We in the vicious, failing, enemy-of-the-people media are in crisis. But it may not be what you think.
In describing the Trump administration, we are, sadly, bigly, running out of adjectives.
Michael Gerson, the former Bush speechwriter, went full thesaurus on Trump and his GOP enablers in a recent column with “empty, easily distracted, vindictive, impatient, incompetent and morally small.”
In the Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan settles for a workmanlike “stupid” for Trump’s tweets, but tries on “freakish” to describe Trump the character.
Rich Lowry had to go for nouns, writing, “Trump, for his part, has lacked the knowledge, focus or interest to translate his populism into legislative form.” You know, ignorant, unfocused and couldn’t be bothered.
Fortunately, Devin Nunes entered the picture to offer up relief, comic and otherwise. I mean, how many ways must there be to describe a House “Intelligence” chair who was apparently duped by Trump operatives to come to the White House to collect new “intelligence” to show to the president, who often lives in the White House, and for whom the intelligence-sharing Trump operatives work?
And for that same “Intelligence” chair to tell the media that he met with “whistleblowers” at the White House and, in explaining his decision to brief the president whose campaign he is investigating, saying that “the administration isn’t aware of this, so I need to make sure I go over there and tell them what I know, because it involves them.”
In other words, Nunes, unknowing or otherwise, was part of a plot to give cover to Trump by providing information that 1) didn’t actually, it turns out, give Trump cover; 2) allowed Trump to say that his bizarre Obama wiretap accusation was “somewhat” vindicated when it wasn’t vindicated at all; 3) stripped Nunes of whatever credibility he or his committee may have had.
It’s even stranger than that. The White House official who gave Nunes the intelligence once worked for Nunes. And the official named by the New York Times who dug up the information was a Bannon/Kushner protege who was hired by Mike Flynn and was in the process of being moved out of his job by Flynn’s successor when Trump himself intervened. The Times reports that the 30-year-old protege, Ezra Cohen-Watnick, began his search for foreign intercepts immediately after Trump made his baseless, outrageous tweet claiming that Obama — in Trump’s words, a sick and bad man — had wiretapped Trump Tower.
If you can’t see where the plot strands might lead, you probably should apply to be the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. We don’t know who at the White House thought to involve Nunes, but, presumably, that will all come out, too. It always does. And when it does, Trump can blame the leakers, who are, of course, the source of all his problems, if you don’t count the media, Democrats, Paul Ryan, the Freedom Caucus and whoever is in charge of Trump’s stupid tweets.
What to make of this?
Frank Rich decided that Nunes was “either exceptionally stupid, incompetent, duplicitous, or perhaps all three.” The Fresno Bee, Nunes’s hometown paper, described his actions as “inept and bewildering.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham, not in the media, compared Nunes to Inspector Clouseau, and I don’t think anyone is going to top that.
This is where we are. Each day, the news gets stranger. Each day, we struggle for the right words to describe how strange it is.
For instance, there is Mike Flynn, who was fired as national security adviser for lying to the vice-president about contacts with the Russian ambassador, who is now asking for immunity from the Senate Intelligence Committee to tell what he knows about Russian interference in the 2016 election and any role the Trump campaign played. This is the same Flynn who led the Clinton “lock-her-up” chanting at the GOP convention. It’s the Flynn, too, who said last year after a Hillary Clinton aide requested immunity to testify before Congress: “When you are given immunity, that means you’ve probably committed a crime.”
Trump, who fired Flynn, tweets that Flynn should, in fact, get immunity to protect himself from the media and Democrats, even though Republicans actually run the committee. Of course, Trump calls the multiple investigations into the Russian connection a “witch hunt.” That actually represents progress on Trump’s part. At least he’s no longer referencing some 400-pound basement-bound kid as the likely DNC hacker.
The Senate committee turned Flynn’s immunity request down for now, and who knows where we go from here. But I can’t help thinking that if Flynn had been a woman, he might still have his old job, because he would never have had the chance to have a private chat with Mike Pence.
If Flynn does have insider knowledge on this, he should get immunity. The question here is not what Flynn did or didn’t do, but what the Russians actually did and whether the Trump campaign was in any way involved.
We don’t know where the story will end. We know only that the Trump administration is working very hard to ensure that no one finds out. Because, let’s face it, the story could move, at minimum, from bizarre and dangerous to outlandish and perilous, and with no end in sight.
Image by Steve Johnson via Flickr:Creative Commons.