It is hard to believe that Trumpophobic idiocy can plumb depths more profound than it has reached in the last few days. Just as the Russian-collusion argument, which was never supported by anything except Hillary Clinton’s sulky evasions of her own responsibility for her electoral defeat, was sinking beneath the ripples the Trump-hating media had strenuously created for it, the Flynn indictment came. To anyone with any legal insight, such as Alan Dershowitz, Trey Gowdy, and Andy McCarthy (one of them should be the attorney general), it was the barefaced admission by Special Counsel Robert Mueller that, after nine months in charge of an investigation that had already been under way for eight months, he has absolutely nothing to justify continuing this charade within its original mandate to explore a Trump-Russian connection. Flynn was indicted for precisely the reason President Trump dismissed him as national-security adviser: lying about discussions with the Russians.
The relief of the anti-Trumpers when the Flynn indictment gave them a lifeline to keep the impeachment dream alive in the minds of the fervent was inflated by ABC News’s bulletin that Flynn had alleged that Trump had told him to contact the Russian government before the election. This in itself would not have been worrisome — anyone can speak to Russians if they want — but it led to window-rattling ululations of Trumpophobic joy. Typical of it was the action of semi-comedienne (about as humorous as Al Franken) Joy Behar (whose book, The Great Gasbag, is, surprisingly, not autobiographical): She burst into applause and generated a standing ovation from the studio audience of her daytime television program. But it was fake news: Flynn claimed nothing of the kind. The reporter who produced the story, Brian Ross, had previously been reprimanded for suggesting that a mass murderer in Colorado several years ago was a member of the Tea Party when there was no evidence for that; and, in 2001, he suggested that Saddam Hussein was behind anthrax attacks in the U.S. when there was no evidence for that, either. Last week he was forced to recant and to withdraw his story, and was suspended without pay for four weeks. Ms. Behar was left with one hand clapping. The president, as has been his custom for two years, vehemently attacked fake news, with accuracy and effect. He debunked CNN by Twitter, eliciting the righteous falsehood of the egregious Wolf Blitzer that that network had served truth to the world for “nearly four decades.” Media solidarity fragmented on that whopper, as it was pointed out by several commentators that CNN had whitewashed Saddam, in order to maintain its bureau in Baghdad after other Western media had fled or been expelled by the Iraqi tyrant in 2003. Competitor Rupert Murdoch hit home when he claimed about 15 years ago that CNN’s Havana correspondent was Fidel Castro.
Launched on slightly sturdier legs was the claim that Trump had obstructed justice, because, if he knew that Flynn had lied to the FBI, his statement to Comey on January 27 that he hoped the FBI director would be able to avoid prosecuting Flynn was an attempt to obstruct justice, compounded by his subsequent dismissal of Comey. As Representative Gowdy explained in a television interview — having read all of Comey’s memos over the period — if Comey had thought he was being tampered with by the president, he withheld that from himself (and Comey has publicly stated that he did not feel that).
The anti-Trumpers have been engaged in a demeaning mousetrapping exercise for a very long time. The Justice Department (in the person of subsequently fired deputy attorney general Sally Yates) apparently asked to interview Flynn, and specifically asked him about conversations with the Russians, only to check his responses against what they had already ascertained from tapping into telephone conversations of the Russian ambassador, seeking a discrepancy. Flynn was so relaxed about it that he was not accompanied by a lawyer — unusual for someone who might be accused of treason — and he probably mistakenly forgot the conversations (as the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, claimed he did with the same ambassador). But Flynn pleaded guilty to lying as a single count, presumably to get rid of the expense and strain of Mueller’s persecution in exchange for a shoestring to the special counsel to keep this sham investigation going.
It is time for the visceral snobs and deranged Trump-haters to subside and allow a serious opposition to arise.
It is difficult to know whether President Trump deliberately pours gasoline on the fires of Democratic and conventional-media frustration with provocative tweets, or is just reckless; the most likely option is a combination of tactics and insouciance. His enemies almost always overreact and crunch their teeth into another nothingburger. He is clearly winning the long battle: Almost the entire congressional Republican caucus now accepts his leadership and is working to enact the Trump agenda that most of them opposed up to the election, and, as the tax bill shows, he is breaking through; the Democrats will shut the government down at their peril. But as he takes hold, the president should consider whether he doesn’t owe the country and his great office a de-escalation of the tweet-wars. By all means, communicate with the vast Trump constituency and ignore the dishonest media — but he could graciously forgo answering the most insignificant critics (like the ungrateful father of the basketball player he sprang from prison in China) and throwing raw meat in the faces of the Maddows, Blitzers, and Scarboroughs, entertaining though it is.
It is also time for the visceral snobs and deranged Trump-haters to subside and allow a serious opposition to arise, that offers alternatives and does not start swinging before the ball is pitched and strike out every time. America deserves a dignified chief and a loyal opposition.
— Conrad Black is the author of Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Champion of Freedom, Richard M. Nixon: A Life in Full, and Flight of the Eagle: The Grand Strategies That Brought America from Colonial Dependence to World Leadership.