The Circus of Resistance
By Victor Davis Hanson [Center for American Greatness ]
The resistance to Donald Trump was warring on all fronts last week.
Democratic senators vied with pop-up protestors in the U.S. Senate gallery to disrupt and, if possible, to derail the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) played Spartacus, but could not even get the script right as he claimed to be bravely releasing classified information that was already declassified. I cannot remember another example of a senator who wanted to break the law but could not figure out how to do it.
Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), former Harvard Law Professor who still insists she is of Native American heritage, called for the president to be removed by invoking the 25th Amendment. Apparently fabricating an ethnic identity is sane, and getting out of the Iran deal or the Paris Climate Accord is insanity and grounds for removal.
Barack Obama decided that ex-presidents should attack current presidents, and thereby reminded the country why Trump was elected. The author of the Russian “reset” and the hot-mic collusionary offer criticized Trump for being soft on Putin. The president who never achieved annualized 3 percent GDP growth (and is the first president since 1933 who can claim this “distinction”) also claimed Trump’s roaring economy was due to Obama-era policies (e.g., raising taxes, Obamacare, more regulations, and “you didn’t build that” commentaries). Fresh from trashing his successor in a funeral speech, the ever audacious Obama called for more decorum.
Bruce Ohr, once number four at the Department of Justice, and whose wife was working with Christopher Steele on the Fusion GPS file (a fact he has never disclosed willingly), now more or less has made a mockery of the FBI narrative of when, why, and how it began surveilling American citizens and infiltrating the Trump campaign. Ohr apparently has testified that well before the election, and well before the application of FISA warrants, he was working with the FBI, the already discredited Christopher Steele, and a Russian oligarch either to smear candidate Trump, or to facilitate the entry into the United States of a once barred and questionable Russian grandee, or both.
Nike hired NFL renegade Colin Kaepernick to peddle its sports products. For all its billion-dollar market research, it apparently did not know what Donald Trump’s animal cunning had almost immediately surmised: a majority of Americans do not appreciate the pampered multimillionaire Kaepernick sanctioning violence against the police by wearing “pig” socks, or mocking the National Anthem by taking a knee. Nike could just as well have hired Bowe Bergdahl to push its sneakers.
The Deep State Emerges
Contrary to popular opinion, there was nothing “newsworthy” about the recent anonymous op-ed, written by an unnamed “senior official” about the supposed pathologies of President Trump.
Or rather to the extent the op-ed was significant, it confirmed what heretofore had been written off as a “right-wing” conspiracy theory of a “deep state.” The anonymous author confessed to being part of a group that is trying to use subterranean methods to thwart an elected president, not because his record is wanting (indeed, the author admits it is often impressive) but because he finds Trump unorthodox and antithetical to the establishment norms of governance and comportment.
To cut to the quick, the op-ed was published to coincide with the latest Bob Woodward “according-to-an-unnamed-source” exposé, Fear. The intent of anonymous and the New York Times was to create a force multiplying effect of a collapsing presidency—in need of the Times’ sober and judicious handlers, NeverTrump professionals, and “bipartisan” Democrats of the sort we saw during the Kavanaugh hearing to “step in” and apparently stage an intervention to save the country.
Had the Woodward book not been in the news, neither would be the anonymous op-ed. And of course, the Times, in times before 2017, would never have published a insurrectionary letter from an unnamed worried Obama aide that the president was detached and listless—playing spades during the Bin Laden raid, outsourcing to Eric Holder the electronic surveillance of Associated Press journalists, letting Lois Lerner weaponize the IRS, and allowing his FBI, CIA, and Justice Department to conspire to destroy Hillary Clinton’s 2016 opponent.
Woodward’s book is a more refined and establishment version of Michael Wolff’s and Omarosa’s volumes I and II in the ongoing “inside Trump” saga. The game is either to talk off the record to Woodward about one’s own brilliant (but unappreciated) efforts to avoid catastrophe, or else one will get talked about for causing catastrophe by someone else who talked off the record to Woodward to avoid being talked about by someone else. So Woodward is a Washington ventriloquist who keeps straight the strings of the talking puppets.
More Beltway Fantasies
After the latest hysteria dies down, this chapter in the ongoing psychodrama will be revealed for what it is: a fantasy of a wannabe coup that is not going to happen. The commentariat’s silly claim that the op-ed was “extraordinary” and “newsworthy” is laughable. There are hundreds of “senior officials” all throughout every presidency, no doubt more so in the outsider Trump’s, who are disgruntled. On any given day, any newspaper could root out a “senior official” to write anonymously anything it wished to fit a preconceived narrative. What is extraordinary is not an op-ed from some sort of a mad David Stockman taken to the woodshed or defrocked Don Regan losing a war with Nancy Reagan, but that the New York Times hunted down someone of #theResistance to create a hysteria that an unhinged Trump must be removed.
