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OpinionColumnistsWilliam F. B. O'Reilly

Political left risks punching itself out

Muslim New Yorkers participates a friday prayer at

Muslim New Yorkers participates a friday prayer at JFK terminal 4, as part of a protest with immigrant rights organizers and community allies, on February 3, 2017. Photo Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang

Suppose you were a liberal, and suppose you were outraged. But I repeat myself, as Mark Twain would say.

Flip to a news channel or open a newspaper any day of the week and you’ll see it — a march, a boycott, empty seats at a congressional hearing, barricades overturned or another speaker being shouted down on a college campus.

We’re living in an age of apoplexy.

The New York Times ran a story Wednesday in which Donald Trump’s longtime doctor said the president takes pills to promote hair growth. One would expect that from a supermarket tabloid, not the Gray Lady. Who gets hurt more by the story?

Cable news coverage is so breathless and lopsided — one way or the other — that you need a stiff Scotch just to watch it. Fifteen minutes provides a day’s worth of anxiety. I don’t put it on anymore.

Americans of a certain age will recall the final scene of National Lampoon’s “Animal House.” A marching band — flags flying, drums rattling, trombones sliding — is misdirected smack into a brick wall. The crisp uniformed legs keep grinding forward. That’s where the American left is right now, plus angry spittle and minus crisp trousers. The fury of the political left didn’t begin with Trump. But he’s sure doing a good job mainstreaming it. He’s making everybody crazy, but especially liberals. Day after day, President Trump — like candidate Trump — gives his opponents something legitimate to attack. And they do . . . every time. The question is whether, like George Foreman in Zaire, the American left is punching itself out.

Is that Trump’s play — Muhammad Ali’s Rumble in the Jungle rope-a-dope strategy, when he berated his opponent with insults until Foreman exhausted himself? One almost has to hope so. The alternative is too unsettling.

The Democratic Party is fretting over this very question. Is it more politically advantageous to pick its shots, or does it go scorched-earth for four years — as the base is demanding outside Sen. Chuck Schumer’s apartment building in Brooklyn?

The truth is that it’s impossible to know which tactic Trump’s opponents should take. It’s all going to depend on how his anomalous presidency turns out. If the gross domestic product is at 3 percent in two years, the Democratic Party’s in trouble. If we’re at war with Peru, it’s doomsday for Republicans.

In the meantime, the show will go on. Trump’s mouth is irrepressible and his curveballs are irresistible, to mix sports metaphors.

“Don’t swing!, don’t swing!” you tell yourself. Then comes the phone call with the Australian prime minister.

How do you lay off that?

William F. B. O’Reilly is a consultant for Republicans.

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