My buddy Al looked grave as I entered his coffee shop this week. Naturally, I inquired about the long face. “It’s all over,” said Al. “They’ve got him now.”
“Who are ‘they’?” I asked. “And whom have they got now?”
“Donald Trump,” he answered. “Schiff and the Democrats finally have the goods on him. They found out that he matriculated when he was a teen. He’s done for now. Kaput!”
“Yes, I’ve heard that,” I replied. “My over-55 neighborhood is abuzz with the news. Some of the ladies are fanning themselves and retiring to fainting couches because they’re sure that matriculation is something risqué. They say we simply can’t have that kind of man in the White House.”
I managed to calm Al down a little by showing him the definition of “matriculation” on my handy cell-phone. But I’m not sure if he was entirely convinced.
Later, I reviewed what we have seen over the four years since the billionaire businessman and reality TV star burst onto the political scene, upset the GOP’s “genteel loser” applecart, bulldozed a dozen blue-blazer Republicans, demolished “the most qualified candidate in history,” and set about undoing the bi-partisan establishment’s “deep state.” During all that time Mr. Trump has been subjected to a “moving goalposts” campaign from the opposition-troika of Democrats, offended Republicans, and Mainstream Media. I review the elements (or acts) of that campaign briefly in the following paragraphs.
1. The Stupid Playboy.
In their opening gambit against Mr. Trump, Dems depicted him as a not-very-bright playboy and reality TV actor who was launching a new role to attract media-attention. Initially, Democrats actually cheered his candidacy, believing that his nomination would guarantee the “inevitable” Hillary Clinton an easy run for the gold. Reports surfaced that The Donald had engaged in a naughty dalliance with porn-star Stormy Daniels, and had ultimately bought her silence about it with a payment of $130,000.
A former Miss Universe – Alicia Machado – also came forward to accuse Mr. Trump of having treated her rudely, 20 years earlier. She said he called her “Miss Piggy” just because she had gained a mere 60 pounds during her reign. The media blow-dry set were aghast and covered nothing else for days. “Do we want someone this crude in the White House?” they asked. Various women from The Donald’s past came out of the woodwork to claim that he had groped them or otherwise mistreated them, back in the day.
But none of those stories was confirmed, and it was soon disclosed that the offended Miss Machado had appeared in porn films and had once been accused of driving a getaway car in a Venezuelan murder case. She quickly faded off the front pages, as the Clintonistas found her no longer useful in their campaign to trash Mr. Trump.
2. The Reprobate Billionaire.
As Mr. Trump’s campaign gained traction – fueled by rallies packed with thousands of cheering “Deplorables” who applauded his plain-spoken attacks on the lackluster Obama economy, giveaway trade-policies, and uncontrolled borders – Democrats moved the goalposts to accuse him of being dishonest, untrustworthy, mercurial, racist, misogynist, homophobic, xenophobic, hydrophobic, and a really mean person. He was “temperamentally unsuited” for the serious job of president, and would probably pull the “nuclear trigger.” We simply couldn’t put him in the world’s most important job.
But those shots on the new goalposts were quickly deflected when Mr. Trump’s opponents realized that millions of American business-people knew those charges could not possibly be true. People in the real world of business saw – as many politicians evidently did not see – that no one would countenance a businessman of such unsavory character: no one would make deals with him; no one would work for him. Some pundits admitted that the unsavory description of Mr. Trump fell apart when one observed his family’s regard for him. Not one of his children would say a word against him. Former employees described him as a demanding, but generous and decent employer. The “reprobate” strategy flopped.
3. The International Mastermind of Collusion.
As soon as Mr. Trump won the 2016 election, his political opponents launched an obviously well-orchestrated story charging that collusion between Russian agents and Trump campaign-figures – possibly including the president himself – had thrown the election Mr. Trump’s way. Believing that this actually happened was (and is) an absolute article of faith for Democrats, despite the inconvenient fact that not a scintilla of evidence was found after two years of frantic digging by partisan reporters and a special prosecutor who was supposed to nail the coffin shut.
Although no coherent theory existed on what the Russians supposedly did, both Democrat bigwigs and partisans inside the government were sure that Mr. Mueller would find that Mr. Trump conspired with the Russians to deny Hillary Clinton the victory she should have had. It was the only plausible explanation for her defeat. Once Special Counsel Mueller was launched, the victory parade could begin. Hallelujah! It was just a matter of time until the Fraudster would be frog-marched out of the White House. (Sentence first, trial afterward.)
But as they say in Vegas, the Mueller investigation “came up craps.” The Great Reveal showed no crimes, high or otherwise – not even a paltry misdemeanor that the Democrats’ Great White Hope could hang his gloves on. And the noble, keen-minded special counsel – on whom so many fond hopes had been pinned – was revealed to be just a tired, befuddled old guy who had no idea what was in the 400-page report he had signed. So incoherent was Mr. Mueller’s personal testimony to the Congress that whispers arose suggesting that he had affected a “crazy act” to remove himself from the line of fire.
