With the Mueller investigation discredited, Frank Bruni suddenly realizes that Trump used America’s winner-take-all system to enact conservative policies.
Frank Bruni’s latest opinion piece at the New York Times — Robert Mueller, You’re Starting To Scare Me — is a fascinating window into the Progressives’ narcissistic mindset. Superficially, the column has a single point: the Mueller investigation is sucking so much oxygen out of the room that nobody is paying attention to what Trump is actually doing. In reality, though, it presents a world in which there can be only one point of view and one way to do things. All other viewpoints aren’t just different, they are unacceptable, even in a two-party democratic republic.
Before I get to the “Trumpian horrors” that Bruni lists, I want to take a minute to comment on his overarching thesis (that Mueller’s investigation sucked all the available oxygen out of D.C.’s news reporting). Much as it pains me to agree with Bruni, I have to. He’s perfectly correct that the Leftist media’s obsessive focus on the elusive Russian collusion theory has left them without time or energy to talk about the other things that Trump is doing.
However, while I’m always happy to blame Mueller for lots of things, the reality is that the silence on Trump’s other activities isn’t Mueller’s fault; it’s the media’s fault. Just see my reference, above, to the media’s “obsessive focus” on Mueller. Nobody is making them devote 90% of their time to that story; it’s their choice.
Bruni’s plaint probably explains why Trump didn’t exercise more executive authority over the past year to constrain the Mueller investigation. It wasn’t just the bad optics of doing so or the fact that Trump is a law-abiding executive and therefore was unwilling to interfere with a process he knew would reveal him to be innocent anyway. It probably suited Trump just fine to have the media off screaming about Mueller’s investigation, leaving him free to govern.
Mueller Bruni is right about his major thesis, though, doesn’t mean he’s right about the minor thesis, which is that Trump has been committing governing atrocities all over the place. Apropos governing atrocities, when I think of them, I think of acts that violate the Constitution or the law of the United States. Some examples would be (1) allowing administrative agencies to legislate, as was the case with Obama’s HHS and EPA mandates; (2) weaponizing the IRS to shut down conservative groups during an election year; (3) spying on reporters; (4) entering into multi-million and billion dollar deals with foreign governments (the Paris Accord and the Iran Deal) without getting Congressional approval; (5) going into war in Libya without Congressional approval; (6) illegal gun-running into Mexico; (8) unilaterally changing Congressionally-legislated immigration laws to align with the Democrat Party platform, etc.
In all the examples I mentioned above, the problem for me is not that I disagreed with Obama’s policies. That’s a given, because Obama comes from a political ideology I oppose and, with him in the White House, I knew that his executive acts would run counter to my desires. However, that’s the way things happen in a “winner takes all” two-party democratic republic. The real problem for me is that each of the above acts exceeded Obama’s executive power under the Constitution or out-and-out violated federal laws. It’s one thing for an executive to pursue legal and constitutional ends that jive with his political ideology, even if I disagree with that ideology; it’s another thing entirely for him to go rogue.
I’ve talked before about the malignant narcissism that is a built-in feature on the Left. One of the things that characterizes malignant narcissists is that they’re always in a majority of one. Everything else is invalid. In their minds, no one has the right or the power to hold their positions that differ from the narcissist’s. Their world view holds that everything that’s not in accordance with their way is wrong, illegal, and needs to be destroyed using means both legal and illegal.
The following are Bruni’s examples of Trump’s alleged fascism that Bruni now realizes are much more important than the whole Russian-collusion dead end. First, there’s the horror of the unsecured Twitter phone:
Maybe the just-published Politico report of Trump’s deliberate, cavalier use of a cellphone that doesn’t have strict security safeguards would be getting extra attention. The story outraged me, because it’s yet another glaring example of Trump’s dual set of rules — proper ones that apply to others and nonexistent ones that let him and his clan do as they please — and it puts the lie to his supposed horror over Hillary Clinton’s sloppy email habits. Not for the first time or for the last, he’s being a raving hypocrite.
Let’s be clear here what the Politico article is talking about: it is talking about a phone that is dedicated to tweeting:
The president uses at least two iPhones, according to one of the officials. The phones — one capable only of making calls, the other equipped only with the Twitter app and preloaded with a handful of news sites — are issued by White House Information Technology and the White House Communications Agency, an office staffed by military personnel that oversees White House telecommunications.
While aides have urged the president to swap out the Twitter phone on a monthly basis, Trump has resisted their entreaties, telling them it was “too inconvenient,” the same administration official said.
