He jumped off the cliff again, or, to be literal about it, he tweeted again. President Donald Trump came up with this thing about President Barack Obama spying on him seemingly based on nothing at all, as headlines reminded us. Newspapers used the phrase “no evidence” repeatedly, as did talking heads on TV.
The question is why the exact same phrase is not used as emphatically when The New York Times, Washington Post and other news outlets report about Trump minions possibly colluding with Russians to affect the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. There is no evidence. The speculation has no backing at all, no factual foundation whatsoever. There is nothing to sustain it beyond the wishful imaginings of desperate, partisan connivers.
And yet the conjecture has been ballyhooed as if it were a great revelation instead of a scatterbrained concoction amounting to the most extraordinary, all-out effort to delegitimize the election of a president in modern American history.
Amazingly enough, many of the same Democrats now raising the worry once joined a number of solemnly disturbed news commentators on a lesser-if-similar matter. They said it was oh, so crippling for our democracy that Trump would not say before the election that he would embrace its outcome. What would this do to our democracy, they asked in outrageous anger that’s all too often utterly undetectable when something solid and real comes roaring down the tracks.
To be sure, Russians do appear to have messed with the election, and no one can like that, but as messing goes, this was not much. What they reportedly did was get hold of emails showing low-life skullduggery by Hillary Clinton’s campaign operations. There is no reason to think the ensuing leaks to the press affected the election a whit, and keep in mind that the chief weapon was truth. The Russians were not making this stuff up, and the American press was key to distributing it as the kind of information it clearly thought the public had the right to know.
What should be far more disturbing to anyone worried about our democracy are governmental leaks of classified information apparently obtained by probing the Trump team. This is blatantly criminal stuff that causes major news operations no more than a shrug of the shoulders even though the Obama administration had an interesting way of dealing with such shrugs.
To help stick the leakers of governmental secrets behind bars, it set records threatening reporters with jail time if they did not divulge their anonymous sources. Can you imagine the end-of-the-world outcry if Trump should resort to these tactics?
It is worth mentioning in connection with all this Russian business that the Clintons made a provable deal that hurt the United States and helped Russia and the Clintons’ financial status. The couple’s foundation got millions of dollars in donations for steps helping uranium interests to sell their product and mines to the Russians, enabling it to become the foremost uranium power in the world. Some 20 percent of American uranium was part of this deal that also got Bill Clinton a $500,000 check from a Kremlin bank for a speech.
Also worth mentioning is that the Russians, along with the Chinese, committed worse cyber crimes against Americans during the Obama administration than the one concerning the 2016 election and with less outcry. The obvious reason is that there was less of a political dividend.
None of this is by way of saying that Trump’s tweet about pre-election Trump Tower phone tapping was in any way justifiable – he was throwing serious accusations Obama’s way apparently on the basis of nothing much and once more putting juvenility over temperance as president.
The question is why others sinking even lower in a far more fundamental way is seen as justifiable by so many.
The writer is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service.