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Repubs circle the wagons, for now (and how things might end)

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Have you noticed?—Republicans doubling down on their message that “There’s no there there” when it comes to RussiaGate?

I see it all the time. Every GOP congress member or Senator on every cable news show says it. Every columnist at Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal says it. Every fundraising email from Republican organizations says it. “There’s no evidence of any collusion. There’s no evidence of any crime. This is just Democrats who are mad about the election.”

Well, I have one question for these apologists: How do you know “There’s no there there” before the investigations are finished?

I’m old enough to remember Watergate. Republicans circled the wagons around Richard Nixon to the bitter end, until even they couldn’t stand the heat anymore. That’s when Republicans Barry Goldwater, John Rhodes and Hugh Scott went to the White House to tell Nixon the jig was up: he had to resign, or be impeached and convicted. But that intervention didn’t happen until August 7, 1974, more than two years after the original Watergate break-in. Granted, things occur more quickly these days because of social media, but it is still extraordinary for politicians to turn against a sitting president of their own party, so we should not be surprised by the stubbornness with which Republicans currently are standing by their man.

How might it happen that Ryan and McConnell pay Trump a little visit? My crystal ball: By year’s end, Mueller issues his report. It indicts Michael Flynn and names Jared Kushner, and perhaps others, as an unindicted co-conspirator. It does not directly tie Trump to any crime, but suggests, strongly, that he fostered an environment of reckless disregard for the law that encouraged others to commit crimes. Jeff Sessions is forced to resign. Tillerson is embarrassed but stays. McMaster, citing health reasons, quits. The complicity of many other Trump staffers and family members remains questionable.

By this time, of course—early 2018—we’re headed straight into the election cycle. Things are really heating up in red districts. Republicans are running scared. Democrats rachet up the campaign ads: the word “reckless” is tattooed to Donald Trump, and Republicans running on the “reckless Trump ticket” can’t help but be tainted. No one wants him campaigning for them in their districts. Barack Obama, who’d been fairly quiet all year, bursts forth with a series of pointed attacks; his credibility, still high, hurts Republicans greatly.

Then comes more breaking news: Flynn is looking at jail time and/or severe financial problems for not revealing those Russian and Turkish payments. He now understands that violation of the Constitution’s emoluments clause applies, not just to elected officials, but to military personnel: Without the consent of Congress, an individual who holds an ‘Office of Profit or Trust’ in the Government may not accept a compensated position (an “emolument”) from a foreign state unless Congressional consent is obtained.” And in Flynn’s case, of course, Congressional consent was not obtained; Congress didn’t even know.

Flynn, who had been the most resistant of FBI suspects to tell what he knows, sees the light: he can horse-trade in exchange for a lighter sentence. What does he have to offer the prosecution? Evidence that Trump and his agents, acting on his instructions, furthered the Trump family’s wealth by revealing U.S. secrets to the Russians, and otherwise conspired to help Russia, in exchange for favorable treatment by Russian banks, and the withholding of the dossier by Putin. The news leaks: the resulting furor overwhelms all other news. Suddenly, the tipping point is reached: Republicans jump ship. Staff changes are made, wholesale, in the White House; Priebus takes a job in PR with a powerhouse corporation. The final straw: the Wall Street Journal’s lead editorial reads:


Even the most vociferous Trump supporters—Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Michael Savage, Alex Jones, Ann Coulter—begin to swing into line, although they obfuscate the issue with smears of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, and by blaming the media for “fake news.” Trump’s polling numbers hold steady among tea party and evangelical types—no surprise there, nothing could change their minds—but his “base” in the Congress, never strong in the first place, disintegrates. That’s when Ryan and McConnell make their little trip to the Oval Office. Amidst an explosion of flashlights, at 10 a.m. on a weekday morning, and with plenty of advance notice to the media, the two gentlemen emerge from their meeting with their noses to the ground, grimly saying nothing to reporters, issuing only a brief written statement: “Speaker Ryan and Leader McConnell will leave it to the president to speak for himself.” A tense two days go by: the country is consumed. What did they say? What did he say? Will he quit? Be impeached? Fight? More leaks: Trump wanders morosely through the White House halls at night; one staffer calls him “a zombie.” The West Wing staff is demoralized, terrified of running into him: they avoid him as best they can. Melania, who had been living in the White House, returns to Trump Tower with Barron. Jared, still reeling from his “unindicted co-conspirator” status, resigns all duties in his father-in-law’s administration. There are rumors his marriage to Ivanka is in trouble. Vice President Pence is nowhere to be seen. And then, in early March, Trump’s office announces the president has requested 15 minutes on the major television networks, to address the American people. It becomes the most watched T.V. show of all time, finally giving Donald J. Trump his only real achievement in a little more than one year in office: He is #1 in the ratings!

  1. Bob Henry says:

    On crystal balls . . . maybe you should interview this Bay Area person (as you have Gavin Newsom and others for your blog)?

    Excerpt from Fortune Magazine:
    (February 6, 2006, Page 44)

    “Ditch the ‘Experts’;
    Grading pundits and prognosticators:
    More famous = less accurate.”


    By Geoffrey Colvin
    “Value Driven” Columnist

    You have been a world-class sap for years. Why? For listening to the economic and political forecasts of experts. We in the media have been irresponsible fools for reporting those forecasts. And the experts themselves? Delusional egomaniacs — and maybe even con artists.

    I didn’t always think this way. But I’ve been reading a book that marshals powerful evidence to make this case. For all of us in the world of business, economics, and capital markets — a world that often turns on the judgments of experts — the question is whether we’re brave enough to face these uncomfortable facts.

    The book is “Expert Political Judgment: How Good Is It? How Can We Know?” by Philip E. Tetlock, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley. It summarizes the results of a truly amazing research project: Over seven years Tetlock got a wide range of experts and nonexperts to answer carefully constructed questions about the likelihood of specific future events. He ended up with a staggering 82,361 forecasts, expressed in quantifiable form and thus able to be analyzed deeply. His definition of “political judgment” included plenty of topics that you and I would call economic, such as government spending and national economic performance.

    Tetlock then cranked all those numbers through every kind of statistical thresher, flail, and grinder you can imagine, and the result was clear: Experts don’t actually exist. Specifically, experts were no better than nonexperts at predicting the future. …

    … The awfulness of Tetlock’s experts was almost uniform whether they had doctorates or bachelor’s degrees, lots of experience or little, access to classified data or none. He found but one consistent differentiator: fame. The more famous the experts, the worse they performed. …

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