Now the backlash. Accusing the accusers. Trump calling them “evil” and “treasonous.” Retribution time. A real witch-hunt.
David Brooks says Adam Schiff, John Brennan, and other Democrats should apologize for “grievous accusations against the President that are not supported by the evidence.” (He also says Trumpeters should apologize for undermining America’s institutions. Fat chance; they’re drunk with triumph, which Brooks feeds.)
His headline is “We’ve all made fools of ourselves.” Not so. Trump makes fools of us (especially of his supporters).
I’m not apologizing. He has not been “exonerated.” If Trump and company did not “collude” they certainly connived with Russia’s attack on our democracy. And lied about it. If Trump can’t quite be nailed for obstruction of justice, he certainly tried hard to wreck the investigation; smearing the investigators with lies; firing the FBI Director and Attorney General in that effort. His tearing down our intelligence and law enforcement institutions did immense harm. And he refused to stand up for America against Russia’s attack, kissing Putin’s posterior in Helsinki. None of this was a “hoax;” its stench not washed off by Mueller.
But Brooks does make a trenchant point. Stepping back for a larger perspective, he says, “Watergate introduced a poison into the American body politic” — what Bill Clinton called “the politics of personal destruction” — rather than principled discourse. Now “you don’t need to do the hard work of persuading people to join your side.” You just aim to bring them down with scandal. (Republicans also try to block them from voting.)
While “[t]he nation’s underlying divides are still ideological,” Brooks writes, “we rarely fight them honestly as philosophical differences.” Instead of seriously debating opponents we demonize them as evil. They counter with, “No, you’re evil.”
So Hillary in 2016 was not attacked for her policy positions; Republicans smeared her character. Now we have a president whose character flaws and record of corruption are so incandescent they define our political situation. And how do many Republicans respond? “Hillary, Hillary, Hillary!”
In comparison it makes Animal House’s food fight seem like the Oxford Union debating society. But this is understandable. So much easier to convince yourself you’re up against rotten people than to grapple with the difficult complexities of actual economic, social, or international policy issues.
Am I guilty myself? Actually, I’ve devoted thousands of words to analyzing and critiquing the nitty gritty of Trump administration policies. Explaining my substantive disagreements, like with trade policy, tax policy, immigration, etc. True, I have also shredded his character and behavior (and that of his Republican handmaids). Because that goes to the heart of America’s Trumpian degradation — with huge repercussions for the quality of life of people worldwide.
Even Trump supporters ought to see how awful it is that, just when America was already mired in bitter partisan divisiveness, along comes a president whose actual unarguable moral delinquencies are off the charts. Considering how bad things were already, electing such a man was just asking for it. I was no fan of Obama, but given the venom heaped upon someone of such great personal integrity, what could we expect with a president of zero personal integrity?
And Brooks says “[t]he scandal culture hasn’t ultimately helped one party over the other. It’s just spread a corrosive cynicism that has disabled government altogether.” Recriminations over the Mueller/Russia story will afflict us for a very long time. Another rallying cry for each side. Each will think the other despicable. More poison making American politics — our civic culture — even more badly broken.
How to fix this brokenness should be the key issue for 2020. Fat chance.