For some years, there’s been a battle ongoing for the soul of America. At this moment, the central focus of that battle is the gathering confrontation between the lawless President and the forces defending the rule of law and now led by Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller.
One cannot overstate how essential it is that the criminals — the kleptocrats, the authoritarians, the liars, even (it seems likely) the traitors — do not win that battle.
As Mueller’s forces are advancing steadily, and with impressive strategic skill, the Trump forces are attempting to strike back.
This week saw an absolutely shameless effort to besmirch Robert Mueller, his team, and the entire FBI, with groundless claims of bias, of a lack of integrity, of the investigation just being a way that the deep state and the Dems are trying to bring down a worthy President.
The House Judiciary Committee, for example, led by the execrable Bob Goodlatte — committed party hack even as he heads to retirement — picked up this wholly dishonest line of attack from Fox News and Donald Trump. A disgraceful performance– and a transparent betrayal of the nation and of their oath of office to defend the Constitution.
The scandal of this line of attack would be hard to exaggerate. It is about as direct an attack as one could conceive on the rule of law, on the idea of the American justice system as a place where the law is applied with fairness and objectivity.
The goal of these Republican lies may be to prepare the way for the criminal element to win the battle by firing Mueller and attempt to terminate the investigation into the various crimes that are coming increasingly into focus.
Failing that, the goal of these Republican liars — from Trump to Goodlatte and the others — would likely be to assure that, when the time comes that Mueller delivers what will probably be a set of monumental violations of the law and betrayals of the public trust, the roughly one-third of Americans who are caught up in the false right-wing picture of the world will disbelieve what the investigators are presenting.
And from there, even if the rule of law should prevail, America would be looking at a ticking time-bomb of grievance and rage continuing to corrode American politics, divide the people, and disable the nation from achieving good government that can move the nation forward.
With the outrageousness of the Republican attacks on Mueller et al. so clear, and with the huge stakes in defeating this Republican smear job, the Democrats should be attacking this whole disreputable gambit in the strongest terms.
They are enemies of the truth. Their arguments don’t bear the most casual scrutiny. They are attempting to subvert the rule of law. They are making themselves the accessories of the crimes they’re seeking to cover up. They have made themselves party to the effort to obstruct justice. They are betraying the nation and their oath of office.
Really, what could U.S. Senators and Representatives do that would be more deserving of the harshest public attacks?
But that is not what one hears from their Democratic colleagues. Yes, of course there are criticisms. They are articulate, they are accurate, they demonstrate that the Democrats know full well what the Republicans are up to, and disapprove.
But what their criticisms do not convey is the outrage. The visceral determination that the lie will not defeat the truth this time, that America will be ruled by law and not by those who trample on the law.
What these criticisms don’t do is draw the attention of the nation to the travesty being enacted.
This has been the characteristic error of the Democrats for a generation– didn’t stand up while the Republicans spent years looking for a way to destroy Bill Clinton’s presidency, didn’t mount a furious fight against the W presidency as evidence showed that Bush II was the most lawless American presidency ever (until now), didn’t protest the indefensible Republican policy of obstructing across-the-board a duly elected President of the United States, and now are not raising their voices in outrage at how the Republicans in Congress are protecting the President against the Constitution rather than the Constitution against what looks increasingly like a criminal enterprise in the White House.
What will it take to get the Democrats to press the battle with all their strength?
In addition to attacking the Republicans in Congress, the Democrats should also speak directly to the world of the Trump supporters who are the targets of these lies from Fox News and the Republicans.
To those Trump supporters, they should say something like this:
“Americans have a choice. They can believe the liar or the straight-arrow.
“They can believe Donald Trump, the man who had to pay millions because he conned the people who signed up for Trump University; the man who stiffed the people who worked for him; the man who claimed his Inaugural crowd was the biggest when the pictures showed it was far from it; the man who claimed that he had no business in Russia when now we know he was going for a Trump tower in Moscow; the man who lies more frequently by far than any president in American history.
“Or, they can believe Robert Mueller, the man (a life-long registered Republican himself) whom the Republicans themselves praised as a man of unquestioned integrity when he was appointed. A man who would be a prime candidate for “Straightest Arrow in America” if such a contest were held.
“Why would anyone choose to believe an extraordinary liar over the man who is extraordinary for having perhaps the strongest reputation for integrity in American public life?”
Press the Battle!
(The image is derived from the idea of going at them “with hammer and tongs.”)
Andy Schmookler is the author of the series, “A Better Human Story,” available on the web.