Three Cliches About Trump That Have to die

(Bloomberg) -- Will President Donald Trump fire Rod Rosenstein? Will Robert Mueller find evidence that Trump has committed crimes? Will Rudy Giuliani and Trump land on a consistent explanation about hush money?

Having read and watched a lot of the Trump-scandal coverage, I don’t know the answer to any of these questions. What I can tell you is that I’m getting a little sick of some of the cliches that have become regular features of that coverage. 

First: Not every development in Mueller’s investigation is a “constitutional crisis.” 

Democratic Representative Gerry Connolly of Virginia said, “The constitutional crisis is here” when prosecutors raided the office of Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen. Carl Bernstein told CNN viewers, “We’re in a constitutional crisis” because Trump is considering firing Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general. When Trump replaced Ty Cobb with Emmet Flood on his legal team, it was — guess what? — another harbinger of “constitutional crisis.”

The term gets used so often, you’d almost think it means something. It doesn’t. It’s just a way for people to sound portentous.

Second: Can we cool it with loose talk about the “end” of the Trump presidency? Republican Senator Lindsey Graham seems to have started this fad when he warned Trump not to fire Mueller, the special prosecutor: “If he tried to do that, that would be the beginning of the end of his presidency.”

The other night on CNN, Anderson Cooper had two guests agree that firing Mueller would end this presidency. Adam Davidson wrote an article for the New Yorker saying, “We know, with increasing certainty, that we are entering the last phase of the Trump Presidency.”

We know no such thing, of course. How exactly is the presidency going to be ended? Nobody who makes this vague pronouncement bothers to explain. If Trump fires Mueller, will the House impeach him and the Senate vote to remove him from office? Will Senator Graham himself vote for removal? If he’s not even willing to say it now, why should we believe he would do it then? All he was really saying was, “This is a very bad idea and I hope Trump doesn’t do it.” Doesn’t have quite the same oomph, though.

A third cliché: “No one cares about Stormy Daniels,” as a “Fox & Friends” host recently put it. Sometimes the point is made specifically about people who voted for Trump. USA Today started a recent report about a survey of such voters thus: “Yes, they think President Trump's lying about Stormy Daniels. And no, they really do not care.” Its basis for the generalization: 15 of the 25 people in its survey believed Trump was lying. 

In a Politico/Morning Consult poll in late March, though, 19 percent of Republicans said “the Stormy Daniels matter” gave them a less favorable view of the president. The same percentage of Republicans (and a plurality of all respondents) said the Federal Election Commission and the Justice Department should investigate whether the payments to her complied with campaign-finance laws. Fifteen percent of people who had voted for Trump agreed. That’s a minority of Republicans, of course. Assuming the survey is right, though, it’s also millions of people.

Reporters and talking heads may not be able to get to the bottom of all the Trump stories. But they can and should avoid these cliches. Otherwise I’m afraid we’re at risk of a constitutional crisis.

To contact the author of this story: Ramesh Ponnuru at rponnuru@bloomberg.net.

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