Republicans and the Lost Art of Deterrence8/1/2017
In a perfect and disinterested world, when Washington, D.C. is deluged in scandal, a nonpartisan investigator or prosecutor should survey the contemporary rotten landscape. He would then distinguish the likely guilty from the probably falsely accused—regardless of the political consequences at stake.
In the real cosmos of Washington, however, the majority party—the group that controls the House, Senate, presidency, and U.S. Supreme Court—if it were necessary, would de facto appoint the government’s own special investigatory team, and then allow it to follow where leads dictate. Its majority status would assure that there were no political opponents in control of the investigations, keen on turning an inquiry into a political circus. That cynical reality is known as normal D.C. politics.
But in contemporary Republican La-La Land, the party in power with control over all three branches of government allows its minority-status opponents to dictate the rules of special investigations and inquiry—a Jeff Sessions recused, a Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) excused from his investigations of unmasking and leaking, a Robert Mueller appointed as special counsel, friend of to-be-investigated James Comey, and employer of partisan attorneys.
Is naiveté the cause of such laxity? Do Republicans unilaterally follow Munich rules because they hope such protocols will create a new “civility” and “bipartisan cooperation” in Washington?
Or is the culprit civil dissension among the ranks, as the congressional leadership secretly has no real incentive to help the despised outsider Trump? When Republicans get re-elected on repealing and replacing Obamacare during the assured Obama veto-presidency, and then flip in the age of surety that Trump would reify their campaign boasts, should we laugh or cry? Is the Republican establishment’s aim to see Trump’s agenda rendered null and void—or does intent even matter when the result is the same anyway?
Or is the empowerment of progressive conspiracy-mongering due to fear of the mainstream media, which demonizes principled resistance to progressivism and lauds unprincipled surrender to it?
Or, lastly, is the cause a bewildering misreading of human nature? I say “bewildering” because conservatives supposedly brag that they are the more astute students of unchanging human nature, while progressives are purportedly naïve believers in therapeutic remedies to perceived human frailties?
If any of the above, the Republicans had better soon wise up. For eight months, progressives have swarmed the media and our politics with false charges of Russian collusion, aimed at delegitimizing both a president and his conservative agenda.
In a logical world in which Republicans enjoy monopolies on political power, they would have dispensed with the progressive strategy of emasculating the Trump administration through endlessly hyped fake news accounts of quid pro quo Russia-Trump subversion. And they would have done so by themselves taking the offensive.
Endlessly refuting each week’s new progressive charges—no, Donald Trump did not watch sick sex acts with prostitutes in Moscow; no, Donald Trump did not send his lawyer to Eastern Europe to rig the election; no, three swing states did not have their voting machines rigged; no, the electors will not betray their constitutional responsibilities; no, Trump is not going to be removed through impeachment, the 25th Amendment, or the Emoluments Clause—achieves nothing but to undermine public confidence in the conservative effort to undo the Obama agenda.
They are no more serious stories than the scandal sheet allegations that Trump shorts his guests a scoop of Häagen-Dazs, that his wife is an illegal alien, or that his son is autistic. Apparently, Republicans don’t get it that when a president is smeared as watching urine-porn in Moscow or getting Russian hush money for undermining Hillary’s campaign, then the abyss between such charges and assassination chic in the popular media, is considerably narrowed.
Go Full-Bore on Real Scandals
The salvation of both the Trump Administration and the Republican congressional fate in the 2018 elections is to reestablish political deterrence—accomplished by going on a full-fledged offensive against real, not merely perceived or alleged, political scandals. Only that way will the accusers feel the predicament of the accused, especially as there is real merit to Democratic liability in a way that charges of Trump collusion have largely proved a political fraud. Only when deterrence is achieved, will the Democrats be forced to concentrate on agendas, issues, laws, and messages, not on ambushing the president.
