President Trump, the Three Stooges, and the Best Defense

Dr. Malcolm Cross

This week the impeachment trial of President Trump will probably end in his acquittal.  If so, the President will owe his victory to his base—the 86% of self-identified Republicans who adamantly oppose his removal from office and to whom Senate Republicans will defer, whether out of genuine conviction or out of fear of being primaried.  Had the President had to rely on his defense team for acquittal following a trial in which the outcome was not foreordained, he might well have lost.  Indeed, he might have had a better defense had it been handled by the Three Stooges.  The lack of intelligence shown by the President’s defenders does not bode well for a Republican victory in the upcoming general election.

The incompetence of the President’s defense team is shown by its dominant strategy throughout the trial—to argue that there was no “quid pro quo” arrangement between President Trump and the Ukrainian president by which military aid would be delivered to the Ukraine only after an investigation of the Bidens was first announced.  To that end, his defense team argued that the testimony of Ambassadors Sondland and Yovanovitch, as well as that of Colonel Vindman, Fiona Hill, and others was merely hearsay proving nothing.  But what about John Bolton?

Some of Trump’s defenders have dismissed the revelation that John Bolton has a book documenting an explicit quid pro quo proposal as simply a variation of the sort of dirty trick Democrats like to play on Republicans when they release potentially damaging information and allegations at the last moment—the Access Hollywood tape just before the 2016 election, the ludicrous charges against Judge Kavanaugh near the end of his hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.  But rumors that John Bolton could, and would, document the quid pro quo arrangement had been circulating long before the President was impeached.  Nobody should be surprised that what was once rumor could become reality.

Of course, one must wait to read what Bolton has to say before drawing definitive conclusions. Yet still, the President’s defense team could have, and should have, been prepared with better arguments than simple denials that the President did anything wrong in his “perfect” telephone call of July 25, especially if their denial of facts could be undermined by the refutation of their denials and the documentation of the facts which they’re denying. One of the most intelligent defenses was suggested by Andrew McCarthy, an attorney and analyst for the National Review:

Here, the president’s best defense has always been that Ukraine got its security aid, and President Volodymyr Zelensky got his coveted high-profile audience with the president of the United States (albeit at the U.N., rather than at the White House). Kyiv barely knew defense aid was being withheld, the very temporary delay had no impact whatsoever on Ukraine’s capacity to counter Russian aggression, and Zelensky was required neither to order nor to announce any investigation of the Bidens.  However objectionable the calculations that led to the delay may have been, nothing of consequence happened. Therefore, there was no impeachable offense. Case closed. 

A similar defense gambit was suggested by Republican Senator Lamar Alexander, who’s retiring this year and could have supported the calling of Bolton and other witnesses without fear of being primaried. Nonetheless he announced his opposition to witnesses with thoughts consistent with those of McCarthy, while adding that it’s up to the voters this fall to pass judgment on the President’s probable misconduct:

I worked with other senators to make sure that we have the right to ask for more documents and witnesses, but there is no need for more evidence to prove something that has already been proven and that does not meet the United States Constitution’s high bar for an impeachable offense. The Constitution does not give the Senate the power to remove the president from office and ban him from this year’s ballot simply for actions that are inappropriate. The question then is not whether the president did it, but whether the United States Senate or the American people should decide what to do about what he did. I believe that the Constitution provides that the people should make that decision in the presidential election that begins in Iowa on Monday. Our founding documents provide for duly elected presidents who serve with ‘the consent of the governed,’ not at the pleasure of the United States Congress. Let the people decide.”

Of course, it’s perfectly fair to ask why anyone should care about the Republicans’ inability to present an intelligent defense of the President if the outcome of his triumph will be acquittal anyway.  The answer is quite simple:  The end of the trial will not be the end of the campaign to remove President Trump.  The Democrats will almost certainly call on John Bolton anyway to testify to what he is thought to know about the President and the Ukraine, and they will continue to use whatever other means they can to derail the President’s re-election campaign.  Of course, the President will have his own advantages—a loyal base, a strong economy, a built-in advantage in the Electoral College, which amplifies the strength of smaller and mainly Republican states.  But reliance on these resources may not be enough.  To use them to their best advantage will require far more intelligence than either the President, or his defense team, or Republican strategists in general have shown to date.

Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton since 1987. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present).  He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014.  He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club, and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.


  1. We are not trying to remove Trump from office. We are trying do more for the people like Autism children and women and children while you go to the Rotary Cub and talk about you stock tips and your 401K accounts so don’t think your writing will get through Honorable Discharges that defend your investment white collar and paper scam. And I repeat stop the lies to the American wives…

  2. Dr. Cross let me tender this question be as that we are both residents of the same county and it is where John Tarleton gave us his land to continue education. Why should it be an out of character question for newly accepted President to request the school’s Athletic Director to his office is how much fuel will next years games in your department require for transporting those students on John Tarleton’s teams? Because I have young kids a decade or 2 behind me and you and what if this young teenager Greta Thunberg is right or even if she is wrong she is voicing fears those generations have because they are learning so and needs us to help ease their fear.

    I am not trying to stop football and sports but asking us to do something to allow them to play and have weekends entertainment Reismann but perhaps you coaches can re-invent a better method of competition like a weekend were 4 or 6 or 8 teams all get together and play these 7 for 7 football and have the lineman have time drills in pushing blocking dummies for time. Find a new scoring evaluation. I mean Reisman call Art Briles and you guys take a summer or to because we just can;t take a chance on week to week travel from home to home games because tomorrow is now. Can you coaches bring in a change. And remember Reisman the majority of John’s Tarleton are in your Athletic Department. Physical Fitness classes are a University credit and not a letter jacket.

  3. Well I don’t all the lies you have going on in your mind but it is no lie Republicans have been good little boys to the Koch foundation and the truth has never been fair enough for them and Republicans are still trying to destroy LBJ’s medicare and medicaid and and FDR’s social security. History shows that the democrats record proves we have done more for women and children than Republicans as the Republicans nature is to run other people’s live and cheating , lying and stealing are tricks of the trade. Remember how the working people bailed your lying cheating George W Bush’s administration cost the mechanics, yjr boys at FMC, Tejas waitresses etc working people $2,258 plus bailout your sweet Aunt Susie’s banks and brokerage houses. Some people remember tdhings like that but Republicans just keep on using the same old lies over and over on those don’t remember. For democrats the truth is enough but not for Republicans.

  4. Democrats are going to stay in the fairway with truth as best as they can make the Parties Leaders stay and Republicans are out in their high grass rough of lies. You can tell the George W. Bush administration that thousands of veterans knowingly say they murdered 5500 American soldiers just so ExxonMobile could get their greedy unchristian hands on Iraq’s oil just like that 18 year old girl said in 7:52 minute video explained. Continuing lying is getting harder than ever as you pinch that last tiny bit of gold from God’s earth.

  5. Try it this way maybe. Show you care for the women who sew the clothes and harvest the cotton 7 days a week and not just Sunday when a tax deduction helps feed them and their families from not receiving a fair deal. The swear of the brow still matters. Regardless of the undignified pay it gets and the dignity that has been removed from them.

  6. You know what I wish Doc? I wish that Sissy Bramlett (I don’t her and would recognize her since I bought those Jalapeno plants years ago) and some of the ladies that put so much effort in the Grace Place and H.O.P.E and all the others could incorporate with John Tarleton’s academic program or not just get help from students to have 10 acres of land to teach square foot gardening and give to grow food in our area and get 10 acres more so we could rake leaves and use coffee grounds and food food trimmings to compost and have our fertilizer for that square gardening. If John Tarleton could farm we can too. But we are eating out of the backs of trucks.

  7. What’s this all mean Dr Cross to our teachers at local public schools?

    February 6, 2020 Education News
    Alice O’Brien: Trump Administration Targets State Education Associations

    Alice O’Brien is NEA’s general counsel.

    In a nakedly political move, the Trump U.S. Department of Labor has announced its plans to force all NEA state affiliates to comply with the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 (“LMRDA”). For more than 60 years, that statute has been enforced only against private sector unions. Suddenly, the Trump administration has decided that certain public sector unions–primarily, NEA state affiliates–should be subject to the LMRDA.

