The second-most extraneous topic in American politics is to what effect Joe Biden's invasion of Lucy Flores' personal space by kissing her noggin has on the Democratic presidential race — and maybe life in general.
Which leaves in first place the fervent efforts of leading Democrats to excavate from the Mueller report such evidence as destroys the reign of President Donald Trump.
This isn't to call Trump innocent of reproach or personal behavior worse than that which Biden may have engaged in at his morally sloppiest. It is to wonder that the Democrats have yet to figure out what people seem to want from their political leaders in these extraordinary times.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi is no pal of the president's — or of his policies — but she has a hard-bitten demeanor that prevents her imagining that voters long for a knock-down, drag-out over impeachment of the president for offenses that seem not to overwhelmingly interest the voters.
What interests the voters overwhelmingly, the polls indicate, is the economy, and then health care costs, and then education, terrorism and immigration in varying order, depending on when you ask the question. But Rep. Adam Schiff and the Democratic House's trumpeted suspicions about the Muller report engage far fewer Americans than might have been the case last month.
One doesn't have to argue that the report "exonerated" Trump — that's to say cleared him, congratulated him, recommended him for the Nobel Prize — to find the report and its results a poor fit for modern anxieties. What are we looking for here, now that Attorney General William Barr has declared the absence of evidence pointing to collusion with the Russians and Robert Mueller hasn't been heard dissenting from Barr's interpretation? What we seem to be looking for, those who can't let go of this thing, is an excuse not to contest the next presidential election with well-thought-out plans for knocking over and extinguishing Trump's presidential legacies.
If Trumpian collusion, atop the usual catalog of personal sins, looks to be right now becoming a ho-hum issue for 2020, it's up to Schiff to see what he can do about it and to remind voters what the true stakes are: namely, turning the country over to the Democrats.
This is, in fact, a fair aspiration — a part of the game called politics. If, whatever your party, you're nutty enough to want to run the United States, free speech gives you the right to try. At any political level, you're entitled to develop a political program and take it to the voters, so they can render judgment on you. If, say, Lucy Flores thinks Joe Biden got in her face five years ago and, hence, doesn't deserve to govern us, power to her for saying so — for so long as she can convince herself it matters to people with other things on their minds, such as the economy and the country's leaky borders.
But if such suspicions outrank in your own mind the stated concerns of the voters, you've, um, got significant problems. This may be one reason some Democrats cling to collusion like a mountaineer clings to his rope: Drop it and down you go. Democrats appear not to have decided who they are or what they want. They lack coherent programs, especially in economic terms — the terms that affect the largest number of voters by affecting their jobs and paychecks. Left-wing Democrats such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Elizabeth Warren have the big idea that the country requires bigger, costlier government. It is their right to say so. It is the voters' right, correspondingly, to respond. No wonder the idea of keeping the Mueller report front and center appeals to party leaders and candidates with wet thumbs in the air, waiting to see which way the political winds blow.
It's hard to imagine a gift Trump would appreciate more than one more excuse — a huge one at that — to exclaim before a national audience something on the order of, "These guys, get a load of 'em."
William Murchison is writing a book on American moral restoration in the 21st century. His latest book is "The Cost of Liberty: The Life of John Dickinson." To find out more about William Murchison, and to see features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.