Category Archives: Henninger

Anti-trump project

Daniel Henninger – WSJ 11/14/2019

Nancy Pelosi was right the first time. The Democrats shouldn’t have done this. They should not have tried to make the already over-w helmed American public believe that Donald Trump’s umpteenth “norms” violation was a constitutional crisis. But no, the party’s leftmost elements insisted, and the Beltway press insisted. Mr. Trump had to be impeached.

Once he had survived the Republican primaries in 2016 and then beaten Hillary Clinton by tapping into a slice of overlooked voters, most serious people got on with the business of coming to grips, if not terms, with this unconventional, pugnacious presidency.

But not these people. The political and media left convinced themselves it was somehow possible to make the Trump presidency end before its November 2020 sell-by date. So here we are, three long years later, with Adam Schiff ending his opening impeachment statement by quoting Benjamin Franklin about “a republic, if you can keep it.” That bad, huh?

The testimony by the two U.S. ambassadors was fascinating, especially the account given by Bill Taylor, who like many others had the misfortune of finding himself in the center of one of Mr. Trump’s impetuous foreign-policy decisions.

In what he admitted was a “lengthy” statement, Mr. Taylor described how the U.S.’s single-channel policy of helping Ukraine defend itself from Vladimir Putin’s Russia suddenly became “two channels” after Rudy Giuliani introduced Mr. Trump’s monomania over an earlier Ukrainian government’s possible collusion with Democrats to defeat him in 2016.

Ambassador Taylor was correct that what the U.S. had been doing in Ukraine comported with the Trump National Security Strategy of resisting persistent aggressions by Russia and China. In early 2019, that included helping Ukraine’s newly elected government and its young president, Volodymyr Zelensky, stand up to Mr. Putin’s murderous little green men in eastern Ukraine.

Mr. Taylor’s substantive point was that the Trump-Giuliani channel undercut a sound U.S. policy course when suddenly military assistance to Ukraine got caught up in Mr. Trump’s desire, or need, to have the Ukrainians investigate the Bidens.

So what else is new? Internal policy battles of this intensity are a constant of government life. Other than dragging in the Bidens, this is hardly different from a host of similar Trumpian foreign-policy interventions: his decision after the first summit with Kim Jong Un to reduce military exercises with South Korea; the 2018 decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, which caused Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to resign; his decision in 2017 to impose tariffs on virtually all the major U.S. trading partners, no matter the effect on domestic farmers and businesses; his decision last month to pull U.S. forces in northern Syria away from the Kurds, who he said “didn’t help us with Normandy.”

My own favorite of stillborn Trump foreign-policy ideas was his tweet, days before the anniversary of 9/11 this year: “Unbeknownst to almost everyone, the major Taliban leaders and, separately, the President of Afghanistan, were going to secretly meet with me at Camp David on Sunday.” The Taliban at Camp David—now that would have been impeachable.

All these decisions, and not least the events with Ukraine, are absolutely valid voting issues for the next election. If you’re disgusted by the Trump-Giuliani Ukraine back-channel, don’t vote for him. If you think Mr. Trump’s protectionism and isolationism are bad for America’s future, don’t vote for him.

It would have been valid as well if the Democrats had chosen to conduct normal oversight hearings into the Ukraine whistleblower’s complaint— with witnesses called and questioned by both sides and the public allowed to watch and decide. But why are Americans being forced to endure the elevation of the Ukraine saga into the current impeachment melodrama?

Presumably the Democratic left and its allies believe the faux gravity of “impeachment” will grind down Mr. Trump’s support at the margin and jack up anti-Trump turnout. One wonders.

Once past the inevitable vote in the House to impeach, and then assuming Mitch McConnell bothers to hold a Senate trial, this will be over by the end of January. With impeachment, the Democrats finally will have dropped their nuclear device on Donald Trump. After that, what’s left?

No doubt many voters are sitting on the Trump bubble, uncertain whether to sign up for another spin with him or whatever the Democrats are supposed to represent now. Medicare for All? Former GOP House Speaker John Boehner’s wheel-spinning term looks like a legislative golden age compared to what Mrs. Pelosi has done with her majority.

What the speaker may have recognized this summer is that the activists’ take down Trump project was turning into three wasted years, and that voters might go looking for someone to blame for that. Once the Adam Schiff show closes, undecided voters will have about 10 months to decide if his politics of pursuit and retribution has been worth the trouble.



By Daniel Henninger


Pelosi’s Impeachment Blunder

Each move appears more desperate than the one before.

