The Limits of Outrage

Whiplash! One day – according to the Democratic glitterati – New York Times, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Shumer, and Tom Perez – James Comey was a terrible FBI director, engaged the department in partisan politics, exercised terrible judgement, and needed to be fired for throwing the 2016 presidential election to Donald Trump. The next day – according to the same characters – he was the pillar of the integrity of the FBI, leading a politically difficult, but necessary investigation of the President, who has subverted democracy. “Double think” worthy of George Orwell in 1984, Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia. Some reflections:

1. #Resist has nothing but irrational anger. There is no program. There is no introspection. There is no reasoned argument. There is no modulation to complain about important things and ignore petty things. There is no concern about what Middle America thinks. It is a catharsis for those who cannot believe that Hillary lost and want the Democratic Party to move sharply to the Left. The movement has the Democratic Party leaders afraid of uttering any calls for cooperation and compromise. This will last at least until the 2018 elections.

2. Fake news proliferates. The Washington Post publishes that Comey had asked for more funding of the Russia / Trump investigation just before he was fired. The Justice Department denies it. The Deputy Director (a Democrat whose wife received $700,000 from Clinton loyalists to fuel her Virginia Assembly race) denies it. Funding for investigations comes from general budget appropriations, not appropriations targeted at specific investigations. Nevertheless, the New York times runs the story; the San Francisco Chronicle runs the story; Politico runs the story; The Hill runs the story; the London Times runs the story. To the best they can manage it, the media has provided a rationale that Comey was fired because he was too zealous in pursuing the Russia /Trump connection.

3. The Left runs out of incendiary language to describe Trump – a fascist; parallel to Hitler; or Mussolini. If one were to have a rational discussion about governing style, and respect for the division of powers contained in the American Constitution, Trump would come out far ahead of Barack Obama who bypassed the Senate’s role in approving treaties when he cut the nuclear deal with Iran or signed the Paris Climate Accord; or who tried to ease Obamacare in by delaying unpopular provisions (like taxes on rich union healthcare plans) for years or unilaterally paying insurance companies to participate; or who bypassed Congress in exempting young illegal immigrants from deportation; or who used the NSA to spy on the Trump campaign by targeting foreigners who would speak to Trump team members, then “unmasking” the “accidental” Americans involved in the phone calls. No president has done more to threaten the structure of American government than the former constitutional law professor.

4. Trump has under-estimated the importance of the personnel function. Perhaps it wasn’t that important in his smallish real estate company; it is critical in the sprawling federal bureaucracy where there are 4,000 “political appointments”, 1200 requiring Senate approval. He has only this week begun to fill the 120 openings in the federal court system. He has not really begun to replace the 50 or so federal prosecutors which were fired in January. His last cabinet Secretary – Henry Acosta at Labor – was confirmed on April 27. Too many deputy department leader are vacant or yet to be replaced by Trump team members – State and the FBI for example.

To the objective observer, things are going OK. Executive orders are being issued – this week on election fraud. Judicial appointments have been excellent. The foreign policy team is forceful and prudent. The key learning that must happen is how Congress needs to act in the absence of any Democratic votes on significant legislation. That affects Trump, but the leadership must come from the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.


—– – 5/12/17

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