Here’s a strange thought for the Trump era (which is, remarkably enough, less than a month old): What if the Michael Flynn kerfuffle falls somewhere between being completely innocuous and being the worst foreign policy scandal of the past 40 years? It’s crazy, I know, but what if Flynn was a disastrous pick who made vague, inappropriate promises to the Russian ambassador, period? What if his resignation doesn’t signify that Donald Trump has handed over our foreign policy decisions to the KGB?
A person can believe that Trump’s footsie-playing with Vlad Putin is misguided and harmful, and that a politically motivated deep state that drops selective leaks meant to sink a national security advisor is also unhealthy for the republic. You don’t have to like Donald Trump to understand that spooks shouldn’t use their power to undermine elected governments and that functionaries of a previous administration shouldn’t sabotage new ones to preserve their Russia-approved Iran deals.
As John Podhoretz points out in the New York Post today:
Leftists have become fond of saying that Trump shouldn’t be ‘normalized.’ That concern should now go both ways. Every American should be equally concerned at the potential ‘normalization’ of the tactics used by unnamed government officials to do Flynn in.
Also, one can believe that Flynn, who served his country with distinction, is a political kook who should never have been named national security advisor in the first place but also that, as far as we know (and this can change), he did nothing to compromise national security. According to the Wall Street Journal, the retired general repeatedly reached out to the Russians to persuade them not to “overreact’’ to sanctions, implying the next administration would be more amenable to their concerns.
It’s not as if Trump hadn’t telegraphed this very position repeatedly during the campaign. Until we see the transcripts of the conversations, all that has been intimated is that Flynn told the Russians the new administration would have more flexibility after the election — which is sort of an American tradition these days.
It also should be mentioned that, according to NBC, after an investigation of his contacts with Russia during the campaign, the FBI came to the conclusion that Flynn would not face any “legal jeopardy.” Using this standard, something we were repeatedly told exonerated Hillary Clinton of any wrongdoing, Flynn is also in the clear. Then again, that was as silly then as it is now. Prosecutable evidence is a legal standard for criminality, not a political one for wrongdoing. Just because Flynn might not go to jail doesn’t necessarily mean he didn’t do something inappropriate.
So while we should certainly concede that the removal of a national security advisor is a big deal, we can’t forget that many of the most dramatic stories about the Trump administration have been driven by off-the-record sources and turned out to be duds. If Democrats want us to believe they’re concerned about national security rather than just their own political fortunes, perhaps wishcasting about impeachment before the evidence is in isn’t a great idea. You’re supposed demand investigations to uncover the facts first, and only then yell about it being “bigger than Watergate.”
Actually, what am I talking about? This is already the most nefarious attack on America in all of history. Thomas Friedman, noted admirer of lefty authoritarianism, wrote in The New York Times today that “we were attacked on Dec. 7, 1941, we were attacked on Sept. 11, 2001, and we were attacked on Nov. 8, 2016.” So if legal democratic expression that manifested in a Trump presidency is a threat to the nation in the same way that Osama bin Laden and Tojo were, does that mean Americans have the moral authority to react comparably? Someone should ask him.
These kind of hysterical pieces are reminiscent of the Bush years, when we were told our bumbling idiot president was simultaneously a mastermind who could dismantle the republic and sell out the country for oil and ideology.
Speaking of history, if you point out that Obama’s bungling and moral surrender on foreign policy helped empower autocrats and theocrats — Crimea was indeed taken while Obama was president — and habitually lied about their foreign policy goals, you would be right. Also, you shouldn’t excuse Trump for taking similarly inexcusable positions and lying. Simply because a biased media overreacts to everything the Trump administration does, doesn’t mean all its targets are innocent. Conversely, one can believe the neophytes in the Trump administration are incompetent and wrong about Russia (and much else), but also accept that not everything is 9/11, or even Watergate.