Style and Substance in the Age of Trump

The mainstream media have warned of a Russian network of trolls and botnets laboring around the clock from websites and social media accounts to disrupt and distort American democracy. It’s jarring to see the Left preoccupied with Russian subversion after they spent most of the last three generations mocking us for seeing “a commie under every bed.”

Leftists defended Julius and Ethel Rosenberg and Alger Hiss to the bitter end. They idolized Army lawyer Joseph N. Welch after he famously interrupted Sen. Joseph McCarthy on national television to denounce him and prevent further questioning about Communists in the Department of the Army. In fact, Otto Preminger later cast Welch in a Hollywood movie, and he was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Golden Globe. (The Left takes care of its own.)

They played nice with Fidel Castro after he betrayed the democratic revolution in Cuba, and they hung Che Guevara posters in their dorm rooms. They greased the skids for Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe and Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua. And eventually they thrust Barack Obama, who promised a geopolitical reset with Russia, into the White House.

But they are nothing if not agile. Their self-exculpation knows no limits. They have an excuse for everything, and in this case it is a variation of the Southern Strategy excuse: the Russians used to be bad guys in the good Party; then, after a perceived trauma, they migrated into the bad party. So now they’re racist, xenophobic, homophobic, Islamophobic and misogynistic just like us Conservatives.

What are the current accusations against Russia? So far as I know, nobody has accused them of hacking into the vote-counting apparatus. The accusation is that they influenced U.S. public opinion improperly in two ways. First, by telling lies – fake news, in other words.

It seems odd for somebody to complain about fake news now if they relied on comedians like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert to inform them during the Bush and Obama administrations. They were perfectly satisfied with policy discourse that consisted of one-liners, exaggerations and cheap shots for years. Then they got a taste of their own medicine from Donald Trump, and began to shriek of their sober integrity. It’s a little late for that now.

Has public discourse been cheapened and coarsened? Of course. But Democrats started it and benefited from it. My former U.S. Senator Harry Reid was unrepentant about lying in 2012 that Mitt Romney hadn’t paid taxes in a decade. In a CNN interview, he shrugged off the documents that disproved his accusation: “Romney didn’t win, did he?” Reid later told the Washington Post “it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.”

The Post reporter asked him if there was a line he wouldn’t cross in his partisan battles. “I don’t know what that line would be,” the Democrat replied. And neither do his comrades in the Democratic caucus.

What Liberals demand of conservatives is an asymmetrical civility, unilateral honor, with no implicit reciprocal obligation that Liberals will likewise restrain themselves. They routinely call conservatives racist, for example, for the slightest insensitivity or slip-up in racial etiquette. Yet they can spout the crudest racial slurs about Condoleezza Rice or Stacey Dash with impunity, safe from even the faintest censure by fellow Liberals.

One thing Republicans and Reagan Democrats liked about Trump was that he didn’t roll over for the self-serving, self-appointed arbiters of civility. It had simply become too corrupt. The demand for asymmetrical civility had become just another weapon in the arsenal of hyper-partisan, poorly raised Liberals.

We only get one nominee every four years. With Dole, McCain and Romney, we got gentlemen who had no stomach for the fight. They were just too comfortable losing to Democrats, too easily consoled. When I saw Bill Clinton on television hanging some kind of good citizen’s medal on Bob Dole at the White House, I felt betrayed. Trump made me wince, yes. But at last we had a nominee who would go down swinging. We needed a gut fighter, and we finally had one in this contentious New Yorker.

I do hope the president will work on being consistently truthful. You’re only as good as your most recent syllable. You may tell the most profound truths, you may be the most courageous truth-teller when the chips are down, but you can discredit all that with petty, impulsive or careless lies. Please don’t do that.

I’m against lies, which brings me to the second way the Russians are accused of improperly influencing U.S. public opinion: they told the truth. That is, they publicized emails that Clinton Democrats didn’t want voters to know about. The Russians deprived them of the freedom to lie, or to continue lying.

Hillary Clinton probably would have had no WikiLeaks problem if she had been conscientious about secure communications. Even if Russian hackers nevertheless penetrated her encryption, it would have been less embarrassing, less of a bombshell, if she had just dealt honestly with Congress. She has no sacrosanct privilege to lie to Congress, to destroy evidence under subpoena, or to deal slothfully with sensitive information.

Liberals have expressed no anger at the Russians for hacking into poorly secured emails. That’s just standard spycraft. We’re almost certainly doing it to the Russians, too. What outrages Liberals is that Russians gave American voters the same information Putin and his allied ayatollahs had access to. It was too good for Americans: information that proved Clinton Democrats’ sleaze and abuse of authority. Getting huffy with Trump and the Russians is mostly an attempt to change the subject.

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