4. The Lord High Obstructer.
Following the crash of the Great Airship Mueller, Democrats moved the goalposts once again to make obstruction of justice the crime to pin on Mr. Trump. He had, they averred, obstructed the Mueller probe in myriad ways, but discussing the possibility of firing the special counsel with his inner circle was the main charge. Media organs proclaimed for weeks that this was the equivalent of Nixon’s cover-up of the Watergate burglary. Glory be! The silver bullet had been found. Mr. Trump was toast. No doubt the entirely sensible idea of casting off the Mueller-millstone was a frequent topic of discussion in the Oval Office, but the charge that this constituted a high crime gained traction only with Democrats and their media camp-followers. The voters weren’t buying.
5. The Extortioner.
Just in the nick of time – when Democrats seemed to have no more mud-clods to throw at Mr. Trump – a “whistle-blower” magically appeared with a dramatic accusation that the president had linked Ukraine financial aid to an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. Proclaiming that this was the “crime of crimes” – certainly an impeachable offense – Democrats rushed to move the goalposts once again. Congressman Adam Schiff channeled Edward G. Robinson with his best Johnny Rocco impression, while pretending to “read” the text of a phone call between Mr. Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky: ‘I want dirt on Biden, and I don’t want any slip-ups – see?’ (Mr. Schiff’s agent is reportedly still waiting for calls from Hollywood directors.)
Unfortunately (again), Mr. Trump ruined the impeachment-parade by releasing the transcript of his conversation with Mr. Zelensky. It showed no linkage between financial aid to Ukraine and demands for “dirt” on the Bidens. Clearly, Mr. Trump had merely asked that President Zelensky do him a “favor” by looking into Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian energy firm that had put Hunter Biden on its Board of Directors with a salary of $50,000 a month. There were no threats to withhold aid. The whistle-blower’s accusations – not to mention Mr. Schiff’s Mafia “parody” – were shown to be inaccurate and worthless.
Abe Lincoln famously asked: “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 extortion occurred doesn’t mean that it did.
6. The Real Scoop.
Finally, after all the moved goalposts and failed kicks, we have the real scoop from Washington Post writer Marc Thiessen – a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush. In his November 14th column (“Incompetence is not an Impeachable Offense”), Mr. Thiessen says Mr. Trump isn’t corrupt or mean, or any of those things his political opponents have tried to pin on him. He’s simply incompetent. He’s incapable of forming and carrying out a coherent strategy to throw an election or collude with a foreign power to obtain a quid pro quo. He’s just a bumbling fool who’s completely out of his depth in international and domestic politics. According to his advisors, he “changes his mind on a daily basis.”
Mr. Trump would never have the wit to pay off dangerous enemies with pallets of cash, as Mr. Obama slyly gave to Iran. Nor could he cleverly harness arms of the federal government – like the IRS – to harass and disarm his political opponents. He really is too dumb to be president. (See Item #1, above.) He can’t be removed from office via impeachment, but voters will do it next year, when they see what a dunce he really is.
7. The Media Blitz.
Many of my friends and acquaintances are depressed about the relentlessly negative media-coverage of Mr. Trump. All we seem to hear is that he’s finished – Kaput! The media drums are beating: “Doom! Doom! Doom!” TV talking heads are making bets on how long he can last.
New York Times columnist Ross Douthat wrote, “We have a child upon the throne.” He likened Mr. Trump’s inner circle to caretakers of a “syphilitic emperor,” and suggested removing the president via the 25th Amendment to avoid the bother of impeachment. Dr. Douthat-Kevorkian didn’t specify if Mr. Trump should be ushered out on a gurney or in a casket. Nice talk from a Christian apologist I once admired and respected.
But amid all this media-hysteria I remind my agitated friends and kin that the media’s primary question is seldom “What’s the truth?” It’s usually “Where’s the conflict?” “Death, injury, blood and pain!” sells newspapers and air-time; reports of boring truth, not so much. If no conflict is at hand, media can create one. They are the not-so-hidden hand in the ongoing Trumpian drama.
One way or the other, Mr. Trump will eventually depart, as all presidents do. But the media may never regain their lost credibility. It’s such a tragedy. What will all those info-babes and guys do for a living? There aren’t enough shoes in the world for all of them to become salesmen. As Jimmy Durante might say, “It’s a show-business catastrastroke!”
8. The People.
Democrats naturally question the judgment of the people who elected Donald Trump instead of Hillary Clinton. This is OK, as long as their wrath doesn’t 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 organizing a “rebellion” to keep him from governing.
Republicans have a problem with the people’s judgment, too, but from a different angle, since their guy won. By long tradition, congress-people of the president’s party always support his agenda and help him enact it. They might argue with him behind closed doors, but never publicly. Republicans are disregarding this sensible convention, however. Instead, GOP senators and representatives are showboating – airing their differences with Mr. Trump in view of their political opponents and the media. Remember how Democrats did this during Barack Obama’s presidency? (No? Neither do I.) This isn’t just a mistake. It’s a blunder.
Hard-core “deep state” holdovers from the Obama regime are bedeviling Mr. Trump with damaging leaks intended to embarrass his administration, keep it entangled in unproductive matters, and prevent progress on his agenda. Many leaks are violations of civil service ethics, and some may be felonies. This is very serious, and 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 good order if Democrats regain power? Leakers must be located and punished. Anything less will legitimize this disloyal and immoral conduct and inflict a wound on our system of government from which it might not recover. Reporters piously proclaiming the public’s sacred “right to know” are 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)