Sean Connery’s Advice on Trump, Russia, and Wiretapping

No, it’s not “one ping only.”

I considered really digging in on Pres. Trump’s allegation that fmr Pres. Obama wiretapped him, based on an article at Breitbart.  Although this article was based on old news stories, it was apparently all news to Trump, who then leapt to an accusation not fully supported by it.

Nevertheless, Trump’s claim served the political purpose of getting the right to focus more on the idea that the investigation(s) of contacts between people associated with his campaign may have been politically-motivated.  After all, the Obama administration abused its administrative and investigatory powers in other cases, so why not here?

My guess is that anyone reading this is already interested enough to have an opinion and that for me to add value, I would have to get very deeply into the weeds, perhaps mind-numbingly so.  Accordingly, I will try to add value by not talking about it.

Instead, I will observe that many of the people I see raising their blood pressure over this allegation (and the larger Trump/Russia narrative) tend to be at least eight years younger than I, and frequently considerably younger.  Of course, that may just reflect that I’m down with the kids.

People of that age generally have little direct and visceral memory of the time in which many conservatives thought Clinton White House Counsel Vince Foster was murdered.  Or that Pres. Clinton had some connection to a drug-running enterprise operating from Mena, Ark., and that there were mysterious deaths connected to it.

Conservatives were inclined to believe such things not only out of partisan passions, but also because the Clintons tended to be surrounded by a cloud of scandals.  The odds that Hillary Clinton turned $10,000 into $100,000 as a novice trader of cattle futures were indeed so astronomical as to defy belief.  There was evidence to suggest Hillary was involved in the firing and smearing of White House Travel Office employees in a classic bit of cronyism, even if the independent counsel declined to prosecute.

The independent counsel, however, did convict 15 people in the Whitewater scandal, including Bill and Hillary’s business partners in the the ill-fated real estate venture.  That investigation stalled when those same business partners, even after they were convicted, refused to discuss the Clintons’ role.

And there was Bill lying under oath in a sexual harassment case, the selling of the Lincoln Bedroom, and so on and so on and scooby dooby dooby.

The point is that when people have a shady track record, whether it be Clinton, Obama or Trump, partisans may be inclined to believe even crazy things about them.  Or at least believe them enough to want them investigated.

In fact, sometimes you don’t even need the shady track record.  I’m also old enough to recall when Very Serious People investigated whether George H. W. Bush flew in an SR-71 Blackbird jet to Paris to interfere with the Iranian hostage negotiations.  They also investigated whether he was involved in drug-running with the Contras in Nicaragua.  Apparently, if you have been director of the CIA, there is no limit to your capability for evil.

I mention this not to tell so many of those excited by the allegations against Trump or Obama to get off my lawn, Eastwood-style.  It is to observe that it is far different to have lived through the events described above than to hear or read about them.

People who have not been immersed in that sort of political climate may not understand the feeling of them.  They may not understand on an emotional level how easy it is to convince yourself that that things which seem crazy now seemed so much more reasonable to consider seriously at the time.

Given the track records of Trump and Obama, it may not be crazy to consider that there may be something (even if it’s a very soft version of the hysterics now) to the allegations against either man or their associates.  But maybe we’ll look back and — with the benefit of hindsight — conclude that some or all of it was indeed crazy.

What we do know is that there are investigations that will ultimately produce findings.  Regarding those results, as Sean Connery said as Jim Malone in The Untouchables: “Don’t wait for it to happen.  Don’t even want it to happen.  Just watch what does happen.”

Not that anyone will take that advice when there is punditry to be had.

Update: If you do want to get into the weeds on this issue, Stephen Hayes lays out what we know — and what we don’t know — at TWS.

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Can This Marriage Be Saved?

Amid tumult at the White House, the Washington Examiner’s April Ponnuru notes: “If this is the honeymoon, prospects for the marriage between President Trump and congressional Republicans are bleak.  We’re not even a month in and many Republicans are looking nervously for the nearest exit.”  For that matter, it wasn’t much of a honeymoon from the outset.

The reality is probably less dramatic.  Oddly, the best recent historical precedents for the Trump/GOP relationship Administration may come from the Democrats.

One possibility for the GOP can be called The Bill Clinton scenario.  Bill ran for President as a heterodox, more centrist figure in his party.  He won despite the way he treated women.  Nicknamed “Slick Willie” as far back as 1980, his relationship with the truth was as casual as his relationship with the opposite sex.  He lied about things large and small; parsing his lawyerly evasions became a cottage industry for his critics.

Bill Clinton, his Administration, and his associates became mired in a swamp of scandals of varying import.  He was impeached (though not convicted) and disbarred from practicing law in Arkansas and in front of the Supreme Court over the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

Despite the scandals, triangulations and losing control of Congress to the GOP for the first time in 40 years (indeed, perhaps in part because of the latter), Democrats ultimately stood by their man like Tammy Wynette.

Democrats debated whether Clinton’s success was due to his more centrist positions on welfare and crime or his support for the party’s legacy achievements.  It was probably some of both.  Equally important or more so, the Information Revolution unleashed an economic boom.  Plus, Bill rallied the party faithful by expertly playing the victim of what Hillary Clinton would infamously dub as a vast right-wing conspiracy.

Bill Clinton, aside from changing the norms for a President in ways that paved the way for Trump, also provides a model by which Trump might succeed in keeping most Republicans and conservatives sufficiently onboard with his presidency.  If Trump can balance traditional GOP policy priorities with some key Trumpian proposals — and continue to drive all the right enemies crazy — he can probably maintain a successful political operation, even if he runs into scandals.

Of course, for the Clinton scenario to work, the economic and foreign policy fundamentals will have to also go well for Trump – or appear to, at a minimum.

A worse-case scenario might be called the Jimmy Carter scenario.  Here was an earlier heterodox figure in the modern Democratic Party.  Far more centrist than the Dems’ 1972 nominee, Sen. George McGovern, he also won in part because he lacked the sort of moral flaws so evident in Richard Nixon.

Yet the Carter Administration failed in part because he did not work or play well with a Congress of his own party.  The obvious collapse of old school Keynesian economics and Carter’s foreign policy humiliations were almost certainly bigger factors, but the lack of support for Carter in Congress and the Democratic Party more broadly – culminating in Sen. Ted Kennedy’s 1980 primary challenge – was highly damaging to his prospects for reelection.

Wherever Trump and the GOP wind up on this spectrum, note that Clinton and Carter are still considered heterodox.  The Democratic Party and progressivism more generally have continued their leftward trajectory despite them.  Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 election in part because she went from being perceived as one of the more left-wing influences in her husband’s administration to a retrograde figure by large segment of her party today.

The heterodox Trump administration — or some of it — seems interested in trying to remake the GOP into a more nationalist or populist party.  But trying to change your spouse after the wedding ceremony seems….tricky, at best.  Of course, that also might be instructive to anyone in the GOP still hoping that Trump is going to make that long-rumored pivot someday.

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