President Trump gave two thumbs up as he left Air Force One in West Palm Beach, Florida, on Friday. And really, he had every reason to do so.
The Mueller report — that Key to All Mythologies that liberals kept on believing would put Trump and his retinue behind bars for good — has been turned over to Attorney General William Barr. We don’t know the details of it and probably won’t for a while, but what we can glean thus far looks good for the president.
The biggest news is that there aren’t going to be any more indictments from the special counsel. That likely means that the report won’t contain solid proof of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians. Without any solid proof, the Russian collusion theory collapses into the dustbin of conspiracy theory.
But Beto O’Rourke isn’t above pronouncing Trump in cahoots with the Kremlin, even if Congress hasn’t been briefed on the Mueller report and he won’t be anyhow.
“You have a president, who, in my opinion, beyond the shadow of a doubt, sought to — however ham-handedly — collude with the Russian government — a foreign power — to undermine and influence our elections,” O’Rourke said at a town hall in South Carolina, according to CNN.
“If you are wondering about collusion then when you saw the President of the United States standing next to the leader of Russia on that stage in Helsinki, Finland, defending him and taking his word for it against our own intelligence community in our country, in (conservative columnist) George Will’s words, not mine, that is collusion in action,” O’Rourke said.
“Ultimately, I believe this will be decided at the ballot box in 2020 by you, by me, by all of us in this country.”
Just another day in Beto-land. It almost makes you forget about all that weird hacking stuff and concomitant lewd cow poetry.
So, all right, let’s unpack all of that. First, O’Rourke is straightforward in what he’s telling the crowd: He thinks Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia — a country he had to remind his audience is “a foreign power” because apparently he doesn’t think highly of their intelligence — “to undermine and influence our elections.” (I neither know nor care how he did this “ham-handedly” or how this apparent patina of plausible deniability covers O’Rourke when the Mueller report eventually provides a cosmic thwack to this sort of rhetoric.)
His evidence of this is somehow the Helsinki summit, which may not have been Trump’s finest hour but certainly wasn’t the heart-clutching death-of-our-democracy moment the left maintains it was.
His attempt at making this sound bipartisan is bringing pundit George Will into it. This doesn’t work for two reasons.
First, Will is one of those conservatives who immediately checked into the Bill Kristol Psychiatric Center for the Trumpically Deranged the moment that he realized Trump’s candidacy wasn’t being treated by voters as the farce he thought it was. I have no small regard for Mr. Will’s oeuvre, but take this morsel of his fulmination from this past January and try to attribute it to someone who is either conservative or on an even keel: “Dislike of (Donald Trump) should be tempered by this consideration: He is an almost inexpressibly sad specimen. It must be misery to awaken to another day of being Donald Trump. He seems to have as many friends as his pluperfect self-centeredness allows, and as he has earned in an entirely transactional life. His historical ignorance deprives him of the satisfaction of working in a house where much magnificent history has been made. His childlike ignorance — preserved by a lifetime of single-minded self-promotion — concerning governance and economics guarantees that whenever he must interact with experienced and accomplished people, he is as bewildered as a kindergartener at a seminar on string theory.”
And second, what Will said about Helsinki actually proves O’Rourke wrong. Here is the passage to which the 2020 Democratic hopeful assumedly refers: “Like the purloined letter in Edgar Allan Poe’s short story with that title, collusion with Russia is hiding in plain sight,” Will wrote in July of last year.
“We shall learn from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation whether in 2016 there was collusion with Russia by members of the Trump campaign. (Emphasis mine.) The world, however, saw in Helsinki something more grave — ongoing collusion between Trump, now in power, and Russia. The collusion is in what Trump says (refusing to back the United States’ intelligence agencies) and in what evidently went unsaid (such as: You ought to stop disrupting Ukraine, downing civilian airliners, attempting to assassinate people abroad using poisons, and so on, and on).”
By “collusion,” what Will meant was that Trump was paying fealty to the Russians. When it came to collusion by the Trump campaign, however, Will saw fit to leave that matter in the hands of Robert Mueller.
When O’Rourke took the stage during his Saturday whistle-stop and invoked Will, he’d almost certainly been disabused of the notion that Mueller’s investigation was going to provide any definitive link to show that Trump or members of his campaign colluded with the Kremlin “to undermine and influence our elections.”
But then, symbolic “collusion” between Trump and Putin on stage at Helsinki doesn’t get crowds in early primary states whipped up the same way that collusion to undermine our elections does, and it’s not as if many people in attendance are George Will readers anyway. (Crowds that need to be reminded Russia is “a foreign power” probably aren’t too keen on obscure polysyllabic words.)
But that’s the point about conspiracy theories: They don’t require evidence to keep on going. You can explain to your chemtrail-believing neighbor how condensation works when hot air comes out of jet engines at high altitudes, and he’s still going to think that the CIA is spraying mind-altering chemicals on all of us in the most inefficient way possible.
Kennedy assassination theories are marginally more plausible, but you’re still dealing with individuals who will never believe that a violent, pathetic specimen like Lee Harvey Oswald could alter history so easily even with the evidence right in front of them.
In the same way, the Democrats still can’t believe that — if indications are correct — the Mueller report will be two years of nothing. It’s a nothingburger of finely aged beef. It may provide intimations or innuendoes — though one would hope Mueller wouldn’t be that irresponsible — but no one will have been indicted by the special counsel for conspiracy with the Russians.
And yet, O’Rourke counts himself as a perfervid believer in the idea that there was collusion between Trump and the Russians to influence our elections. Or, at the very least, he thinks that his audiences believe there was — and that’s all that really matters, right?
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.