“Once more, dear friends, unto the breach!” cried Henry V, as his troops prepared to storm the walls of Harfleur. Prevailing circumstances in the USA bring that stirring Shakespearean speech to mind. A president isn’t a warrior-king, and Donald Trump isn’t exactly Henry V. But he is our point-man today, and there’s a lot more at stake than some French bread in a medieval town.
In our case, the Henry-metaphor is inverted because Mr. Trump is trying to close a breach instead of leading a charge through it. That “breach” is not in a wall but in a political system that once conducted orderly elections, more or less graciously accepted the results, and gave duly elected leaders room to govern, regardless of party. That system – which worked reasonably well, with few interruptions, for over two centuries – is being breached by partisans of a major political party who cannot accept the fact that the opposing party’s candidate won the presidency and has assumed the just powers of that office.
They are convinced that he cheated – at least, they say they are – and their unwillingness to accept the election’s result has driven them into a dangerous flirtation with actual treason. As horrified citizens (plus the wider world) watch, a “soft coup is being conducted with the clear objective of deposing the president. Saying that this is “unprecedented” hardly describes how radical the situation really is. It is a slow-motion train-wreck of the Republic.
Not being an experienced pol, Mr. Trump has committed some errors in his first months on the job. One of these, unfortunately, was letting his Department of Justice appoint a Special Counsel – i.e. prosecutor – ostensibly to investigate possible Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Did Mr. Trump think this would calm the ruckus being raised by the media over supposed Russian meddling? Or did pressure from his advisors push him into it? I don’t know, and it doesn’t really matter why he did it.
Either way, it was a very risky move, made doubly so because it appears that Mr. Trump didn’t confer with Attorney General Jeff Sessions before he did it. The president’s public comments make it look like he had no idea that AG Sessions would recuse himself from appointing the Special Counsellor and from all aspects of his investigation. I could be mistaken about this, but why would Mr. Trump be complaining about it now if he knew it was going to happen?
It should hardly be necessary to mention that any matter as potentially explosive as investigation of a president’s administration must be kept on a very short leash by the Department of Justice. No president can afford to have an unaccountable investigator rummaging freely through his past business affairs and his associates’ activities to see if any illegality can be found. Experience teaches that special investigations can range far afield from the counsel’s original commission, if his efforts are not kept focused. Absent that control, he can so disrupt an administration that it becomes unable to accomplish its agenda.
That, of course, is precisely what Deep State Democrats hope for. In their dream scenario, the investigation uncovers information so damaging to Mr. Trump that he either resigns or is impeached and expelled from office. This is probably unlikely, so a next-best result is a complete blockade of Mr. Trump’s program, stopping him from accomplishing anything of note. This would make him a do-nothing president in his first term – rendering him highly vulnerable to an attractive new Democrat leader (not yet identified), or possibly to their “warrior-Pocahontas,” Elizabeth Warren (with or without headdress and tomahawk). Democrat insiders believe all-ethnic is definitely the way to go for their party. (Could be true…)
All seriousness aside though, the Special Counsel does pose a risk to Mr. Trump – not because his past is likely filled with actual crimes, but because he has been a successful businessman and isn’t an inside-the-Beltway guy. Most of that crowd are lawyers and civil serpents who have never worked in the “private” sector. They view that world as ignoble and disreputable – a “necessary evil” that society allows to function to produce the funds government needs. Lacking real-world experience, they instinctively distrust and envy anyone who has succeeded in it. Liberals, especially, believe that any successful business-person has gained that success by cheating, defrauding and stealing – and probably by harming defenseless people. In the liberal lexicon, “honest businessman” is an oxymoron, not a legitimate construct.
This is a generalization of course, so it’s not universally true. Mark Twain said, “All generalizations are false, including this one…” – which, by inversion, means that some part of a generalization is probably true, to some degree. Without trying to parse all this too finely, it’s obvious that the political Establishment’s twisted view of business will make Mr. Trump’s past dealings appear sordid. Pols on both sides of the political aisle suspect that some gremlins are lurking in Mr. Trump’s attic. Democrats, of course, hope and “pray” (if any actually do that) that something is there, and that the Special Counsel will find it. Republicans – with some exceptions – tend to hope that nothing will be found, although they fear otherwise.
Taken all together, the SC’s uncontrolled investigation and the suspicions and fears of the Congress are setting the table for a disruptive sideshow that could easily last through Mr. Trump’s entire term, hamstringing his presidency and making his re-election all but impossible. Media-obsession with the investigation would crowd any achievements by Mr. Trump off the front pages. If the public doesn’t hear about what he’s doing, it will be as though never did it.
What, then, can be done to prevent this nightmare from becoming a reality? I’ve never been president, of course, so my analysis is an outsider’s. On the other hand, I’m not a chicken, and I can’t lay an egg, but I can tell if one is fresh or rotten. I’ve never played pro baseball, either, but I’ve played enough ball to know if a player has skill and whether a play on the field was well executed. Just so, I can comment with some credibility on what can work in certain political situations that a president faces because I’ve been around and I know how the game is played.
In my view, this is a time for Mr. Trump to assume warrior-leadership in Hank V’s mold. He must take command in the field, dispatch his officers (his inner circle) and his “troops” (his voters) into battle, and make strong, decisive tactical moves. In the present situation this could mean cancelling the appointment of the Special Counsel, Mr. Mueller. Or it could simply mean directing his Department of Justice to exercise careful oversight and control of Mr. Mueller’s investigation to ensure that it stays focused on his original commission.
Whatever action Mr. Trump takes must be publicly and clearly proclaimed to erase any doubt that he is in complete charge of his administration, including all aspects of his DoJ. No arm of his government can be unaccountable and independent of his direction. That would cripple his presidency. AG Sessions is a good man, but if he cannot operate in this environment, Mr. Trump must replace him.
Politicians always respond to presidential strength and resolve. The time is right to employ these qualities, which Mr. Trump surely has. This will right his boat and evoke enhanced respect and cooperation from both his political allies and his opponents. It’s how the game is played in DC.
The Chinese character for “crisis” is said to contain the character for “opportunity.” The crisis of the special counsel gives Mr. Trump an opportunity to demonstrate his leadership with a show of strength and determination that will benefit his and future presidencies. I urge him to seize this opportunity and use it to build a solid foundation for his tenure. His supporters and his inner council must not lose heart, but must follow Mr. Trump’s lead and engage his enemies with calls, letters, on-line postings, TV appearances and rallies. This is a serious struggle for the soul of the country. It’s no time to be a spectator.
Speaking of the ongoing Civil War of his time, Abraham Lincoln said, “Today’s struggles are not for today only, but for a vast future also.” That has never been so true as it is today.
“If the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will prepare for the battle?” (I Cor. 14:8)