You can tell how much trouble Trump is in from the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal. The worse things get for Trump, the crazier the columnists get. It’s hard, and getting harder each day, to defend his crimes, transgressions and lies, as Mueller ramps up the charges; but the Journal’s op-ed artists, under orders from Rupert Murdoch, do their best; and, lately, their attempts cross the line from hyperbole into outright comedy.
Let us stipulate, for starters, that Trump is in “deep doo-doo,” to quote a former Republican president. Mueller’s Monday knockout blow was extraordinarily severe, and everybody knows that more—much more—is on the way. So how do you defend the indefensible?
Not very convincingly. Here, for example, is William McGurn, one of the Journal’s most ideological ranters, less a journalist than a shill for Trump. Mueller’s indictments? “Manufactured,” he rails, “a sideshow.” Oh really? I’d wager that Manafort, Gates and Papadopoulos don’t think so. And then he trots out the inevitable shiny objects: “Obama,” “Susan Rice,” “Samantha Power,” and, yes, the shiniest of all, “Hillary Clinton.” Distraction time, kiddies! But this is all McGurn has: terrified of the looming Russia-Trump scandals, he reaches into threadbare pockets to create non-scandals. As a certain Twitterer might write, #Sad.
Not to be outdone is Holman W. Jenkins Jr., a Tucker Carlson wannabe, snider than McGurn, though less smart. His appointed target: the dossier. That document really freaks Republicans out: if the pervo sexual stuff turns out to be true, it will make defending Trump considerably harder, especially for the Christian family values crowd. So here’s Jenkins, casting red herrings on all sides. The dossier was “never exactly plausible.” (Really? Says who?) It “smelled of Russian disinformation.” Christopher Steele “might have made it all up in his London office.”
Yes, Steele might have. Perhaps Hillary Clinton wrote it, or Chuck Schumer, or Nancy Pelosi, or “the elites” whom Jenkins—as East Coast elite as they come–loves to ridicule. Well, the important thing, for Republicans, is to convince people that the dossier is fiction, even though large parts of it already have been proven. And Trump? “The people’s tribune.” This is what I meant by hyperbole morphing into comedy.
Finally, there’s Daniel Henninger, nearly as snide as Jenkins, but with a veneer of preppie respectability. His assigned target: Mueller, who is starring in “a grisly movie” (grisly only to Trump defenders, enlightening to everyone else). The best way to undermine Mueller’s findings is to remind “the American people” that they “are disgusted with Washington,” lest they start to believe the mounting evidence of collusion and nepotism in the White House. And, for good measure, Henninger throws in a few more shiny objects: “Tony Podesta” (as if anyone cares), “Hillary Clinton” and “the Swamp” that Trump promised to drain. According to Henninger, he’s done it, or would have, except for “K Street and the Beltway bandits,” all of whom, apparently, are Democrats.
Incidentally, it’s ironic, but not coincidental, that the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page follows closely along the same lines as Pravda’s—or perhaps it’s the other way around. Russiagate is “falling apart,” Pravda tells us; indeed, it is “smoothly evolving into Ukrainegate”—a bizarre definition, meaningless to almost everyone. Mueller “works for a certain order”; Pravda doesn’t spell it out, but the implication is the Democratic, liberal order. Meanwhile, “the impeachment of Donald Trump will…be postponed indefinitely.” That may well be the view, or the hope, in the Kremlin; it is emphatically not how Americans see impeachment. Forty-nine percent of us now “support impeaching Trump,” with only 41% opposed.
As the number of pro-impeachment Americans rises above 50%, the Republican Party is going to have to do some serious thinking. We’ve already seen senior Republicans testing how far they can go: Corker, Flake, John McCain. As Mueller releases more evidence, and more of the president’s men (and women) are indicted, or plead guilty, more and more Republicans will shift course and desert a president they already think is insane. But we can be sure of one group that will never change: the op-ed columnists at the Wall Street Journal. Unless and until Rupert Murdoch decides Trump is more trouble than he’s worth—and there’s no evidence he’s anywhere close to that–he will order them to defend Trump, come hell or high water. And those salaried, amoral lemmings will comply.
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