Ignore the parsing, the unanswered questions, the calls for more details: Monday’s report clearing President Donald Trump of colluding with Russia during the 2016 election is crushing news for the Democrats.
There was always too much Democratic faith in special counsel Robert Mueller’s work.
His rectitude, broken only by the occasional smiting of some Trump official with an indictment and guilty plea, gave him a wizardly, omniscient air.
There were unknown rocks he was turning over, secret meetings he knew all about, a tableau of treachery and conspiracy he was chronicling that he would soon lay at the country’s feet.
Alas, that was not to be.
That shouldn’t be a surprise, since a conspiracy like the one imagined with Russia would have required a level of competence and shrewdness clearly absent in Trump’s White House.
If Donald Jr is your Cardinal Richelieu, you’re more a joke than a danger.
The summary issued today made it clear that no decision was made on Trump’s possible obstruction of the very probe that absolved him of collusion.
This will all be wrestled over for months, exhausting a public that was already tiring of the endless investigation.
Democrats would be wise to listen to those sighs.
Americans have a keen sense of fair play, and arguing with the ref after the whistle blows is never cheered.
So as they spit the ashes of defeat from their mouths, Democrats should take solace – and advantage – of their new circumstances.
First, Mueller did his job. His 22-month investigation was a lesson in American institutions at work. That’s something that should be celebrated in a country where institutions are floundering.
He followed the law, not politics, in reaching his conclusions.
Trump has already gloated that the findings are a complete exoneration (they’re not), and he’s managing to look small and petty in victory.
Ordinary folks might wonder how he can accept the findings of a man he accused of a “witch hunt” for two years. Trump doesn’t care about that, but the hypocrisy will linger.
Second, Mueller’s findings should well and truly bury any talk about impeachment before the end of Trump’s term.
That’s good, because it was never a reality to begin with.
Short of an Instagram post showing Trump taking sacks of cash from Vladimir Putin’s dacha, Senate Republicans were never, ever going to move to force Trump out.
Meanwhile, the question of impeachment threatened to become a litmus test for Democratic presidential candidates.
It’s a distraction and a waste of time, and the sooner it was eliminated as a “policy” for candidates the better.
Third, those presidential candidates can now focus on their own agendas and campaigns, giving the American people a real choice to make in the coming primaries and general election.
Trump will always be there as a target, now and in November 2020.
His casual racism, lies, ignorance and incompetence are an issue every day, so why linger on whether or not he may have committed a crime back in 2016?
Hard to imagine too many voters making that their deciding factor.
Now these candidates can hone their messages, debate each other, sharpen their profiles.
It will be infuriating to watch Trump and his crew victory dance over the Mueller report. If history is a guide, they will overplay their hand.
Democrats should swallow their anger and focus on their plans to save America from this ongoing humiliation of a presidency not in a courtroom, but on election day.
Larry Hackett is the former editor-in-chief of People magazine, and a contributor to the US morning television news program Good Morning America