Dear Reader (including all of you who insist on novelty in these “Dear Reader” gags),
The “Whistleblower” story could be huge, or it could be a nothingburger, or it could be something in between. And I’m wary of competing in the race to be wrong first.
But that’s the world we live in these days. Every five minutes, someone fires a starter pistol to get everyone bolting out of the blocks toward whatever conclusion best suits their priors—or their marching orders. Then hours or days later, it turns out to have been a false start.
It’s like the writers of LOST and The Sopranos collaborated on the script of this timeline. Major plot developments seem destined to explode only to fizzle, leaving the audience to ask, “What was the deal with that smoke monster?” or, “What ever happened to the Russian in the Pine Barrens?”
Sunday, Sunday, Sunday
Forget all of the hopes and fears people invested in the Mueller probe. Just consider what has happened since last Sunday.
A New York Times story about Brett Kavanaugh seemed to be greasing the skids for the impeachment of a Supreme Court Justice, and by Wednesday the Washington Post was reporting the Democrats were shouting “Run Away!” like a scene out of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
Also on Sunday, Trump was tweeting we were “locked and loaded” for retaliation against Iran for the drone attack in Saudi Arabia. All we were waiting for was orders from the Saudis, because when Trump “leads from behind” and/or genuflects to the Saudis, it’s manly and America First-y, unlike when Obama does it in squishy globalist fashion. But by Monday, Trump was saying he was in “no rush” and didn’t want war. In those 24 hours, countless pundits and partisans ran from one position to another like Scooby and the Gang running from some ghost in a haunted mansion.
This constant zig-zagging is unsettling all by itself. But the accompanying riots of hypocrisy that come with it, as people instantaneously ratchet up their indignation and lock down their talking points, makes the whole spectacle of our politics a Rorschach test in which the blots keep morphing like the globules in a lava lamp.
I’m struggling to put my finger on what bothers me most about this atmosphere. But I think it’s the way combatants on all sides act like it’s outrageous to suggest that the story might not be what they want it to be. Everyone is like Charlton Heston shouting, “You can have my narrative when you pry it from my cold dead hands!”
I don’t know if Trump offered an indefensible quid pro quo to the Ukrainians in order to get them to dig up dirt on Biden. I also don’t know if there’s legitimate dirt to be found. Both things are possible, together or separately. And if there is dirt on Biden, that wouldn’t exonerate Trump if he did what some allege. It is not outrageous to think any of these scenarios is possible or even plausible.
For instance, I laughed very hard when Donald Trump tweeted this about the whistleblower story:
Knowing all of this, is anybody dumb enough to believe that I would say something inappropriate with a foreign leader while on such a potentially ‘heavily populated’ call. I would only do what is right anyway, and only do good for the USA!
This is a work of art in the categories of fan service and gaslighting alike. If you think Trump might say something inappropriate on a phone call with a foreign leader, that doesn’t make you dumb, it makes you minimally observant. This is a guy who, while wired for sound, told Billy Bush about how he likes to sexually assault women. Just this week, he tried to get a military official to detail the secret surveillance technology in his wall prototype at a press conference. In a private meeting, he railed about sh*thole countries in front of Democrats who probably pulled their hamstrings rushing out to leak it. He blurted out highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister. At a press conference in Helsinki, he inappropriately took Vladimir Putin’s side against the American intelligence community. The whole reason he isn’t in the impeachment dock right now, as the Mueller report and Corey Lewandowski’s recent testimonies attest, is that his aides know not to follow through when he “inappropriately” tells them bat guano crazy things.
The point is that Trump says whackadoo stuff constantly, and he expects his praetorians to defend it right up until the moment he decides to backtrack. For instance, again on Sunday, he tweeted, “The Fake News is saying that I am willing to meet with Iran, ‘No Conditions.’ That is an incorrect statement (as usual!).”
The thing is: Trump has said numerous times, including on camera, that he would gladly meet with the Iranians with no preconditions.
Forget how exhausting it is to argue with people who ascribe deep strategic genius to all of these zig-zags. The far more draining experience is to argue with people who seem to deliberately have the long-term memory of a fruit fly, instantaneously taking Trump’s word for it every time he calls something “fake news.” The old narrative was that Trump was a man of peace, eager to negotiate with anybody without preconditions. Then, when he calls this narrative a lie, the same people who believed the old narrative are outraged by anyone who refuses to forget the old one along with them.