Constitutional Or Conceptual Crisis? The Atonal Strategy of the House Investigations

Below is my column in The Hill Newspaper on the increasingly disconnected elements in the investigations by the House of Representatives. The question is whether there is a true strategy behind these moves other than an investigation for investigation’s sake.

Here is the column:

Watching Congress this week brought back vivid memories of my first encounter with “atonal music” in college. It was not a good memory. Atonal music dispenses with the traditional concepts of harmony or tonal center. I have a certain bias, in both musical and constitutional works, for a harmonic connection of notes — and that’s what’s missing in the legal controversies building on Capitol Hill. While Democratic presidential candidates and members of Congress insist impeachable offenses are clearly established, their legal positions are becoming increasingly disconnected.

Seeking the full report

For weeks, Democrats have insisted that Attorney General William Barrmust release special counsel Robert Mueller’s “full and unredacted report.” They dismissed objections that some information such as grand jury evidence, called Rule 6(e) material, cannot be legally released by Barr. The House Judiciary Committee issued a subpoena for “a complete, unredacted copy, including exhibits and attachments.” It maintained that “neither Rule 6(e) nor any applicable privilege barred disclosure of these materials to Congress.”

Yet, in holding Barr in contempt this week, the committee stated that, despite a subpoena demanding the unredacted report, it was not demanding the release of grand jury material. Instead, it wanted Barr to ask a federal court to release the information —something Congress can do on its own. Not only would such a request be a departure from the long-standing position of the Justice Department in protecting Rule 6(e) material, but it would run into a ruling last month from the D.C. Circuit Court rejecting such releases.

The change in the committee’s position creates a disconnect between the subpoena and the contempt sanction, on the one hand, and the position of the House in a court. It also means the House now recognizes what Barr and many of us have said for weeks: Barr cannot release Rule 6(e) information without a court order. This leads to the second atonal note of delaying impeachment.

Delaying impeachment

For months, I have written about the dilemma facing Democrats who won control of the House in part with calls to impeach President Trump. The House leadership never showed any interest in actually impeaching Trump as opposed to appearing to want to impeach him. Yet, House members have told constituents that the Mueller report confirms impeachable acts. While House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) maintains Trump is goading them to impeach him, her argument hardly resonates with voters who were told to wait for the report for any moves on impeachment.

This week a new explanation has emerged: We would love to impeach but Barr is withholding necessary information in these redactions. That point was stated by Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) who was asked on CNN why Democrats have cited impeachable offenses but refused to initiate the impeachment process. When Deutch proceeded to again describe the “constitutional crisis” caused by Trump’s obstruction, host Alisyn Camerota replied: “If it’s an impeachment proceeding, then somebody should call it that.”

Camerota is right. If House members truly believe Trump committed criminal or impeachable acts, they should commence an impeachment proceeding. If they truly wanted to get this information, they would do so as a matter of impeachment, not oversight authority. Congress is more likely to win the conflict over executive privilege — and do so more rapidly — under an impeachment inquiry. Deutch’s response was tellingly adamant: “This isn’t impeachment.” He suggested that Congress needs to fight over the redactions and underlying documents before it decides to impeach.

Of course, House members are entitled to seek such additional information in an impeachment process. Moreover, Barr released 98 percent of the report to select members of Congress, and more than 92 percent to the public. Two percent of the redacted material is believed to be grand jury information, which the House Judiciary Committee now acknowledges might have to be released not by Barr but by a federal court. That leaves just 6 percent — which already is available to select members of Congress. Some of that information is evidence under seal in ongoing prosecutions of figures like Trump associate Roger Stone. Again, a court — not Barr — must release that.

The key to appreciating atonal music is listening between the notes. This is not about less than 6 percent of withheld material or supporting documents. The disharmonious point here is not to impeach. By triggering a variety of court challenges, the House can wait for the information until it runs out of time to impeach. The truly wicked aspect to all of this is that both the White House and the House leadership are working for the same end in running out the clock.