Put another way, Trump is resisting the inconvenience of swapping out a phone that is used solely for an app that has been repeatedly hacked anyway and on which he makes short statements for immediate dissemination to the world. To claim that using an unsecured phone for this task amounts to a major, or even a minor, national security concern is ridiculous.
Note too how Bruni characterizes what Hillary did as mere “sloppy email habits,” something he found inconsequential during the Obama administration. That is a remarkably anodyne way to describe a Secretary of State who set up an unsecured, private server to handle all job-related communications, including high level, completely confidential communications, both within the government and with friendly foreign leaders. To analogize a phone used to Tweet out messages to a hack-ridden service, on the one hand, to a Secretary of State who ran all of her business through an unsecured, illegal bathroom-based server, on the other hand, is a perfect example of the way in which a malignant narcissist views the world as revolving solely around his own views.
Bruni’s next complaint is that the media is not paying enough attention to Scott Pruitt:
Without Mueller and Russia, Scott Pruitt would be closer to center stage, with an even brighter, harsher spotlight on him. He’s not exactly evading scrutiny, but he’s being spared the relentless top-of-the-screen, start-of-the-newscast treatment that he would likely endure if lawmakers, journalists and other watchdogs weren’t so mesmerized by the convoluted twists of Mueller v. Trump.
This complaint goes to the fact that Pruitt rented a single room at market value without exchanging any other favors for the room, and that he has taken extra security precautions to deal with the fact that there have been extreme and specific threats on his life.
At this point, the sensible person stops to wonder why there are death threats being made to the head of the EPA? The answer to that has to do with Bruni’s real complaint with Pruitt, and this has nothing to do with $50 a night rooms or increased security. What Bruni can’t stand is that Pruitt is enacting an agenda at odds with the Obama agenda for the EPA. For the Left, policy differences are tantamount to violating the Constitution, only they’re actually worse, because Leftists don’t care about the Constitution; they just care about getting their agenda rammed through.
Bruni’s implied claim that Trump is behaving extra-legally or unconstitutionally regarding the judiciary is equally flawed:
Perhaps more Americans would notice what Trump is doing to the judiciary, by which I mean stacking it, and to important government agencies, by which I mean gutting them.
When Bruni writes that Trump is “stacking” the judiciary, he undoubtedly means to call to mind Franklin Roosevelt’s attempt to pack the judiciary by expanding the Supreme Court to include a practically unlimited number of justices perfectly aligned with Roosevelt’s own unconstitutional policies.
The truth is that Trump is doing nothing wrong. There are vacancies on the court that Trump is properly filling. Consistent with constitutional requirements, he is nominating candidates for the federal court system and submitting those nominations to Congress, which is approving them. This is all perfectly legitimate.
Bruni’s problem, again, is that he disagrees with the fact that the judges Trump is nominating are strict constructionists. Rather than making up the law as they go along and using the Constitution as an advisory document, which is what Progressive judges do, Trump’s judges apply the Constitution and the law as written. The horror!
The last thing I want to discuss is the way Bruni’s implies that Ryan Zinke is behaving wrongly (i.e., illegally or unconstitutionally) when it comes to the Department of the Interior:
In The New Yorker this month, Evan Osnos documented the politically motivated sidelining and purging of venerable public servants; the Interior Department under Ryan Zinke is operating with less maturity and mission than a kindergarten class on the cusp of recess. Sadly, I heard less chatter about Osnos’s story than it deserved.
Translated from Progressive-speak, Bruni contends that the Department of Interior functions validly only when it acts in accordance with the Democrat party platform. Those versed in the “winner takes all” system that America uses understand that Zinke’s changes are naturally going to be “political.” His is a political position and there’s a new sheriff in town – as it happens, a sheriff from a political party that Bruni opposes. I don’t recall Bruni expressing any horror at all when Obama announced “I won,” refused to cooperate with any Republicans, and turned his administrative agencies into legislative bodies implementing hard-Left policies throughout America without regards to legal or constitutional limitations.
This horse that I’m beating is not just dead, it’s ripe, so I’m going to stop now. My simple point is that, for all of Bruni’s huffing and puffing about the fact that the Mueller investigation is hiding the true horror of the Trump administration, the real horror for Bruni is that the Trump administration exists at all — and that Trump, having been declared the winner in our two-party system, is using constitutional and statutory means to implement his promises and generally apply conservative policies within the parameters of his role as America’s chief executive officer.