Daniel Henninger –  WSJ  10/23/2019

Nancy Pelosi had the Democrats’ impeachment strategy right the first time: Don’t do it. But apparently even a lifetime in the mud-filled trenches of politics wasn’t enough to toughen the House speaker against the Democratic left’s compulsion to impeach Donald Trump.

Anyone of any political stripe knows that the most psychologically distressed Democrats have wanted to impeach this guy, somehow just get rid of him, from day one.


Before Democrats regained control of the House in the 2018 midterm elections, the Trump takedown was supposed to result from the Russian-collusion narrative, which got up to speed in January 2017 and then steamrolled across the country for two years of media leaks and the Mueller investigation, ultimately and fantastically going nowhere.

Within a day of the Mueller report’s release, dismissing the Russian-collusion story lines, the opposition pivoted to the obstruction-of-justice narrative. Somehow, the pivoters must have assumed that the American people, after enduring the Mueller odyssey, would not notice that this extraordinarily disruptive investigation had come to nothing. And that people would saddle up to join the next get-Trump posse. That didn’t work.


We’ll pause in our own narrative to posit a de minimis level of legitimacy to what they’ve done. If the opposition party and, in our unique times, the opposition press want to spend what capital and credibility they have in a round-the-clock effort to take down a sitting president, that’s their prerogative. Nothing in the Constitution says elected officials are obliged to do anything productive.

But translating the public’s votes into a permanent presidential takedown had better work, because if they don’t pull off impeachment and drive Donald Trump out of public life next year, the losses for the Democrats and the media will be devastating. It’s the familiar do-or-die stakes of trying to take out the king.

Because Donald Trump loves living dangerously, he and the increasingly mysterious Rudy Giuliani handed his opponents the unexpected excitement of the Ukraine-Biden narrative—and at last an opening for impeachment. The New York Times, delirious at the prospect, has even created an ominous little logo for its coverage, typically several pages a day—“The 45th President: Impeachment.”

Maybe it really will be the third time’s the charm for the Trump-elimination forces, but the impeachment project looks like it’s starting to go wobbly.

For starters, it’s still just sort-of an impeachment. There’s been no vote in the House and no sign the Judiciary Committee is drawing up articles of impeachment, as in the past. Instead, Adam Schiff’s intelligence committee is interviewing Ukraine-related State Department officials—in secret hearings. It resembles a show trial, with the “public” parts emerging as selective leaks to the impeachment press.

But the most telling impeachment development this week wasn’t any paraphrased testimony from Mr. Schiff’s private hearings. It was the news that Speaker Pelosi’s impeachment timetable has been delayed “to sharpen their case” for doing it.

It is now evident that a vote to impeach President Trump isn’t likely to occur before Thanksgiving, as many assumed, but will slip to December. Then, of course, the trial phase will pass to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Mr. McConnell reportedly wanted it all over by the end of the year, but what’s the rush? The Trump trial could run through January—31 priceless campaign days before the Democratic Party’s intensely competitive primaries. The Iowa caucus vote is Feb. 3, then comes New Hampshire’s primary on Feb. 11; Nevada’s caucuses are Feb. 22; and the crucially important South Carolina primary arrives Feb. 29.


Instead of competing for their party’s nomination, Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker and Michael Bennet will spend invaluable campaign time planted on Capitol Hill during the days that the Pelosi-Schiff Trump trial drones on. Sens. Sanders and Harris can’t call Mr. Trump the “most corrupt president” in the history of the country and then skip out on the trial of public enemy No. 1 to campaign in a downstate Iowa diner.

Joe Biden, Mayor Pete, and Hillary’s new friend Rep. Tulsi Gabbard get to romp daily through the primary states, but who’s going to notice with the Trump impeachment trial siphoning away the nation’s media’s attention?

Surely Nancy Pelosi knew when she stood firm against opening the impeachment dam that the interests of her party’s anti-Trump compulsives—nearly all from safe seats—and her party’s broader election interests were not aligned.

The left has always believed that some deus ex machina, such as Robert Mueller or a nonstop storm of negative press stories, would magically make the Trump presidency just go away—rather than the more plausible likelihood that the relentlessly combustible Mr. Trump would eventually discredit himself in the eyes of most voters.

The American left throughout its existence has had a deep mistrust of the U.S. system, so rather than wait until November 2020 for voters to sort all this out, we get this crypto-impeachment. Like the sure-thing election of 2016, it too could backfire.


