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June 15, 2023

Bananas, Anyone?

The chief victim of the DOJ’s indictment is not Donald Trump; it’s our nation.

It’s hard to imagine America being any more divided than it already is — but just in case there’s room for a bit more discord, the Biden administration’s prosecution of its arch political foe and 2024 rival, former President Donald Trump, finished the job.

As usual, politicians, media, and talkingheads on both sides offer distinctly different assessments of the indictment’s political implications — equal measures of cheering for the home team, confirmation bias, and wishful thinking. We have no way of knowing how this will all shake out, but this much is certain:

1.) The Department of Justice’s (DOJ) prosecution case is legally solid and poses significant jeopardy for Trump. Trump’s own actions encouraged it. This is Special Counsel Jack Smith’s opportunity of a lifetime to take center stage, and more importantly that of Attorney General Merrick Garland and President Joe Biden to conquer their orange-haired nemesis. We can be sure that they have prepared well and wouldn’t venture down this path without high confidence of success.

2.) Legitimate or not, the prosecution was unnecessary. The Espionage Act of 1917 is usually invoked to punish spies and leakers — not alleged here — and in this case there is the glaring specter of unequal enforcement. Despite Smith’s repeated insistence that “no one is above the law,” it sure seems like everyone except Donald Trump — including Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton — is above this law.

3.) The DOJ’s rash action is immeasurably harmful to the nation, nothing less than direct government interference in the 2024 presidential election. That’s the last thing our nation needs on the heels of the tainted 2016 and 2020 elections and the tumult that followed both. We don’t know yet which political side will be the net beneficiary, but we can be sure is that whatever is the 2024 outcome, half of the electorate will — quite logically — trace it to this week’s arrest of the GOP’s current front-running candidate.

That impact is irreversible. The damage is done, voters’ views have been altered, their positions either reinforced or reversed.

4.) The administration’s decision to prosecute was a political calculus. Surely it knew a Trump indictment would infuriate his Republican supporters, yet another example of the Democrats’ pathological “witch hunt”; surely it knew its action would intensify Trump’s supporters’ insistence that he pursue the presidency; and surely it knew Trump himself, always spoiling for a fight, would be more determined than ever to run.

The tactic is as plain as day. Democrats are goading Trump to stay in the race, they are making it more difficult for other GOP candidates to overtake Trump, and they are ensuring that Trump will be the most damaged nominee of a major party ever to vie for the presidency. The Trump indictment gives Democrats their best chance of retaining the White House, either with Biden as their candidate or, if necessary, a replacement.

It’s a great tactic. And one that totally ignores the best interests of the nation.

5.) We’re not (yet) condemned to a presidential race between two demonstrably wrong candidates — a binary choice that gives new meaning to the dilemma of choosing between the lesser of two evils. By now, both parties must recognize that their front-running candidates are hardly the best they have to offer. If they are unable or unwilling to remedy that problem, then it will be up to the electorate to step up and do it for them.

Historically, third-party candidacies have been a bust, each time serving as a reminder not to ever go down that road again. But history has never seen an election season like this one, with a frightening barrage of problems confronting the nation at home and abroad and two leading presidential candidates who, in different ways, have each displayed stunning unfitness for the job.

For all the known obstacles confronting anyone with the temerity to launch a candidacy opposing two former presidents, he or she can also take encouragement from the fact that the American electorate includes more independents than either registered Republicans or registered Democrats.

Pulling together, independents and/or moderates would form a potential political juggernaut. With adequate funding and a well-organized campaign, a pair of solid, competent candidates could carry the day.

Wishful thinking? For sure. But that doesn’t mean impossible.

Even in banana republics worldwide, we would be hard-pressed to find a more flagrant abuse of political power than an initiative by the administration in power to prosecute and convict its prime political opponent. American voters, whether they like the former president or detest him, should not stand for it.

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