    Here are six things you should know about this burdensome regulation change and what you can do about it.

    Why is the Trump administration targeting NEA state affiliates?
    The Labor Department has explained in its proposed rule that extending LMRDA coverage to NEA state affiliates makes sense given “[t] he increased prevalence of public sector unions and their use of substantial monies affecting matters of great public interest, like state spending[.]” In other words, the Labor Department wants to extend LMRDA requirements to public sector unions because they are powerful and exercise significant influence on important public policy.

    Is the Labor Department proposing that all public sector unions be subject to the LMRDA?
    No. The Labor Department is proposing to extend LMRDA coverage only to what it terms “intermediate labor organizations,” which are defined in the LMRDA as “any conference, general committee, joint or system board, or joint council.” The LMRDA’s legislative history demonstrates that this provision was intended to sweep into the LMRDA certain private sector associations of labor unions, like the Western Conference of Teamsters, whose activities prompted the enactment of the LMRDA. To remedy that deficiency, the “conference” language was added to the LMRDA to make sure that these types of “associations of labor unions” would be covered by the LMRDA even though they did not otherwise qualify as labor organizations under the statute.

    Even though NEA state affiliates are not these types of “associations of labor unions” but are organizations in which employees directly participate and hold membership, the Labor Department is still proposing to subject NEA state affiliates to the LMRDA.

    Why does it matter if NEA state affiliates are subject to the LMRDA?
    NEA state affiliates are already subject to extensive safeguards ensuring member voice and financial transparency as specified in the state affiliate’s governing documents, state labor and other laws, and federal tax laws. Subjecting state affiliates to the LMRDA as well will require affiliates to divert union resources and staff time from important union priorities to LMRDA compliance. Even by the Labor Department’s own estimates, merely filling out the required annual LMRDA financial reports will take 530 hours of time. And NEA has determined, based on analyses performed by several of its state affiliates, that the Labor Department has vastly underestimated the compliance costs involved. When all is said and done, if NEA state affiliates are subjected to the LMRDA on top of the state and federal law requirements with which they already comply, affiliates will have to divert significant resources to LMRDA compliance at the expense of advancing those affiliate’s priority work in other areas.

    What would NEA state affiliates have to do to comply with the LMRDA?
    NEA state affiliates would need to change their financial and timekeeping systems to comply with the LMRDA’s extensive annual financial reporting requirements. In addition, NEA state affiliates may also need to change their internal governing documents, their internal union election procedures, and more in order to comply with the LMRDA. The significant compliance costs involved will come at the expense of work supporting other union priorities.

    Has the LMRDA ever been applied to public sector unions?
    No. By its terms, the LMRDA applies only to private sector unions. And since 1959 the Labor Department has only enforced the LMRDA against private sector unions (meaning unions that represent or seek to represent private sector employees). In fact, when the LMRDA was initially proposed in the U.S. Senate it would have covered public sector unions, but the bill was quickly amended to restrict its scope purely to private sector unions. On one prior occasion, during the Bush administration, the Labor Department did attempt to stretch the LMRDA to reach certain public sector unions (including NEA state affiliates), but that effort was subsequently abandoned. The fact is that only Congress, not the Department of Labor, has the authority to amend the LMRDA to reach public sector unions.

    What can I do to encourage the Labor Department to abandon its proposal to subject NEA state affiliates to the LMRDA?
    The Labor Department has asked for the public to comment on its proposal. So far, hundreds of individuals have weighed in, many of them Trump supporters who support the proposed rule as a way to “drain the swamp” and take down public sector unions. You can see the comments filed to date here.

    Make sure that the Labor Department hears from you too about why the proposed rule is unnecessary and will come at too high a cost to the priority work of your union. You can file a comment below. Please be sure to edit the draft letter to include information about who you are and why you oppose the change to the LMRDA.

    Tell the Labor Department to Stop its Proposed Rule Targeting State Education Associations
    In general, comments that are personalized carry more weight. Please change the letter below to say a little about yourself.

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