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Elections

The Little Engine That Couldn’t

The Democrats think the very fact that a president is impeached is enough tarnish his reputation and diminish his chances of success in the election. Don’t bet on it.


- September 28th, 2019
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Those whom the gods would destroy, they first make ridiculous. Has it happened to the Democrats yet? I think so, yes. I think so.

“Whistleblower” is already being enrolled in the lexicon of political disasters, and not just on account of pictures of the priapic Bill Clinton with Monica Lewinsky and featuring a rude joke about “whistleblowers” (“You know how to whistle don’t you? You just put your lips together and blow”).

No, “whistleblower” has entered the joke book of American politics because of the wild discrepancy between aspiration and reality that it represents.

Just last week, an all-points bulletin was blaring from the Get Trump media and the assorted fantasists in the Democratic Party. “Now we’ve got him, lads. Impeachment is just around the corner.” The New York Times said so. So did CNN and MSNBC. So did Nancy Pelosi, soon-to-be-former speaker of the House. Representative Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) was so certain of it that he thought he could get away with pretending to read the transcript of Donald Trump’s call with the Ukrainian president while actually just making stuff up.

Really. There he was, piece of paper in hand, addressing the House Intelligence Committee (and millions of viewers at home), exuding his signature “the-President-is-not-above-the-law-deer-in-the-headlights-automaton” countenance. The whole thing, Schiff said, was a “mafia-like shakedown.”

“I want you,” he pretended to read, “to make up dirt on my political opponent, understand, lots of it, on this and on that. I’m going to put you in touch with people, not just any people, I’m going to put you in touch with the attorney general of the United States, my attorney general Bill Barr. He’s got the whole weight of the American law enforcement behind him.”

When it was pointed out that Donald Trump said none of that, Schiff replied that his words—his lies—were a “parody.” Oh.

Achievement Unlocked: Mental Helplessness

In general, one tends to admire perseverance. We like to think it betokens a certain seriousness of purpose. We remember The Little Engine That Could from our childhood and want to root for the blundering but stalwart underdog. “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.” But in this case, the Democrats are not bringing the Christmas presents of impeachment and the destruction of a duly elected president they dislike to the boys and girls on the other side of the mountain. On the contrary, they are making fools of themselves. What we are seeing unfold before our eyes is not a reprise of The Little Engine That Could but a signal illustration of Chesterton’s observation that madness means “using mental activity so as to reach mental helplessness.”

I do not mean to fall prey to Godwin’s Law, but watching the behavior of the Democrats and their media enablers these past few years, it is hard to avoid the suspicion that that have been unduly impressed by the opinion of a former Austrian corporal that if one is going to tell a lie, one should take care that it is a big one.

The trouble is, it is not at all clear that this strategic deployment of mendacity actually works. It did not, in the end, work for the Austrian corporal. And it hasn’t worked for the Democrats, their media hirelings, and their NeverTrump camp followers.

It’s not just that Democrats disliked Donald Trump. They declared him illegitimate. By implication, they declared anyone who supported Trump illegitimate, too.

Beginning in 2015 and continuing until the day before yesterday, we had wall-to-wall lies about Donald Trump “colluding” with the Russians. We spent tens of millions of dollars, destroyed countless careers, and came up with zilch. There was no collusion, though not for want of intimidation, fabrication, and round-the-clock hysteria on the part of the media and damaged souls like Bill Kristol, Pastor David French, and poor Max Boot, among many others.

Like so many pseudo-Hamlets, they looked around and decided that “the time is out of joint. O cursèd spite/that ever was I born to set it right.” The problem is, they have no play to catch the conscience of the king. They only have made-up gossip, lies fabricated by people on the payroll of Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee, hearsay, rumor, innuendo, and hate-inspired fantasy. They brought it to bear against Donald Trump during his campaign and in the first two years of his first term: nada.

They tried the same thing, twice, against Brett Kavanaugh. Again, nothing, nichts, rien. And now they are trying it yet again against the president.

A Preposterous Gambit

An unnamed “whistleblower” (personally, I think it is a protégé of John Brennan or possibly Michael Avenatti) cites various rumors he has overheard second- or third-hand, writes it up as an official complaint, and the whole stinking pile of malignant calumny is carefully fed into the Trump outrage machine and takes over the media narrative for a week or so.

