“A man hears what he wants to hear, and disregards the rest…” Simon and Garfunkel
So it’s finally out. The Mueller Report, that is. Followed just 48 hours later by the long awaited Barr Report.
Working overtime during the past weekend, Attorney General William Barr and his gang of Republican-appointed attorneys digested twenty-two months of work by the Office of Special Counsel and wrapped it all up in a concise four-page political summary.
Donald Trump immediately claimed total vindication. And yes, there is vindication. The witch hunt concluded that there was no collusion between Trump and the Russians. All there was about 100 connections between Moscow and Trump’s family, campaign staff and associates, all of which have been well documented. It’s not as if the Trumpkins weren’t wishing, hoping and trying. Vlad and company took care of the rest.
It remains to be known why Donald Trump holds such an un-American allegiance to Vladimir Putin and the Russians, but the evidence of his willingness to serve their interests is all there in plain sight. The despicable display of ass-kissing in Helsinki will go down in history as the most un-American act by an American since Benedict Arnold.
The Barr Report suggests that there is no case for determining that Trump obstructed justice, something that other legal minds dispute. Robert Mueller punted on this question, if Barr is reporting correctly, which brings back memories of some Buffalo Bills coaches’ decisions on fourth down plays, when “going for it” seemed like a better choice – but I digress. The record on obstruction issues, which is already widely known, certainly raises some legitimate arguments that justice was obstructed.
But no matter how this all plays out, and it is going to take a lot more time, the bottom line of what little that has been released thus far will leave the country pretty much as it was before last Friday. Those who support Trump will still believe him and trust him. Those who oppose him will still consider him corrupt and lacking in loyalty to his country.
The 2018 congressional elections demonstrated a couple very important things: (1) Democrats are energized and prepared to show their commitment at the polls; and (2) the Democrats who won election to office last year did so by running their campaigns on policy issues. Trump wasn’t even an afterthought in most cases – and it worked.
With as big a field of candidates for president as the party has ever seen, the candidates – the most serious candidates – are primarily talking about policy issues. Trump, again, is an afterthought.
There will be House of Representatives investigations and countless hours of TV punditry. There will be outlier candidates who will try to distinguish their candidacy by being the loudest voice against Trump. But there is no need to dwell on Trump’s character or personality when there are so many other things to focus on, such as:
- Following the Constitution. Trump continues to personally enrich himself through his business holdings even while it is commonly known that foreign governments direct lots of money his way, a clear violation of the Emoluments Clause. More recently and of even greater importance, the constitutionally required congressional control of the purse has been violated by Trump and congressional Republicans.
- Health care. Republican bragging about how they would “repeal and replace” Obamacare has been an utter failure. They have continued to promote high deductible, low coverage medical insurance plans which can be best described as “fake insurance.” Republican support for such things as a protection of coverage when there are pre-existing conditions is questionable. All Americans should have easy access to health care, and the campaigns should discuss that.
- Climate concerns are still being denied by Republicans, who meanwhile stand up for such things as the dying coal industry. Wake up and smell the air. This issue is real, and Democrats are on the right side of it.
- Ending crony capitalism. Trump’s version of socialism is to cherry-pick favored industries and businesses rather than let the market determine such things. Stop playing favorites with the favorite donors. Level the playing field.
- Tax cuts for the rich and ending deficit spending have been the Republican mantra. They are not the reality. Annual trillion-dollar-plus deficits are now the norm. Those matters must be reversed so that the nation’s resources can be put to better use.
- Income inequality. The spread in income and wealth between the top 0.1 percent and the rest of the country has never been bigger. The country needs to do a lot better than we are doing now.
- Issues concerning college costs and student debt need to be addressed. This must be done where federal resources can do the most good. For some students this means going beyond tuition assistance to help with fees, books, transportation, etc.
Many of these issues will make note of the fact that Trump policies do harm to the very people he claims to represent.
There will also be opportunities to highlight what has been the most corrupt presidential administration in at least the past one hundred years. Proposing reforms on how elections are run and how government should be managed will be replete with examples of how not to do those things. A short list of Trump administration scandals includes:
- Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price’s taste for private airplane travel at the government’s expense
- EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s obsession with perks like international travel, office furnishings, security details and lobbyist-connected cheap rent in DC
- Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin’s interest in government paid honeymoon travel and a trip to observe a solar eclipse
- Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ annual multi-million dollar security details
- Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s use of government-paid personal travel
- Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’ lies about his ethics disclosures and failure to follow the law
- Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin’s use of government funds for personal travel by his wife
- The attempts to hide Cabinet Secretary Rob Porter’s spousal abuse matters
- Jared Kushner’s repeated security clearance “editing,” ultimately ending with his father-in-law superseding normal clearance procedures
- Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson’s office furnishings
And then, of course, there have been the Trump-connected associates who are or likely may be spending some time in prison, including:
- Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort
- Deputy Campaign Chairman Rick Gates
- National Security Advisor Michael Flynn
- Foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos
- Advisor Roger Stone
- Trump personal lawyer Michael Cohen
The main thing that Democrats should take away from the roll out of the Barr Report is that if the goal is to remove Donald Trump from office in 2020 and to elect a Democratic-controlled Senate, the focus must be on the issues. We already know from the 2018 experience that that works. Talk about impeachment will simply play into Trump’s hands; it would have no chance of succeeding.
So reference the corruption and swamp infestations, but focus on the positives of the issues that need addressing. Americans generally prefer to look forward rather than to look backwards. It’s a winning strategy.