The Republicans should announce far more forcefully to the media that Vladimir Putin may have been funneling via shady third-parties millions of dollars to anti-fracking groups. Such collusion, if proven through investigation, really is treasonous—given that the crashing price of oil, brought about solely due to North American frackers, is about the only check on Putin’s ambitions that the West enjoys. So, to take one example, did the San Francisco-based, family-controlled, and hedge-funded Sea Change Foundation receive laundered Russian money to help enhance its anti-fracking messaging? If so, when, how, and who?
Secondly, Republicans should go full bore on the most explosive scandal of the age, the House Intelligence Committee’s investigations into the surveilling, unmasking, and leaking of American citizens by key members of the Obama Administration, likely done for perceived political advantages.
Rather than envisioning the ethical Devin Nunes as a liability to be controlled, the House leadership should see him as an asset to be encouraged to uncover inconvenient truths—especially given that progressives see the unprincipled Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) as a resource in hiding a scandal. After all, what in the world was the self-righteous and self-described civil libertarian and humanitarian Samantha Power doing, as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, in allegedly reading, unmasking, and leaking intelligence reports on conservative private citizens during a national campaign?
Thirdly, we forget that Hillary Clinton’s scandals were terminated not by exonerating investigations, but by the fact that she lost a presidential campaign, and thus they were no longer deemed disruptive of an election.
No one has ever really understood exactly why Russian interests paid such lucrative honoraria to Bill Clinton or gave so lavishly to the Clinton Foundation, or why they cut an advantageous deal to acquire substantial interests in North American uranium holdings, but apparently did not prove so generous both before and after Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state and her announced presidential candidacy. When Clinton not only destroyed requested emails, but also lied that they were all neither classified nor connected to government business, and faced no consequences at a time when regular citizens went to jail for such transgressions, then there is no equality under the law left to speak of.
Fourthly, what an Orwellian world it is when progressives allege “obstruction of justice” (which Mueller’s burgeoning team of lawyers is apparently investigating) in the case of Donald Trump’s sloppy, off-handed, and out-loud wishes to FBI Director James Comey that he hoped “good guy” Michael Flynn did not get ruined by a loose investigation.
Yet obstruction is not much pursued even when no one seems to deny that former Attorney General Loretta Lynch met stealthily for private discussions with the spouse of a suspect of a current Justice investigation (subsequently dropped), and when she unapologetically seems to have directed the self-described moralist, Director Comey again, to alter the nomenclature of his ongoing investigation of fellow Democrat and presidential candidate Clinton (and Comey shamelessly acceded to Lynch’s detailed requests).
Fifthly, there is the surreal case of Imran Awan and his tribal clan, the frauds, cheats, and possible blackmailers, who worked as techies for Democratic congressional representatives and in particular for former Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Schultz apparently maintained some unfathomable relationship with the disreputable Awan that would force her into utterly untenable positions to protect his skullduggery. And unlike other allegations of collusion, the Florida congresswoman appears on video unapologetically threatening the chief of the U.S. Capitol Police with “consequences” unless he returns computer data concerning possible crimes to Awan.
Reestablish Deterrence or Lose
Finally, no one has ever fully gotten to the bottom of the Fusion GPS/Steele dossier, the fountainhead (thanks to Buzzfeed and CNN) of the entire Russia-Trump collusion mythos.
The much passed-around file was one of the most repugnant episodes in our recent checkered history, with evidence of ethical and perhaps legal wrongdoing on the part of Republican primary candidates, the Clinton campaign, the office of Senator John McCain, the FBI, and the Obama administration, who all at various times trafficked in preposterous and pornographic untruth, in some cases leaked the smears to the toady press, and apparently believed that it was the silver bullet that would put down the Trump werewolf.
Reestablishing deterrence—or what a mellifluous constitutional scholar and recent Nobel Peace Laureate once variously called “taking a gun to a knife fight,” “getting in their faces,” and “punishing our enemies”—is not quite Old Testament eye-for-an-eye, but rather, given human nature, the only way to stop a progressive and media lynch mob.
In the old West, a sheriff did not save those falsely accused in his jail by walking outside to the street to calm an armed and frenzied hanging mob through reason and appeals to sobriety.