It is impossible to overstate how preposterous the whole whistleblower gambit is. As Sean Davis has pointed out at The Federalist, the “intelligence community” (another phrase that has entered the lexicon of political malfeasance) recently, and secretly, changed the rule that “whistleblowers provide direct, first-hand knowledge of alleged wrongdoings.”

The new rules, which were made public only after the transcript of Trump’s July 25 call with the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky was released, “eliminates the first-hand knowledge requirement and allows employees to file whistleblower complaints even if they have zero direct knowledge of underlying evidence and only heard about [wrongdoing] from others.” Interesting, what?

Impeachment frenzy cascaded over airwaves and displaced every competing story, even the exploitation of that sick child crusader Greta Thunberg, for about 48 hours. But the floodwaters are rapidly receding and the malodorous muck and detritus that has been left behind are already being subject to the sanitizing scrutiny of people who don’t like being lied to.

Several of my friends are resigned to the prospect of Trump’s impeachment by the House. There is no question—despite Bill Kristol’s active fantasy life—that the Senate will not muster a two-thirds majority to convict him and remove him from office. But, the Democrats presumably are reasoning, the very fact that a president was impeached would tarnish his reputation and diminish his chances of success in the election.

I am not at all sure that is correct. It didn’t happen with Bill Clinton. And beyond that, I am not convinced that the move to impeach the president would even garner the requisite 218 votes in the House. Already, pocketa-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa, you can hear the furious sounds of backpedaling as a dim consciousness of what they have done with their impeachment frenzy steals over the reptilian brains of the impeachment choristers.

Ticking Time Bombs

But it is actually worse than that, much worse. I think Thomas Lifson, writing for The American Thinker, is right. The whoops of the impeachment war dance are echoing in an otherwise silent and most severe chamber. All this frenetic activity—the screaming front-page headlines, the salivating attacks on Trump in the now-routinely anti-Trump Drudge Report—all that, as Lifson says, is but the “prelude to the coming time bombs about to explode in their faces.”

The bombs in question, Lifson points out, have names: Michael Horowitz, the Justice Department inspector general whose report on malfeasance in the FBI and the “intelligence community” is due any day; John Durham, the U.S. attorney looking into the origins of the attempted coup against Donald Trump; and John Huber, the U.S. attorney who is looking into the FBI’s surveillance of Carter Page and connections between the Clinton Foundation and the Uranium One scandal.

Those time bombs are indeed ticking, and even the Dems must be able to make out the tick-tick-tick above the fury of their anti-Trump skirling. Some people say that what we are witnessing is just an instance of hardball politics. They hate us, we hate them, let the game begin.

I think it is much worse than that. There were plenty of hints and adumbrations before, but it really took shape with Donald Trump. What we have seen over the last few years is an effort to render a large part (indeed, a majority) of the electorate illegitimate.

Donald Trump won the presidency in a free, open, and democratic election. And yet a sliver of the population—the Antifa thugs, the Hollywood brats, the media sissies, the beautiful people with expensive degrees, and, of course, the radical fringe of the Democratic Party—all refused to accept the results of the election.

It’s not just that they disliked Donald Trump. They declared him illegitimate. By implication, they declared anyone who supported Trump illegitimate, too. In essence, they bowed out of the social compact that underwrote the legitimacy of the American regime.

They adopted the extreme rhetoric and tactics of revolutionaries. “Jusq’au-boutisme” became their rallying crying: by any means necessary. Whatever it takes to rid the country of the Bad Orange Man—and (often unstated but always implied) his unenlightened supporters, whose lack of enlightenment is guaranteed by their support for a man who is “literally Hitler” etc., etc.

Destroying the American Consensus

It is difficult to take the measure of this political wrecking ball, but of this I am confident. The only thing that might—might—assuage our troubled polity is a systematic exposure of the destructive tactics, motives, and political presuppositions of the anti-Trump onslaught. That exposure will require the candid scrutiny of the law, and anyone who cares about the future of American democracy can be heartened that William Barr is the attorney general. Nancy Pelosi is not, as she floated on Friday, going to be able to impeach him any more than Kamala Harris is going to be able to impeach Brett Kavanaugh.

What has been happening these last three years is not just an effort to destroy Donald Trump. That, indeed, is merely incidental to the larger project of destroying the fundamental American consensus. I do not think it will succeed. But I am sufficiently disillusioned to realize just how grave a threat these forces pose to what we used to be able to call, without irony, the American dream.

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