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gulliver's Journal
gulliver's Journal
April 28, 2019

Hold Republican feet to the fire for Trump's behavior, not just Trump himself.

Trump thrives on word game fights. Formal legal or institutional attacks against Trump hurt him, but eloquent editorial blastings, fact checking, and so forth usually don't. For the most part, word game fights help Trump. They are oxygen to him. That's why he tries to start them with the pathetic tweets and rally rantings we see all the time now.

Even for formal, institutional fights such as legal system and lawsuit conflicts, Trump's strategy is not to fight them as legal system and lawsuit conflicts. Instead, he and his PR fixers (everyone who works for him plus the Republican Party and Fox News) turn these formal conflicts into word game fights too. That takes the proceedings out of the realm of the sober, rational, and just and gives Trump a chance to bend rules, pull strings and, above all, wail about unfair partisan treatment.

But what if we didn't always play Trump's word games directly with him? What if every time Trump spat on, say, the Constitution or adult norms of decency, we trained our political responses not on him but on someone else. Instead of taking up the argument with Trump, for example, we take it up with Mitch McConnell and the Republican Party or Fox News. We then treat Trump as if he were nothing more than an unaccountable, ill-behaved child, incapable of adult agency. "Trump's a nothing, people. He's a helpless child. Let's talk to the adults behind him."

Take this latest Robert E. Lee disgrace from Trump as an example. "Many generals... in the White House," per Trump, supposedly told him Lee was one of their favorite generals. It's just another nutso, crazy, lying thing to say (I hope and assume). Two possible approaches for our sane response are: 1) Ask Trump for proof that many generals in the White House told him that, or, 2) Point Trump to (or issue fact checks by) "history experts" who will educate everyone on how Lee was a bad general and a bad person.

Unfortunately, neither of those will work. The first, asking Trump for proof, won't work and never does. He's lying. Of course he's not going to furnish proof. He turns not furnishing proof into proof that those asking for proof are powerless.

The second, fact checking Trump and sneeringly pointing him to learned experts on how wrong he is, never works either. Again, he's lying, so he doesn't need to be educated; he needs to be shamed. We let that key fact slide when we try to educate or show he's ignorant. Also, there are no "experts" in Republican world. Trump's fixers (the Republican Party and Fox News) will simply point to some pseudo-history comic book and pretend that it refutes the anti-Lee experts. (And, adding intelligence insult to disappointment, much of the rest of the media will call the comic book a "refutation," not a "rebuttal," for no other reason than they don't know the difference between the two words.)

What if, in this case, we called on the Joint Chiefs of Staff to provide a list of generals willing to take responsibility for telling Trump what he says they told him? Go around Trump altogether. Treat the story not as "Trump says generals told him Lee is great" but as "U.S. generals tell Trump that Lee is their favorite general." Call Trump's bluff by calling the generals on the carpet. Don't ask Trump for a list of backers. Ask the people he says backed him why they backed him.

Likewise, whenever Trump says something stupid, lying, or crazy, why not immediately ask Mitch McConnell to explain it? Make Mitch McConnell Trump's keeper, whether he likes it or not. Just presume that McConnell and Senate Republicans are standing behind their illustrious leader every time that leader disgraces himself and ask them to account for him. Instead of saying, "Trump, we demand you prove U.S. generals told you Lee is their favorite general," we say, "Senator McConnell, why does the Republican Party stand behind Trump saying U.S. generals love Robert E. Lee?"

It might drive Trump crazy if he is casually and dismissively treated as unworthy to participate in adult conversation. It might drive Republicans crazy too, because they are used to Trump always being their lighting rod. Maybe we need to make them his lighting rod.

April 21, 2019

The minute we impeach is the minute we lose ownership of the narrative.

The Republican Senate would then take up the matter and turn it into the Mueller Report vs. the Steele Dossier, the FISA warrants, and the Strzok texts. The trial would be rushed and stage managed through the Senate by Senate Republicans and Republican Chief Justice John Roberts. It would be quickly decided in Trump's favor and would be Constitutionally over. We lose. Trump would be exonerated. The Republicans would make sure that the story ended on a high note for themselves and Trump. Any further investigation in the House would be cast as Dems not accepting a Constitutional verdict.

