But if you are a rule-of-law conservative, especially one with great faith in the Constitution’s durability, you will have staunchly defended Robert S. Mueller III’s appointment as special counsel to investigate Russia’s election-meddling, pursuant to Justice Department regulations. You might have been shocked by the strange and distorting effects that partisanship clearly had on the special counsel’s team, but you’d still be an institutionalist, still confident in the rule of law.
Now come two events. The first is the publication of Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberley A. Strassel’s new, thoroughly persuasive book “Resistance (At All Costs): How Trump Haters Are Breaking America.” The second is the rush to turn an insignificant phone call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky into an impeachable offense. Read the rough transcript. The hysteria is risible.
As Strassel writes, the rule of law has been undermined over the past several years by deeply compromised senior officials in the intelligence and law enforcement communities, along with allies in the Obama White House during the period between 2015 and 2017. The long, drawn-out Mueller investigation added to the miasma of false narratives about the president. Now add to that brew both the manifest partisanship of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), the domination of news coverage by elite-media liberals and their #NeverTrump allies-of-convenience (pretending to a conservatism that exists independent of long-held constitutional norms), and any fair-minded political observer and proponent of constitutional order should be on high alert.
Most of us in the group of “sometimes Trumpers” have long records of criticizing the president on a host of issues, most recently the failure — twice — to respond to Iran’s aggression with military strikes that would restore deterrence. Our most frequent criticisms target the way Trump brawls without reserve. We don’t believe that the media is “the enemy of the people.” We don’t believe that dubious “whistleblowers” or even partisan extremists are guilty of treason. We reject most of the president’s non-China tariffs, and we wish his criticism of NATO allies was balanced with applause for what they do right. We would prefer a much less confrontational, much more upbeat stream of rhetoric from the president, such as in the speeches he delivered in Saudi Arabia, Poland and in France on the 75th anniversary of the Normandy landings.
But we know as well that Trump has put scores of originalists on the federal bench who will defend the Constitution. We know that he has poured money into a depleted U.S. military. We know that his “America first” rhetoric, far from being exclusionary, is confident, purpose-driven and appropriate. We think the 2020 election will be about policy choices and temperament — and it will be another starkly binary choice.
Those of us who have tried to observe, write and comment from the no man’s land of the raging political battle cannot have failed to perceive a sinister turn of events as the House moved toward staging an impeachment show trial. The feeling of an illegitimate attempt at a coup dressed in constitutional clothing marks this latest turn as it never did the special counsel’s investigation.
Sunday, on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” historian Doris Kearns Goodwin noted that the House would be judged by how it conducts itself. I pointed out soon thereafter that Schiff had already failed that test, going full Queen of Hearts from “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” who did not need due process of any sort before wanting heads to roll.
Fair-minded observers will look back at the past three-plus years and conclude not that there is a so-called deep state — there isn’t — but that there are many compromised people desperately trying to maneuver their way out of a huge legal and ethical corner they put themselves into. Do not trust the always-hate-Trump pundits. Do not trust the Trump-does-no-wrong pundits. Trust the people doing the hard work of putting together the puzzle of the past three years while at the same time keeping a cool, precise eye on the president’s conduct.
There aren’t many in that category. Follow them closely.