I am not an original Trump supporter. As I’ve said in previous articles, I started out a Scott Walker supporter, voted for Rubio in the primary, and voted for Donald Trump in the general election. I was optimistic that perhaps Republicans would have an opportunity for the first time in many years to implement conservative governance and allow Americans to see the alternative to Democratic crony capitalist statism.
But what we have witnessed since Election Night 2016 is a six month, slow motion political neutering – effectively, a political overthrow – of Donald Trump.
Sadly, I am coming to the conclusion that the Democrats have won. They set about from the very first to destroy the Trump presidency, and they are succeeding. They are doing exactly what they did to George W. Bush, only more quickly, loudly, and hysterically. What the Democrats have done since election night 2016 makes me seriously wonder whether a Republican president will ever be permitted to govern again.
Democrats have spent the last six months, starting on election night 2016, slowly building a wave of crisis that may have reached a crescendo this past week with the revelations of the President Trump’s possibly providing sensitive information to the Russians and the Comey letter in which the President is supposed to have pressured him to drop the investigation into Michael Flynn. Let me show just how carefully the Democrats have orchestrated this crescendo of crisis.
- On election night, Hillary doesn’t concede publicly. She waits a day, in keeping with the tradition of John Kerry, to acknowledge defeat.
- In the immediate aftermath of the election, Green Party candidate Jill Stein, with sotto voce support from Hillary Clinton, asked for recounts in several close states, including Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. No dice – Trump was confirmed the winner of these states.
- At the Harvard Institute of Politics post-election forum, Clinton campaign official Jennifer Palmieri accused Kellyanne Conway of resorting to racism to win the election. The accusation doesn’t take with the broader public.
- “Fake news” becomes the next excuse for the Democrats’ defeat, and Hillary Clinton refers to fake news in a speech in her first visit to Capitol Hill since the election. But the effort to pin Clinton’s election loss on fake news flops as liberal-leaning media organizations make their own mistakes. Suddenly, Democrats and the media begin demanding that we “retire” the term “fake news.”
- Stories about Russia start trickling out. All of a sudden “Russian Wikileaks” (as Hillary Clinton put it) contributed to her downfall. This claim sticks.
- By December, the claims by Democrats that “Russia hacked the election” – inaccurately suggesting that Russia might have altered the election results – are rampant. Harry Reid claimed that the FBI covered up Russia’s efforts to help Trump win the election. (Incidentally, he also called for FBI Director Comey’s resignation as a result and referred to him as a new J. Edgar Hoover.)
- In December, the Obama Administration suddenly discovered itself to be concerned about Russia and slapped sanctions on Russian entities believed to be involved with Russia. This, after years of doing nothing to prevent Russian aggression in Ukraine or Syria.
- In the first week of January, three intelligence agencies publicly concluded that the Russians interfered with the 2016 election to get Trump elected. Media news outlets took this conclusion as sacrosanct and irrefutable and converted the intelligence judgment that the Russians tried to get Trump elected as an incontrovertible, ironclad fact. Trump’s publicly questioning this decision is taken as an attack on the intelligence community. Yet Fred Fleitz, writing in National Review Online and Fox News, has raised serious questions about this conclusion and the process by which the agencies reached it.
- Also in January, Buzzfeed and CNN release a “dossier” of lurid and salacious accusations against President-elect Trump and connecting him to Russia. Many of the accusations are easily and quickly refuted, but the dossier hangs out in the air.
- Someone in the Government leaked that Michael Flynn, incoming National Security Adviser, spoke with the Russian Ambassador and supposedly discussed the sanctions though he claimed otherwise to Vice President Pence. A supposedly alarmed Acting Attorney General Sally Yates thought Flynn could be blackmailed by the Russians and rushed to alert the White House – a fact also leaked to the press.
- Many Democrats, led by John Lewis of Georgia, boycotted the presidential election. Lewis explicitly said he thought Trump was not legitimately elected because the Russians helped him. Maxine Waters has been calling for President Trump’s impeachment since day one.
- Jeff Sessions failed to mention that he met with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. in the course of his duties as a Senator on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee led to a day of pearl-clutching by the press until he recused himself.
- A whistleblower – ordinarily a hero to Democrats and once upon a time Time’s Person of the Year – informs Devin Nunes that Obama national security advisers improperly unmasked Trump transition officials from intercepted foreign communications. Instead of this chilling fact bringing out civil liberties groups demanding why such an abuse of Americans’ communications took place, the media focused on Nunes’s behavior in following up on the whistleblower complaint and hounded him out of the picture by forcing him to recuse from the investigation.
- Allies of former FBI Director Comey read a memo supposedly drafted by Comey recording President Trump telling him that he believes Flynn “is a good man” and “hoping he can see his way clear” to clearing Flynn.
Every one of these events was met with media gasps, intense pearl-clutching, and a ratcheting up of the “Russia hacked the election” narrative. We’ve reached the point where in all the hysteria, it’s not clear where it began or what we are investigating or what crime a special prosecutor would even be investigating. It’s an airborne bonfire – tons of smoke with no foundation. We don’t even know where the smoke is coming from, we just know it’s there.