Demanding testimony

Democrats have legitimately demanded to hear from key witnesses, including Mueller and former White House Counsel Don McGahn. President Trump has declared they should not testify, and Congress should prevail on that fight — but conflicting positions have emerged. Consider the disappearance of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who once was at the top of any witness list. Suddenly, no one seems to want to hear from him. That may have to do with his conclusion that the evidence in the Mueller report did not support a criminal charge of obstruction.

For two years, Democrats heralded Rosenstein as essential to the supervision of the Russian investigation. They pledged to resist any effort to remove or fire him before a conclusion was reached in the investigation. Rosenstein could confirm critical facts raised by Barr. For example, Barr testified that Mueller refused to identify grand jury information to allow for a rapid public release of the report. Barr said both he and Rosenstein — Mueller’s superiors — requested that he do so, and Mueller’s refusal delayed the report’s release. Likewise, Rosenstein can confirm that both he and Barr told Mueller there was no policy preventing him from reaching a conclusion on obstruction, and encouraged him to reach one.

Yet, Rosenstein is now being publicly “dehabilitated.” For the last two years, I raised concerns about Rosenstein’s conflict as a key witness to the obstruction allegations. And, for two years, Democrats dismissed such concerns. Yet, after he decided there was no evidence to support an obstruction charge, Democrats suddenly raised his conflict of interest. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) confronted Barr in his Senate hearing over “the appropriateness of Rod Rosenstein being a part of making a charging decision on an investigation which he is also a witness in.” She demanded to know the ethical basis for his role in the investigation — a concern that eluded Harris and her colleagues the previous two years.

The problem for Congress is that courts expect some tonal center or coherence in constitutional claims. From a constitutional standpoint, none of this looks like a plausible effort to build an impeachment case in the limited time before the 2020 elections. Indeed, members have denied this is an impeachment effort and left their actions to be viewed as disconnected oversight challenges. It increasingly looks like investigation for investigation’s sake – notes without harmony. The Encyclopedia Britannica concluded that “atonality proved unable to sustain large-scale musical events.” The same is true for large-scale constitutional events.

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University. You can follow him on Twitter @JonathanTurley.

99 thoughts on “Constitutional Or Conceptual Crisis? The Atonal Strategy of the House Investigations”

  1. The question is whether there is a true strategy behind these moves other than an investigation for investigation’s sake.
    Yes, there is, Hate, Ignorance, Revenge, ……,

  2. While they were chasing Trump at least they weren’t passing legislation that would hurt us.

  3. This entire debacle evolved out of opposition research obtained from Russian spies that was proven false. Nevertheless, it has been used to investigate, not the person who paid Russian spies, but rather her target.

    The abuse of authority continued as we saw the fake Russian dossier used to get a FISA warrant, while the court was not told that it was paid opposition research and unverified.

    Democrats claimed they would wait for the results of the investigation, but when Trump was found innocent of collusion, they proceeded to press forward with talks of impeachment. They have targeted Barr for correctly summarizing the report. This is crazy behavior. Desperate behavior. They just cannot accept the results of the election.

    Is this how it’s going to be from now on? If a Republican ever wins the Presidency, will his entire term be full of one false allegation after another, and continuous abuses of power to try to oust him? We’re devolving into a Banana Republic.

    1. Banana Republic? Nope.
      Democrats having an identity Crisis more likely


      Constitutional Crisis or Dem Crisis of Confidence? | The American Spectator
      The same Beltway braniacs who assured us that the President was in league with Vladimir Putin and sundry other Rȕskī reprobates now claim he has precipitated a constitutional crisis. House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerrold Nadler claims Trump is acting like a “king” by refusing to relitigate the Russia hoax, allow already-interrogated aides to be requestioned, or permit partisan congressional staffers to rummage through his tax and financial records. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi concurs that a crisis is at hand: “I do agree with Chairman Nadler because the administration has decided that they’re not going to honor their oath of office.”

