The bombshell that wasn't

The Mueller report was never going to produce what the #Resistance so desperately hoped it would—a wide-ranging, Tom Clancy meets Jim Garrison “JFK” espionage conspiracy reaching the highest levels of government and vindicating the heroic journalists who saw themselves as Redford and Hoffman in “All the President’s Men” while wading further and further into a whirlpool of unbridled lunacy. Now that the investigation has sputtered its way to an incredibly anticlimactic conclusion, it’s time for Democrats to ask themselves a difficult question: how are they going to beat Donald Trump on ideas and policies?


I was always a bit of an agnostic on the whole process. I felt that it was necessary and criticized constant Republican efforts to stifle the inquiry (including those of our own homegrown U.S. Senator), and there were certain incidents—the Trump Tower meeting in 2016, the e-mail hacks and pretty much everything Jared Kushner has ever done—that were suspicious at best and nefarious at worst.


But the smoking gun was always going to have to come from the mouth of the President himself, and unlike Nixon, Trump wasn’t dumb enough to tape record all of his conversations (and wisely, from his perspective, he never agreed to a sit-down interview with Mueller). Sans direct evidence of an order from the top, the investigation was dead in the water.


Some of the Donald’s more ardent supporters who read this newspaper would probably argue that I suffer from Trump Derangement Syndrome, even as I’ve praised his foreign policy efforts and his willingness to break from the GOP orthodoxy on criminal justice reform. I believe he’s a deeply flawed, aggressively unintelligent buffoon with an affinity for authoritarian rulers and white grievance who has nonetheless succeeded in exposing the futility of a political system in which the establishments of the two ruling parties agree on war, financial bailouts, overpriced health care, torture and unlimited surveillance while limiting their meaningful quarrels to a few social issues, marginal tax rates and climate change.


As they’ve gradually embraced a new Cold War mindset pulled straight from “Dr. Strangelove,” the most avowed Trump-Russia collusion psychos have long since dropped the pretense that Hillary Clinton deserved even a shred of blame for her 2016 defeat or that she simply wasn’t the perfect candidate they made her out to be. Mueller morphed into something of a neoliberal God who would magically rescue the world from the tyranny of Orange Cheeto Man and restore the queen to her rightful throne—until he was just another FBI guy incapable of thwarting the king of failing upward. Now, he’s a scalp in Trump’s lifelong “Terminator” hunt to steamroll and humiliate anyone who’s ever questioned his authority to do whatever he wants all the time.


For conservatives, the entire debacle will provide further vindication of the “Fake News” narrative, especially as the journalists most deeply invested in crackpot theories about golden showers and Russian assets refuse to back down. Fair enough.


And the investigations will not end. We’ll hear about Stormy Daniels, Karen McDougal, Trump’s taxes (that’s something we should actually talk more about), Mar-a-Lago and maybe even his college transcripts once this is all said and done. Hey, he did it to Obama. Why not?


Things won’t return to normal. By the end of next month, we’ll be on to the next seven inane Trump scandals while repeatedly asking ourselves why nothing sticks to Teflon Don. He’ll launch an extremely formidable campaign for re-election, and he’ll be the odds-on favorite to win as his poll numbers climb. The 2020 Democratic nominee will endure an onslaught of personal and political attacks like they’ve never experienced before, knowing full well that the ballot box is the only saving grace left.


Rachel Maddow, Adam Schiff and John Brennan will launch an AA-style support group for all of the true believers who refuse to accept the findings of the report, and Mueller will be hired to consult on one of the 14 biopics already in the works about him. What was originally pitched as a spy thriller in the mold of the Jason Bourne series or “The Manchurian Candidate” will metastasize into a Coen Brothers farce lampooning the blue checkmark brigade suckered into promoting a tall tale that was always too juicy to be true and a gang of yes man yokels not smart enough to collude even if they wanted to.


Meanwhile, Trump will uphold himself as the paragon of manly conservative machismo while incessantly tweeting about the New York media and the meanies at “Saturday Night Live.” It’s almost like nothing is really going to change at all.