funeral: A legacy repackaged for Trump era

George HW Bush in 2011 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption George HW Bush in 2011

Americans have not just been mourning the passing of a president, but also the vanishing of a bygone politics.

For George Herbert Walker Bush was the last president of America's greatest generation: a war hero who bemoaned the end of the patriotic bipartisanship that was such a feature of the early post-war years; a moderate who was genuine when he vowed in 1988 to make his country kinder and gentler; a pragmatist who viewed with suspicion the rise of ideological purists in the Republican Party who fetishised tax cuts and demonised government.

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At Thanksgiving, discordant Trump heads squabbling American family

Nancy Pelosi, Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell.
Image caption Mocked up picture of Pelosi, Trump and McConnell

The Thanksgiving holidays will provide little respite from rhetoric in a highly polarised US.

In this week of Thanksgiving, a holiday observed by most Americans regardless of creed, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation or politics, it seems untimely to talk of national discord and divisiveness.

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Is this the most successful month of the Trump presidency?

US President Donald Trump raises his fist as he walks on the South Lawn before boarding Marine One at the White House, 13 October 2018 Image copyright Getty Images

These days there seems to be even more of a swagger as Donald Trump strides across the South Lawn to board his green-liveried helicopter, Marine One.

Those campaign-style rallies, which have become such a marked feature of his presidency, have even more of a celebratory charge.

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Donald Trump and a world of disorder

Trump at G20 in 2017 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Trump has often cut an isolated figure on the world stage

At a moment when America has been focussed myopically on the highest court in the land, the Trump administration stands accused of being a bystander to lawlessness around the world.

The forced disappearance of the Interpol chief, Meng Hongwei, who it turns out is being held by the Chinese authorities.

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Nikki Haley: Aggressive envoy who shook up United Nations

Nikki Haley Image copyright Getty Images

Through the revolving door of the Trump administration goes another high-level departure: the UN ambassador Nikki Haley, by far the most high-profile woman in the cabinet, and an internationalist who's done much to protect the United Nations from Donald Trump's anti-globalist wrecking ball.

At a meeting in the Oval Office, they both went out of their way to stress this was an amicable separation. Donald Trump lavished her with what for him is high praise, by saying she'd brought more "glamour" to the role.

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Brett Kavanaugh deploys the Trump and Clinton playbook

Composite of Donald Trump, Brett Kavanaugh and Bill Clinton Image copyright BBC/Getty

In a Washington that is ever more tribal and in a country that is ever more polarised, the question of who do you believe has now become secondary to the question of whose side are you on.

Almost everything comes to be viewed through the prism of politics, whether it is the harrowing testimony of Christine Blasey Ford or the combative rebuttal of Brett Kavanaugh, the Supreme Court nominee she accused of sexually assaulting her.

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Will Trump bring 'America First' to United Nations?

View of United Nations Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The New York neighbourhood known as Turtle Bay is slowly being sequestered from the rest of Manhattan ahead of the UN General Assembly

Patrol boats are darting up and down the East River. The NYPD coffee and donut truck will soon be parked on 42nd Street.

The New York neighbourhood known as Turtle Bay is slowly being sequestered from the rest of Manhattan, the temporary border marked by concrete bollards, metal railings and a small army of police officers.

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