I’ve been resisting it for days, but — Jeez, America! Are you all really this stupid?
Now, I’m going to start off by saying that I’m not a fan of Donald J. Trump, especially as president. But he is, in fact, president, and he got there by having a very clever team drive the media cycle. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise when he does it after he’s in office, should it?
But no; you’re all missing it. From the Times to the Post to CNN all the way to Fox News, major media is missing it completely. It’s the same damned slow curve they’ve been pitching for seven straight innings this series, and everyone still swings and reaches… and misses.
(Or something like that. I’m rubbish with sportsball metaphors, which is why we’ve got a Sports Desk.)
So what’s all over the news is, the National Security Advisor has resigned in questionable circumstances, and members of Trump’s campaign staff have been questioned about potentially illegal dealings with Russia during the election. Which is certainly newsworthy; so far, so good.
(My favorite quote out of this whole mess is from former campaign director Paul Manafort: “It’s not like these people wear badges that say, ‘I’m a Russian intelligence officer.’” I mean, seriously — I’d kill to be fed a straight line like that on national TV.)
But the thing about news is in the first three letters: If it’s not new, it’s not news. And this story broke way back in November. Remember?
So what’s new? Well, Flynn’s out; there’s more leaks from Intelligence Oversight, and the President is condemning the leaks as treason or espionage or some such thing — I’m not sure he’s entirely clear on which is what, and you know what? Neither am I.
The ostensible facts are these: Apparently, during the transition, then-civilian Michael Flynn spoke to Russian officials about future policy while being recorded. (This last is normal; if you call up the Kremlin, expect to be recorded.) Because it was done with intent to alter international relations, it apparently violates the Logan Act, which was passed in 1799 and has since been observed mainly in the breach. Businesses regularly do this; Jimmy Carter did it all the damn time; the Clintons were noted for it; hell, Samantha Smith violated the Logan Act when she wrote to Andropov. And what Flynn did was probably not only the smart and responsible thing to do but also geopolitically wise — except of course that he was being recorded at the time, and the doofus didn’t think about it. So, exit Flynn. Right?
Well, sorta. Truth is, the Trump Administration has known about the violation for weeks, and Flynn has been sidelined almost since the Inauguration. (NOTE: His name has recently been excised from that article; he appears now as “a senior official”.) Flynn is gone now not because of Russia but instead because the White House needs a distraction and he’s available — and he talks to the press when he shouldn’t.
But what of talk of collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russian Intelligence, particularly with the hacking?
Again, there’s nothing at all new here. We still have a situation where, during the campaigns, what was released on the DNC and Hillary Clinton’s campaign in particular were actual emails. There’s nothing false about it, no fabrications, no lies — except on the part of the media, of course, but we’re used to that by now. Did it help Trump? Absolutely — just like the video of Trump and Billy Bush hurt him.
But who needs facts when we can speculate, right? That’s the tradition of the media — and of Congress.
Still, it is funny how President Trump was all in favor of a free press and anonymous sources leaking information against his opponent in the campaign, but now that it’s against him…
The thing is, though, now it’s someone leaking classified intel. Which, much as I hate to grant Trump the point, is a whole ‘nother sportsball game.
Look, classified material is classified for a reason. Assange and WikiLeaks violated privacy, sure, but they did that from outside the country, and while arguably criminal it wasn’t high treason. The leaks coming out now, however, don’t merely breach privacy; they’re the public revelation of classified information as well as potential evidence in a federal case, and Trump is (regrettably) correct when he says that something must be done.
Granted, this too is hardly new. It’s been going on so long that now it’s almost traditional for senior members of the Intelligence Committees to have regular (albeit deniable) contact with the Post or the Times. But this is still not a good thing. Truth be told, this is the very reason the CIA started creating ‘black’ projects a goodly while back — you can’t trust elected officials to keep their mouths shut. Especially as there’s thirty-nine, count them, thirty-nine members of Congress just on the oversight committees.
So some action should be taken. Much like the Logan Act, this sort of secrecy is traditionally observed more in the breach, and that ought to change. But how? Thirty-nine Congressmen, each with a Chief of Staff and perhaps a personal secretary, numerous aides-de-camp, interns, underpaid assistants — how is it possible to monitor all those people?
Heh. Trust me; they can do it. In fact, they already do — or Flynn wouldn’t be out. (And I wish they’d stop already; my connectivity sucks enough as it is, and every time someone from Fort Bloody Meade reads my stuff, my stats logging gets shot straight to hell. …but on the other hand, clicks is clicks…)
What probably ought to be done, and what would certainly happen in normal times, is that some unknown Congressional staffer would get arrested for disclosing classified data. Then a couple of ranking Senators would get threatened with impeachment, Harry Reid (retired but guilty as hell — just gossip but trust me on this) gets brought in and questioned… and then it’d all blow over. And the committee members would be much more circumspect for a couple of years.
What will happen, though… Hell, we all know already; it’s gonna be a circus. Why? Because someone’s got to bribe a bridge into existence, or buy a third-world kleptocracy, and they’re about to start drilling for oil in Arlington National Cemetery or some damned thing.
It’s because the Administration wants a circus, and so does the GOP — so they can pass bills that otherwise would be a national scandal. (Though, technically, I approve of this most recent one. Here’s why.) Incidentally, so does the DNC, because they’re terrified of losing the spotlight and their apparent relevance in the face of an effective and popular majority opposition.
So what you’ve got to do is this: Be vigilant. Don’t just skim the headlines; read the meat of the stories and, if possible, take notes. The White House publishes regular press releases; read them. Above all, stop letting Occupy Democrats, the Trump Train, Slate, Salon, and the Huffington Bloody Post do your thinking for you.
Use your head. Because if you don’t, someone else will.