…full speed ahead! This was supposedly Admiral David Farragut’s famous order at Mobile Bay in 1864. Underwater mines – then called torpedoes – anchored at the entrance of the bay were threatening his fleet, having already sunk one of his ships. But the admiral knew that if they slowed down they would be sitting ducks for heavy artillery fire from Confederate shore-batteries and ships. Only by moving ahead at full speed could he hope to evade those dangers, enter the bay, and be in position for success. His comprehension of this critical factor helped Admiral Farragut win a great victory over the fleet of CSA Admiral Franklin Buchanan – thereby closing the Confederacy’s last open port.
I cite this historical vignette because it closely parallels President Donald Trump’s current situation. He wants to address the country’s economic problems, defeat our enemies, “drain the Washington Swamp,” and restore prosperity. But his every move is met by withering fire from Democrats and their media-allies, as well as RINOs (Republicans in Name Only) who seem determined to stop Mr. Trump and possibly drive him from office. “Underwater torpedoes” threaten his path, too. These are subversive actions by Deep State moles – holdovers from the Obama regime – who have been working to undermine Mr. Trump by directing a stream of damaging leaks of sensitive information to receptive media organs that share the same objective.
It’s no surprise, of course, that Democrats are trying hard to block Mr. Trump’s program. By long tradition that’s what the “opposition party” does in American politics. In earlier times that opposition was conducted in a (mostly) courtly manner – with extravagant references to “the Honorable Gentleman,” etc. – although not uniformly so. In 1856 Representative Preston Brooks (D-SC) viciously caned Senator Charles Sumner (R-MA) nearly to death on the floor of the U. S. Senate, in retaliation to a fiery abolitionist speech Mr. Sumner had delivered. And in 1954, four Puerto Rican nationalists attacked the in-session House of Representatives, firing thirty pistol-rounds from the Ladies Gallery. They wounded five congressmen – one seriously. (The shooters received long prison sentences. They were pardoned in 1979 by President Jimmy Carter.)
No canings or gun-battles have been reported lately – although it is still early days in the 115th Congress. But “I yield to the Honorable Gentlemen” isn’t heard very much anymore. (Spittoons are no longer provided in the Senate, either – another regrettable sign of incivility.) The tone has definitely changed – but not for the better. Even representatives and senators of Mr. Trump’s own party are rushing to the microphones to bash his policy-proposals – something I don’t recall any Democrats doing to President Obama during his terms. It is a strange time.
The Deep State’s “torpedoes” are very dangerous threats to Mr. Trump’s young administration. Continuing the naval analogy – he must employ minesweepers to clean them out without delay. Judging by past experience, one would expect leaks to be limited to entirely domestic matters, with all opposition stopping at the “water’s edge.” But one would be wrong. This past week, secret information regarding the recent terrorist bombing in Manchester, England, was passed to our national security arms by British Intelligence, under protocols specifying how we and the UK share and protect such information. The British were understandably furious when they found that the information had been leaked to the New York Times – certainly no fan of Mr. Trump – which immediately published it. Mr. Trump has vowed prosecution of the leakers, but the damage is done and he has yet another mess to clean up.
In addition, the courts represent a kind of “Fifth Column” – a foe Admiral Farragut didn’t have to face – undermining Mr. Trump’s government from within, as a foreign enemy would do. Federal courts have blocked the executive orders Mr. Trump issued to limit immigration from Mideast countries that he and his predecessor have labeled as “dangerous,” due to their large terrorist- populations. On May 25th the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals (Richmond, VA) upheld a lower court’s stay on Mr. Trump’s February immigration order, ruling that it unconstitutionally discriminates against a particular religion. Judges said Mr. Trump’s campaign rhetoric, which linked Islam to terrorism, indicated his bias against that religion. Legal scholars note, however, that citing a candidate’s campaign-speech as “evidence” in a court-proceeding is unprecedented in American jurisprudence. They also argue that Constitutional protections against religious discrimination do not apply to non-citizens residing outside the United States – particularly not to unidentified persons. Mr. Trump will appeal the decision to the Supreme Court, but for the nonce his efforts to stop the influx of immigrants from dangerous parts of the world are stymied.
