NeverTrump Pundits Sing Hillary’s Tune

If you need an example of what The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway described as “panic and fear out there in official D.C. in response to dramatic lack of substance underlying Trump-Russia collusion,” look no further than the latest propaganda coming from the cabal of anti-Trump commentators on the Right.

After 18 months of helping the media and Democrats frantically sell every tweet, phone call, meeting, email, and sideways glance between Trump and his team and any person with a Russian last name as proof of election collusion, they are getting desperate. Self-righteous pundits who have staked their credibility and their careers on the failure of Trump’s presidency are slowly realizing they are on the losing end of this gambit.

Not only did Trump not destroy the Republican Party as they predicted, he galvanized the party during a surprisingly active and successful first year—cutting taxes, eliminating federal regulations, appointing conservative judges, and strengthening America’s hand abroad. Each day, a company announces its plans to raise wages or give bonuses due to the dramatic drop in the corporate tax rate, subsequently exposing the modern-day Democratic party’s contempt for the working class as party leaders mock those windfalls as “crumbs.” Hell, he even brought Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to his knees and guided the GOP to its first government shutdown victory since the invention of shutdowns.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation has yet to produce any meaningful charges and is bordering on farcical. (The latest big news is that  Mueller’s staff recently interviewed “at least one member of a Facebook team” associated with the Trump campaign. Maybe they’ll interrogate the yard-sign coordinator next.) In an unexpected twist, it is now evident that the DNC, Clinton campaign and possibly top officials in the Obama Administration conspired to orchestrate the Trump-Russia scheme starting in April 2016. As new evidence to support this shocking prospect emerges on a near-daily basis, Republicans—and even non-political Americans—have responded, as Hemingway said on Fox News, in an “appropriate range of reaction [from] calm determination to get to the bottom of this, to absolute outrage about what has happened at the FBI.”

But the reaction from the entrenched and now wholly-exposed as dishonest pundit class of the anti-Trump Right is that we are the insane ones. The latest mantra from this crowd is that top Republican lawmakers, Fox News, and talk radio are pushing a phony conspiracy about a “secret society” at the FBI to distract from the Mueller probe. In the process, they are intentionally distorting comments made last week by Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), the chairman of the Homeland Security committee, about a reference to a “secret society” found in recently-disclosed texts between Peter Strzok and Lisa Page (whose roles are also being misrepresented by the anti-Trumpers.)

Jonah Goldberg got the ball rolling last week (as I wrote here). Others have eagerly taken his cue. In a column so disingenuous and filled with irony that it’s nearly laughable, New York Times “conservative” Bret Stephens mocked Johnson’s comments as “only of a piece with other paranoid G.O.P. effusions” about potential corruption at the highest level of the FBI. Stephens writes, without proof, that the text was “an office in-joke between two colleagues having an affair,” (also a popular line by the media and Democrats) and warns that “liberals observing the awful spectacle might be forgiven for taking quiet satisfaction in this G.O.P. bonfire of the sanities. They should take care it doesn’t infect them as well.”

He blatantly mischaracterizes who Peter Strzok is—calls him a “third-tier F.B.I. agent in Washington who doesn’t like the president”—when Strzok was chief of the FBI’s Counterespionage Section and lead investigator into the Hillary Clinton email case, who was then selected by James Comey in July 2016 to supervise the Bureau’s nascent Trump-Russia probe. Now, either Stephens is a complete ignoramus who doesn’t know basic facts about Strzok’s role at the FBI or he is deliberately mischaracterizing it.

Without any sense of irony, Stephens sniffs that the “principal lesson of paranoia is the ease with which politically aroused people can mistake errors for deceptions, coincidences for patterns, bumbling for dereliction, and secrecy for treachery. True conspiracies are rare but stupidity is nearly universal. America already has one party that’s lost its mind. We don’t need another.” Here, he is referring first to the Republican Party, not the Democrats who have turned the country upside down in their perfidious attempt to destroy the Trump presidency.

Over at the  Weekly Standard, Stephen Hayes alleges “many Republicans and Trump-supporting commentators have embarrassed themselves in recent weeks with their wild-eyed and absurd conspiracy theories about the ‘deep state.’” He joins Stephens in willfully mischaracterizing Strzok and Page as “two text-happy, anti-Trump FBI officials,” and later on says only that Strzok “worked” on the Clinton email probe and Mueller investigation. (Also, no mention of Strzok being pulled from the Mueller team.) Hayes also twists Johnson’s comments to make it look like his charge of “corruption at the highest level” was referring to the secret society text, when in reality, Johnson was discussing Page’s text about Loretta Lynch.

Hayes oddly writes that, “one of the driving forces of the Republican conspiracy-mongering was that five months of the texts between Strzok and Page had not been preserved by the FBI due to what DoJ described as a technical error.” Is he not aware of the Obama administration’s pattern of destroying communications and data? Perhaps Hayes can Google “IRS,” “EPA,” and “NOAA” for a little history lesson.

While Hayes at least points out a few reasons why Republicans should suspect the “politicization” of the Clinton email investigation, he thinks the so-called conspiracy theories are not a genuine attempt to get to the bottom of what could potentially be among greatest political scandals in U.S. history, but merely “part of the effort to undermine the FBI and Mueller’s investigation. The Republicans who eagerly propagate these theories are no doubt doing so in order to protect Donald Trump.”

Mona Charen also chimed in (she and Stephens both cite Richard Hofstadter’s The Paranoid Style in American Politics, so that must be in somebody’s talking points):

Many conservative outlets are red-faced with indignation about a supposed conspiracy within the FBI and the “deep state” to destroy Donald Trump. The evidence? Justice Department officials may have relied, in part, on the “Democrat funded” Steele dossier to get a FISA warrant on Carter Page. A Republican FBI deputy director is married to a Democrat. An FBI agent (whom Mueller fired) expressed dismay about Trump’s election and joked with his mistress about a “secret society.” This is partisan hysteria.

Charen is either lying or lazy. Either way, her’s is a deceitful portrayal of the facts of the case—which she ought to know if she bothers to read  the diligent, fact-based work of her colleague Andrew McCarthy.

All of this ironically coincides with the 20-year anniversary of Hillary Clinton’s famous “right-wing conspiracy” comment. Here’s the exchange between NBC’s (now disgraced) Matt Lauer and Clinton on January 27, 1998:

Matt Lauer: “You have said, I understand, to some close friends, that this is the last great battle, and that one side or the other is going down here.”

Hillary Clinton: “Well, I don’t know if I’ve been that dramatic. But I do believe that this is a battle. This is—the great story here for anybody willing to find it and write about it and explain it is this vast right-wing conspiracy that has been conspiring against my husband since the day he announced for president.”

If talk of a “vast right wing conspiracy” sounds familiar today, that’s because it is. Except now, people like Goldberg, Stephens, Hayes, and Charen are all about advancing it, not only to prove they have been right about Trump, but in order (they hope) to see him fail, or worse, be taken down. To cover for themselves, they’re happy to peddle their own version of “right-wing conspiracy” attacks. . But the American public, who have watched this unfold in real-time, won’t buy it. Yes, one side will go down. My guess is, it will be theirs.

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