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Right Opinion

Saturday Miscellaneous

Bill Wagner · Jul. 14, 2018

After a week or so of watching Democrats react to Brett Kavanagh, it seems that even my dire predictions of over-the-top partisan attacks underestimated the vitriol, and we’re just getting started. More in a second, but first some random comments.

For a couple of weeks, the world was riveted to the drama unfolding in a cave in Thailand. Heavy rain caused water levels to rise in the cave, and 12 members of a youth soccer team and their coach who had hiked into the cave system became trapped. The only way out was under water using scuba gear. I’ve been diving for 30 years and can assure you that even the most experienced divers will admit to the occasional flash of panic in caves or wrecks or when diving at night.

But that’s nothing compared to Thailand. It had everything — narrow passages, limited visibility, strong currents, and rapid changes in water levels, not to mention that the dozen kids not only had no idea what scuba equipment was but they didn’t even know how to swim. The journey to the surface took hours, so the logistics planning to place enough scuba tanks along the route was daunting. Couple that with the uncertainty about rains that could flood the passageway at any time, and you had a massive problem with no obvious solution.

Someone made the call to proceed, and in the rather-be-lucky-than-smart category, it turned out to be a great decision because the pumps that were keeping the water levels manageable failed just as the last kids were rescued. It was the ultimate feel-good story of incredible bravery, persistence and technical skill, but leave it to the Left to turn it into a political statement.

As if on cue for climate change-driven fundraisers, it took only a day for the Left to produce two environmental/ocean studies professors who solemnly informed us that climate change was the culprit for the incident. You see, climate change has caused “wet air” to get “wetter,” so the normal “interseasonal oscillation” of wet and dry periods have become more extreme, leading to heavier rains and flooding that trapped the kids in the cave. Clear now?

In what the New York Post referred to as another form of Brexit, the England World Cup soccer team lost to Croatia, which will go on to meet France in the finals. I know zero about soccer, so I kept yelling at the TV for the players to “shoot the ball.” I would have preferred the drama of an England-France championship game, but it was not to be. And, oh, by the way, how is it that a country with 340 million people can’t field a soccer team that makes it into a 64-country team tournament?

Speaking of sports, is there a more beautiful athletic event than the team time trial in the Tour de France?

I watched a bit of the Peter Strzok hearings Thurdsay. It “struck” me as eight hours of ultimately useless he said/she said. Everyone on the committees seemed focused on whether the numerous Strzok anti-Donald Trump communications demonstrated “bias.” Anyone with an ounce of common sense would say, “Of course the guy was biased against Trump.” But the question of whether it was “personal” bias or bias that compromised his ability to do his job is not so straightforward.

Strzok admitted that he could see how his statements could cause some doubt about his ability to investigate Trump fairly (gee, ya think?), but he insisted that none of his job actions was influenced by his personal beliefs. And since it is impossible to get inside his head to know what he was really thinking, absent a full understanding of what he actually did, we are left to speculate. And isn’t that the point? We still do not know everything about exactly what Strzok and his fellow FBI guys actually did in both the Hillary Clinton and Trump investigations.

We know the results of the Clinton probe and the fact that a special counsel was appointed to investigate Trump further have been made public, but we are left in the dark about the actions that Strzok and company might have taken that would definitively show if there was bias. The most prominent of those would likely be how the conclusions on Clinton were reached, how various actors in that drama were treated by the FBI, who made the final calls to alter the charges and not prosecute, and exactly how FISA warrants were obtained to spy on Trump associates, which led to the special counsel.

I guess Trump believes having the uncertainty of the issue somehow bolsters the innuendo that the Robert Mueller probe is a witch hunt, but hasn’t the damage to the country moved way past that? It baffles me why Trump doesn’t simply declassify everything related to the FISA applications (among other items that led to the special counsel), get the FISA judges on the record, and find out the truth. Until then, we are left with being unable to prove a negative and dueling mind reading — all flaming the partisan flames that are destroying the country.

The lower courts, prior to the Supreme Court bringing some sanity to the matter, had ruled Trump’s travel ban was illegal, in large part because of some campaign statements Trump made that were in contradiction with what was written in his executive order (EO). In other words, had the EO been issued by another president — say, Barack Obama — or had Trump not made some campaign comments about banning Muslims, all would have been fine. The courts essentially weren’t saying that “a” president didn’t have the authority to take the travel action, only “this” president. So if Obama had issued the same order, it would have been perfectly fine. That’s the same twisted logic that has followed Trump to his NATO summit get-together.