And some of the breathlessness with which each new revelation is reported is probably rooted in bias against a Washington neophyte. The media chalks up every mistake Donald Trump makes to his inexperience in Washington. Trumpeting his mistakes is intended to make it appear as though he is in over his head. Yet many of Trump’s supposedly more experienced predecessors made the same if not worse mistakes. AEI’s Marc Thiessen has a terrific summary of all the leaks from the Obama White House, from the Stuxnet virus (which, among other results, burned our Israeli partners) and the spilling of information about the bin Laden raid, which led to the jailing of a Pakistani doctor who served as a source. A couple of years ago Senator Feinstein inadvertently revealed the amount the FBI paid a contractor to hack into the San Bernardino shooter’s cell phone. No gnashing of teeth or rending of garments by the media then. And we still don’t know where President Obama was or what he was doing throughout the night of the attack on the Benghazi compound.
The sad thing is, all of this – all of it – is the result of John Podesta’s falling for a phishing scam. If Podesta doesn’t fall for the scam and Wikileaks doesn’t get his emails, would we have heard anything about Russia and Trump campaign collusion?
And the only reason sanctions were in place for Flynn and the Russian ambassador to discuss was because the Obama Administration put the sanctions in place to build the narrative of Russian interference in the election. Again, the Obama Administration hadn’t batted an eye before the election even though it claims to have been aware of Russian meddling before the election.
Nevertheless, the Democrats and the media have cleverly woven disparate and in most cases unremarkable facts together to create a narrative that the Russians helped Trump get elected and every action President Trump takes from here on out, everything, is viewed through this lens. They have stirred such a storm about Russia and Trump that it is all anyone can talk about.
The endless Russia story is also a trap. Any move that could be interpreted as providing benefits to Russia (such as sharing intelligence) or defending administration officials (such as Sessions or Flynn) becomes another piece of evidence that Trump colluded with the Russians. And any misstep, such as Nunes’s awkward investigation of the whistleblower complaint regarding unmasking of Trump campaign officials, becomes another scandal.
In effect, the Democrats, bureaucrats opposed to Trump, and the media, upset about the outcome of the election, have decided to hold the country hostage. They have determined to make things so chaotic, to create such a state of perpetual crisis, that the country will be exhausted and beg for normalcy – a normalcy the Democrats and the media will only provide if a Democrat is elected president.
Ironically, and tellingly, the Democrats were busy laying the groundwork for this normalcy prior to the election. In the weeks leading up to the election, President Obama pooh-poohed the possibility that the election could be hacked or influenced by the Russians. Hillary Clinton was positively “horrified” at Donald Trump’s stated unwillingness to say he would accept the results of the elections before the election took place. To the extent Russia or anyone else was trying to influence the election, the Obama Administration was nonchalant and blasé about it. They thought Hillary was going to win and they didn’t want anything to muddy the waters or call into question her coronation.
When the Democrats lost, they groped in the dark for several weeks for an excuse for their defeat – racism, fake news, James Comey – until they alighted upon Russian interference in the election as the winning excuse. Then they built the “Russia hacked the election” narrative, brick by brick, until it reached last week’s crescendo.
And the Democrats had help. Nearly every one of the building blocks in the Democrats’ narrative was the work of government employees. The unmasking and leaking of Michael Flynn’s name from the call with the Russian ambassador. The intelligence agencies’ determination that the Russians interfered with the election to elect Donald Trump. The ridiculous Buzzfeed dossier that intelligence agency heads supposedly shared with President-elect Trump. The leaking of the contents of President Trump’s conversation with the Russian foreign minister. The media ran with each of these stories breathlessly as if they were gospel.
The media also independently contributed to the air of crisis. Pulitzer Prizes are being awarded to the investigations of Trump’s charities during the campaign. Did that story truly make a difference? Was that story much more worthy than, say, Salena Zito’s essential reporting on the voters outside the East Coast that explained perhaps better than any other reporting the reasons for Donald Trump’s victory? The Washington Post adopted the slogan “Democracy Dies in Darkness,” obviously implying that Donald Trump’s victory portends an age of “darkness.” And although the media in a panic reports on the spilling of classified information to the Russians and the burning of friendly sources and gets former Obama officials to furrow their brows about the seriousness of the spills, their reporting – more than anything Donald Trump said – is putting the contents of these sensitive conversations in the public domain, as Alan Dershowitz – no Republican he – has noted.
The Democrats also can count on those maverick Republicans who want to appear even-handed and stay in the media’s good graces. When Democrats have a scandal, they circle the wagons. Remember the IRS targeting conservatives? Using the IRS to target political enemies is a whole lot closer to Watergate than anything raised against Trump. Democrats in lockstep did everything in their power to thwart that investigation. But there are always some Republicans who like to be thought of as independent-minded and well-regarded by the media who won’t close ranks when one of their own is under assault. Take John McCain, out there telling the world that President Trump’s actions are reaching Watergate-like proportions.
