He avoids the “conflict” part by caring *solely* about his own interests. – brilliant quote by my friend Chris Kuhi

trump cuts ribbon

The world consists of two kinds of people: those who are paid to apologize for and justify the Trump administration, and those who are not. Like almost every single person in the latter group, I believe there is something fishy about the connections between the Trump 2016 campaign and Russia’s proven attempts to subvert our democracy. I also believe that there’s a decent possibility that Trump has delivered, or is delivering, our Pentagon’s most closely held secrets to dictator-autocrat Vladimir Putin.

What I don’t believe is that it’s a good idea to see my well-meaning liberal friends talk about this same story Every. Damn. Day. As if it’s the only Trump story worth telling. Rachel Maddow does not need to make Russia her lead story each day. Rosie O’Donnell doesn’t need to tweet #treason every day. Keith Olbermann does not need another daily video, like yesterday’s, called “Trump is Panicking About Russia.” Charles Blow did not need to headline yesterday’s column “Dwindling Odds of Coincidence,” a headline that 1) suggests that there have been at least five previous Trump-Russia columns 2) he could have used in any of his five previous Trump-Russia columns.

Proportion matters. Emphasis matters. Focus matters. No one has time to write or read every word of every news or opinion piece. Every minute spent writing about the President’s connections to Russia is a minute not spent writing about Trump’s many other malfeasances.

But, treason, you say. Oh, I hear you loud and clear. The problem is your loudness and clarity.

Game this out with me for a minute. James Clapper, until this year the Director of National Intelligence, said that no evidence exists proving collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. Let’s pretend that remains true. Or let’s imagine a scenario where we learn that Trump campaign employees worked with Russian companies, but there’s no way for American prosecutors to prove that such companies answer directly to the Russian state (even though we know it’s true). Let’s look again at the Constitution:

“Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.”

Courts have traditionally found that only a state can be an “enemy” of the United States, and Trump’s lawyers will furthermore argue that Russia was not and is not a declared enemy of the United States. It will be very difficult to find Trump or any of his close associates guilty of treason, perhaps because of the rationale that Mark Cuban tossed out this week (he’s hardly a Trump supporter), that Trump wouldn’t really have the wherewithal to pull off something that tricky.

Trump and his staff may yet be found guilty of other crimes that don’t quite have the same cachet as the word “treason.” But if we keep saying “treason,” if we keep obsessing about every tiny new twist in the Russia story, then: the day those charges are dropped will also be the day Trump becomes invulnerable.

Think about it. Trump will say “this is the same mainstream media that predicted Hillary would beat me in a landslide. This is the same mainstream media that said every day that I was guilty of treason, that I was working with Russia. So who are you gonna believe, me or them?”

For many Americans, the answer is already “him.” Liberals can take comfort that that group isn’t yet a majority. But if Trump is “proved right” on Russia, that could change. The media’s “approval ratings,” already at dismal lows, could go subterranean.

The truth is that Trump is already almost certainly guilty of White House-assisted self-enrichment schemes that, had they been committed by any of the previous 44 presidents, would have already led to, at minimum, Benghazi-like investigations, and more likely impeachment proceedings. If liberals want to later say, “As we’ve always said, well beyond Russia, Donald Trump’s wide range of ethical lapses have endangered our troops and in fact all Americans…” well then, let’s make that case now, and not have it later look like a loser’s second-best argument.

And while we’re talking about rhetorical strategies for 2018, let’s be very clear that liberals and Democrats should make it a point to sprinkle in the words “America” and “freedom” and “liberty” and “rights” and “this great nation” and “the best country” whenever goddamn possible. As I just said: emphasis matters, focus matters. If liberals and Democrats want to win back seats in 2018, emphasis and focus should not be on problems we’d be having if, say, Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio were President (e.g. lower taxes for the 1%, Neil Gorsuch, defunding the EPA and Planned Parenthood), but on the sleaze and corruption and ethical lapses that are unique to the 45th President.

So, what am I saying, specifically? I mean read this. Yeah, all of it. You have time for America.