      Yet, the “get Trump” crowd is obviously growing increasingly frustrated that Nadler and Pelosi have taken no serious action to resolve the dire threat they claim President Trump poses to the republic. The New York Times, for example, published a column by Michelle Goldberg Friday titled, “If This Is a Constitutional Crisis, Act Like It.” Goldberg suggests that contempt votes against administration officials are all very well and good, but they are primarily symbolic and usually lead to protracted court battles that rarely resolve the crises that initially triggered them. Goldberg argues that Pelosi and Nadler should take more radical measures:

      Pelosi is a sharp and pragmatic woman … But it is incoherent to argue that Trump constitutes an existential threat to the Constitution, and that Congress should wait to use the Constitution’s primary defense against such a threat.… In the face of an administration that is trying to amass dictatorial powers, Democrats need to bring to bear all the powers of their own. Trump’s outright rejection of congressional authority makes impeachment proceedings necessary, but even impeachment alone is not sufficient.

      Note that last bit about impeachment not being “sufficient” to solve the crisis? Goldberg urges Congress to “enforce its own orders, including by sending out the House’s sergeant-at-arms to arrest people.” But even Pelosi isn’t that crazy. She knows only a tiny percentage of the public supports impeaching the President, much less the physical arrest of his Cabinet officials. The latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found that only 17 percent of the voters support ousting Trump, including only 19 percent of Independents. Moreover, the RealClearPolitics average of recent polls shows Trump’s approval rating at its highest level since his inauguration.

      But the will of the people means little to Trump’s increasingly irrational antagonists. Former secretary of labor Robert Reich, for example, published a column in the Guardian Saturday that illustrates his inability to think straight about the President: “It’s a constitutional crisis all right.” Having discharged his duty to parrot that canard, Reich explains why it would be futile and politically perilous for the Democrats to impeach Trump. He then says they should do so anyway because “it is the right thing to do.” But there is no consensus, even among liberal legal scholars, that we’re in the midst of a constitutional crisis. In Slate, Fordham’s Jed Shugerman says not:

      This current episode is not a constitutional crisis because the Constitution is still functioning as designed, in terms of separation of powers. The key question to me is whether either party bypasses the courts or defies the courts. The House subpoenas documents, the executive branch makes legal arguments against those subpoenas, and the courts will hear this dispute.… A constitutional crisis would be the House trying to arrest [Treasury Secretary Steve] Mnuchin or Barr without a court order.

      Shugerman does a good job of highlighting the illiteracy concerning the Constitution that has dominated every debate during Trump’s tenure in office. Note his assertion about separation of powers. His point is that our system of government was designed with the expectation that there would be disputes between the separate branches of government. Conflicts between branches don’t signal constitutional crises. Such disputes check over-reach by any single branch and maintain a relative balance of power between the three co-equal branches. Nancy Pelosi evidently failed to get the last part of that memo and has been talking to Michelle Goldberg at the NYT:

      I think we’re a superior branch, quite frankly. We have the power to make the law and the president enforces the law. So we have a big role. We’re closest to the people and we have a big role to play.… I have said that the president wants to goad us into impeachment. The point is, that every single day, whether it’s obstruction, obstruction, obstruction of having people come to the table with facts, ignoring subpoenas every single day, the president is making a case.… We do have a jail within the basement of the Congress.

      That was the Speaker of the House, just last week, making it all too clear that she doesn’t really get how our government operates. Pelosi is without question a shrewd political operator. It is equally clear, however, that she is no constitutional scholar. Like most Democrats, she believes the term “constitutional crisis” means her party is losing. And they are indeed losing. Their grand strategy for getting Trump collapsed when the Mueller probe left them with egg dripping from their faces. They have nothing to offer the voters in 2020 beyond their antipathy for a President who has presided over a booming economy, low unemployment, low taxes, and low inflation.

