Warning: This post is going to be a little tongue-in-cheek. But only a little.
Robert Mueller’s investigation shows no signs of being over “shortly after the first of the year” as indicated by Ty Cobb last year. After all, it’s March 5, which is not exactly “shortly after” the first of the year. That was another swing and a miss by Cobb, whose batting percentage is surprisingly low. As news has been made public of Mueller’s request for communications among Trump, Carter Page, Bannon, Manafort, Rick Gates, and many others, it appears we will have this investigation for a while.
Here’s my Hot Take: that’s a good thing.
Think about it. This President is, let’s be honest, not exactly a master of policy. We all got yet another taste of his lack of policy chops (to be kind) this past week, when we saw the man unfiltered on guns and tariffs. And yet — if you ignore things like the explosion of the debt and the fact that our foreign policy is subject to the whim of a fool with a smartphone — some decent things have gotten done in Trump’s administation.
And one thing you may have noticed is that the best things were done by other people.
The crowning achievement of Trump’s administration for most conservatives has been his judicial picks, including but not limited to Neil Gorsuch. It’s the main reason to be glad Hillary Clinton didn’t win. And what involvement has Trump had in picking judges? A ceremonial one at best. More than any President in history, he has left the actual selections to the Federalist Society. And that’s a Very Good Thing. It seems true that regulations have been whittled away, and that too is a Good Thing. But do you think Donald Trump reads regulations to decide which are counterproductive? He doesn’t even know how to read a balance sheet.
Trump’s success at policy, to the extent that he has succeeded (and I am still very grumpy about the debt), is not due to his personal engagement with policy. It is owed to the people around him. If anything, when he does get involved in policy, the people around him have to correct his wildly wrong statements. In each case, after stumbling on immigration (“I have no problem. I would like to do that” in response to a request for a clean DACA bill), guns (add your assault weapons ban into the bill, Dianne!), and tariffs (let’s slam Canada with huge tariffs for some reason), Trump has walked his original statements back after the people around him gently explained that he had it all backwards.
This is a man who needs something to do. Ideally, something having nothing to do with policy.
I know! How about having him spend all his time obsessing over some silly Russia investigation!
It’s pretty difficult to believe that Mueller’s investigation is going to uncover much more in the way of “collusion” than has been uncovered already. If you’re cool with Trump Jr., Trump’s son-in-law, and Trump’s campaign manager meeting with someone who represents themselves to be connected to the Kremlin, for the purposes of collecting dirt on a campaign rival, odds are that your mind is not going to be changed much by anything Mueller finds.
But the Russia investigation is a nice shiny laser-pointer beam on the wall, and as long as Trump chases it, he won’t be dealing with policy. Let’s keep this guy preoccupied with personal worries over nothing, and away from substantive policy discussions about gun control, tariffs, single-payer healthcare, family leave, or any of the other lefty programs so near and dear to his heart.
Plus, the Russia investigation provides a little transparency for a fellow who is the last transparent President in modern history regarding his financial dealings. And no modern President has needed sunlight on his financial dealings as much as Trump and the people surrounding him. We have seen recently that Jared Kushner’s company was lobbying the government of Qatar directly for help — and after no help was forthcoming, Kushner pushed hard to support a Saudi Arabian blockade of Qatar that was a humanitarian disaster. We have seen how Trump issued an immigration order that covered various Muslim countries, yet curiously excluded several countries with ties to terror — but also ties to the Trump Organization. To the extent the Russia investigation sheds some light on this President’s financial affairs, I consider that to be a feature, not a bug.
So my Hot Take is: let’s drag this investigation on for as long as it takes. Four years, eight years . . . anything that keeps the kitten chasing the laser beam on the wall.
P.S. I often see people using the laser-beam-on-the-wall metaphor to describe their fantasy about how Trump is a sooper-sekrit genius using his Twitter tirades to distract the press. These people remind me of the credulous folks talking to the President in this clip from the movie “Being There”:
Rationalization is a powerful drug. If you’re determined to treat Trump as a genius, you’re going to find a way to treat him as a genius. The rest of us want to keep the man as far away from policy discussions as possible.