Democrats Lost in Ukrainia

WSJ 10/3/2019  Daniel Henninger

As the Trump impeachment narrative descends into the familiar bog of incomprehensibility, some guidance: Do not confuse Ukraine with Ukrainia.

Ukraine is a real country. Ukrainia is an imaginary place created by the national Democratic Party and the Washington press corps.

It was probably inevitable that after 2½ years of the Trump presidency, the Democrats and the press would end up in Ukrainia. For years, they have accused Mr. Trump, with some justification, of creating his own reality. Last week, they decided to create their own.

This story began two weeks ago, on a Thursday, with reports of a whistleblower filing a complaint to the intelligence community’s inspector general about Mr. Trump’s July 25 phone call with Volodymyr Zelensky, the real president of the real Ukraine. For about 48 hours, the issue was simple: Had Mr. Trump pressured Mr. Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden and his son Hunter?

That Sunday, Mr. Trump said he did bring up Mr. Biden during a conversation about corruption. On Tuesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced she had approved a formal inquiry into Mr. Trump’s impeachment. Then, in what became the working headline for everything else last week, “the dam broke.”

If you live in Peoria, most likely you can’t fully understand the meaning of “the dam broke.” It’s not that people in Peoria don’t know what’s going on. But like virtually everyone today, they get most of their news from screens—on cellphones, PCs or television. That isn’t how Washington gets the news.

Besides the inevitable screens, people working in Washington still get their news as they did during the Watergate scandal—from the front pages of the print editions of national newspapers.

Those front pages were once the political world’s official dam, releasing information into the world at a rate appropriate to the news of the day. Last week, that dam collapsed in an indiscriminate torrent.

The day after the White House released the text of Mr. Trump’s conversation with Mr. Zelensky, the New York Times, under a banner headline—“Trump Asked for ‘Favor’ in Call, Memo Shows”—spread a reproduction of the transcript across the top half of the page, with six sections highlighted portentously in yellow marker. That day’s Washington Post filled its first section with an astounding 19 separate “impeachment inquiry” stories, each more or less pegged to this single transcript.

On Friday, the Times returned with another banner headline: “Complaint Asserts a White House Cover-Up.” Below that, again filling the top half of the page, is text from the unnamed whistleblower’s semi-hearsay complaint and the inspector general’s letter.

This is Ukrainia, the impeachment world inhabited by Nancy Pelosi, Adam Schiff, Jerrold Nadler and the rest of Washington—a world of newspaper melodrama, nonstop talking heads and hysterical social-media posts.

It’s hard to recall the paint-by-numbers story line that presumably caused Nancy Pelosi to pull the trigger on impeachment—the notion that Mr. Trump’s raising the investigation of a political opponent in a national-security conversation with a foreign leader was an abuse of presidential power and an impeachable offense.

At long last, the Democrats believed, they had a violative Trump act the public could understand, as opposed to what the New York Times described—with an utter absence of irony—as “months of murky messaging around a confusing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign.”

It is barely a fortnight since this “understandable” impeachment charge emerged and already the story line is descending, again, into deep insider minutiae and ultimately something incomprehensible to the general public.

Adam Schiff—who admitted Wednesday that the sainted whistleblower touched base with the House Intelligence Committee days before unloading the complaint against Mr. Trump—is as always carpet-bombing the administration with subpoenas. He wants Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to testify. He wants to depose a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, and various others in the U.S. diplomatic corps no one’s ever heard of. George Papadopoulos must be in there somewhere.

Meanwhile, the real Ukrainians look like they don’t want to pursue the matter further, and that includes Mr. Trump’s predictable exhortation to investigate Joe Biden.

The Democrats will fall back on the media to keep the impeachment game going, which it will. For much of the media, its primary activity has become feeding a voracious internet, which means the most minimally relevant anti-Trump stories are reported in microscopic detail whose purpose is to hold on to eyeballs with a permanent and presumably addictive sense of dread.

Politicians like Nancy Pelosi used to be better at assessing the political importance of events, but their judgment is now being overwhelmed by the ideological frenzies of modern media, culminating in the past two wild weeks.

For more than two years, the Democrats have asked the American people to buy into a succession of Trump takedowns—Russian collusion, Mueller obstruction, tax abuse and Stormy Daniels. Now they expect voters to spend the next year living with them in Ukrainia. There has to be a limit, and this may be it.


via Democrats Lost in Ukrainia – WSJ.