      Consequently, Pelosi, Nadler, and their accomplices in the media as well as the federal bureaucracy need a crisis — any crisis — to worry the voters about the President. But claims that he has endangered the republic by “acting like a King” or “trying to amass dictatorial powers” are just cries of desperation. The system is working exactly as intended. It is keeping our “leaders” at each other’s throats, which leaves them less time to pick our pockets. To paraphrase the immortal J. Rufus Fears, the Constitution is one of the only things of lasting value to be produced by a committee. There is no constitutional crisis — just a crisis of Democratic confidence.

      1. Wow, Estovir! In terms of sheer space, this is your longest post this week. And it’s only Monday.

    2. Karen, the investigation sprang from the fact that a Trump campaign member was bragging in European bars about Russians giving them emails stolen from Hillary Clinton. It is inconceivable that you don’t know this by now, unless you only listen to Hannity and Rush.

      Trump was not found innocent of collusion. That is another complete falsehood.

      The complete disregard for the constitution and public decency demonstrated by your leader is what is leading us to Banana Republic status.

      1. Anon,
        That’s not what he told Australian diplomat Downer. He was not that specific.
        I don’t know of any others he told about his conversation with Mifsud.
        If you have additional information that he was going around in bars talking about the Russians having emails that could be damaging to Hillary, where is the evidence if that.
        Even Downer himself did not say that Papadopolous mentioned emails.

        1. You are correct and I was wrong. He did not specifically mention emails according to Downer. He admitted that he also shared the information with a Greek diplomat.

      2. “Trump campaign member was bragging in European bars about Russians giving them emails stolen from Hillary Clinton. It is inconceivable that you don’t know this by now, unless you only listen to Hannity and Rush.”

        Totally wrong. Anon was was spinned and confused.

        In any event the conclusion on Papadopoulos was:

        “No documentary evidence, and nothing in the email accounts or other communications facilities reviewed by the Office, shows that Papadopoulos shared this information with the Campaign.”

        Trace the ones that Papadopoulos talked to back to their origins and their relationships.

        1. The only thing wrong about my statement which Allan has graciously repeated is the email detail. Pap did brag about his learning of damaging information from the Russians to at least 2 foreign diplomats but we are supposed to believe he never discussed it with anyone in the campaign.

          1. PS More importantly, the tip off from the Australian diplomat on his conversation with Pap led to the beginning of the FBI investigation, not the Steele dossier as wrongly alleged by Karen and every other consumer of right wing news talk.

            1. Anon, I won’t answer for Karen but there was no proof that information about the Hillary emails were transferred from Papadopoulus to the Trump campaign.

              I personally haven’t heard Fox news or any major right wing news caster hold onto the idea that “the Australian diplomat on his conversation with Pap led to the beginning of… ” The Steele dossier. Once again you are filling in details that aren’t true and that is something we try to teach our young not to do.

              Your comments here demonstrate why I believe that what you say has little meaning. You have a mixture of truth and fiction which makes everything you say invalid commentary.

          2. Anon, we don’t really know if he was bragging. Apparently one individual provided this information to Popodoupolus and for all we know the man was working for the FBI. Another person seems have intentionally been been sent to talk to Popodpoulus. Again we don’t know for sure who that person was working for. The conversation that has been related to the newspapers likely has been spun to make it look worse for Popodoupolus.

            Bragging fits your narrative but we don’t have the discussion that took place and all the parties involved will spin the narrative in favor of how each individual (including the FBI and eventually the press) wishes to portray the discussion. These meetings have a lot of coincidences. The situation may be too complex for you but when one sees coincidences in dubious circumstances an intelligent person generally doesn’t draw the types of conclusions you draw. In any event there was no known connection between the informatin that was transferred and the Trump campaign which is one of the reasons the entire investigation was rubbish.

            This is not that difficult to understand though you seem to be unaware of what is fact and what is opinion or a desired narrative. You jump to conclusions which is what we try to teach our young not to do.

