As Yogi Berra once purportedly said, “You can observe a lot by just watching.”
I have been most interested in watching how the Russian-election-hacking story played out, linked, as it has now been, to the president’s spectacular accusation against the former president this last weekend. The president said that Obama had ordered Trump Tower be wiretapped during the campaign, ten times worse than Watergate, with perfidy hotter than the heat of a thousand suns. Something like that.
If you want to read a detailed and intelligent breakdown of what just happened, there is a good one here.
So what can we observe out here in the hinterlands, just by watching? I refer to those of us who do not have access to all the files that are sitting around in various places in Washington, just waiting for Trump to request them. By the way, a bunch of those file cabinets have to be placed in special grease trays so that there is always a little something there at the bottom that can be scooped up and given to The Washington Post.
We have been watching people demand investigations, special counsels, etc. because Russians!, and these allegations must be taken seriously, despite the fact that we have no evidence for them currently. That is why we need an investigation, people. We need to turn up some evidence. Then the president sends out his infamous tweet, and everyone is aghast. Where’s the evidence? He did this with no evidence! Then he asked Congress to investigate, look into this, wouldja? We need an investigation to turn up some evidence.
Look. The whole case against Trump re: the Russians depended on there being something that could be at least used as evidence somewhere. The FBI had to have been busy investigating Trump cronies, and there were no doubt wiretaps, and intercepts, and all that stuff you see in the movies. And Trump just got all them to say, in loud voices, that none of them had been anywhere near Trump Tower. Oh? Where was all the Russian talk coming from then?
On top of that, when Trump made his accusation, the Obama folks released a statement, exquisite in its archness, denying any wrongdoing. But the denial was written by some lawyer, treating his subject the way a donkey would eat a thistle. Carefully, carefully, parse it some more. That thing was written so carefully as to amount to a full confession.
In other words, they were surveilling a presidential candidate—very confident of a Clinton win, and even more confident in Clinton’s expertise in covering-up—and Trump just juked them into lying about it. But you can observe a lot by just watching. The whole run up to this episode was dependent upon intelligence agencies leaking information to the press about the activities of a private citizen. That is why we were even talking about it at all. That is a public fact, acknowledged by all.
In other words, as I have written before, the security apparatus of the surveillance state has been politicized, and is now aimed at domestic politics, banana-republic-style, and there are many spooks who cannot be trusted with the information they have. Someone will comment that there are also many diligent patriots in the intelligence community who are not complicit in any of this. Right, I grant it. But that is like pointing to the bottom of a sinking ship with the observation that 70% of it isn’t a hole. Why this focus on the negative?
I expect the fighting over this to be fierce, if for no other reason than that some entrenched operatives in this are quite possibly going to jail otherwise.
One last comment. My “admiration” for Trump in this particular fight is limited to the recognition that he is clearly not stupid, he knows he is in a fight, and he acts like he is in a fight. His adversaries, along with the pundits on the sidelines, still think he is stupid. This helps keep the entertainment value high.