Time is on our side. The longer we hold the impeachment power, the more we can drag Trump and the Republicans through the dirt and build a stronger and stronger case. I definitely want to see more and more dirt on Trump, more and more cravenness from Republicans. We need to have the courage to fight for the Constitution against both Trump and the Republican Senate, using both our Constitutional powers and the democratic vote. That also means being brave enough to withstand our own impulses for instant gratification and the rationalizations that accompany them.

April 5, 2019

Trump's use of the word "collusion" is all bluff, and we should turn the tables on him.

Trump's been getting people to fixate on the word "collusion" for a very long time. I have to grudgingly admit that, to me, it shows true genius. It really does. No one says genius has to be "good," folks, and Trump's use of the word "collusion" is a case in point.

First, look where we are now. Trump and his Republicans are beating up our people and cowing the media with the word "collusion." They've got a rhetorical weapon in their hands. They are going on the offensive with it. All of their enemies "despicably" accused Trump of "collusion" and "treason." They should all resign. They should all go away. Go into isolation. Go into a shame spiral. The Mueller Report, as Trump and his Republicans would have it, proves that there was no "collusion."

We're afraid of the word. Some (many) think the Mueller Report does clear Trump of collusion. Some think the Mueller Report handed Trump a big win on collusion.

Nope. It's a bluff. It's all in our heads. And Trump and Barr put it there. We are being beaten with the very stick we should be using to beat Trump. That's genius on Trump's part. He's going strongly on the offense with a rhetorical weapon that is in reality among his greatest weaknesses.

Trump set this all up by hammering on the word "collusion" all this time. He has used it constantly for essentially the entire duration of the Mueller Investigation. "But...but my goodness," our mild mannered, thoughtful intellectual community told us, "doesn't Trump know that 'collusion' isn't a legal term. (Snort. Snort. What a dummy that Trump is!)"

But no. They were the dummies. The sneakiness gland in the middle of Trump's brain knew that "collusion" was a great term for sales purposes and for self defense. He was right.

In reality, Trump did collude. He is guilty as sin of what is very arguably "collusion" with Russia. Also, the Mueller Report probably makes that case exceptionally strongly. The slick Barr Report just says "[The Mueller] investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities."

They "did not establish?" That seems pretty damned weak, and it's coming from a Trump flack who was trying to make it as strong for Trump as he could. He could have said that the investigation "reached the conclusion." He didn't say that, because that's not what happened. Barr knows better than to lie.

More important is the use of "conspired or coordinated." Barr doesn't say that Mueller said Trump didn't collude. Essentially, Barr just spins out that the basis for a legal charge of conspiracy or coordination was not established. Collusion is left open. Barr can't say Mueller addressed "collusion" and dismissed it, although we can be sure Barr would say exactly that if he thought he could get away with it.

Instead, Trump and his Republicans are playing everyone and saying what neither Barr nor Mueller said, that Trump and his campaign were cleared of "collusion." Far worse, the media are saying it. This sneaky word switch, from "conspiracy" to "collusion" mentally links what the honorable, believable Mueller "did not establish" to what "poor, mistreated" Trump has been griping at us all along. Message: Trump was right and has a big win. The false link is made. The trick is complete.

And it is a trick. It's a rhetorical trick of the first order. It's brilliant hocum. Adam Schiff recently laid out our proper definition of "collusion" in his powerful "You might think it's Ok" speech. I only wish Schiff had used that opportunity to wrest the word "collusion" out of Trump's hands. As in, "You might think it's Ok. I don't. Frankly, it seems a lot like what most people would think of as 'collusion.' It really does."

Bottom line, when people hear the word "collusion," they should, in a just and rational world, think of it as a perfectly good word to describe what Trump and his campaign did. It's an apt word for what they did. In a just and rational world Trump should be afraid to the use the word "collusion" lest it remind just and rational people that Trump really did collude.

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