The media and Democrats are beside themselves that Trump is calling out other NATO members for not contributing their fair share of NATO funding, but they neglect to note that other presidents, like Obama and George W. Bush, have done precisely the same thing. The only differences being that Trump is more blunt and he actually means it and will hold others to account. The idea that Trump doesn’t want a strong, unified NATO is absurd. He just wants an equitable sharing of the financial load and is prepared to use nondiplomatic language to achieve it. And what exactly is wrong with that?

Ditto the harsh rhetoric aimed at Germany for doing a huge energy deal with Russia while complaining about NATO funding and undercutting efforts to use the most effective leverage over Russia — namely, minimizing the use of their energy assets. Not to mention that former German political figures are leading the charge as newly minted private-sector energy executives with a big financial dog in the hunt. Much of Trump’s foreign policy negotiating strategy is based on business tactics and economics.

He knows that Russia is basically an economic basket case, propped up by oil wells and gas pockets. Squeeze the energy, and Russia has nowhere to go. So tossing the same people whom NATO is supposedly designed to checkmate a huge lifeline in the middle of complex geopolitical negotiations is beyond stupid. It may modestly help European economies by having cheaper sources of energy (and line the pockets of former German officials), but at the cost of losing negotiating leverage over more important matters. If I were Trump, I would not be a happy camper either.

The bottom line for the media and Democrats is that they may not necessarily disagree with Trump’s goals — get other NATO members to pony up more for defense and put the squeeze on Russia economically — they just don’t like his style and have nothing else to offer but resistance. You could say that about the Left’s view of a lot of things Trump.

Back to Brett Kavanagh. In spite of a few attempts by Democrat thought leaders (I know, that’s a contradiction in terms) and leftist op-ed writers to bring some sanity and reality to the Left’s reactions to Kavanagh, the rhetoric continues to escalate. The rational approach would be to recognize that if the GOP hangs together, which is likely to be the case, there is nothing Democrats can do to stop his confirmation. So leave yourself some wiggle room to do a thorough review of the nominee, but don’t back yourself into a corner. Focus on doing what can advance an overall Democrat election strategy up and down the ballots, not just pander to the extreme left-wing donor base.

This applies primarily to red-state Democrats up for reelection who will be faced with a real problem if forced to make a choice between supporting a resistance tactic driven by Democrat leadership, Democrat presidential hopefuls and the radical Democrat donor base and appealing to their local constituents who could view a thumbs down on Kavanagh as a deal-breaker.

As of now, Democrats are doubling down and putting those at-risk senators in a bind. And the problem is that while Democrats historically have had no shame in playing anti-nominee hardball until late in the game, when a guaranteed loss would magically free up their at-risk colleagues to vote “yes,” this time the rhetoric is so over the top that such a last-minute switch may backfire since any semblance of credibility would be lost on the voters. It’s easy for the Democrat leadership not up for election or in safe states to preach “take one for the team.” But since all politicians’ jobs are to get reelected, the party unity theme is likely to fall on deaf ears.

The GOP skeptics are already showing signs of coming around, but that hasn’t stopped the Democrat “brain trust” from plowing ahead. The obvious initial targets were Roe v. Wade and Obamacare, with dire predictions of women losing all their rights and low-income patients dying in the streets. But they are having trouble convincing the rational voter that the Supreme Court will make abortion illegal. It won’t.

Even if Roe is overturned, which is highly unlikely, all it would do is make the federal government agnostic on the question and return the issue to the states. As for ObamaCare, all that eliminating it would do is force the issue back to Congress, where ideally it will come up with a plan to provide health care access to all, ideally built around market principles and constitutional methods.

The latest gambit is to claim that the reason Trump nominated Brett Kavanagh was to put a reliable support vote on the Court in case Trump is subpoenaed or indicted. Kavanagh is on record as saying that it is a jump ball whether a sitting president can be subjected to those actions and has urged Congress to enact legislation clearing up the matter, but that’s all.

There would first need to be enough evidence for Trump to be indicted. Then the multi-year challenges would have to work their way through the lower courts. Finally, the results would provide jurisdiction for the Supremes to take the case. Add in the time it would take for the Supremes to rule, and Kavanagh’s vote would be coming just in time for Trump to celebrate his 85th birthday, having been out of office for years. Even the staunchest Democrat extremist is having a hard time hanging his or her hat on this latest scare tactic.

This one is going to play out as predicted. Democrats will overplay their hand, leave themselves no room or time to allow their at-risk senators to retreat, and demoralize their voters as Kavanagh takes his seat in October — and they are left with no other platform to fall back on. It may fill the coffers of some Democrat 2020 hopefuls, but it will not help the Democrat Party’s efforts to take back either the House or Senate. Keep up the good work, guys.

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