The Mulligan Movement
I don’t play golf regularly or well, but I know what a Mulligan is. Wikipedia defines it as “a second chance … to perform a certain move or action.” Basically, it’s the golfing term for a “do-over.” The PGA website notes that “the rules of golf forbid the Mulligan, though it’s become part of the game.”
Part of the game. I’m afraid that we are witnessing a concerted attempt to “Mulliganize” our democracy. What I am referring to, of course, is the all-out campaign to overturn the result of the last presidential election by just about any means possible. Its most explicit form is the call to impeach Donald Trump and remove him from office. As noted in a previous column, this would require a finding of “high crimes or misdemeanors.” Jon Rowland of the Constitution Society observes that “high” does not mean serious, but rather refers to the “high” status of the individual involved, i.e., to public officials who by virtue of their official status are under obligations not applicable to ordinary persons. But note the basic, threshold requirement of evidence of a criminal act.
The “Mulligan Movement” proponents are hell bent on finding something, anything that looks, feels or smells like criminal activity on the part of the president, his family, associates and current and former staff. It is shocking to me how far they will go with opposition research, leaks, rumors, innuendo and, yes, “fake news,” the latest example of which is labeling a G20 dinner conversation between Trump and Putin as “a previously undisclosed second meeting” between the two leaders – and touting that (to my mind misleading) description as BREAKING NEWS. We already have a Special Prosecutor investigating claims of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia; let’s let Bob Mueller and team do their job and focus our national discourse on the real and present challenges we face as a nation.
BREAKING NEWS: a junior Trump campaign staffer was spotted at a Washington, D.C. diner putting Russian dressing on her salad. Unnamed sources who are familiar with people who have met other people who claim to have eaten at the same diner confirm that photographs of the incident exist. Sounds innocent you say? Well, what if I tell you it happened BEFORE the election and WAS NOT PREVIOUSLY DISCLOSED?!! What does it mean? What COULD it mean? Enquiring minds want to know!!
This is all just plain silly. As silly as the plot in another great Cold War era comedy, 1959’s “The Mouse That Roared,” starring Peter Sellers in multiple roles. If you want to see a classic satirical send-up of politicians, world history and the nuclear arms race – and Peter Sellers – stream this movie!
Unfortunately, there is real danger in all this nonsense. Just as the rules of golf forbid taking a Mulligan, our constitutional democracy prohibits electoral “do-overs” absent criminal activity. This is not a game, notwithstanding all the fun the mainstream media and others are having turning Washington politics and national journalism into 24/7 displays of National Enquirer-style reality TV (is there already a National Enquirer channel?). This is not a game, though many enjoy making mountains out of mole hills, spinning theories and speculating wildly and without consequence on people and motives in a manner that would make Alien Conspiracy adherents blush. This is not a game, or if it is, we are in some pretty big trouble. Peggy Noonan said it best when she admonished the feckless politicians in Washington: “democracy is not your plaything.”
This is not a game. In trying so hard to take down one man, the Mulliganizers are holding our country hostage, impeding progress on important national goals, creating confusion and doubt about American power (and sanity) on the world stage, and discouraging those who have longed to see leadership after years of drift. They are like the Lilliputians who with their tiny ropes sought to bind and blind Gulliver for fear of his size. Jonathan Swift’s novel “Gulliver’s Travels” was a satirical send-up of English politics in 1726; it’s uncomfortably odd to see how relevant its lessons are today, almost three centuries later.
I don’t know about you, but I am so tired of all the Russian babble, I’ve begun tuning out and turning off. And with all the protests going on, I’ve decided to join in and start my own symbolic protest. Going forward, I will ask to have Russian dressing on all my salads. Plus, I am going to keep an unopened bottle of Russian dressing on my kitchen counter. This is all the Russian I want to see or hear for the foreseeable future. Think of it as my “freedom fries” moment. I may even make up some bumper stickers. Maybe I will start a movement of my own!