The first opportunity for a successful end of the Second Civil War, between President Trump and the incumbent political class, has been squandered by the Democrats. Nothing could be done until Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker Paul Ryan accepted that they could no longer pretend to be happy neutrals in the mortal combat between Trump and the Democrats in Congress, waiting to see whether Trump would be impeached or not. Trump won the chicken game with his ostensible partisan colleagues in Congress, after the collapse of the Russian-collusion argument based on the spurious Steele dossier commissioned and paid for by the Clinton campaign ($10 million), and then cited by Democrats as objective evidence of Trump’s treason. It is the greatest political dirty trick in American history, still awaiting complete exposure and the full vengeance of public opinion.
The Clinton connection to the Steele dossier and the health-care debacle got McConnell and Ryan off the fence and behind the president on tax reform, and they all worked closely together to put it through. I believe that the president is delaying ordering Justice Department revelation of the vacuity of the Russian-collusion argument, not, as has been suggested, because he fears that nasty extra-legal gossip will also emerge, but because he wants to administer this bone-crushing defeat to his enemies closer to the midterm elections.
The North Korea nuclear-button exchange and the evanescent stink-bomb of the false Michael Wolff keyhole novel about the Trump White House enabled the Democrats to switch to ranting about Trump’s insanity and mental incompetence, which he dealt with in his 55-minute session in the White House, live on air, on immigration, last week, merely by behaving as the sane and civilized executive that he is. It was the most unexacting form of reality television that there is, a field in which he was formerly a star from his first to last performances (as a paid actor). There was a brief freshet of enthusiasm for the possibility of a bipartisan deal on immigration, but the DACA deal for the children brought in illegally by migrants worked up by six senators was basically a straight gift of citizenship to the DACA individuals with nothing of the rest of the Republican immigration objectives: a physical southern border; the end of “chain migration” (a phrase the Democrats refuse to employ, as it is held to be degrading — it is family integration); and ending the lottery and changing the policy to merit-based immigration, as practiced by such barbarous countries as Canada and Australia. There is a bipartisan consensus that the United States must have 1.1 million immigrants a year to make up for the low American birthrate and avoid having the U.S. become an over-aged population.
The fact is that DACA is a phony issue, as Democrats love more Latin Americans, as likely Democratic voters. (Whether they are technically qualified to vote legally as citizens is irrelevant. This is a better way to rig elections than enumerating the dead, as Lyndon Johnson famously used to do in Texas in the ’40s.) And traditional Republicans like cheap labor, so 12 million unskilled foreigners were admitted while the political class slumbered. But Trump and his Republicans are now the only champions of the endangered blue-collar American worker, and only about 10 percent of the 800,000 DACA group of migrants have graduated from university, joined the armed forces, or made any spontaneous attempt to naturalize themselves. It is essentially a fraudulent moral issue, but it is the peg on which the Democrats have hung their warrior’s helmet to reject the president’s olive branch and resume warfare. Russian collusion having boomeranged back on the Democrats as sleazy defamers, insanity and the Logan Act and obstruction of justice and misogyny all having bombed, it was back to the drawing board with racism, fueled by the president’s disputed vulgar reference to poor countries.
The president wants more-assimilable immigrants, in keeping with the Republican desire for merit-based immigration. Trump’s lamentation that there were not more Norwegian immigrants was unserious, as that country has a much higher standard of living than the United States and Norwegians have not been emigrating since the end of the Nazi occupation, before Trump was born.
Democratic senator Dick Durbin fired the opening shot in this new round of the Second Civil War by claiming that the president referred to “sh**hole” countries, meaning Haiti, El Salvador, and some African countries. Trump denied he said it, and was supported by Senators Sonny Perdue and Tom Cotton (Republicans), who are much more believable than Durbin. Senator Lindsey Graham expressed concern about the president’s disparagements of “poor and troubled” countries (Trump’s words), but has been commendably discreet. The Democrats have retreated to the slightly higher ground of acknowledging that the president might have said “sh**house.” Though absurdly picayune, and squalid, the difference excuses the president from the charge of applying a rectal slur to nationalities and makes clear he was using a socioeconomic description of the societies of origin of many migrants and immigrants. This ludicrous distinction alone knocks out the main prop, in so far as there was one, under the Democratic charge — that Trump is a racist. The charge is nonsense, and the campaign attempt to portray the president as hostile to anyone not of white pigmentation, or even to non-Anglo-Saxons, folded like a three-dollar suitcase long ago.
The Democrats have gambled again on their ability to score against the president by scandalizing politically correct opinion and having their shrill mouthpieces in the national media blast this one around the echo chamber one more time. Trump’s solid following of 40 percent of the country has heard it all before and continues to be grateful to have a president who doesn’t perform childish PC histrionics, whatever his other foibles. The independents, a shrunken community in Trump’s America, but still holding the balance of electoral power, are getting palpably tired of being summoned to the barricades by the Ancien Régime as its hysterical catalogue of denigration of the president slowly disintegrates and descends on the heads of Trump’s accusers like confetti.
As Senator Rand Paul has pointed out, there will be no deal on immigration while the Democrats call the president a racist, and the more plausible charge against Durbin of being a liar doesn’t much lighten the atmosphere either. Trump and the Republican congressional majority will not reprieve the beneficiaries of DACA (which was unconstitutionally proclaimed by President Obama anyway), without the Democrats’ acceptance of a large part of their immigration program, which is not now in the cards. The president might want to be explicit about his immigration proposals (or “comprehensive immigration reform,” as everyone complicit in not reforming it for the last 20 years calls it). He should do something to avoid taking the blame, as Republicans traditionally do, for shutting down much of the government. If it is possible, contingency plans should be made and implemented for laying off enough of the 96 percent of the residents of the District of Columbia who voted against Trump, while keeping the Defense Department and essential services going, to knock this last, Stone Age weapon of official shutdown from the Democrats’ hands. A great many Americans would rejoice if most of the government were shut down, permanently, and it would obviate discussion about the deficit, and deal with the public-service unions once and for all.
From here toward November, unless the Democratic leadership discovers the virtue of making the system work, as McConnell and Ryan finally did after the Steele-dossier implosion and the health-care fiasco, the president should work with the Republican congressional leaders to make their immigration and health-care plans explicit, order that the Justice Department lay bare the proportions of its politicization by Obama and the vacuity of the collusion nonsense, enjoy the 4 percent economic growth, and go to the midterm elections for a mandate to complete the president’s program, make the system work, and give the beleaguered detritus of swamp-dwellers the electoral execution they deserve. Democrats’ confidence in the results next November is as misplaced as was their certainty of winning the presidency in 2016. With a little more discretion in words and tweets, the president can stay the course and win the war. The country will follow, and the authors of fake news will have to get real jobs.
First published in National Review Online.
— Conrad Black is the author of Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Champion of Freedom, Richard M. Nixon: A Life in Full, and Flight of the Eagle: The Grand Strategies That Brought America from Colonial Dependence to World Leadership.