The stakes Nov. 8

William Otis:

I’ve been following politics for more than 50 years. Never has it been as corrupted and depressing as it is now. It’s almost as bad as what used to be known as journalism.

We have two major parties, and the next President is going to come from one of them. At this moment, the leading candidates for their respective party’s nominations are Joe Biden and Donald Trump. I seriously doubt that Biden will actually run again and I’m quite sure that, for the good of the country, Trump shouldn’t.

Biden is just too old and it shows. But even if he were younger, the chances of his renomination are slim because, to be blunt, he looks like a loser and the Democrats know it. I’ve noted his dismal and massively unpopular record before: A cowardly and precipitous withdrawal from Afghanistan a year ago today, one that cost American lives and made that country once more a Taliban and terrorist stronghold; a major war in Europe our “diplomacy” failed to avert; an increasingly aggressive and dangerous China with its sights on Taiwan; inflation at a 40-year high and visiting itself on your pocketbook in ways so ubiquitous and relentless the press can’t fuzz it over; supply chain shortages in everything from semi-conductors to baby formula; race huckstering and racial antagonism getting stoked as Biden looks on (or abets); murder surging across the country to levels we haven’t seen since the last century; an illegal immigration crisis at the southern border the Administration sort of acknowledges but seems unable or unwilling to staunch; and drug overdose deaths at levels (over 100,000 last year) unseen in American history.

Biden is just too old and too weak to lead the country or to withstand having his party taken over by what we see now. Not to put too fine a point on it, what is that exactly? It’s a Democratic Party that has become a consortium of relentlessly dishonest, anti-American, pro-criminal, race-huckstering, Woke-hugging coastal elitists who think American history, to the skimpy extent they know it or care to know it, is nothing but the vileness of slavery with a few footnotes.

It’s a commonplace that a country cannot long survive being run by people who hate it. The fact that America is in the shape it’s in after just a year and a half of Democratic rule is no happenstance. The predominant thinking in the Democratic Party is that America is a stain on the world and has it coming — indeed, has had it coming for a long time. Our current dismal state is, therefore, not bad luck. It’s exactly what you’d expect this poisonous view of America (or “Amerika,” as they like to say when they think no one’s looking) would seek to produce.

So the answer is the Republicans, right? Well, yes and no. “Yes” in the sense that it’s the only major party left, and one of the two of them is going to be holding power (a viable independent third party is a pipe dream and isn’t going to happen). “No” in the sense that the likely Republican nominee, Donald Trump, is constitutionally incapable (in more than one sense) of responsibly exercising of the powers of the office.

I’m not going to go through the long list of Trump’s accomplishments for the country, nor the about equally long list of his personal and character defects that make him unfit for public service (and make him the endlessly talking gift that, to the Democrats’ rapture and delight, keeps on giving — and talking).

I voted for Trump twice and was his nominee for a body in the judicial branch, the US Sentencing Commission. I defended him for years as his behavior sank lower and lower — ask any of his five chiefs of staff, or Jeff Sessions, or Bill Barr, or Betsy DeVos or a host of others. But he has at least one characteristic that makes it unambiguously imperative that he not be re-nominated.

He doesn’t care about law. I doubt he knows much of it or wants to. This would be bad enough in a nominee for any public office, but is terminal in a nominee for the office whose central constitutional duty is to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.”

Last week he took the Fifth, for cryin’ out loud. But — in a turn of events as revealing as it is depressing — our expectations of him are now at the point that we barely noticed.

When I became aware of civic life during the Eisenhower administration, the notion that the President — or a once and perhaps future President — would take the Fifth simply did not exist. Dwight Eisenhower take the Fifth??? Now, with the Donald Trump we have come to know, it barely gets mentioned.

And then there’s the search at his Florida estate. Let’s assume arguendo that the search was politically motivated, excessive in force and scope, without precedent, grossly incendiary, and essentially part of the Democratic Party’s use of the organs of government to scourge its opponents. Very likely all of that is true to some extent, perhaps a large extent. But what did we learn in its aftermath?

We learned, for one thing, that the federal government had spent months seeking presidential records Trump just packed up and took with him when he left the White House. Fifteen boxes of them that we know of so far. They weren’t his property and he had no right to them, classified or not. Under the Presidential Records Act, they were government property. But he decided he wanted them, so off they went.

Question: Presidential Records Act or not, when do you learn that you don’t walk off with mounds of stuff that doesn’t belong to you?

Answer: By about first grade.

But Trump walked off with them anyway. And yes, it may well be true that other presidents took papers they shouldn’t have and had no right to. But the question is, do we want America’s chief executive to be saying, as is now being said in Trump’s behalf, “But everybody does it!

When I said that to my parents, the certain result was getting sent to my room. And I was maybe eight or nine. If that sort of excuse-making, and the mindset that produces it, doesn’t go over in grade school, should we want it — indeed, should we tolerate even thinking about it — in the White House?

The question answers itself. Trump’s obliviousness to law, and his easy acceptance if not pugilistic embrace of that obliviousness, is disqualifying per se. And this would be true even if the Republican Party did not have a bevy of high quality potential nominees who would carry forward most if not all of Trump’s substantive policies without the consistently reckless and lawless coloration. Candidates who would — how should I say this? — make America great again.

Which brings me to the point of this entry (with apologies and thanks to the readers who have been patient enough to stick with me).

The point is to ask what’s really behind the Mar-a-Lago search, and the January 6 Committee, and the grand juries, and the growing prospect of a Trump prosecution. I doubt it’s to put Trump in jail, even for as much as a big segment of the Democratic Party would love to see that happen. Indeed, I doubt there’s going to be a federal prosecution at all.

Here’s the deal. All these moves against Trump will continue, for months at least and probably into 2024. There will be leaks galore. There will be press speculation every day, much of it passed off as “news,” see, e.g., Russiagate There will be dozens of interviews with now-disillusioned Republicans. Liz Cheney will get an anchor spot on CNN to do nightly updates with Andrew McCabe and Peter Strzok. There will be a boatload of panels with “legal experts” (i.e., Democratic operatives who went to law school at some point) about where things are headed.

They say that the process is the punishment — but here, it’s much, much more than the punishment. It’s the strategy to return the Democrats to power in 2024 despite their record. The point of the exercise is to see that their record is not the center of the electorate’s attention and that Donald Trump’s is. The Democrats almost surely cannot win running as the incumbents they are, so the plan is to make Trump the quasi-incumbent and run against him, having used every operation in the book to stockpile negatives for the campaign.

Somewhere down the road, when the Democrats feel they’ve obtained about as much mileage as they’re going to get out of this strategy, we’ll see the kicker: A sober and serious Joe Biden will announce from the Oval Office that, at his direction, in order to promote coming together and national unity, that despite the mountain of evidence the Justice Department has uncovered — evidence that’s easily enough to support indicting Mr. Trump — he has ordered that no prosecution is to take place. Healing, dontcha know.

If I’m lucky, my assessment about what’s really going on will prove more cynical than prophetic. But I regret to say that I tend not to be that lucky.

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