Democrats are popping champagne-corks all over Washington this week, because they have finally mau-maued the Trump administration into appointing a special prosecutor to investigate possible Russian interference in our 2016 presidential election. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as the new SP by on May 17th. Mr. Mueller has announced that he is treating the case as a “criminal investigation.” Democrats are rapturous over this milestone in their campaign to drive Mr. Trump from office.
“Interference” is, of course, Democrat code-speak for actual collusion between Russian agents and Trump campaign-figures – possibly including the president himself – to throw the election their way. Believing that this actually happened is an absolute article of faith for Democrats, despite the (inconvenient) fact that not a scintilla of evidence has been found after six months of frantic digging and leaking by reporters and pols. Although no coherent theory exists on what the Russians supposedly did, both Democrat bigwigs and partisans inside the government are sure Mr. Mueller will find that Trump conspired with the Russians to deny Hillary Clinton the victory she should have had. It’s the only plausible explanation they can see for her defeat. So hallelujah! They’ve got him now. He’ll be frog-marched outta here in short order. (Sentence first, trial afterward.)
In the interest of keeping the sanity-boat from completely capsizing, I offer some (hopefully rational) analysis of the current situation, against a backdrop of various historical events.
The Special Prosecutor Game. Democrats call for special prosecutors only when they want Republicans investigated. Democrat Bill Clinton was unlucky enough to run afoul of a SP because a law enacted by Democrats in the 1970s, enabling the Congress to appoint a SP, was still in place. It was a classic case of “unexpected consequences.” Democrats who passed the law never imagined a GOP Congress invoking it against a Democrat president. (In fact, they never imagined a GOP Congress.) But in 1998 Republicans did control the Congress, so they appointed Ken Starr to investigate President Clinton’s conduct during and before his presidency. Mr. Starr dug up a lot of dirt and was relentlessly attacked as an obsessed voyeur by Democrats during his year-long investigation. But his findings ultimately led to the president’s impeachment by the House of Representatives on charges of jury-tampering and perjury in the trial of a sexual harassment suit brought by Paula Jones during Mr. Clinton’s governance of Arkansas. In the subsequent Senate-trial, Democrats held together and kept the president from being convicted and tossed out of office. After that nightmare ended, Dems were happy to let the SP-law expire.
The Demand Game. Because the SP law is now defunct, only the DoJ can appoint a special prosecutor. But the GOP is famous for caving under pressure from Democrats and the media. Thus, Mr. Trump was pressured into letting his DoJ appoint a SP, even though he really didn’t have to. Remarkable numbers of Republicans seem to believe they can satisfy Dems by giving in to their demands. But it’s a delusion. The game simply can’t be won in this way. Any demand the GOP accedes to only leads to other, more extreme demands. There’s no end to it. Along with many others I believe that Republicans still don’t know how to be in charge. This weakness lets minority-Democrats act like they’re running the show. Until Republicans learn how to lead, Dems will continue the demand-game. They won’t stop until Republicans start making their own demands. As experienced warriors like to say, “The best defense is a good offense.”
Evidence. Will the SP find evidence of actual election-corrupting collusion? I seriously doubt it. If any evidence existed, it would surely have been revealed by now. Of course, false “evidence” might be advanced for political reasons, but if Mr. Mueller is honorable and capable – which I fully expect him to be – he’ll be on guard against that. At best, he might catch a small fish or two in some kind of “lie,” as happened to Scooter Libby during the 2005 Valerie Plame case. Investigator Patrick Fitzgerald knew that no actual crime was committed against CIA employee Plame, so the best he could do was indict VP Cheney’s unfortunate aide for mis-remembering what he said years earlier. For “lying” to the grand jury in a case that involved no overarching crime, Mr. Libby was hit with a $250,000 fine and 30-months in jail. (President Bush later commuted the prison-sentence, but let the fine stand.) My estimate is that there’s no Russia-case. The entire uproar evokes Abe Lincoln’s famous question: “If you call a tail a leg, how many legs does a dog have?” – to which the answer is “four, because calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it one.” Just so, shouting from the housetops that collusion occurred doesn’t mean that it did.
Expectations. Democrats expect the SP’s investigation to produce Mr. Trump’s impeachment or resignation. Their treasured model is the Nixon-Watergate case. Dems still believe Mr. Nixon resigned because he knew he would be convicted and thrown out of office. His crime was lying to the American people. (No! Not that!) He might well have been impeached by the heavily Democrat House, but conviction is a huge leap for the Senate, even when they dislike a president. Mr. Nixon resigned because he thought an impeachment and Senate-trial would be “bad for the country.” (His own words.) He surely knew that his presidency was shot, even if he survived the Senate-trial. Could Donald Trump be impeached? It’s doubtful, with Republicans controlling the House. But if impeached, could he be convicted? Very doubtful – even if Democrats hold the Senate. A 2/3 majority (67 senators) is almost impossible to obtain. Bill Clinton skated on very serious charges – felonies, really – that would have sent any ordinary person to prison. (Despite what modern reporters might be saying, it was not “all about sex.”)
Counterstrike. President Trump could turn the tables by appointing another SP to investigate Hillary Clinton and her e-mails; and perhaps yet another SP to investigate funding of the Clinton Foundation by foreign governments engaged in official State-dealings with Secretary Clinton. (If Democrats want to play rough, let’s get in the game, too.) These investigations would dilute the impact of the Russkie-investigation, and would have the delicious side-benefit of driving Dems and their media pals absolutely crazy. Investigating Mrs. Clinton would also mollify those Trump-voters who wonder how she skated on conduct that would have brought espionage charges against any ordinary person.
