Pignanelli and Webb: Romney, Trump, Mueller and the presidential election

With a few exceptions, politics in Utah is rather quiet. Time to check out the Mueller report and the presidential contest.

After the release of the Mueller report, Sen. Mitt Romney made national headlines by criticizing President Donald Trump, while other members of Utah’s delegation were mostly quiet or nonchalant or even defended the president. Why is Romney an outlier?

Pignanelli: "Donald Trump is not going to be frog marched out of the White House in handcuffs and the 2016 election will not be reversed by this.” — Terry Moran, ABC News

Romney achieved much in life because of immense discipline. Clearly, such steely resolve blocked the temptation to scream every chance possible "I told you so!" While prior — and the existing — administrations were coy in their relationships with Russia, Romney was the counter Churchillian voice warning of mischief. So he has absolute credibility on the matter. Further, it is refreshing that Romney is not wasting the immense political capital he enjoys in Utah and the country.

The remainder of the delegation is reflecting dynamics in the nation's capital and across the nation. The report does not change the calculus of supporters and detractors of the president.

The Mueller document describes the Russian interference in the 2016 elections as "sweeping and systematic." Reading this report fosters anger that the media and others are senselessly focused on impeachment when they should be inquiring of officials as to the punishment and prevention of these attacks on America. Perhaps there is a role for Romney to lead Congress to the correct response and away from partisan sniping.

Romney's willpower remains impressive, despite a weakness for Twinkies (a frequent destroyer of good intentions).

Webb: In attacking Trump, Romney may be trying to carve out a niche for himself as Trump’s chief critic among Senate Republicans, replacing the late Sen. John McCain. By doing so, Romney will generate lots of headlines and adulation from Trump haters, but it won’t help him pass legislation or solve the nation’s very serious problems.

The Mueller report is not the nail in Trump’s coffin that leftists were hoping for because it revealed nothing we didn’t already know about Trump. Besides clearing him of criminal collusion with Russia, it portrayed Trump as an erratic bully who gets angry, holds grudges and encourages subordinates to do questionable things. It spotlighted Trump’s many character flaws.

But all those things were obvious even before Trump was elected. Trump is Trump and will ever be so. The real question is whether his policies are producing jobs and a strong economy, more freedom and more respect in the world after the Obama years.

On those fronts, with the exception of immigration (where I think he is dead wrong), Trump has performed quite well. My bottom line is comparing him to the leftist, socialistic Democratic presidential candidates — all of whom scare me more than Trump does.

Many prominent Democrats are calling for the House to begin proceedings to impeach Trump. Would that help or hurt Utah Democrats, especially Rep. Ben McAdams?

Pignanelli: In 1998, Special Investigator Ken Starr documented President Bill Clinton committed acts of perjury and obstruction of justice while treating the Oval Office like the set of an adult movie. With flimsy responses from the White House, Congress impeached the president but failed to convict in the Senate. Regardless of the horrendous actions detailed, Americans felt the GOP overreacted and Democrats made gains in midterm elections.

Impeachment obsessed actions will hurt Democrats on the national and local level. Their efforts are better attuned to resolving issues on healthcare, immigration and expanding the death penalty to fraudulent telemarketers annoying us on our cellphones.

Webb: Trump is saying, “Make my day — impeach me.” In the upcoming campaign, Trump will say (if he can stay on message): “We have the best economy in decades … lowest unemployment in history for Hispanics, blacks, teens and women … wages are rising for all income levels … manufacturing is booming … virtually everyone enjoyed a nice tax cut ... energy is abundant, cheap, and we’re energy independent … threat of war in the Korean peninsula is reduced … NATO members are paying more for their own defense … U.S. businesses are enjoying favorable trade agreements … Russia and China are on notice that America is not a patsy.”

Meanwhile, when Democrats are asked what they accomplished, they will say, “Well, we sure did investigate the heck out of Trump! Oh, and we proposed a lot of socialistic schemes, told everyone they’re a victim and promised free goodies for all.” That platform can’t be helpful for McAdams.

Can any of the Democratic presidential candidates beat Trump and will any of them help Democrats in Utah?

Pignanelli: As with most presidential elections, the incumbent’s fate is dependent upon competition and the economy. If Americans and Utahns feel secure in fall of 2020, the outcome is predictable.

Webb: On paper, the Democrats ought to crush the deeply-flawed Trump with his low approval ratings. But I doubt the country, or Utah, wants to take a gigantic leap toward bigger government and higher taxes.