            1. Allan has no understanding of the events he is discussing.

              Karen repeated the oft quoted right wing talking point that the Steele Dossier was the basis for the investigation into Trump’s campaign. That is wrong, and no room to wiggle on it. The investigation started with the Australian ambassador – not an FBI “spy” – passing on to the FBI the facts of his encounter with Pap…. This was in late July of 2016. The Steele Dossier was presented to 4 FBI agents in Rome in late September

              1. From an unbiased view point you don’t seem to know what you are talking about. It appears Alan provided some facts and you couldn’t dispute any. Without providing adequate response as to what he said it is very difficult to side with you or believe you are really talking from knowledge

              2. Tell me Anon, what did I say that was wrong? No one yet knows when the investigation started or what for sure was precipitating the event. Some experts believe the investigation started before Trump walked down the escalator and that people were trying to hide what they were doing. Remember some bad things were happening before Trump. Some believe it started with Papodopoulus but that event seems closer to entrapment then anything else and according to Mueller ““No documentary evidence, and nothing in the email accounts or other communications facilities reviewed by the Office, shows that Papadopoulos shared this information with the Campaign.” Therefore, since it is likely that some members of the FBI knew everything before it happened Papaopoulos was not the beginning rather a false claim as to why the investigation took place.

                The FISA applications will be released along with what they said and then we will know more as we focus in on the real bad guys. Already many that are in the spotlight are indicating the Steele Dossier was known to be phony and there seems to be emails to prove that.

                Anon’s sole defense is to claim that whoever disagrees with him doesn’t know what he is talking about. No fact no data. Anon is factless and apparently knows nothing.

  4. Video about Steele Dossier BS and was a political attempt to beat the opposition. (HTTP below)

    “There’s a document that’s classified that I’m gonna try to get unclassified that takes the dossier — all the pages of it — and it has verification to one side,” Graham told anchor Maria Bartiromo. “There really is no verification, other than media reports that were generated by reporters that received the dossier.”

    Hillary’s campaign sounds like the most heinous campaign in recent years using government and the media to help her beat the opposition.

  5. Old Video Shows Biden Calling for Border Fence ’40 Stories High’ (starts 20 seconds)

    1. That’s the old Joe Biden. He’s evolved on this issue after his recent conversation with Margaret Thatcher. 😉

      1. Olly, when you say Biden evolved is that the same as spinning the wheel to get an answer? He is a terrible candidate among a whole slew of crazy leftists.

        1. I should have said revolved, not unlike a weather vane. As far as crazy goes, Joe certainly has earned that title, even before his claim of speaking with the late Prime Minister.

          1. He might move like a weather vane but he knows how to help family get a $1.5Billion deal with China while he is involved with Chinese business in the Senate. Scum is what we see in the leaders on the left and their followers on the blog are the same.

  6. OT: Obama WH Tied Clinton Email Cover-Up

    The Obama White House Tracked a FOIA Request for Clinton Emails

    We now have further evidence that the Obama White was in on the lies about Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s email use.

    In late April we announced that E.W. (Bill) Priestap, assistant director of the FBI Counterintelligence Division, had admitted in writing and under oath that the agency found Clinton email records in the Obama White House, specifically, the Executive Office of the President.

    Now we have obtained 44 pages of records from the State Department through court-ordered discovery revealing that the Obama White House was tracking a December 2012 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking records concerning Clinton’s use of an unsecure, non-government email system.

    Months after the Obama White House involvement, the State Department responded to the FOIA requestor, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), falsely stating that no such records existed.

    Our discovery is centered upon whether Clinton intentionally attempted to evade the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by using a non-government email system and whether the State Department acted in bad faith in processing our FOIA request for communications from Clinton’s office. U.S District Court Judge Royce Lamberth ordered Obama administration senior State Department officials, lawyers, and Clinton aides, as well as E.W. Priestap, to be deposed or answer written questions under oath. The court ruled that the Clinton email system was “one of the gravest modern offenses to government transparency.”

  7. Worth repeating…

    President Trump always told us he was a counter-puncher; he just never revealed that his cornerman was the patron saint of liberals, Saul Alinsky. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise though. After all, they are both community organizers; it’s just that Trump set his sights a little higher.

