WASHINGTON, D.C. - Fool us once, shame on us. Fool us twice, a pox upon our house.
Along with too few others, I am mortified that President-elect Donald Trump is successfully fooling the custodians of democracy once more. This time there is virtually no resistance.
We are now seeing the first scandal of the Trump presidency, but Trump is not the main villain. There’s nothing illegal going on. It’s a scandal of omission and magical thinking. Luckily, it’s not too late to attempt a rescue.
Here’s the deal: Collective Washington already is taking a dive for Donald Trump.
On Nov. 7, about 90 percent of the professionals in and around politics, government, the courts and the national security community privately thought Donald Trump was a reckless, unprepared, unstable, unserious but charismatic freak of political nature likely to be very dangerous if elected.
A week later, he is being treated as a regular old president-elect.
If this continues, we’ll blow the chance to impose the tough checks, scrutiny and vigilance any semi-sane democracy would use to minimize the risks posed by such an aberrant new leader. A pox upon our house if we’re fooled again.
A hypothetical illustrates the point: Imagine what would have happened if Hillary Clinton won the election in electoral votes, but ended up with a million fewer popular votes than the loser, Donald Trump, whose campaign computers had been hacked by a foreign government.
At a bare minimum, there would be ferocious debate over the legitimacy of the election and Electoral College. That would be proper. Beyond that, Trump probably would have declared the election rigged and refused to concede. Congressional Republicans would have gone ballistic, filing lawsuits, demanding investigation, passing resolutions to bomb Russia and launching an impeachment campaign. Right-wing media would be calling for insurrection.
Well, after being hacked by the Russians, Clinton won the popular vote but not the election — but there hasn’t been a coordinated campaign of resistance by congressional Democrats. It’s the silence of the lambs.
I am emphatically not saying the results aren’t legitimate; I’m saying it is pathetic and unhealthy that the national argument hasn’t been louder. It’s a sign of complacency and an omen that Trump’s potential to cause calamity is again being underestimated.
Clinton gave a gracious concession speech, which was fine. President Obama said all the proper, reassuring things. But he was wrong not to also alert the country that this is no ordinary transition and Trump is no ordinary president-elect. This is no time to pretend this is business as usual. But that is what’s happening.
Far too much media attention has been diverted to navel-gazing about why the predictions were so wrong, but prediction is not journalism’s job and this is no time to ease up on covering and investigating Trump and his posse, the people likely to run the White House. There is a subtle current in the flood of news media output implying that because Trump won, he must be a better guy than he seemed before the election. There are apologetic hints that Trump voters must be wiser and more virtuous than, well, the other voters, and the press was mean to them. Too many are acting like winning bestows on Trump the right to more deferential treatment.
Like CNN and Fox News, K Street is about to enter a new gilded age. Half the lobbyists have big clients who think Trump will give them carte blanche; the other half will be hired by clients who think Trump wants them dead. It’s a jackpot for sleaze, not a draining of the swamp.
Trump must feel like he’s been given a deck of “get out of jail free” cards.
Democrats are still licking their self-inflicted, now infected wounds. They’re capable of doing that for months given the magnitude of their screw-up. What the Democrats must never do is mimic the Republican opposition strategy of Newt Gingrich and Mitch McConnell: monomaniacal focus on destroying the president no matter what. The Democrats will have opportunities to support Trump on several important policies and they must take them, even if it makes Trump look good in the moment.
I propose that the most effective route to putting shackles on Trump Unbound in an honorable way is with a guerilla campaign to flip a couple GOP Senators and gain control of the Senate. There are plausible targets: Susan Collins, Lindsey Graham, Jeff Flake, Rob Portman, Ben Sasse (sort of), Lisa Murkowski and Cory Gardner.
Yeah, I know, that’s politically impossible.
Well, Trump was impossible and he’s going to be the president.
It is high time Democrats and the eclectic array of anti-Trumpers try some Missions Impossible. Politics as usual already have failed both parties and the parties failed the country.
Maybe the CIA and the Chinese can help the loyal opposition since the Russians and the FBI are on Trump’s team.
Extremism in defending against Trumpism is no vice.