By the scale of past White House melodramas, this is no big deal. It is not as if an off-the radar, rogue band in the White House was caught selling arms to Iran and using the profits to fund resistance to Daniel Ortega’s Marxist regime in Nicaragua. The gossip about Trump’s mental processes are no more dramatic than the rumors were about a doddering Reagan in his second term, which later were trafficked by his own son, Ron Jr. (“Father had Alzheimer’s in office”). Trump is not, in Woodrow Wilson fashion, near comatose and locked up in a White House bedroom, while Melania takes over the country. His aides are not covering up the fact that Trump’s blood pressure is peaking at 250 over 150, or that some mornings he cannot get out of bed—as was true of FDR as he campaigned for a fourth term in 1944.
We are not witnessing a sitcom in which the president has serial, and often perverse sex with a White House intern in the Oval Office bathroom. Nor we are being treated to an interview by a senior Ben Rhodes-like official who brags how the Trump Administration deliberately fed a cadre of rookie idiot reporters all sorts of “echo chamber” narratives necessary to pass a dangerous deal with Iran that sidestepped the Senate’s constitutional obligations. Nor is Melania confessing that the presidential calendar of speeches and trips is calibrated to an astrologer’s chart of lucky and unlucky days. No one is suggesting that Ivanka leads séances (“imaginary chats” or “brainstorming exercises”) in the East Room to call down the spirits of Calvin Coolidge and Ayn Rand for imaginary conversations and pep talks.
The writer’s chief complaint is that Trump “is not moored to any discernible first principles that guide his decision.” Flesh that out. That would imply something along the lines that Trump ignores advice from New York Times op-ed writers and instead thrashes about and cancels the Iran deal. Or he dangerously and rashly gets out of the Paris Climate Accord. Or he stupidly insists that the U.S. embassy be moved to Jerusalem in helter-skelter fashion. Or he insanely demands massive deregulation, tax cuts, and new oil exploration without following any overarching principles in achieving 4 percent quarterly GDP growth or a record high stock market. Worst of all, madman Trump screams, yells, and ends the sacred idea that after 70 years the Palestinians are still refugees.
Trump’s One Principle
Trump has mostly one principle: he was elected to pursue a conservative populist agenda without too much worry what the Washington establishment said or did, whose record on the economic front since 2008 and in foreign policy was not especially stellar. In that sense, he is far more principled in carrying out his promises than many past presidents whose stump speeches on taxes, illegal immigration, trade, educational reform and a host of other issues were either never reified or flat out broken.
So far, for all the crudity and Twitter antics, we have not had a “read my lips” or “you can keep your doctor” moment in the sense of a deliberate effort to break a campaign promise.
Anonymous huffs: “In addition to his mass-marketing of the notion that the press is the ‘enemy of the people,’ President Trump’s impulses are generally anti-trade and anti-democratic.” Again, Trump has said repeatedly he would prefer no tariffs if trade was just reciprocal. On trade issues, he has made progress with the EU and Mexico and likely soon Canada and China, all of whom enjoy trade surpluses which Trump throughout his campaign claimed were harmful to the United States and would diminish under his presidency.
As for as Trump’s loud anti-media tweets, worry not about what he now says, but when he orders his attorney general to start monitoring on the sly the communications of Associated Press reporters or the private emails of a Fox correspondent, or when his Justice Department and FBI hierarchy deludes a FISA court in order to spy on American citizens.
As far as “anti-democratic” and a Russian-appeasing Trump, he has not yet claimed that Putin was trustworthy and genuine based on a soul-gazing stare into his eyes. Nor has he been caught on a hot mic promising to give up U.S. missile defense programs in Eastern Europe, if Vladimir would just give him “space” during his reelection bid. Trump has said silly things about Putin, but so far his actual record is certainly not of the reset sort that greenlighted Russian entrance into the Middle East, Ukraine, and Crimea.
Somehow it’s “news” that a senior, unnamed official claims all the bad stuff that we don’t know happened, or actually never quite happened, was due to Trump alone. And, of course, all the good stuff that we do know happened was only because of noble, smart, patriotic, and visionary officials like the writer and his friends.
Anonymous finishes with an encomium to John McCain, whose politicized and unfortunate funeral we have just witnessed, and the likes of which we have not seen since the travesty of Paul Wellstone’s own hijacked services 16 years ago. Tragically, the McCain funeral speeches most certainly should not serve as model of how to honor a distinguished U.S. senator in the future.
McCain’s final deification by his erstwhile critics and enemies was mostly a result of his own bitter feud with Donald Trump that in his 11th hour sanctified him to those who had earlier smeared him as a libertine and reckless in 2000—and vilified him in 2008 as a near-demented racist. In sum, in death McCain was transmogrified into angelic status by the very architects who in life were responsible for his demonization.
The recent op-ed is yet another episode in an endless resistance cartoon, another pathetic effort of self-important grandees to undo by fiat what the voters did by voting in 2016.