You read all that? Wow, I’m surprised you remembered I was here! So now, here are twelve suggested phrases for would-be commenters and good people fighting for office in 2018 (I know some of you will be rather new to this, so I’m trying to help you). Use the right phrase for the right audience!

“The only thing blind about the Trump trust is how blindly other Republicans trust Trump. The President can withdraw funds at any time, making a mockery of the law providing a conflict-of-interest exception for the President. Trump’s children don’t operate with that exception and their conflicts are just as flagrant as his.”

“In America, we play by the rules. Freedom-loving people don’t line our pockets by building D.C. hotels for foreign fat-cats to pay the Trump organization if these foreigners want better treatment. And we don’t punish hotel laborers for demanding better treatment from their boss…even if their boss now happens to be the President.”

“Trump promised our great citizens that his organization would make no new foreign deals; Trump lied. From Argentina to Taiwan to India to Uruguay to Canada to China to the United Kingdom to Indonesia to the UAE to the Dominican Republic, up to and including his choices of ambassadors, he treats the U.S. State Department like his personal ATM.”

“Trump Tower is a high-rise swamp of corruption unworthy of this great country. Not only does Melania Trump’s security detail eat up the budget of lesser departments, not only does the Defense Department’s presence ensure that Trump earns money on routine government functions, but every single new tenant at Trump Tower may be working to curry favors with the President. Either all new tenants get extreme vetting, Trump cuts off ties with the building, or our liberty-hating President keeps getting sold on, and to, the highest bidders.”

“In this great nation we don’t give money to corrupt Azerbaijanis who are bribing their way to get Iran nuclear weapons. And yet that’s exactly what the unscrupulous Trump organization did and is doing, even as it tries to change your laws to pretend that is isn’t so corrupt.”

“My fellow Americans, did you know the profiteer-in-chief wants to put a new Trump hotel in your city? On January 26, the CEO of Trump Hotels said, “There are 26 major metropolitan areas in the U.S., and we’re in five. I don’t see any reason that we couldn’t be in all of them eventually.” Not only does every fat-cat guest present a chance for Trump to be corrupted by their undue influence, but every guest represents fewer guests for the hardworking locals of _____ [insert your city]. What happened to freedom?!”

“To call Mar-a-Lago a swamp of corruption is an insult to perfectly nice, freedom-loving American swamps. Trump doubled his entrance fee at Mar-a-Lago in 2017 and now fattens his wallet off of every new and un-vetted member who wants to see the President making the sort of deals that the previous 44 Presidents kept uncorrupted. This kind of access, much like the $20,000 portrait that hangs in the hallway, is supposed to be a matter of charitable giving, not handing money directly to the Chief Executive. Trump’s reckless pilfering is also hurting honest, freedom-loving Florida business-owners.”

“Wall Street power-brokers advertise on The Apprentice. You gonna tell me that the amount of ads they run, and how much they pay, will have no influence on that show’s executive producer Donald Trump? No way of perverting incentives at NBC? In that case, I have a nice bridge I’d like to sell you…uh, if the President will let me sub-lease it.”

“The president’s stock holdings make a mockery of freedom and liberty. He directly profits off of things like the Keystone Pipeline. We are a party that has always fought for, and fights for, regular Americans, not for the ones with the poshest portfolios.”

“Paul Newman was Hud, the man with the barbed wire soul. Donald Trump uses HUD, the federal agency, to make money off of the barbed wire around his soul. His properties get preferential treatment, from regulations to enforcement, that the properties of ordinary hard-working Americans can’t ever have.”

“From Vegas to Virginia, Trump’s visa programs and labor policies make a mockery of liberty, the President’s word, and division of powers. Whatever Trump may say about labor freedom and H-1B visas, the truth is that Trump is only interested in what personally benefits his saving account, and as President, he has power to prevent his honest American empolyees from getting a better wage.”

“All around the world, plutocrats are plumping up Trump’s pocketbook to reshape his policies. This isn’t the America we grew up in! This isn’t freedom, this is government by the rich, of the rich, and for the rich.”

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