Right Opinion

Catching Up

Bill Wagner · Aug. 1, 2018

Now that the Tour de France is over, it’s time to get back to the serious business of pontificating. When confronted with the daunting task of choosing a topic, it hit me just how many significant events had occurred in just the last 10 days. The world is moving at Trump speed. So rather than delve into a single item, let’s try a quick recap.


Can anyone recall the name of the Russian woman who was indicted for what the media called “being a Russian spy”? This was the latest in a long line of events that were sure to prove Russian collusion with Trump. She was accused of trying to worm her way into influential GOP circles, including the NRA and the prayer breakfast, “to advance the cause of Russia.” Of course, that doesn’t make her a spy but rather an “agent” of Russia, and what she was charged with was not “spying” but acting as a “foreign agent” without registering as such. If that were strictly enforced, half of K Street would be behind bars, but the opportunity to put “spy,” “Russia,” and “Trump” in the same sentence was too good for Democrats to pass up. She even showed up at a Trump press conference and asked him a question, so that clinched the collusion angle.

The story had a shelf life of about 10 seconds once the facts diverged. But this one hit home for me, because I know a female Russian spy when I see one. Some years ago, a Russian named Anna Chapman was accused of being a real spy. She was arrested, pleaded guilty, and was sent packing as part of a U.S.-Russia prisoner swap. Chapman tried to get close to influential government officials, and potentially compromise them, by working as a tax accountant for a New York City CPA firm to gain access to their financial records. It happened to be the accounting firm that does my tax returns, so I was dragged into the inquiry briefly, but evidently she thought I wasn’t worth the effort, since my records were not part of the case. Yet another reason not to go into politics.


Speaking of women in the news, can anyone name the Georgetown Law grad who was the poster child for the Democrat push toward government-controlled health care back in the Barack Obama days? Here’s a hint: She was all over the media for weeks demanding that birth control should be part of the required “essential benefits” included in ObamaCare insurance policies. She succeeded in putting GOP ObamaCare opponents back on their heels by painting anyone who disagreed with her as “anti-woman,” and that was in spite of her total lack of understanding of what insurance is. Heartstrings were pulled, but she missed the fact that insurance is simply the transference of risk for unforeseen events to another party for a fee. Payment in advance for anything that occurs predictably and regularly, like changing the oil in your car or taking birth control pills, is just prepaying an expense, not shielding one from unexpected costs. It makes no economic sense to pay someone else a fee to take that off your plate. But at least her fame was measured in minutes.


Fast-forward to the latest darling of the Left, the 25-year-old democratic socialist (whatever that means) woman from New York City who defeated the number four Democrat in a recent primary. Her platform is open borders, abolishing ICE, single-payer health care, guaranteed minimum income, $15 minimum wage, housing as a human right, ending the war on drugs, elimination of fossil fuels, and free college for all. Paid for by making everyone pay their fair share in taxes, instituting a carbon tax, and “you know like not giving the military you know all those new atom bombs and you know like jets and things that they don’t even want … fer shure” (that’s a rough quote). And in a glorified statement of the obvious about the dearth of Democrat ideas, Democrats are embracing her as the latest progressive shiny penny and falling all over themselves to embrace a platform that is supported by dozens of American voters. You go girl!


Trump’s trade moves, involving imposing tariffs to try to level the playing field, were characterized by Democrats and Never-Trumpers as the end of the world as we know it … until it wasn’t. It took the EU about a week to come to DC and agree to what Trump has been pushing for all along — free trade with no tariffs on either side. Maybe the best way to get back to zero is to let the other side decide if it would like equality at zero tariffs or 60% for both. It’s called negotiation, and Trump is the first in a long time who is willing to use the economic clout of the U.S. to get to free and fair trade.


Comey may be the most skilled operator ever in making himself the darling of the Democrats and the devil incarnate in the same week. First he cleared Hillary Clinton, then was forced to reopen the case when her emails were found on Carlos Danger’s computer days before the election. Comey cleared her on that as well, but it is likely that the association with the sexter-in-chief (who is now serving time) cost Hillary some votes. Now in the private sector, but still thinking of himself as the smartest guy in the room whose opinion is the only one that counts, Comey issued a plea for voters to pull the Democrat lever in November. Then a couple days later, he hedged a bit by urging Democrats not to embrace progressive candidates, stating that “the great middle of America wants sensible, balanced and ethical leadership.” Oops. Looks like Jim forgot to check where all the Democrat enthusiasm is these days. His dissing has now earned him time in the penalty box. His best move was getting the book out before the curtain fell.


