By David Talbot
Which side are you on — President Trump’s oligarchy or the deep
state? If you answered, “None of the above,” score one for democracy.
Neither side has the interest of the American people at heart — only its
own power. They are behemoths bloated on their own ego and entitlement,
and like the mighty showdown between Godzilla and Mothra, it’s
impossible to cheer for either one, because democracy could be crushed
beneath their monstrous, scaly feet in the process.
The battle between these titanic
forces reached a new fever pitch last week, starting with Trump’s
explosive Twitter charges that President Barack Obama wiretapped his
phones and spiraling into another round of counter-allegations about a
Trump-Vladimir Putin plot to steal democracy.
I happen to think there is some truth to both sides’ charges.
Despite the outraged denials from the Obama camp, Trump might indeed
have been tapped during the presidential campaign. On the eve of the
November election, an intriguing national security blogger named Louise
Mensch — a former Conservative Party member of British Parliament with
strong intelligence ties — reported that the U.S. Foreign Intelligence
Surveillance Court, which authorizes government spying, had granted a
warrant for the FBI to conduct surveillance of certain Americans as part
of the bureau’s investigation into possible links between Russian banks
and Trump’s corporate empire.
That story was later picked up by the BBC and the Guardian in London,
and more recently by the McClatchy news agency. So it’s unclear why
most media outlets keep insisting there is no evidence to back up
Trump’s allegations, which as usual were cartoonishly worded but still
might contain a kernel of validity.
Likewise, despite the Trump camp’s sound and fury, it’s clear
there were numerous contacts between his campaign and Russian officials —
and at least in Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn’s case, they were dodgy enough
to cause his hurried exit from the administration.
So there’s some truth on both sides in this Washington smackdown. And
there’s plenty of distortion, disinformation and outright lies. After
all, that’s how both sides roll. Trump’s entire presidency is built on
fakery — from Obama birther conspiracy-mongering to bogeymen immigrants
to magical health care solutions.
And the national security agencies at war with Trump? Well, let’s
just say their own credibility — from Saddam Hussein’s missing weapons
of mass destruction to the latest WikiLeaks revelations about CIA
hacking of consumer technology — is not exactly solid. There were waves
of laughter across the land when the agency responded to last week’s
embarrassing document dump by claiming it never spies on Americans.
Most of us here in deep-blue California believe just about any
accusation, no matter how sleazy or criminal, that is made against
Trump. We are awash in leaks and tweets these days, a tsunami of
headlines that the American people have no way of independently
verifying. Which stories are fake news? Who knows? The media are
providing little insight or guidance.
Nearly the entire media circus — from the New York Times to BuzzFeed —
has been caught up in the shadow war between Trump and the national
security establishment. And much of the media reporting on this beat is
closely aligned with the security agencies. “If the Deep State can rid
us of the blighted presidency of Donald Trump, all I can say is ‘Go,
State, go,’” merrily wrote Vanity Fair columnist James Wolcott.
MSNBC has turned its nightly news lineup into a propaganda arm of the
national security state, with a constant parade of former spooks and
armchair generals foaming about the “Russian connection” and how Trump
has handed our nation to the Kremlin. In today’s strange looking-glass
world, the liberals have become the new red-hunters, sniffing for
traitors everywhere from Trump Tower to “alt-left media” (as Wolcott
calls it) such as Glenn Greenwald’s online publication, the Intercept.
It’s understandable why the Hillary Clinton wing of the Democratic
Party wants to blame its humiliation on scheming Russians, instead of
faulting its own clueless campaigning and corporatist politics.
Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, was quick to jump on the
anti-Putin bandwagon, warning in a recent Guardian opinion essay that
the Mad Genius of Moscow was out to destroy every democracy in the
world. Cue mad cackle.
Democrats’ obsessive focus on the Russian menace wildly exaggerates
Moscow’s impact on the presidential election. Even if the Putin regime
did hack the Democratic National Committee, the relatively unsurprising
email revelations about Clinton and her associates should not have been
enough to sink her campaign, particularly in comparison with the
grotesque stories that were made public about Trump.
When it comes to sabotaging democracies, Russia is a rank amateur
compared with the U.S. Just ask the people of Iran, Guatemala,
Indonesia, Brazil, Chile, Nicaragua, Honduras — and even France, where
the CIA backed a right-wing military coup attempt in 1961 to overthrow
President Charles de Gaulle, a national hero.
The Democrats’ Russian fixation has also hijacked our democracy. It’s
become a massive distraction as Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan go
about dismantling the health care system, civil rights, environmental
protections and just about everything else in Washington that maintains
some decency in American life. During the 2016 campaign, the media were
all about Trump’s latest outburst, real or not — now they’re all about
Putin’s latest chess move, real or not. Lost in all of this are the
urgent issues of American decline and planetary crisis raised by leaders
like Bernie Sanders. Remember him?
The American people need to maintain a healthy skepticism as we are
bombarded with allegations from both sides of the Trump-deep state
divide. We need to remind ourselves that the first casualty of war is
truth. And make no mistake about it — America is at war with itself.
~ David Talbot is a columnist in the San Francisco Chronicle . I strongly recommend reading his recent mind-blowing book entitled The Devil's Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America's Secret Government.