Wahooing Betsy Ross – WSJ

Mr Henninger has it right: “…corporation headquarters are not profiles in courage…” WSJ 7/10/2019

The remarkable thing about Colin Kaepernick ’s banning of Nike ’s Betsy Ross flag sneaker to commemorate the Fourth of July isn’t that it happened, but how easily it happened. Nike’s management simply folded over “concerns that it could unintentionally offend.”

Translating this waffly phrase into odds, I’d put “concerns that it could” at about a million to one. But because the thought found its way into Mr. Kaepernick’s head that the shoe was about slavery, Nike’s senior decision-makers nodded without dissent: We’ve gotta pull it.

No one has ever thought to go looking inside corporate headquarters for profiles in courage, but the lurch toward timidity in our time by individuals at the top of America’s private and public institutions is something to behold. Pusillanimity has become a plague.

The ownership of the Cleveland Indians engaged in several years of passive resistance before finally caving in this season to pressure from New-York-based Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred to ban the team’s mascot and logo, the joyfully smiling Chief Wahoo. The Indians’ cap now bear a nondescript C, which hereafter should stand for “craven” instead of Cleveland.

Banning Chief Wahoo—a constant presence in the city’s life since the 1950s—meant baseball’s factotums could get through Tuesday night’s All-Star game in Cleveland without the possibility that the logo might be seen on an Indian player’s uniform, forcing baseball’s leadership to endure apparently unbearable Twitter torture.

In April, the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Flyers caved in to pressure to stop playing a recording of Kate Smith singing “God Bless America” because it emerged that Smith recorded a song called “That’s Why Darkies Were Born” in 1931, when she was 24. The Flyers even removed a statue of Smith, erected in 1987, from outside their arena. If the Flyers players crumbled as quickly as their management, they’d be laughed out of hockey.


In a saner world, the Yankees and Flyers might have worked out a modus vivendi. Yes, it’s worth knowing now that racist songs were recorded in the U.S. in the 1930s. And it is good and useful if major institutions such as the Yankees and Flyers condemn them.

But it is also a fact that listening to Smith’s rendition of Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America” has been an experience of pure patriotic exhilaration for millions of people, most of whom by now have never heard of Kate Smith, whose life and career were stellar in every respect beyond two songs. Criticize the condescending songs she recorded in the 1930s—and move on.

One feels almost ridiculous getting pulled into arguments about things like baseball mascots or Kate Smith. But the Betsy Ross flag incident suggests something’s happening that is not ridiculous. It is insidious. It is insidious because with prominent American leadership falling over like empty plastic bottles, the bannings are coming too quickly and too easily. They’re starting to look like a slippery slope to institutionalized suppression.

Political disagreement is supposed to be about argument. But the proponents of these claims don’t bother to make an argument anymore. Instead, they posit assertions, such as that Kate Smith had to be held “accountable,” or mascots such as Chief Wahoo are “hurtful.” The Betsy Ross flag has to disappear because slavery existed in 1777 and, as bad, some white nationalists on the far fringe recently waved it in public somewhere.

Since about 1970, when the cultural divide in America was still just a fissure, an enduring reality of our politics has been the phenomenon of a Silent Majority, which never quite goes away. It mostly pops up in presidential elections to the always wide-eyed surprise of the East Coast media, which then sends out teams to rediscover why these people are upset.

The rest of the time when a Chief Wahoo or Kate Smith happens, most people find space inside themselves to absorb it. But for the increasingly Mao-like American left, even this choked-down acceptance of their political assaults isn’t enough. They no longer seem content with winning. The left today has a compulsion to force obedience again and again. Thus, You didn’t like Wahoo and Kate Smith? Try this: We’re getting rid of your racist Betsy Ross flag, and you’ll shut your face and take it.

What they want from their opposition isn’t agreement with their ideas but submission—a kind of political lobotomization. And disturbingly, a lot of contemporary leaders—at Nike, the Yankees, the Flyers, almost any university—are volunteering to assist in the procedure.

Anytime thought suppression goes too far, people look for ways to resist. One thinks of the determined objectors in Ray Bradbury ’s now barely fictional novel, “Fahrenheit 451,” evading the firemen who exterminate the possessions of people who read books. Today, the firemen are burning any symbol of American life they say has become unacceptable—to them.


Outside a baseball game this season at the Cleveland Indians stadium there was a guy with a sign: “Make Chief Wahoo Great Again.” Who could possibly be surprised, or pretend to be offended?

via Wahooing Betsy Ross – WSJ.