I vividly remember March 4, 2017. I had just finished having lunch with a colleague and after we parted ways I grabbed my phone, which I had ignored during our long meeting so as not to be rude. At that time, it had “exploded” as they say, with excerpts from news.
President Trump had tweeted (seems like an eternity ago when Twitter respected free speech, right?) the following: “Terrible! I just learned that Obama bugged me in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing was found. It’s McCarthyism!
What followed the usual media chorus was an arrogance of certainty that Trump’s assertion must be false, that there is no way in the world President Obama would do such a thing, and that Trump is patently insane. . In fact, this latest speculation has drawn heaps of new rumors that members of Trump’s cabinet were discussing invoking the 25th.and Amendment for Trump to be removed from office because, apparently, he had gone mad.
Despite being a charismatic speaker, Trump, whether by design or not, has never been a particularly clear messenger. He often chooses the path of greatest resistance. In messages that can be perceived in different ways, Trump consistently chooses to deliver the most outrageous version.
To that end, Trump’s tweet evokes a scenario in which Obama calls then-FBI Director James Comey and says, “Jim? He’s the president. I’d like you to tap the phones at Trump Tower. For those who think the United States is no different from a banana republic where the dictator uses the power of the government to harass and ultimately destroy his opposition, such a possibility is not only feasible, but probable. Most people, however, who understand how our country works and who don’t have a terribly inaccurate assessment of Obama’s character, consider it theoretically possible but highly unlikely.
A more believable scenario – and what actually happened – is that the FBI did in fact spy on the Trump campaign, but apparently as part of an investigation into certain people, not to foil the candidate’s attempt. of the GOP to win the White House. Whatever the FBI’s motives, the Obama administration insisted that the president’s “cardinal rule” was never to personally interfere in an investigation, and certainly never to order a wiretap. My gut tells me it’s true, but like any other issue, I could be wrong.
However, and this is very important, Trump’s sloppy depiction of Obama spying on him was not fabricated out of thin air, as the FBI technically monitored his organization.
Now a scathing new report has surfaced that people loyal to Hillary Clinton, with or without her knowledge, spied on Trump not only when he was a private citizen, but also when he was president by infiltrating databases. of the White House. The report came from John Durham, who was appointed by the Trump administration and retained by the Biden administration, as a special adviser to the Department of Justice.
Durham’s report may turn out to be wrong, but just as there are prominent mainstream analysts who dismiss it as tenuous, others of equal stature hold the exact opposite view.
The question is not whether Trump was really spied on, and if so, how illegal it was. It’s more about the arrogance of the certainty that he was – or wasn’t.
Part of the narrative against Trump, which I always found particularly ridiculous, was that he was in the pocket of Vladimir Putin, either because Putin was worth it financially or because he had compromising photos of Trump with Russian prostitutes and held them over Trump’s head as blackmail.
This last fixation has no more credible basis than washerwoman gossip. The first, even worse, doesn’t even make logical sense. Here’s why: Trump loves himself, as few would say. But he also loves the United States, in some ways like a little boy. He looks at the world in terms of victory and defeat, and his childhood memory of America is that – just like Batman, Superman, or the Lone Ranger – it always won. That we beat the British, the Confederacy, the Germans, the Japanese, and during the Cold War, the Russians, and so we have to start winning again all the time, like we used to.
But what if Trump’s love of self and love of country collide? Well, suppose Trump granted special favors to a rather innocuous nation, say Sweden, in exchange for them funding a new chain of Trump hotel-casinos all over their country once he leaves office. . That would be an illegal abuse of Trump’s presidential powers, and I’m not saying he would do such a thing, but if he had to rationalize “what’s wrong with that?” I help myself, but I don’t hurt the United States, because Sweden is our friend anyway. I don’t see that as absurdly impossible.
But for Trump to help Russia? It’s like a lifelong Batman fan helping the Joker or the Riddler.
Even weirder is the idea that Putin would have wanted Trump as president instead of Hillary. Of course, for those who find Trump’s corruptibility indisputable and who are sure he wouldn’t rule out helping our longtime Cold War adversary, it makes sense: Putin wanted a president he could control. .
But suppose Trump really doesn’t sell the United States to Russia. In that case, it would be completely illogical for Putin, a beating-chested alpha male, to prefer another alpha male in the White House – one with an even bigger chest – than a woman, who, in his own alpha male mind, couldn’t possibly be as smart, or as strong.
Again, this is all conjecture. But to reject it as categorically false is the tragic flaw of arrogant certainty.