Snares and Dogs. The president won’t accomplish his agenda if he stays engaged on the Russian-investigation. He must forge ahead and let the SP take the heat. The more he tweets, the more grist he produces for the media. If he stops arguing, the media will lose interest. Mr. Trump’s voters appreciate his combative style and his willingness to engage with opponents. But brawling for its own sake accomplishes nothing. Even his supporters will eventually tire of it. Instead of trying to push back himself, Mr. Trump needs an attack dog – a serious hard-baller who knows the political game in Washington and wants to play it. Someone like former VP Dick Cheney – who knew all the true Anglo-Saxon names of things – comes to mind. Let this tough guy take the battle to the Dems and their media-pals, while the president stays focused on what he was elected to do. It will be hard for a showman like Mr. Trump to hold his fire, but he really must take it down a notch or two. If he doesn’t stay on track, he’ll get bogged down in all the mud and doo-doo his enemies will throw at him. This is much more than a stylistic issue. Democrats’ core strategy is to make Mr. Trump into a “failed” president. If he can’t accomplish what his voters elected him to do, he’ll be just that.
The Media Mob. Some of my friends and acquaintances admit being depressed about the relentlessly negative media-coverage of Mr. Trump. All we seem to hear is that he’s finished. He’s done for – Kaput! The media drums are ceaselessly beating: “Doom! Doom! Doom!” There’s open talk of impeachment, and TV talking heads are making bets on how long he can last. New York Times columnist Ross Douthat writes, “We have a child upon the throne.” He likens Mr. Trump’s inner circle to caretakers of a “syphilitic emperor,” and suggests removing the president via the 25th Amendment to avoid the lengthy bother of impeachment. Dr. Douthat (a.k.a. Kevorkian) doesn’t specify if Mr. Trump should be ushered out in a wheelchair or a casket. Nice talk from a Christian apologist I once admired and respected. (Have these worthies advocating a “palace coup” ever heard of the Second Amendment?) But amid all this hysteria I would remind my agitated friends and kin that the media’s primary question is seldom “What’s the truth?” Usually it is “Where’s the conflict?” Death! Injury! Blood and pain! These are the stories that sell newspapers and air-time; reports of unexciting (i.e., boring) truth, not so much. If no conflict is at hand, the media are not above creating one. So if you want to keep your sanity, do something – anything! – besides watching TV-news. Even once-reliable Fox News won’t lower your blood pressure. (If possible, find some old episodes of Rocky and Bullwinkle where Boris Badinoff says, “Do something to someone every day…”) One way or the other Mr. Trump will eventually leave the scene, as all presidents do. But the media may never regain their lost credibility. It’s such a tragedy. What in the world will all those handsome info-babes and guys do for a living? As Jimmy Durante might say, “It’s a show-business catastrastroke!”
Democrats vs. The People. Democrats naturally question the judgment of the people who elected Donald Trump instead of Hillary Clinton. This is to be expected. It’s par for the course, as long as their cup of wrath doesn’t spill over and do actual harm to our system of government. But questioning an election’s legitimacy and rejecting its result crosses that line. Many Americans didn’t agree with Mr. Obama’s policies, but I don’t recall anyone actively claiming that he wasn’t a “legitimate” president and organizing a “rebellion” to keep him from governing. Democrats are breaking new ground in this vein, as I’ll discuss in the final paragraph, below.
Republicans vs. The People. Republicans have a problem with the people’s judgment, too, but from a different angle, since their guy won. By long and practical tradition, congress-people of the president’s party always support his agenda and help him to get it enacted. They might argue with the president behind closed doors, but never publicly. Republicans are not following this entirely sensible convention, however. Instead, GOP senators and representatives are showboating and airing their differences with Mr. Trump – on matters of both style and policy – in front of their political opponents and the media. Remember how Democrats did this during Barack Obama’s presidency? (No? Neither do I.) Worse yet, some Republicans are indicating that they would be doing the job far better than Mr. Trump, if only the people had exercised better judgment. One of these GOP “experts” was a previous candidate for the presidency who evidently didn’t learn from the electoral drubbing he got that the people weren’t buying what he was selling. All this is vastly entertaining for Democrats and the media (pardon the redundancy), but the show needs to close. If Republicans don’t learn how to work with their president to get his agenda passed, they might find themselves back in the minority, or even booted out of their phony-baloney jobs, because The People didn’t appreciate their opposition.
The Deep State. Hard-core holdovers from the Obama regime, buried in the so-called “deep state,” are bedeviling Mr. Trump with a stream of damaging leaks intended to embarrass his administration, keep it entangled in unproductive matters, and prevent any progress on his agenda. Many leaks are violations of civil service ethics, and some may be outright felonies. To my knowledge, nothing like this has occurred in the last century. It is very serious, and simply must be stopped. Democrats who approve of the leaking – and in some cases use leaked info to damage Mr. Trump – are being shortsighted and extremely foolish. Do they really think Republicans will meekly return to orderly civil service if Democrats regain power? Order must be restored by locating the leakers and publicly disgracing them. Anything less will legitimize this kind of disloyal and immoral conduct and inflict a wound on our system of government from which it might not recover anytime soon – if ever. Reporters piously proclaim the public’s sacred “right to know,” but they’re the only beneficiaries from this breach of trust. The rebellion could make the country ungovernable, and it’s no laughing matter.
“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” (John Adams)