Bull Moose is a monthly bulletin discussing the politics and society of the United States.
A Gift to Dems – should they take it…
The news that Donald Trump had not been adjudged to have colluded with the Russians prior to the 2016 election was greeted with elation on the Right and disappointment and annoyance on the Left. Emboldened, the White House renewed calls to investigate the investigators. Little was said about how Attorney General Barr did exactly as promised when he wrote a memo in 2018, stating that the President should not be indicted for collusion, and that, frankly, he should be considered above the law in certain respects.[i] The 4-page memo of the 300-page Mueller report that Barr sent to Congress merely followed up on this promise to protect the President.
The Democrats, for their part, reacted with a mixture of incredulity, anger and promises to continue the investigations. Clearly, they are within their rights – there is plenty of smoke, and where there is smoke there should be some fire at least. But they are missing an opportunity by not refocusing attention on issues that matter to Americans
Realistically this shouldn’t be a win from Trump – he is not celebrating innocence, only the inability of prosecutors to pin conclusively any charges on him, even as some of his closest allies fester in jail. Trump’s strategy is clear and simple: aggressively go after anyone who questions him and say, repeatedly, ‘we want the full report released,’ without having any intention of ever doing so. Does ‘I will disclose my tax returns’, ring any bells?
Most Americans have more progressive views than the Republican party. On issues like the environment, immigration, health care, and yes, even freedom and civil liberties, the public should naturally side with Democrats. Even on core issues like balanced budgets, debt and higher rates of marginal taxation, Republicans are vulnerable.
Yet, the next election will be won by whoever controls the dialogue in the media. Trump won last time out, and will likely win again, because of his ability and desire to maintain a firm grip on the narrative. Not for nothing, in order to get an idea to stick in a listener’s head he will mention a soundbite three times in a row – it’s a simple trick that is wildly effective.
For him any day that he is not in the headlines is a bad one. Under this principle – bad publicity is better than none. At least he is still at the center of the conversation. Few Democrats seem to realize this. Yet, in order to win back the White House, they will need to learn from Trump, rather than simply demonize him.
Control the narrative, control the outcome…
Not Rich Enough
News that some celebrities had paid bribes for their children to gain entry into the most prestigious universities in America received widespread attention in March. Some had paid around a million dollars to coaches and middle men, who helped game the system in their favor. About fifty people were accused and some will, no doubt, spend time in jail.
The best take on this whole ‘scandal’ emerged organically, via social media. Dr Dre posted a picture of his daughter’s acceptance letter from USC, proudly boasting how she had ‘earned’ her entry. Shortly afterwards, one commenter reminded him of his $70 million gift to USC, whereupon he quickly deleted the post.
The lesson? Don’t try to bribe your way into college unless you can pay for an entire building.
The most interesting insight into the American mindset came from the comments section – the most liked ones were those adopting this line of thinking: if he donates that much money, he should be allowed to send his daughter there because he is providing opportunities for those less fortunate on scholarships.
Twisted thinking to be sure, but clearly, if you are rich enough you can act like a socialist to rig the capitalist system in your favor.
[i] Jonathan Hafetz and Brett Max Kaufmann, ‘William Barr’s Unsolicited Memo to Trump About Obstruction of Justice’, February 14th, 2019, ACLU, https://www.aclu.org/blog/executive-branch/william-barrs-unsolicited-memo-trump-about-obstruction-justice, accessed 30/3/19.