    That brings us to rule No. 13, a summation of the entire Trumpean political ethic and an explanation for why he cannot easily be defeated: “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” You can go through the rogues’ gallery of Trump’s targets and nary a one of them has come through the experience unscathed: Jeb, Hillary, McCain, CNN, NATO, illegal immigrants, Congress, Democrats, Michael Cohen, Bob Mueller, Liddle Bob Corker, Leakin’ Lyin’ James Comey, Little Rocket Man, or (my personal favorite) George “Mr. Kellyanne” Conway..

    Welcome to MAGA country.

  8. The truly wicked aspect to all of this is that both the White House and the House leadership are working for the same end in running out the clock.

    The only wicked player in this is house leadership and the fawning media that gives them cover. The only reason President Trump is assumed to be a player in this fiasco is because the Democrats and their media arm are pretending he is.

    1. Which is why Americans overwhelmingly reject the Left news media and in numbers that are truly staggering watch Fox News in all market segments

      Hey David “bottom boi” Brock, how’s that boycott of 2+ years working against Fox News Anchors?


      1. 🙂 Oh, but the polls say this and the polls say that, right? BS, if you want to know where America leans, take a look at where they routinely go for their news.

        1. yeah, why put salt in their wounds….because when they go low, we go high….sky high

          the armies of David Brock trolls on all political websites these past 2+ years are like welfare recipients…no work, all play, get paid and sorely in need of being laid….


          Fox News Marks 34 Consecutive Months as the Most-Watched Cable Network

          Fox News Channel had another strong month in the ratings department.

          FNC is finishing the month of April as the most-watched network among total viewers in both total day and prime time, per Nielsen.

          The network has been the most-watched across the 6 a.m. – 6 a.m. daypart for 34 consecutive months now (1.4 million total viewers), and No. 1 in total prime time audience for three consecutive months (2.4 million total viewers).

          For the 208th month in a row (not a typo), Fox News also beat CNN and MSNBC in total viewers across both dayparts.

          FNC didn’t lose a whole lot of traction relative to its April 2018 total audience delivery. Compared to the same month last year, Fox News was flat in total prime time viewers and only -3% in total day viewers.

          But the story was different when it came to drawing viewers from the key A25-54 viewers. Yes, Fox News remained No. 1 in cable news in that category, but the network was -19% vs. April 2018 in prime time, and -16% in total day.

          The average Nielsen live + same day impressions for April 2019:

          Prime time (Mon-Sun): 2,395,000 total viewers / 389,000 A25-54
          Total Day (Mon-Sun): 1,351,000 total viewers / 243,000 A25-54
          On the programming front – Hannity had the top cable news show across the board in April (3.1 million total viewers / 514,000 demo viewers), with his lead-in Tucker Carlson Tonight coming in second place. Rachel Maddow finished in third place across cable news.

          FNC programs accounted for nine of the top 15 cable news programs in total viewers and claimed 10 of the top 15 cable news programs in the 25-54 demo. Hannity, Tucker Carlson Tonight, The Ingraham Angle and The Five were among the top five cable news programs in both total viewers and in the 25-54 demo.

          Plus, there was the Fox News-Bernie Sanders town hall, which took place earlier this month and now ranks as the most-watched of the 2020 election cycle to-date.


          Lou Dobbs’ eponymous program Lou Dobbs Tonight and Stuart Varney’s market-open program Varney & Co. remained the two-most-watched shows on business TV news for April.

          Below are the April 2019 numbers for FBN:

          Business Day (9:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.):

          FBN: 163,000 total viewers / 18,000 A25-54

          CNBC: 164,000 total viewers / 29,000 A25-54

          Market Hours (9 a.m. – 4 p.m.)

          FBN: 170,000 total viewers / 18,000 A25-54

          CNBC: 167,000 total viewers / 30,000 A25-54

  9. Mespo, I don’t know what you’re seeing in that link that you find so encouraging. Most people would look at that realize Trump is barely making it with half the people.

