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Grand Rapids, Michigan, might be my new favorite city. I hadn’t remembered that it was the president’s last stop on the 2016 campaign trail until he reminded his huge (yuge!) audience there on Thursday night. At 1:00 a.m. on November 8, 2016, he drew some 30,000 cheering people. Some hours before that rally, he recalled, Hillary was waddling (my word, not his) across a stage before 500 or 600 kale-eating advocates for wind power and open borders. I’ll wait while Politifact weighs in with the important correction that Hillary actually drew 687 supporters.
That was no big deal because, you see, she had Michigan sewn up. Trump couldn’t win the nomination, certainly couldn’t win “blue wall” states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Ohio. The well-pressed establishment Geist, incarnated in the Clinton-Obama dynasty, would thrive for at least another generation. The blob was safe. Time for a final Chardonnay and a nap . . .
The rally in Grand Rapids on Thursday night was classic Trump. The braggadocio, the calculated shamelessness—our accomplishments, their stupidity—the off-the-cuff, rhetorically roughhewn delivery, not eloquent, exactly—at least not by traditional rhetorical metrics—but surgically precise in gauging and playing to the emotional temper of the crowd.
There were some vintage Trump insults. I suspect “pencil-neck” Adam Schiff will be changing his style of shirt collar soon. (The optimist in me hopes he will be changing his wardrobe tout court, but I understand that is utopian.) How immature! you can hear the Grecian-formula “conservatives” sigh, How unpresidential. If I were president, I wouldn’t call Adam Schiff “pencil neck.”
It is at this point that an unkind observer whispers to that gallery of Walter Mittys that, in point of fact, none of them is the president nor ever will be, not even the plump, red-faced fellow in the corner tweeting furiously about a “dignified” and “elevated” conservatism.
The point is that Trump can connect with his audience as few politicians can. It drives his opponents nuts. “He’s a demagogue,” they splutter, forgetting that demagogos is simply Greek for “popular leader.” Pericles, for example, was a demagogos, a fact that I would mention if people like poor Gabe Schoenfeld wouldn’t start jumping up and down shouting that I said that Donald Trump was a rhetorician on a par with Pericles.
The president’s opponents keep warning that he is an “authoritarian” personality, dangerous to the republic. How many gulags have you discovered in your neighborhood? The only pre-dawn police raids I can recall in the last couple of years were conducted by Robert Mueller against dangerous geriatrics he hoped might help him convict the president of something.
Quick quiz: what president weaponized the administrative apparatus of the state, deploying agencies like the Internal Revenue Service and the Environmental Protection Agency against his ideological opponents? It wasn’t Donald Trump.
The rally Thursday night was part pep talk. It was part opening salvo in the 2020 election. And it was partly a reminder of what the country has just been put through by the deep-state perpetrators of the “Trump is a traitor/Russian agent/stooge of Vladimir Putin” fantasy.
What were the takeaways from last night’s performance? I think there were three—one symbolic, two pragmatic.
The symbolic take-way was simply an exhibition of political potency. There Donald Trump was, deep in traditional blue-state territory, and he conjured as if out of thin air tens of thousands of enthusiastic supporters who like what he’s done for the economy, for their state, for the car industry, for America. Were I a Democratic strategist, I would have absorbed that spectacle, cast my eye over my own stable—whinnying Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Joe Biden, and the rest of that tin-eared crew—and then I would have taken a cab to the airport where I would have bought a one-way ticket (first class, of course) to darkest Peru, where I would have taken up llama farming in some mountain fastness until 2025 when it might be safe for people like me to return to Washington.
But I digress. The first pragmatic takeaway from last night’s rally concerned Trump’s central campaign promise to build a wall. He is, he said in no uncertain terms, pushing that through. He will build The Wall. He is going to call it a “wall.” And it will be an indispensable adjunct to his determination to stanch the flow of illegal immigrants across our Southern border. The Democrats, putting partisan advantage over national security, tried everything to stop him. They failed. The Wall is happening.
The second pragmatic matter concerns the aftermath of the Russia-collusion plot to destroy Trump. The Mueller Report, upon which the Left had pinned such high hopes, was not only a crushing disappointment to them—No collusion; no obstruction; end of story—it was also the signal to start asking some hard questions about what precipitated this national nightmare.
I think my friend Karl Rove is a very smart man. But I dissent categorically from his judgment a couple of days ago that the president ought not to “obsess” over the “origins” of the investigation because that was not an effective strategy to win over swing voters. Rove said Trump should let bygones be bygones and “move on.”
On the contrary, the president, to the unalloyed delight of the crowd, made it clear last night that “moving on” was not part of his agenda. Or, to put it more accurately, move on he would, but not without making sure that those who weaponized the intelligence resources of the United States against him (and, more to the point, against them) were called to account. This is not a matter of vengeance. It is a matter of preserving the central core of our democratic republic, which turns on the integrity of our elections.
As I have said on many occasions, the whole Russia-collusion narrative represents the biggest political scandal in our history. Why? Because a cabal of officials in the Obama Administration, aided at every turn by an hysterical media, decided that the candidacy and then the election of Donald Trump was not to their taste. They used every expedient to challenge his campaign and then to attack his presidency. Senior officials in the CIA, the FBI, the Department of Justice, and Department of State decided that they had a “higher loyalty” than their loyalty to the Constitution. The people may have spoken on November 8, 2016. But they made the wrong choice. Therefore it was incumbent upon people like James Comey to correct the mistake. They would lie under oath and leak classified material to the press to damage President and people close to him. Perhaps most stunning, they would employ a legal instrument designed to be used against suspected foreign terrorists and repurpose it to open a conduit into Donald Trump’s campaign and then into his administration.
The whole Russia-collusion fantasy, of which the Mueller investigation was only the desperate centerpiece, has cost the taxpayers untold millions ($30-$40 million for the Mueller investigation alone), it has destroyed the lives and careers of several people whose only “crime” was to have been in the orbit of Donald Trump, and it has gravely damaged public faith in the impartiality of our intelligence and security institutions to say nothing of what public faith remained about the media. It is imperative that people like John Brennan, James Clapper, Andrew McCabe, and James Comey are made to understand—and that the public can see that they have been made to understand—that the heads of the FBI or the CIA or the Office of National Intelligence do not have a veto over who gets to be the president of the United States.
John Brennan never missed an opportunity to say he regarded Donald Trump’s behavior as “treasonous.” James Comey cannot stand in a forest looking up at the sky without reminding us that he regards Donald Trump as someone who is “unfit” to be president.
But here is the catch: it doesn’t matter what they think. The awful truth is that they do not get to pick the president. We, the people, we “deplorables” and “irredeemables,” do. The president is right. There must be an accounting. Those public servants who broke the law must be investigated and, if warranted, indicted.
Those journalists who abandoned their responsibility to report the news in order to campaign for one side must be exposed and shamed. The fact that Chris Matthews fails to experience a gratifying frisson running up his leg when he contemplates Donald Trump does not relieve him of the elementary responsibility to report the news fairly and accurately. This he, along with so many of his peers, has failed to do, and they have failed spectacularly.
The president was right to call for an accounting last night. He has to power to make sure that it happens, that it happens quickly, and that it happens fairly. Now is not the time to “move on.” It is time to clean house. Then we can move on.
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