by Conrad Black
On Wednesday the Democratic Party is scheduled to be removed from the life support system that has sustained it these past four years: the fraudulently and almost certainly illegally confected condition of Donald Trump being under a legal and ethical cloud.
The wild aspersions about financial chicanery, misogyny, racism, rank ignorance, and incompetence, and the monstrous canard about “treason” with Russia, the Mueller investigation, and the spurious impeachment were all that the Trump-hating media needed to persuade the credulous, within the United States and throughout the world, that this was an aberrant president who was about to be led out of the Oval Office in handcuffs.
Trump’s flamboyant career as a huckster, Trump University, the junk bond casino bankruptcies, as well as the spectacular divorces and constant tabloid and television presence, opened him up for a good deal of ridicule. Not even the most disciplined and fervent Trump supporter would deny that this president’s résumé contains some elements that he would be better off without in his present position, nor would many claim that all of his public comments have been suffused with the dignity and thoughtfulness that would be ideal in the nation’s chief executive and commander-in-chief.
But these facts were part of an innovative, carefully planned, and overwhelmingly successful strategy to achieve celebrity—even among the less exalted socioeconomic regions of the public—and to parlay that celebrity and a perfect sense of timing along with his seizure of social media, to exploit voter discontent, gain control of one of the main political parties, and game the electoral system to victory in a presidential election.
The truth is that even those who supported Trump in 2016, because they were tired of the Bushes and Clintons passing the great offices of the American state back and forth and were dissatisfied with the condition and direction of the country, could not have been serenely confident of what his presidency would be like. Since Trump ran against the entire political class he was portrayed as a nihilist, a quasi-anarchist, and a barbarian—and this was never going to be the usual good-natured and sportsmanlike handing over between the Bushes and Clintons with an indulgent media honeymoon. Since Trump had vehemently attacked all of them, he had to overcome the resistance of all of them.
We now know that a partisan-commissioned smear operation was used by the FBI and the intelligence agencies to defame the candidate and improperly conduct surveillance on his campaign and transition team, and that the FBI director and others lied about it repeatedly to President Trump.
We now know there was no justification for setting up the special counsel to inquire into collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
And we now know that when that collapsed, the Whistleblower Act was abused and impeachment procedures were violated to vote on articles of impeachment for the removal of this president for acts that were not, in fact, constitutionally impeachable, were not illegal, and for the commission of which there was no probative evidence that the president committed them.
For four years, NeverTrump Republicans and the Democrats have fought a rearguard action slowly retreating in the face of, to use a Democratic expression, “an inconvenient truth.”
Because no one had ever been elected president without previously having held some public office or a high military command, and because Trump’s career had been so outrageous in some ways, as well as completely unconventional, there was a vast receptivity to claims that he was temperamentally and morally unfit to be president, that he would be incompetent, and that he had somehow purloined the office in the first place.
Yet as the impeachment controversy demonstrated and as all polls confirm, the Republican Party is now rock-solid behind the president. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who told Republican congressional candidates four years ago that they would “drop (Trump) like a hot rock,” has smoothly conducted his partisans to the quick dismissal of this unfounded impeachment effort.
The Democrats, and the sharply dwindling ranks of their anti-Trump Republican allies, have retreated from the charge of electoral fraud, to treason with Russia, to obstruction of justice, to impeachable abuses of power and contempt of Congress. All of it was piffle; there was no truth to any of it. All there ever was is a candidate and now a president who is so bombastic and garish in some of his stylistic and rhetorical quirks, that there was an over-eager readiness to believe that there might be some merit to these accusations.
There wasn’t. For more than three years we have heard that “The walls are closing in” on Trump, with the “drip, drip, drip” of cumulative damaging revelations. Those predictions apply with perfect accuracy to the Democrats. They have exhausted their ability to maintain some Damoclean legal threat over the president, and now, though they are still addicted to having an opponent bound and encumbered by official harassments and tainting activities, they are going to have to attack his record.
Apart from general economic progress, the country hasn’t really paused to consider how far it has progressed in three years. High unemployment and oil imports have ended; illegal immigration has been reduced by nearly 80 percent. Approximately half of all Americans are now directly or indirectly investors in the stock market and they have had a capital appreciation of nearly $10 trillion. Poverty and food stamp use are down sharply, the workforce has reversed previous declines, and the lowest 20 percent of income earners have enjoyed greater proportionate income increases than the wealthiest. President Trump is thus the world’s first head of an important country to begin to address the problem of income disparity. He has renegotiated trade agreements and when these are fully in place next quarter, and Boeing is back to work, economic growth should return to 3 percent.
Moreover, Trump has faced up to the challenge of China, smashed ISIS, and revived the concept of nuclear non-proliferation where his predecessors were swindled by North Korea and Iran. He has spared the country the Green Terror and kicked the Western Alliance into a revival of collective self-defense so it can no longer be just a gang of slackers hiding behind the Pentagon.
This is Trump’s record and unsubstantiated truisms about Trump’s “corruption” won’t sell anymore.
The Democrats have an inadequate group of implausible candidates, appear to be fixing up their convention to sandbag Bernie Sanders again and perhaps to make an energetic effort to sell themselves to Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg is a capable man but a New York liberal who is far from a spellbinder, starts with no following outside the wealthy parts of New York City, and he spent $170 per vote in his last election municipal election. That translates to $14 billion in a presidential election. He could afford it, but Trump and the Republican Party are rich, too, and no one can simply buy an American general election. For good measure, whatever tatters are left of the ethical gap with Trump will almost certainly be blown away by the conclusions of U.S. Attorney John Durham when he has finished looking at the official harassment of the Trump campaign in 2016.
The Democrats’ astonishment is understandable. So, up to a point, was their belief in Trump’s indifferent ethics, but these became a crutch that they have leaned on more heavily as Trump has racked up successes in almost every policy field. Now the crutch has been kicked out as they face the revelation of their own skullduggery, and face up to the profound mediocrity of their candidate pool.
The Democrats’ walls are not closing in—they are crumbling, and they are about to be overrun by the fierce army of the president’s scores of millions of supporters, those whom the Democrats reviled as focused on “guns and religion,” the “deplorables” who, we learned from House impeachment managers last week, must not be allowed to reelect the country’s leader. That is not how the American system works, and the Democrats will soon finally feel the pain the country sought to inflict on them in 2016.
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Conrad Black has been one of Canada’s most prominent financiers for 40 years, and was one of the leading newspaper publishers in the world as owner of the British telegraph newspapers, the Fairfax newspapers in Australia, the Jerusalem Post, Chicago Sun-Times and scores of smaller newspapers in the U.S., and most of the daily newspapers in Canada. He is the author of authoritative biographies of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Richard Nixon, one-volume histories of the United States and Canada, and most recently of Donald J. Trump: A President Like No Other. He is a member of the British House of Lords as Lord Black of Crossharbour.
Photo “Chuck Schumer” by AFGE. CC BY 2.0.