For months I urged Trump to declassify the FISA warrant process. That was a tough call for me since I realized that much of the FISA process should be confidential, but the continuing erosion of American faith in the justice system and law enforcement overrode those concerns. So imagine my glee when the news broke that the FISA applications were going to be released thanks to a FOIA request. Then the actual docs appeared, but it seemed like 90% was redacted. There was enough to show that the phony dossier played a major role in the application and that it was not verified independently by the FBI in a blatant violation of protocols. Nor was it disclosed to the judge that Team Hillary commissioned and paid for the dossier, an even greater breach of protocol. But “other” support rationales for the application were blacked out, leaving us back where we started — uncertainty over what else beside the dossier may have provided cover, and continuing dueling memos. It continues to escape me why Trump won’t declassify all the application docs and transcripts. Maybe he thinks that disclosure would have more impact closer to the midterms, but I still believe that the damage to the public faith in our institutions calls for the release of everything now.


So Donald Trump Jr. and a couple others get together with a Russian lawyer who claimed to have dirt on Hillary in Trump Tower before the election. The dirt turns out not to exist. They chat for a few minutes and leave. No harm, no foul. Everyone claims Trump was not aware of the meeting. End of story, no? Well, no. Along comes Trump lawyer Michael Cohen claiming to have tapes proving Trump knew the meeting was going to happen. The “impeach Trump” crowd goes ballistic. Finally the smoking gun! Seems like a nothing burger to me. All that happened was an agreement to listen to what another party claimed to have as opposition research — an everyday occurrence in campaign land. Since nothing came of it and nothing exchanged hands, it seems irrelevant whether Trump knew about it or not. The law refers to “solicitation” of foreign involvement and obtaining “things of value,” neither of which occurred. So what’s the big deal even if Trump knew about it in advance? Certainly there’s nothing to justify the breathless reactions of Democrats, but anti-Trump hope springs eternal.

I am puzzled though why this is such a huge violation of campaign laws in comparison to, say, hiring a law firm to hire an opposition research firm to actively solicit foreign (i.e., Russian) sources to dig up dirt on your political opponent, which is then used both in the campaign and in obtaining warrants to spy on that same opposition campaign by the government, which was funneling the results of the spying back to the very campaign that started the ball rolling. Sure smells like “solicitation” of “things of value” from a foreign source, but that’s just me.

Then part two surfaces in the form of a payment made by a magazine to a Playboy Bunny for the exclusive rights to her story of a supposed yearlong affair with Trump. The magazine ultimately decided not to publish the story. According to Democrats, this is another smoking gun on the theory that Trump was involved in the deal during the campaign, and so the money paid by the magazine constituted a “campaign contribution” that was not disclosed, since it was for the purpose of helping Trump get elected by putting a potentially damaging story in the drawer.

There are a couple of problems with that interpretation. Conviction would require showing that Trump was motivated solely by campaign concerns. It would also need to show that the magazine spiked the story solely to help Trump get elected, and that editorial discretion played no part at all. It would seem a heavy lift, and it would also seem that if the Cohen tapes showed guilt they would already have leaked. And exactly how would it be any different from, say, The New York Times using its news sections as op-eds because it knew Trump had to be stopped? The Times made no secret of the fact that the only reason it did this was to help the Hillary campaign. Endorsements are one thing, but really?


Trump has offered to meet with Iran with no preconditions. Of course, it turned him down, since it still thinks it can peel Europe away from the U.S. when sanctions kick in. But trust Trump’s instinct here: The Iranian economy is on the brink of imploding, and a shove from sanctions could give Trump enormous negotiating leverage to cut a real deal with Iran on nukes and regional behavior. Trade, investment, and energy purchases are the keys, and there is no way Europe will defy the U.S. if Trump stays on message. The Iranian natives are getting restless, and it’s good to be king. We could be seeing the early stages of another positive world order shift. All Democrats can do is pine for Team Obama to put the nuke deal back in.


Finally, when was the last time you heard the name “Brett Kavanaugh”? Don’t worry: Anti-Kavanaugh Democrat fervor will resurface soon — the base and donor crowd will demand it — and it will play right into the GOP’s hands.

The reason Democrats can’t get any traction with anything except an anti-Trump platform is because things are happening too, so they are left only with negative generalities on Trump. Eventually, attacks on Kavanagh will join the platform, but that’s as far as Democrats will go. With nothing positive to offer, they are reduced to spinning everything Trump in as bad a light as possible. They even tried to couch 4.1% growth as not sustainable. That may rally the radical Democrat base, but telling folks to ignore the good news in their pocketbooks is not a winning election strategy. When Kavanagh is confirmed in October, Democrats will have nowhere to go, and the blue wave will be a trickle. Welcome to life at the speed of Trump.

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