    And I don’t know why you think the economy will ‘keep rolling on’. Trump’s stupid talk of a tariff war spooked the markets today.

  10. The one good thing about Trump is that he fights like a Democrat. Its about time the GOP started as well. Mitch McConnell I’m talking to you! 💪🏽



    Trump’s Rules for Republicans (Adapted From Alinsky)

    It has now been several weeks since President Trump suggested sending illegal aliens to so-called sanctuary cities, and long past due to acknowledge his brilliance in setting the terms of the political debate on this and other issues.

    “Due to the fact that Democrats are unwilling to change our very dangerous immigration laws, we are indeed, as reported, giving strong considerations to placing Illegal Immigrants in Sanctuary Cities only,” Trump tweeted on April 12. “The Radical Left always seems to have an Open Borders, Open Arms policy — so this should make them very happy!”

    Of course, it did not make them very happy, or even remotely happy. It made them mad, which was its true purpose. More importantly, it made them face the hard consequences of their easy political posturing on illegal immigration. Put another way, President Trump was making the left live up to its own immigration rule book.

    If that sounds familiar, it’s because it is a paraphrase of Saul Alinsky’s Rule No. 4: “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.”

    Democrats have been using Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals” effectively for years to keep Republicans off balance.
A Chicago political activist who died in 1972, Alinsky was the godfather of community organizing and the inspiration for progressive Democrats such as Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. For Republicans’ part, although always aware that Alinsky’s rules worked, they were afraid to adapt them for their own use because they were afraid of the word “radical.”

    That’s actually a demonstration of Rule No. 3: “Whenever possible go outside the expertise of the enemy.” Republicans are stuffed-shirt conservatives, remember? They won’t do anything radical; that’s just for the progressive left!

    At least, until Donald J. Trump changed politics forever in the 2016 presidential campaign.
 Indeed, as we study President Trump’s winning strategy in that election and his governing strategy in the years since, it becomes clear that the New York billionaire is a devoted student of the Chicago community organizer. From now on, indeed, we are justified in talking about Trump’s “Rules for Republicans,” as adapted from Alinsky. If other GOP politicians shy away from the formula that Trump has perfected, they do so at their own risk.

    In his prologue to “Rules for Radicals,” Alinsky made it clear that his book is about “the art of communication” and that the rules he enunciated don’t just work for radicals who want to tear down the system, but for any radicals “who want to change their world.” That, in sum, is exactly who Donald Trump is, and exactly why the Deep State and the Enduring Bureaucracy fear him. Trump understood innately the truth of Alinsky’s theorem that:

    “… there are certain central concepts of action in human politics that operate regardless of the scene or the time. To know these is basic to a pragmatic attack on the system. These rules make the difference between being a realistic radical and being a rhetorical one who uses the tired old words and slogans…”

    In this light, let’s consider that tweet about sanctuary cities again. Not only does it make Democrats live up to their own “open borders” rule book, it also demonstrates the truth of Alinsky’s Rule No. 9: “The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.”

    Democrats scurried every which way to run for cover in the wake of Trump’s threat. More importantly, there actually has been some significant movement toward the president’s point of view in the last three weeks. To the shock of many, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote on April 23 that he was “more certain than ever that we have a real immigration crisis and that the solution is a high wall with a big gate — but a smart gate.”

    Friedman’s “smart gate” option was a virtual recapitulation of Trump’s border policy in prettier words:

    “Besides legitimate asylum seekers, we’ll accept immigrants at a rate at which they can be properly absorbed into our society and work force, and we’ll favor visa seekers with energies and talents that enrich and advance our society.”

    Friedman’s home newspaper could not quite bring itself to support the wall, but it did publish an editorial on May 5 that called on Congress to “Give Trump His Border Money.” Although somehow the editorial board of the Times could not sniff out a national security threat in the current flow of uncontrolled immigrants across the border, it was able to sense that hundreds of thousands of impoverished asylum seekers could indeed overwhelm our national resources, and maybe even the noble intentions of our sanctuary cities.

