President Trump and his allies have begun a smear campaign against the Special Prosecutor, Robert Muller. He’s conducting a “witch hunt,” says the President. Newt Gingrich accuses Mueller of deliberate bias. Mueller’s “dirty,” declares a Republican representative from Texas.
Never mind that Trump himself had just weeks ago seriously considered Mueller for Director of the FBI. Never mind that Gingrich had proclaimed, when Mueller was appointed in May, Mueller’s impeccable reputation “for honesty and integrity.”
Of course, Gingrich had it right the first time: hardly anyone in America has such a sterling record and reputation for integrity and competence as Robert Mueller. It’s that combination that makes him so dangerous to Trump. Hence Trump’s smear campaign, trying to create a false picture of Mueller in the minds of Americans.
These new accusations are directed not at the majority of Americans, but at the Trump base, which does not seem to keep track of such inconsistencies, or to recognize Trump’s pattern of baseless smears against anyone who might challenge his power.
Smearing Mueller now can help Trump maintain his base support regardless of what happens.
If the 80% of Republicans who still see him favorably can be persuaded that Mueller is an agent of injustice against their leader, they wouldn’t see Trump’s firing Mueller as another effort to obstruct justice.
And if Mueller completes his work and presents the nation with a damning picture of Trump and/or his campaign and inner circle, those who swallow the “witch hunt” and bias accusations will be primed to reject any charges Mueller might bring as bogus, and to regard the story he tells as “fake news.”
That’s why it is of vital importance that these trumped up accusations against Mueller be countered by people and in ways that will be credible to Trump’s followers.
At stake is whether the dangerous polarization of the American people will be intensified, or reduced, by this tremendously important ongoing investigative process.
For a generation, propagandists on the right have waged a relentless campaign to sow division among Americans—and with great success. This campaign should be recognized for the assault on American democracy that it is. It’s a matter of “Divide and conquer.”
If the American people are set against each other, the two antagonistic sides cancel each other out, making room for another force to dictate the nation’s course.
Trump has consistently employed divisive strategies, and the smear campaign against Mueller is an attempt to protect himself by turning his scandal into another way of dividing the American people.
It must be countered without delay, before the false picture can take root.
For a generation, this Republican base has been abandoned to the propagandists, without the battle for their hearts and minds being vigorously contested.
When Rush Limbaugh began his poisoning of the minds of his “dittoheads,” demonizing “librels,” Liberal America forfeited that battle, leaving millions to be indoctrinated into regarding the people on the other side of the political divide as scum of the earth.
When the Republicans, from the beginnings of the Obama presidency, sought to delegitimize him and to characterize that basically decent and moderate leader as some sort of extremist, America-hating alien, Obama just stood by, doing virtually nothing to combat the deceivers leading one third of the American people to shut him out irretrievably.
The abandonment of this Republican base to the deceivers has been a mistake of historic magnitude, with today’s crisis being just one of its direct and dire consequences.
That battle over whether lies or the truth will prevail in their thinking must be fought – not forfeited – now. The American people, generally, must recognize:
- This investigation is of vital importance;
- Robert Mueller’s unquestionable integrity and competence make him the ideal man for the job;
- The eventual findings, whatever they are, can be trusted.
Voices must now be raised forcefully to make those points so that as many as possible of Trump supporters will give them credence.
These cannot be the voices of “liberals” or “Democrats.” The Republican base has long since been taught to discredit everything from that quarter. Rather, they must be credible voices from the Republican side.
We’ve heard prominent Republicans – like Senators Rubio and Thune just yesterday – reject the smears. But only when asked. They are saying the right things, but in a voice so quiet that they are just guarding their own integrity without reaching out to voters who might prefer to believe the smears.
If, out of political fear, such Republican leaders cannot be persuaded to speak loudly and boldly to counter the smears, perhaps help can be had from Republicans no longer concerned about re-election. Perhaps older leaders who may not run again (Grassley? Hatch?) can step up. Or retired Republicans (Boehner? W? Dole?).
One way or another, this investigative process must be made a means of healing, not further rupturing, the American body politic.