As much as all of this seems unprecedented, as Chuck Schumer’s lamentations from the well of the Senate would have it, it is not. Far from it. In fact, it is becoming standard operating procedure for Democrats and the media during a Republican administration when Democrats are in the minority in Congress. In fact, the Democrats’ and media’s strategy closely mirrors their behavior during the last Republican presidential administration, that of George W. Bush.
As I recount in my book, Vietnam Envy and the Emerging Iraq Syndrome, Democrats and the media set about to stir such a storm of chaos and crisis around the Iraq War and the Bush presidency as to make it impossible for the Bush Administration to act. The Democrats and media made it nearly impossible for the Bush Administration to function on any issue.
During the second half of the Bush Administration, the Democrats and media seized every weapon at hand to destroy the Bush Administration. There were the flip-flops of initial war supporters such as John Kerry and John Edwards. There was the lie that “Bush lied and people died,” which became gospel truth for Democrats. The search for proof that “Bush lied” led to the endless Valerie Plame investigation, designed to paralyze the Bush Administration by targeting Karl Rove and other senior administration officials – despite knowing virtually all along that the leaker of Plame’s identity was Deputy Secretary Richard Armitage, no ally of the Bush Administration. There was the lionizing of Cindy Sheehan. Finally, there was Hurricane Katrina, portrayed as an incompetent and possibly racist Bush Administration failing to help predominately African-American New Orleans, even though there was plenty of blame to be heaped on the (Democratic) governments of Louisiana and New Orleans.
By the end of 2006, Americans were exhausted. The perpetual crisis and scandal neutered the Bush Administration. Plenty of Democrats were seeking President Bush’s impeachment, when they weren’t comparing him to Hitler or Pol Pot. This neutering had real consequences. The Administration nearly did not implement the troop surge in Iraq. The Bush Administration was unwilling to destroy the Syrian nuclear reactor at al-Kidar. Imagine if the Israelis hadn’t done it and there was a functioning nuclear weapons facility in Syria today.
The same thing is happening to Donald Trump, only sooner and with more fury. The Democrats succeeded in creating concerns and investigations into far-fetched accusations of conspiracy and collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign, and used those investigations to trap first Flynn, then Sessions, then Nunes, and now, supposedly, President Trump. In effect, an investigation about the Russian meddling in the election – something that manifestly was not enough of a concern to the Obama Administration to take any action until Donald Trump won the election – led to the phony concerns about the Flynn phone call to the Russian ambassador, which led to the phony concern of Sally Yates about possible Russian blackmail of Flynn, with led to Flynn’s resignation, which led to the statement of Donald Trump that has the capital abuzz with talk of impeachment. An investigation into a phony crime with phony concerns about blackmail led Donald Trump to hope his friend wouldn’t be caught up in what President Trump surely believes are phony allegations. Sound familiar? It probably sounds very familiar to Scooter Libby.
The Democrats are creating their heroes and martyrs today, just as they did during the Bush Administration. In 2005 it was Cindy Sheehan and Valerie Plame; today it is Sally Yates. (The Democrats are already talking about her running for Georgia governor.) In 2005-06 it was Patrick Fitzgerald (remember Fitzmas?). Today it is James Comey.
My great fear is no Republican president will ever be permitted to govern again. If a Republican manages to win the presidency, the Democrats, media, and bureaucracy will scorch the earth, trashing everyone and everything in sight in the Republican administration until the country cries uncle and returns Democrats to power. Then, all will be sweetness and light (literally, in the case of the Lightworker Obama) as the forces of good have triumphed over the forces of evil.
Here’s how the Republican Party should react: it should go on offense and govern. Now is the time for Congressional Republicans to step up and drive the agenda. Reach a compromise between the Senate and the House on health care and get it to the president’s desk. Speaker Ryan should take the bull by the horns on tax reform and get something passed this year. Bypass the White House policy shop. Get bills to the president’s desk for him to sign. Make it easy for him to get things done. All he has to do is sign.
In addition to redeeming the Republican brand, a legislative offensive will allow the Congress to reclaim its legislative power, so badly atrophied in the years of the imperial presidency.
As for the president, I’d recommend a face-to-face with the American people. Remember how going around the media worked during the campaign. Whether America likes it or not, everything is all Trump, all the time. America is always looking at you. Use that to your advantage. Don’t hide or run for cover. Give a prime-time address to the nation. Tell us you had nothing to do with Russia. Look America in the eye and tell them it is all rubbish. And remind America why they voted for you. Speak to the Americans the coastal elite forgot and remind them that while the coastal elite are navel gazing over trivialities and giving themselves kudos for trying to take you down, you haven’t forgotten them. Remind America of your plans for tax reform and watch the stock market go up 200 points. Now that there is a special counsel, pledge your cooperation, give your cooperation, and move on.
The Democrats created a trap with their investigations into nothing and Donald Trump and his administration is falling into it. Maybe Trump is to blame for falling into the trap, but shame on the Democrats for setting it. For the rest of the Republican Party, avoid the tar pit of the Democrats’ and media’s circus. Be the grown-ups, implement the Republican agenda, and govern.