The pro­gres­sive boomerang

Ef­forts to take out Trump are com­ing back to haunt Democrats

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - By Vic­tor Davis Han­son

The pro­gres­sive strat­egy of in­ves­ti­gat­ing Pres­i­dent Trump non­stop for Rus­sian col­lu­sion or ob­struc­tion of jus­tice or wit­ness tam­per­ing so far has pro­duced no sub­stan­tial ev­i­dence of wrong­do­ing. The al­ter­nate strat­egy of de­rail­ing the new ad­min­is­tra­tion be­fore it re­ally gets started hasn’t suc­ceeded, ei­ther, de­spite se­rial ef­forts to sue over elec­tion re­sults, al­ter the Elec­toral Col­lege vote, boy­cott the in­au­gu­ra­tion, de­lay the con­fir­ma­tion of ap­point­ments, de­mand re­cusals, prom­ise Mr. Trump’s im­peach­ment or re­moval through the 25th Amend­ment, and file suit un­der the Emol­u­ments Clause.

A third strat­egy of por­tray­ing Mr. Trump as a ver­i­ta­ble mon­ster like­wise so far has failed in four spe­cial elec­tions for House seats.

Ap­par­ently, pro­gres­sives have ac­cepted the idea that Barack Obama’s for­mula of twice win­ning the Elec­toral Col­lege is not yet trans­ferrable to other pro­gres­sive can­di­dates such as Hil­lary Clin­ton. And they prob­a­bly have con­cluded that Mr. Obama’s pro­gres­sive po­lit­i­cal agenda proved un­pop­u­lar with vot­ers by 2010 and had to be im­ple­mented by ad hoc ex­ec­u­tive or­ders — pres­i­den­tial pre­rog­a­tives now uti­lized by Mr. Trump to over­turn the ones Mr. Obama is­sued.

A fourth po­ten­tial path­way to power would be a re­turn to Bill Clin­ton’s prag­matic agen­das of the 1990s. But ap­par­ently pro­gres­sives find that cen­trist rem­edy worse than the mal­ady of los­ing elec­tions — given that dur­ing the Obama ten­ure, more than 1,000 state and lo­cal of­fices were lost to Repub­li­cans, in ad­di­tion to ma­jori­ties in the House and Se­nate, and a ma­jor­ity of gov­er­nor­ships and leg­is­la­tures. What next? Mr. Trump acts as if he is a Ni­et­zschean fig­ure, as­sum­ing that any­thing that does not de­stroy him only makes him stronger. And now, slowly, his ac­cusers are be­com­ing the ac­cused.

One nag­ging prob­lem with the pro­gres­sive case against Mr. Trump for pur­ported Rus­sian col­lu­sion and ob­struc­tion of jus­tice was that mem­bers of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion had more ex­po­sure to those al­le­ga­tions than did po­lit­i­cal new­comer Mr. Trump.

Last year, then-FBI Di­rec­tor James Comey tes­ti­fied that not only did for­mer At­tor­ney Gen­eral Loretta Lynch im­prop­erly meet in se­cret with Bill Clin­ton dur­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Hil­lary Clin­ton, but that Ms. Lynch had asked Mr. Comey to down­play the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Hil­lary’s use of a pri­vate email server dur­ing her ten­ure as sec­re­tary of state. Mr. Comey con­fessed that he had re­luc­tantly agreed to Ms. Lynch’s re­quest.

Ear­lier this month, in tes­ti­mony be­fore the Se­nate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, Mr. Comey ad­mit­ted that he asked a friend to leak notes about Mr. Comey’s ear­lier con­ver­sa­tion with Mr. Trump in hopes of forc­ing the nom­i­na­tion of a spe­cial in­ves­ti­ga­tor to lead the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion — per­haps a suc­cess­ful gam­bit, given that Mr. Comey’s friend, for­mer FBI Di­rec­tor Robert Mueller, was soon ap­pointed to that role.

Mr. Comey also wrongly dis­missed Hil­lary Clin­ton’s email prob­lems be­cause of a per­ceived lack of crim­i­nal in­tent — a sup­pos­edly mit­i­gat­ing cir­cum­stance that legally should have had no bear­ing on things.

As far as al­leged Rus­sian col­lu­sion, there had long been con­ser­va­tive ac­cu­sa­tions that Bill and Hil­lary Clin­ton used Hil­lary’s sta­tus as sec­re­tary of state to lever­age hon­o­raria for Bill and do­na­tions to the Clin­ton Foun­da­tion in ex­change for con­ces­sions to Rus­sian in­ter­ests.

More­over, Rus­sian tam­per­ing ef­forts had been go­ing on for months be­fore the 2016 elec­tion, but with­out any re­tal­ia­tory mea­sures from the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, which knew about Rus­sia’s med­dling.

In an in­ad­ver­tent hot-mic re­quest in 2012, Mr. Obama asked out­go­ing Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Dmitry Medvedev to urge in­com­ing Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin “to give me space” dur­ing Mr. Obama’s re-elec­tion cam­paign, so that af­ter his as­sumed suc­cess, Mr. Obama could re­cip­ro­cate with “more flex­i­bil­ity” on Rus­sian is­sues. In the present highly charged cli­mate, would that be seen as a form of Rus­sian col­lu­sion?

Mean­while, the House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee is still in­ves­ti­gat­ing whether top Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials wrong­fully used the power of for­eign-in­tel­li­gence col­lec­tion to con­duct sur­veil­lance of Amer­i­cans — par­tic­u­larly mem­bers of the Trump cam­paign.

The point is not whether the Clin­tons, James Comey, Barack Obama or mem­bers of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion can be proven to have en­gaged in il­le­gal or un­scrupu­lous be­hav­ior.

Rather, the les­son is that pro­gres­sives should have of­fered al­ter­na­tive po­lit­i­cal vi­sions that might have won back the Amer­i­can peo­ple rather than at­tempt­ing to ter­mi­nate the Trump pres­i­dency on charges to which the pro­gres­sive side was far more vul­ner­a­ble.

Now that Mr. Trump is emerg­ing from suc­cess­ful House spe­cial elec­tions and has fended off six months of me­dia attacks, celebrity in­vec­tive and pro­gres­sive ef­forts to abort his ten­ure, he seems to be go­ing back on the of­fen­sive.

Cur­rently, House and Se­nate in­ves­ti­ga­tions are do­ing to Democrats what has been done Mr. Trump. So far, these probes seem to have bet­ter chances to prove al­leged wrong­do­ing.

Where does all this po­lit­i­cal back-and-forth mean?

Democrats struck pre-emp­tively to take out Mr. Trump be­fore he un­wound the Obama legacy. That ef­fort has prob­a­bly been stalled.

The re­turn vol­ley is be­ing launched at a time when an en­er­gized Mr. Trump is gain­ing mo­men­tum on health care and tax re­form, and an im­prov­ing econ­omy.

In sum, to thwart a new pres­i­dent’s poli­cies, it is prob­a­bly wiser to of­fer al­ter­na­tive agen­das in­stead of try­ing to de­stroy him be­fore he has even en­tered of­fice.

Rus­sian tam­per­ing ef­forts had been go­ing on for months be­fore the 2016 elec­tion, but with­out any re­tal­ia­tory mea­sures from the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, which knew about Rus­sia’s med­dling.

Vic­tor Davis Han­son is a clas­si­cist and his­to­rian with the Hoover In­sti­tu­tion at Stan­ford Univer­sity.


Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.