The GOP’s Hall of Mirrors

For Republicans lost inside the Trump fun house, a message: Run on his biggest victory.

In mid-June, the country stopped what it was doing to transfix for days over the spectacle of children separated from their parents in Texas. You can argue about the policy merits, but like a curved mirror it had one effect: Everyone involved looked smaller.

Four weeks later, the news cycle pumped out days of disorienting political optics around the mysterious press conference Mr. Trump conducted after his private meeting with Vladimir Putin. A week later, Mr. Trump said he would invite Mr. Putin to Washington amid the election. Then he said he wouldn’t, until next year.

In recent days, Mr. Trump has erected more mirrors for Republicans to navigate. On Sunday, he tweeted he would shut down the government before the election. Privately, he says he won’t.

.. Steve Bannon is demanding that Republicans run on every jot or tweeted tittle in the Trump agenda. But only Donald Trump himself could run for re-election on all this stuff simultaneously. For Republican candidates in competitive races—meaning the races in which 2 or 3 percentage points in the wrong direction means they lose the election and control of the House—the way forward requires simplicity and clarity, not a thousand points of rage.

A message to Republicans lost in the Trump fun house: Run on something solid. Run on something you understand. Join yourself at the hip with the greatest accomplishment of Donald Trump’s presidency. Run on America’s booming economy. (Footnote: For put-off GOP voters who need more reason to show up, the next 30 years of the Gorsuch-Kavanaugh court was why they signed on for this ride in 2016.)

Democrats have finally figured out how to turn Trump’s tweets into their own weapon.

The Almanac of American Politics details Sen. Gillibrand’s eye-rolling flip-flops—famous in New York political circles—from upstate House conservative to progressive Senate saint, described in an apparently forgotten New York Times account.

.. With Democrats themselves admitting they have no coherent message that could win a presidential election, the opposition strategy has been built around Mr. Trump’s personality, his alleged collusion with Russia to disable Hillary Clinton, and now the return of the same accusations of sexual harassment that did not cause him to lose the election.

.. Democrats may finally have hit upon the Achilles’ heel that will fell or weaken this president: his tweets.

The tweets have worried Republicans and Trump supporters since they started. Mr. Trump rejects this criticism. He said, with a tweet, that they energize his base. But Roy Moore just lost in Alabama.

.. The biggest nonpolitical story for months has been sexual abuse, starting with Harvey Weinstein. It was only a matter of time before the politicians would figure out how to manipulate harassment for their own purposes.

.. Then on Monday, the day before the Alabama election, came the following: Three women repeated sexual harassment accusations they’d made against Mr. Trump during the campaign; the congressional Democratic Women’s Working Group called for an investigation of the charges; and Sen. Gillibrand called on the president to resign.

.. They have discovered how to make his tweets their weapon.

.. Mr. Trump’s Tuesday-morning tweet suddenly elevated a B-level New York senator, and the media instantly recycled the Trump sexual-harassment details. Doug Jones defeated Roy Moore by just 1.5%, and the Republicans’ Senate majority fell to 51. By day’s end, Sen. Gillibrand was soliciting funds via email for her 2018 election. They figured out how to make the Trump side lose. It’s the president’s move now. Checkmate awaits.

Selfie Politics

Trump, in fact, tweets as the Everyman of America’s new politics: Embrace Me!

For Democrats, political identity is by now well-established as a function of one’s race, gender or sexual self-definition. Refined further, a Democrat is a “person of color” or a “woman” or a “transgender” person.

.. We are in the era of selfie politics. In Donald Trump, we have a selfie president. After the Virginia gubernatorial loss, the first nine words of Mr. Trump’s tweet from Asia were: “Ed Gillespie worked hard but did not embrace me . . .”

Liberalism’s Summer of ’17

Liberals whine about being governed by Trump. Pity those governed by them.

Many of those now climbing over the Democrats’ blue walls were willing to live under the original liberal governance model that existed before 1960 because it recognized the legitimacy of private economic life. The wealthy agreed then to pay their “fair share.”