    The most convincing proof of Trump’s ability to sway the argument came from an unexpected source: the superannuated pop singer Cher, who wrote on her own Twitter account this raw plea to the president not to drop illegal immigrants into Los Angeles:

    “I Understand Helping struggling Immigrants,but MY CITY (Los Angeles) ISNT TAKING CARE OF ITS OWN.WHAT ABOUT THE 50,000+Citizens WHO LIVE ON THE STREETS.PPL WHO LIVE BELOW POVERTY LINE,& HUNGRY? If My State Can’t Take Care of Its Own(Many Are VETS)How Can it Take Care Of More?”

    Whoa! Sounds like the liberal Democrats who run Los Angeles and California aren’t living up to their own rule book on a whole host of issues! Thanks, Cher, for proving the president’s point.

    As for the rest of the “Rules for Radicals,” not each of them has been used by President Trump yet, but several of them are so central to his public persona that it can’t be accidental.

    Trump is master of rule No. 5, for instance: “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.” If you don’t think so, just ask Low Energy Jeb Bush or Crooked Hillary Clinton.

    And when it comes to rule No. 6, you can be sure that President Trump understands that “A good tactic is one your people enjoy.” Candidate Trump used to try out ideas at his rallies and would stick with the ones that got a positive reaction. Thus “Build that wall” and “Drain the swamp” became central components of Trump’s winning campaign because he recognized the power of jubilation.

    What about rule No. 8 — “Keep the pressure on”? The Fake News Media can certainly attest to the fact that Trump is a master of this one, too.
 In the case of Sen. John McCain, Trump has proven he will keep the pressure on even after his nemesis is dead.

    That brings us to rule No. 13, a summation of the entire Trumpean political ethic and an explanation for why he cannot easily be defeated: “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” You can go through the rogues’ gallery of Trump’s targets and nary a one of them has come through the experience unscathed: Jeb, Hillary, McCain, CNN, NATO, illegal immigrants, Congress, Democrats, Michael Cohen, Bob Mueller, Liddle Bob Corker, Leakin’ Lyin’ James Comey, Little Rocket Man, or (my personal favorite) George “Mr. Kellyanne” Conway.

    President Trump always told us he was a counter-puncher; he just never revealed that his cornerman was the patron saint of liberals, Saul Alinsky. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise though. After all, they are both community organizers; it’s just that Trump set his sights a little higher.

    Welcome to MAGA country.

    Frank Miele, the retired editor of the Daily Inter Lake in Kalispell Mont., is a columnist for RealClearPolitics.

      1. it wasnt pointless, that one was sharp. i gave you the philosophical backstory in an earlier post today, which was less to the point than the alinksy thing, but I’m sure it would bore most people

        it goes way back before alinsky however. the dialectic of “the right” adopting strategies of “the left” and vice versa is a long story spanning the past century, if not longer, and to me it’s interesting one. to most folks not.

    1. That ought to do it. Can’t get Democrats to admit there is an illegal immigration crisis, or that there could possibly be any downside to illegal immigration? Then send illegal immigrants to sanctuary cities. They are on record as welcoming to illegal immigrants. They block federal immigration law. They are part of the problem, so they need to do their fair share towards the solution.

      When they experience an illegal immigration crisis of their own, they may come on board with securing our border.

      It is irresponsible to continue to enable the illegal immigration industry that funnels billions of dollars into Mexican drug cartels and helps fuel human trafficking, and drug and gun running. I listened to an interview with a Border Patrol Agent in which he described how a man tossed a 4 year old with floaties into the Rio Grande so that Border Patrol would rush to fish him out…and then allow the father in to keep the family together.

      There are great arguments to be made for reasonable quantities of legal immigration, but none have ever justified illegal immigration.

      Why in the world wouldn’t a country want to say who, with a background check, how many, in a quantity we can absorb that won’t negatively impact the jobs market or wages, and give everyone health screenings? To do otherwise is irresponsible.

Comments are closed.