Thursday, April 12, 2018


In a column addressed to President Trump, Matt Bai -- for effect -- urges the firing of Robert Mueller:
This isn’t hard. Look at all the people you’ve already fired. Priebus, Flynn, Tillerson, Price, McMaster — the list goes on....

So ... Reprise Nixon’s Saturday Night Massacre. Find your Robert Bork.
Bai recommends this course of action because he thinks it will be good for the country:
... here’s the thing, Mr. President: All these responsible people frantically warning of a constitutional crisis if you do this — they’re afraid. They don’t think the institutions of American democracy and jurisprudence are strong enough now to withstand the assault. They think the Republican Party you’ve annexed will prostrate itself in your presence, as it has for the entire last year.

... They fear that Americans are so angry at the system, so dimwitted and disillusioned, that we’ll accept anything that comes disguised as anti-elitism.

They worry that you’ll win, and America’s claim to being a nation of laws will be lost.

I don’t. If I’m being straight with you, I think firing Mueller is your Waterloo. And this kind of clear-cut crisis may be exactly what we need.

I think there are more than enough Republicans who genuinely believe in the bedrock principles of American government (and, not for nothing, who can see what your leadership is about to do to them in the midterm elections), and a solid majority of patriotic voters who won’t stand by and watch another president try to strong-arm the judicial system.

I think trying to shut down the special counsel and seize control of the Justice Department will be the thing that brings this entire Legoland of an administration crashing down on itself.

So enough bluster, Mr. President. It’s time to walk the walk.
I think Bai is extraordinarily naive. If I were a betting man, I'd say that not only will Trump's poll numbers not decline if he fires Mueller, they may actually go up, as rage-junkie Republican voters rally to the president and eagerly take pollsters' calls in order to talk about how awesome they now believe he is. Sure, I think the majority of Americans will be horrified, but they're horrified now. The intensity of the outrage will increase, but the raw numbers won't change much. My guess: After a week Trump's polling will be essentially unchanged, and Republicans in Congress will be sitting on their hands. (Perhaps some will say they're very concerned.)

But Bai does make one interesting point:
... if you’re going to stop him, what better time to do it than now, just as Jim Comey’s big memoir hits the virtual shelves? You don’t need me to tell you what getting rid of Mueller would do to the Comey Sanctification Tour. This is what you’re better at than anyone alive — commandeering the news cycle.
When I read that, I thought: Trump's really going to do that, isn't he? Not fire Mueller (in all likelihood), but fire someone -- probably Rod Rosenstein -- just as Comey's publicity tour is getting under way.

Comey's book will be on sale Tuesday, but, hey, it's just a book -- Trump doesn't read books, so this date won't mean much to him. The event he'll want to upstage is Comey's publicity tour, much of which will place on TV. TV is Trump's lifeblood.

The big event is the upcoming prime-time interview with George Stephanopoulos, which will air on Sunday night. SoI'm betting that Trump, in addition to his many rage tweets over the weekend, will fire Rosenstein (and, who knows, maybe Jeff Sessions) on Sunday, shortly before the interview's airtime.

Will that will steal Comey's thunder? Of course not. It will just draw more attention to Comey's book. That's obvious to anyone but Trump.

If I'm right, this won't be the Streisand effect -- an explosion of interest in information a famous person wants to suppress, because the suppression efforts draws increased attention to the information. It'll be a uniquely Trumpian effect -- his efforts to distract from something he doesn't want us to notice makes us pay attention even more.

Maybe he's not stupid enough to do this -- but he was stupid enough to fire Comey in the first place, so why not?

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