For some inexplicable reason, I have always viewed the political landscape in America as an oasis of sorts. Despite our disagreements, I haven’t seen MMA fights break out in any of our legislative bodies, and as far as I can tell, political opponents of those in power have not yet been poisoned by polonium or some other exotic radioactive substance, and we have even kept our financial chicanery under some measure of control.
All of that seems to have changed with the election of Donald Trump to the White House.
The Pentagon Papers v. The bin Laden Papers
As much as I cringe to admit it, I’m a bit on the older side. I marched against the Vietnam War because I feared being drafted and believed that the government was not reporting its activities honestly. I cheered the work of Woodward and Bernstein as they unwound the corrupt Nixon administration and I admired the courage of Daniel Ellsberg for what amounted to “hacking” The Pentagon Papers and exposing the lines that were crossed in the conduct of the war.
But even in this age of social media and 24-hour news cycles, there is no honor among thieves. How is it that a million documents can be seized from Osama bin Laden’s compound, 620 of them released over two and half years and then the Office of the Director of National Intelligence determines these will be the last the American people are likely to see for some time to come? Just as Obama is leaving office.
Steve Hayes of “The Weekly Standard” who has been following this story for a lengthy period reports that there is extensive documentation in those seized documents which provides concrete connections between al Qaeda and the Iranian government. If these documents were to be released or hacked, they would confirm some of the most explosive charges made by the Bush administration that were dismissed by Progressives as Dick Cheney’s paranoid search to make a connection that didn’t exist; it would destroy the oft-repeated fable of the Obama administration that al Qaeda had been decimated and that bin Laden was some Rip van Winkle-like figure divorced from the expansion of his terror network; and, worst of all, that Iran was prepared to rejoin the world community and the JCPOA was an essential bridge to bring them in from the cold.
As far as I know, I have not seen this story reported anywhere else. It has not raised a ripple in a pond.
Instead, what we have seen is a juvenile display of the worst in polarized, extreme progressive rhetoric whose only purpose seems to be to deny Trump the ability to populate his Cabinet even though there are insufficient oppositional votes to prevent it. This is going to be a very ugly four years.
Maxine and Elizabeth and Nancy (and Chuck)
Less than a month into his administration, Trump has been threatened with impeachment by some of the dimmest political lights in this country, epitomized by Rep. Maxine Waters of California who insanely accused the president of bombing Aleppo and looking the other way while his buddy Putin invaded Korea.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, darling of the progressives and presumptive successor to squeaky clean Hillary Clinton, received an unprecedented warning on the floor of the Senate of using another’s words to refer to a colleague as a “racist” (who later that evening became Attorney General) and was told to take her seat when she continued her personal slander. This from a woman who claimed to be a Native American to advance her academic career.
Was it a remarkable coincidence that Ms. Warren had this confrontation from the well of the Senate on the same day she was releasing a new book? Did she protest too much her reading of a letter from Coretta Scott King from 1986 when she opposed Jeff Sessions’ nomination for a Federal judgeship as if the Senate had some inherent objection to hearing the words of Mrs. King? This was political theater on par with Sen Ted Cruz’s one-man filibuster to defund Obamacare which had no chance to succeed.
Another member of California’s stellar Congressional delegation, Nancy Pelosi, objected to the inclusion of one of Trump’s key advisors to the National Security Council because he is a “white supremacist”. No evidence, no backup, just some random charge which follows in the footsteps of her recently retired mentor, Sen Harry Reid, who claimed on the Senate floor that former presidential candidate Mitt Romney had not paid any income taxes in 10 years. In addition, Nancy was bashing Trump about something this week and referred to him as “President Bush.” Some deep seated biases die hard.
But nothing, I’m chagrined to confess, tops the daily mendacious blatherings of Sen. Chuck Schumer, the minority Democrat who replaced Harry Reid. Chuck’s body language betrays him. Unlike Harry Reid, whose absence of conscious could allow him to look into a camera and say anything, no matter how bizarre, Chuck stands before a podium, staring down at a script through his reading glasses, with an occasional, embarrassed glance at the camera. The lingering image is of his balding head, the confrontational words he reads from the script and the equally dysfunctional members of his senatorial delegation supporting his declarations. It just doesn’t strike one as genuine, but as a knee-jerk reaction from the hard left wing of the party that demands constant opposition to the despised Trump.
The Press Takes the Plunge
The other unusual manifestation of this deepening national divide is found in the press which seems unprecedented to me. No longer is there any pretense that publications once thought of as “objective” reporters of the news, like The New York Times or The Washington Post, have taken sides in this divided nation. They were ardent supporters of the Obama agenda, promoted the priorities of progressives, limited their criticism of Hillary Clinton during the campaign and lampooned this successor president, which isn’t difficult to do.
This is clearly a manifestation of the success enjoyed by Fox News whose prime time lineup is anchored by commentators with dominant ratings. Despite attempts by MSNBC and CNN to compete with Fox by adopting a progressive approach (who makes a decision to give Van Jones an hour in prime time?), their ratings have lagged badly and the slack has been assumed with surprising aggression by the print media.
But The New York Times is clutching at straws. Its print advertising revenue dropped 16% in 2016. It must become more reliant on its digital version/distribution which means it’s going to face significantly more intense and opinionated competition. Unless it elects to go the way of Real Clear Politics, where it aggregates and creates a limited amount of original content, it is not likely to compete against hard-right or -left sites, but rather digitized versions of The Wall Street Journal, strong on opinion and drawing on limited resources for editorial.
“Tea Party” Progressives
Finally, like everything coming out of the progressive movement these days, the activists responsible for creating the phenomenon that was the “women’s march” on Inauguration Day would like to re-fashion it as the birth of a “Progressive Tea Party.” I suppose this is a bizarre and sweetly ironic acknowledgment that the organic development of the Tea Party really did change the dynamics of American politics, and now the progressives want to create their own version with purpose and not from the grass roots, overseen by somebody way out of the mainstream like Rep. Keith Ellison.
It is destined to fail, like the primetime lineups at CNBC and CNN, like the disappearance of objective newspaper reporting at some of the nation’s most prestigious papers, like the vacuum of moderate voices which used to exist in the Democratic Party. Keith Ellison is not going to lead anybody into the Promised Land, any more than Elizabeth Warren or Maxine Waters will.
Despite the myriad faults of the president, which I will catalog at a later date, this generation of progressives will not sew enough of the Obama coalition together to threaten those who oppose his fundamental transformation for many years to come.