On the Congressional front, Democrats “quest for the holy grail” continues. This is their desperate search for the proof that Donald Trump “colluded” with Russian agents to corrupt the presidential election and steal the victory Hillary Clinton should have had. Dems believe that the evidence, when found, will guarantee his expulsion. Thus, media rumors of impeachment have been swarming like mosquitoes in a summer evening. It will surely be just a matter of weeks – perhaps days – before the varlet is cast into Outer Darkness. He’s had it for sure…
Lately, though, some of Mr. Trump’s foes have backed away from the impeachment-meme. In an interview with USA Today, Senator Al Franken admitted that Donald Trump’s impeachment probably isn’t as “imminent” as Democrat leaders have implied. He said it was still too early to tell if any of the president’s actions could amount to obstruction of justice or other impeachable offenses, and he studiously avoided predicting that impeachment would happen at all. Other Democrats are also quietly leaving the “impeachment express.”
Nevertheless, polls show that 55% of Democrats still believe “the Russians” actually tampered with vote-tallies to give Mr. Trump the win – this, despite the fact that there was no plausible way for that to happen. It is a rock-solid delusion that remains impervious to facts. The World-wide Web is the only tool by which interference massive enough to steal the election could be achieved – and then only if local election devices and procedures were linked into the internet. But studies show that no election-systems have such links. Voter-fraud might occur via illegal-voting – as Mr. Trump has claimed – but enough fraud to sway an election could probably happen only in big states like California and New York, which have large illegal populations. However, both of these states went for Mrs. Clinton by large margins.
The salvoes launched against Mr. Trump by Congressional Republicans are the hardest to explain – like explaining why Admiral Farragut’s ships fired on each other, had that happened. What Democrats are doing – either openly or within the Deep State – is understandable, at least from a political standpoint. But why would Republicans say and do things to keep the president from succeeding? Are they all Never-Trumpers? And would they actually have preferred President Hillary Rodham Clinton? In order: I don’t know; maybe; and (dear god!) I hope not.
I suspect, but can’t prove (yet), that some of Mr. Trump’s GOP critics believe (or hope) that Republican control of the Congress – and maybe even Mr. Trump’s presidency – won’t last beyond the 2018 elections. So perhaps they are burnishing their bi-partisan credentials by joining Democrats in opposing Mr. Trump’s agenda – expecting that this will give them status when the Dems sweep back into power. Do they think they’ll be positioned to lead GOP efforts to “reach across the aisle” and work with their new masters? Do they hope to avoid the severe scoldings (and no supper) that they endured during most of the Obama presidency? Or, as Grandma used to say, have they simply gotten too big for their britches?
In previous writings I suggested that some “establishment" Republicans might actually desire Mr. Trump’s failure, so they can pick up the pieces and put the party back together as they wish it to be. It’s a dark theory, so I wouldn’t insist on it. In a less conspiratorial vein, however, one suspects that not every Republican finds being in the majority entirely comfortable. You actually have to come up with coherent legislation, and every word you utter is micro-inspected. On the other hand, being in the minority can be loads of fun, as Senator Schumer (endlessly) shows us. You can say the most outrageous things on TV; you’re not held accountable; and you don’t have to accomplish a blessed thing. Some Republicans probably enjoyed this gig. Maybe they miss it.
Are these plausible theories? Well, we’ll see. I merely note that 19th-century humorist Finley Peter Dunne’s famous line – “Politics ain’t beanbag” – has repeatedly been confirmed throughout American history. And so has the signature line of TV’s iconic fussbudget-detective, Adrian Monk: “It’s a jungle out there! (I could be wrong now – but I don’t think so!)”
As I see it, Mr. Trump’s optimum strategy will be to move his “fleet” steadily forward to achieve what he promised his voters he would do: end Obamacare, protect the country, restore tranquility, and get the economy going again. These are tall orders, so he can’t afford to waste time sitting dead in the water, taking heavy enemy-fire and getting nowhere on his agenda. As his accomplishments grow, all those contrary voices that have been filling the air-waves will receive less and less attention until they finally fade out entirely. Even the Trump-hating, conflict-loving media can’t resist a winner.
So damn the torpedoes, Mr. Trump! Full speed ahead! Godspeed.