.. Defenders of the liberal model argue that cities like New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles are changing into sophisticated, cosmopolitan hubs that attract a new class of young professionals who will restore urban America. Instead, many of these urban revivals are producing a phenomenon economists now call “racially concentrated areas of affluence,” or RCAAs.

An area gets RCAAed when the residents who pack themselves into it are mostly white people whose median incomes are unprecedentedly greater than the city’s poverty level. Some of the most RCAAed cities are liberal duchies like Boston, Baltimore, Chicago and Philadelphia.

Today, private economic life, especially that of the urban middle class, is no longer a partner in the liberal model. It’s merely a “revenue source” for a system whose patronage is open-ended welfare and largely uncapped public-employee pensions. I’d describe the liberal-progressive governing strategy as ruin and rule.

.. Not widely noticed is that liberalism’s claimed beneficiaries—black Americans—are also fleeing its failures. Demographers have documented significant black out-migration from New York, Michigan, California and Illinois into Florida, Georgia, Texas and North Carolina. North to south.

.. They are now asking the federal government, meaning taxpayers who live in parts of the U.S. not hostile to capitalism, to give them nearly $15 billion to replace the 100-year-old train tunnel beneath the Hudson River. Why should they? Why send money to a moribund, dysfunctional urban liberal politics that will never—as in, not ever—clean up its act or reform?

Maybe we need a new default solution to the urban crisis: Let internal migration redistribute the U.S. population away from liberalism’s smug but falling-apart plutonomies.

The James Comey Show

He becomes the latest to disappear into the Clintons’ personal Bermuda Triangle.

Specifically, writes Mr. Rosenstein, “The Director was wrong to usurp the Attorney General’s authority on July 5, 2016, and announce his conclusion that the case should be closed without prosecution.”

 Mr. Rosenstein cites a useful analysis of the Comey saga, published in the Washington Post, by former deputy attorneys general Jamie Gorelick and Larry Thompson. Mr. Comey’s conduct, they wrote, was “real-time, raw-take transparency taken to its illogical limit, a kind of reality TV of federal criminal investigation.”

That is an apt metaphor—a kind of reality TV—for everything the dazed public is reading and hearing now about James Comey, the federal investigation into a Russian connection with the Trump campaign, and reveries about Watergate.

.. As with Hillary’s server, there is a Rosetta Stone for the Russia story. It is the Barack Obama/Loretta Lynch decision in January to sign rules permitting the National Security Agency to disseminate “raw signals intelligence” to 16 other intelligence agencies without privacy protections for individuals

.. it was reported by the New York Times that Obama administration officials had done this to dispense information across the intelligence bureaucracies “about possible contacts between associates of President-elect Donald J. Trump and Russians.”

.. The media likes these prosecutors because they become Inspector Javerts, melodramatically chasing their targets for years, more often than not destroying reputations. The Justice Department’s guidelines make clear these special prosecutors are accountable to virtually no one. They don’t produce justice; they endanger it.

Trump’s A-Team

By now, it should be obvious that the Trump operation exists in two parts. One half is the operation’s face, Donald Trump. The other half is the operation behind the face. Mr. Trump’s persona has often made it difficult to take the entire Trump phenomenon seriously. That, we learned, is a mistake.

 .. This Trump transition operation is filled with specialists and veterans extending back to Ronald Reagan’s transition, such as Ed Meese. While New York conducts auditions for the cabinet’s speaking parts, the Washington policy shop is now recruiting the under-, deputy- and assistant secretaryships.
.. I would have preferred seeing House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling get Treasury, on the assumption that his ability to get tax reform and the overhaul of Dodd-Frank through Congress would have all but guaranteed a revived economy and a successful first Trump term. Mr. Mnuchin will benefit from having Chairman Hensarling as a lodestar in the House.
.. If Mr. Trump’s foreign-policy goal is to “kill ISIS,” it would be hard to design a more effective partnership than Jim Mattis at Defense and David Petraeus at State.
.. These are men who will not argue for committing ground troops unless the U.S. is going to win and then secure the durability of its dear investment there.