Every step of the way, Donald Trump has played voters and media with catch phrases of the type favored by Madison Avenue and reality TV, starting with “Make America Great Again” - as if such a task should be left to a New York realtor with a checkered past.
There was “Build the wall” and “Lock her up!” which proved to be as empty as the bank accounts of Trump’s failed casinos. And, most notably in light of the latest news from Washington, “No collusion.”
Robert Mueller’s mission was to determine if there was “coordination” between the Russians and Trump’s campaign in influencing the 2016 election. That was the word used when Mueller was appointed.
Trump immediately coined “No collusion,” a more catchy term, knowing two things. First, that there had been no formal arrangement with the Russians because none was ever necessary. The Russians, as has been proved conclusively, had already decided to help Trump get elected, were actively doing so and, of course, succeeded. The last thing they needed was Trump’s assistance.
Second, if Mueller’s investigation had somehow found that there was, indeed, coordination, then the Trump presidency would be over. Impeachment and conviction would be swift for any president found to have conspired with a foreign adversary. So “No collusion” wasn’t just a safe bet, it was Trump’s only bet.
Somehow, Democrats and many in media managed to ignore these considerations. They were so certain that Trump would be found holding a smoking gun that they failed to give enough weight to the bullet-ridden henchmen all around him: Manafort, Gates, Flynn, Papadopoulos, Cohen and Stone, among others.
In Trump-speak it was a “Witch Hunt,” which signals a bogus investigation, no matter how many witches were discovered.
The magic of effective ad slogans is that they imply much more than they deliver. When KFC says “Finger lickin’ good,” it doesn’t mean good health or good nutrition. Yet, the overarching message is “good.”
It didn’t take Trump long to tweet that “No collusion” should now be taken to mean “Complete and Total EXONERATION.” Truth be damned. That’s the takeaway after two years of incessant White House messaging.
Democrats are left with only unpleasant choices. They will be tempted to pursue the issue of whether Trump obstructed justice, a question left unresolved by Mueller’s investigation. That would be a mistake. Trump’s behavior in this area is already a matter of record - and although it is unsavory, it is not prosecutable.
Many will also seek to impeach Trump. Such a course, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wisely concluded even before the Mueller report was delivered, would be unproductive.
Alas, from the moment the votes were counted in November 2016, there has only been one slogan worth hammering home to the American public. And now, in the wake of the Mueller report, it should be Democrats’ singular focus: “No second term.”
Peter Funt is a writer and speaker.