Sunday, May 20, 2018

Reversing The Polarity

I will give with one hand, and take away with the other.

Conservatives and Republicans, even those who are not big fans of Trump, are increasingly disquieted by the behavior of the FBI and the Department of Justice WRT the Trump campaign in 2016. There is something frankly amazing about the lack of awareness of how, exactly, one tries to get good information when one is suspicious of a plausible candidate from one of the two major parties.

Yet let it be noted that I understand some of this.  In 2008, conservatives felt they were raising legitimate questions about Obama.  There were red flags. Has no one noticed that this is a Chicago politician? That his father was not a citizen and his mother hated America?  That he spent formative years abroad in in ambiguous situations? That he is frequently deceptive in what he says now, and his autobiographies leave out large portions of his life, as if he is trying to flood the market with distracting information?  That there are almost no friends or witnesses to give evidence of his life?  Has NO ONE looked into this? I think it likely that if the FBI, NSA, CIA or whatever had looked into his life with great suspicion, and not been too careful about the rules - BECAUSE WE ARE TALKING ABOUT A POSSIBLE PRESIDENT HERE - conservatives might have shrugged, so long as it wasn't too bad. They were in fact angry that apparently no one was concerned.

That is the state of mind the people at the intelligence agencies had about Trump.  He is something different.  He has done business with shady characters. (New York real estate.  Duh.  Most of those shady characters are our own, not Russians.) He might even mean well but be entirely duped by Putin or whoever. I can see why the thought would rise...but he might become president.  Don't we have a responsibility....

There is a part of this that is quite reasonable, if you put yourself in their shoes.

I sometimes sit at a team meeting discussing dangerous, or possibly dangerous patients. These are sometimes manipulative people who stir up powerful emotions, who are trying to game the system to avoid consequences.  They shift the blame skillfully, they find powerful allies (ACLU, DRC, legislators, judges, even federal agencies), and uncannily identify weaknesses in their providers. They can get our hospital or their outpatient agencies running down a road of being ready to violate their rights, because not only are they potentially dangerous, but they have pissed us off, offended our sense of justice, and look like they are going to get away with it.

But it doesn't last. More than one person on the team will pretty rapidly declare "Look. Let's look at what our job is here. Ignore the part about what a jerk s/he is. What's our responsibility?  What are the rules and what are the guidelines?"  It's not just about will we get caught? or how will this look? It is stepping back and seeing the possible downstream consequences. It matters.  At a basic level, it's just our job to do that.

That is what I fault the intelligence agencies for. First, do your job. I have some understanding of the panic that sets in that gets people saying "But...but...but...TRUMP!" Yet I ultimately don't believe it.  Is the claim that if Ted Cruz were the nominee then Hillary Clinton's emails would have been thoroughly investigated, sure, but only because of this amazing extremity of Trump the FBI was slapdash, not even taking possession of her computer, because THAT was supposed to be too much of an interference with the election? Is there anyone who believes that? Eventually, someone at the table has got to point out that the agency is undertaking to break many rules to investigate a duly-nominated candidate of a major party, at the behest of the leader of the other party.

Apparently, the bias was so entire that no one at the table said that.


Aggie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aggie said...

I would add perhaps, that the bias is also most definitely NOT accidental nor subconscious or beyond awareness. It is intentionally and methodically cultivated, and that is its most chilling feature - that, and the pervasiveness of it.

Bias that skews to the extent that it would allow re-classifying your opponents as deserving of outcomes that are different to yours, if the circumstance were reversed, violates our cherished cultural presumption of even-handedness. It is pathological.

But worse, it is this very hypocritical embrace of 'otherness' that allows one internally to fully dehumanize their opponents. Properly led, I think that many liberals could accept eventually forcing conservatives to wear the equivalent to the historical yellow Star of David, and all that follows, without losing a moment's sleep over it. And then later deny that they were aware of any of it, at the time.

Zachriel said...

Assistant Village Idiot: not even taking possession of her computer, because THAT was supposed to be too much of an interference with the election? Is there anyone who believes that?

It's not usual to take possession of the victim's computer when the computer is essential to their operations. More typical is that the IT professionals take immediate action to safeguard the system, then the FBI is called in after the fact. That is what happened here. The independent cybersecurity firm provided the information required for the FBI to conduct their inquiry. That, and other evidence, indicated that the hack came from Russian agents. Recent forensic evidence has shown that the hacker is a particular intelligence officer working out of Russian's Main Intelligence Directorate headquarters.

Assistant Village Idiot: Eventually, someone at the table has got to point out that the agency is undertaking to break many rules to investigate a duly-nominated candidate of a major party, at the behest of the leader of the other party.

Yes. We note that Trump keeps calling for investigations, including of specific named individuals, contrary to long-standing practice meant to enforce rule-based inquiries designed to protect civil liberties.

Christopher B said...

While that hypothetical is attractive, I think it doesn’t ring true on a number of levels. While there was some lawfare from fringe GOP elements related to Obama’s birth place, I know of no significant Republican calls for police or intelligence investigations into Obama. Conservatives consistently called for media disclosure and investigation of what they apparently already knew about him, and of the kind they did to Romney in 2012. The Republicans controlled, at least nominally, the relevant three letter agencies in 2008 and apparently none investigated Obama, or they did it so discretely that it never became apparent even after the election. If it had become apparent, do you really think we wouldn’t have heard about it? I think that’s a clear indication the institutional GOP was repelled by the idea. I don’t think it’s fair to say hypothetically Republicans would have been ok if the situations had been reversed because they clearly had the means and opportunity in 2008, and by all accounts it didn’t happen.

Zachriel said...

Christopher B: While there was some lawfare from fringe GOP elements related to Obama’s birth place ...

Huh? The fringe became the Republican standard-bearer, and now President.

Sam L. said...

That "fringe" grew big enough to vote Mr. Trump into office, as the GOP fell apart.

jaed said...

I tend to agree with Christopher B. It's one thing for media to investigate or for people to ask questions, but if the FBI had surveilled Obama's campaign, I would have completely seen red over it.

This would have been the case even if the results of the surveillance hadn't been channeled to an administration held by the other party (as they were for the Trump campaign), and even if an FBI asset hadn't been embedded in the campaign (ditto). Just having the IC community spy on the opposing presidential candidate is an insanely dangerous thing to do.

Sam L. said...

This will not end well.

Grim said...

I do remember thinking, in 2008, how odd it was to realize that no one was in charge of enforcing the very limited Constitutional requirements for the office of the Presidency. No one at all was responsible for officially obtaining a birth certificate, which would verify both age and nationality (as well as place of birth).

It happens that both McCain and Obama were under some cloud at the time, as you may recall -- McCain was born in the Panama Canal zone, if I remember correctly. Nobody was in charge of adjudicating whether or not that was coherent with being a 'natural born' American. Plausibly it was, being that he was born to two American parents on a military deployment; but arguably not. Obama's alleged issues are well-known.

I remember thinking that the security clearance process that ordinary employees go through in order to obtain less-responsible jobs requires a vast amount of evidence and examination; I've been through it myself more than once. In this case there was only one document to check. But nobody was responsible for checking it and verifying your eligibility to be on that ballot as a candidate for this most powerful of all offices.

It's a bit strange. It's not as if the requirements are a high bar that would take a lot of effort to verify. And while it disqualifies many wonderful people, it leaves some 300 million from which to choose. If none of them are really suitable, perhaps it is the office itself that is undesirable.