Rutland Herald and Montpelier (Barre) Times Argus
March 11th, 2017
Jack Laurence was among the very bravest and brightest of the correspondents who covered the Vietnam War. He is the antithesis of the stereotypical loud mouthed TV reporter. Jack is self-effacing and sensitive. This latter quality was a feature of much of his reporting, as was the quality of his writing. He has opinions which he will express quietly but never in an in-your-face manner.
Jack and I got to know each other while working together out of the ABC News London bureau in the 1980’s. He opted to retire in Britain so we are distant friends.
From time to time Jack will post something on Facebook. His latest post, is such an eloquent cry from the heart which seems to reflect the feelings of so many in this Time of Trump, that I want to share it with you.
“As an American citizen, it feels like I am in the stranglehold of a nefarious gangster--a dishonest, bullying, psychologically unstable mobster with the moral values of a hardened convict.
“He and his fellow gangsters take the most outrageous actions--ruining management of the environment, unleashing sadistic federal cops on visitors, making up and publicizing outrageous lies-- while we, the citizens who outvoted them in last year's election, have to take the consequences of what they do as though we had not voted at all.
“ Already, for us it has become taxation without representation. Overall, it feels personally as if I'm aware of what's going on around me but unable to change anything--trapped in one of those paralyzing, semiconscious nightmares that goes on and on in darkness, fear and despair.”
The nightmare, which my friend Jack so aptly describes, got even crazier in recent days with President Donald Trump’s allegations that former President Barack Obama had been “wiretapping” Trump and his election campaign. Trump made the claim in one of his infamous early morning tweets without, of course, a shred of evidence to support his incendiary accusations. A trail of White House spokespeople has been sent out on the fool’s errand of telling the American people that the president really believes this to be true.
Perhaps tomorrow we will be told that the president believes in the tooth fairy. Actually that may be the case because when you add up the costs of Trump’s proposed policies - from the huge tax cuts for business and billionaires, to the giant defense budget increases, to rebuilding the country’s infrastructure - a tooth fairy seems like the only way to pay for them.
Unfortunately, what seems to be coming to light, is that the president has come to believe in something far more pernicious. As outlined in an analysis this past week in the Washington Post by David Weigel , Trump’s charges that Obama was wiretapping him, are just part of a much grander scheme being peddled by right-wing conspiracy theorists- namely, that Trump is the “victim” of a plot of “deep state” critics and conspirators to bring down his presidency. And the perpetrator is former president Barack Obama.
Post reporter Weigel quotes senior editor-at large- Joel Pollak, of the ultra-right wing publication Breitbart (which used to be run by Trump’s most influential adviser Stephen Bannon), “It would seem that the ‘Russian hacking’ story was concocted, not just to explain away an embarrassing election defeat, but to cover up the real scandal.”
(Just a reminder, the Russian hacking story was the result of a conclusion drawn by all 17 active agency members of the American intelligence community, that the Russians had directly interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.)
These are some of the disturbing details in Weigel’s account..
“Trump wiretap allegations completed a feedback loop that started during the presidential campaign and has gotten sturdier since. The president’s media diet includes cable television shows like “Fox and Friends”, where guests and hosts regularly defend him. On Twitter, he frequently elevates stories that grew in conservative talk radio and on sites like Breitbart News and Info Wars….Monday’s news cycle demonstrated just how strong the loop was as Mark Levin (the conservative talk show host who had first raised the Obama wiretap notion) appeared himself on Fox News for 12 barely interrupted minutes to share his theory that the alleged wiretapping was a political hit job. ‘Donald Trump is the victim. His campaign is the victim,’ said Levin as a Fox News “alert” scrolled over the screen. “These are police state tactics. If this had been done to Barack Obama, all hell would break loose. And it should.’ “
As is evident to anyone who gives it much thought, if Trump really wanted to know if he and or his campaign had been bugged, as President of the United States he could do so without much trouble. But he has chosen not to believe FBI Director James Comey who has demanded that the Justice Department publicly refute Trump’s allegations. This is ironic since Comey’s unprecedented announcement 11 days before the election that the FBI had discovered a new trove of Hillary Clinton’s e-mails probably did more to help elect Trump that anyone other than Vladimir Putin.
Trump says he wants Congress to investigate his claims. Fine. But it is most important that Congress truly investigates the Russian interference in the presidential election and the possibility that Trump and/or some of his people may have colluded in that. The Senate and House Intelligence Committees are supposed to be conducting a full scale investigation, but it is by no means certain they will do so.
Intelligence committees operate in secret. Both committees are of course run by Republicans who have control over what’s investigated and what is made public. The House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, was an important member of Trump’s transition team.
It seems to me, now, more than ever, we need an independent investigation of these events. This could sound overblown - but the fate of the Republic may well depend on it.
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