The release this week of the redacted Carter Page FISA warrant has generated metric tons of fake news and confirmed just how corrupt our institutions are. To which a Trump supporter might respond: “What’s new?” But I wonder if this week’s developments might break the recalcitrant pride of certain NeverTrumpers, or provoke second thoughts in reluctant Trump supporters and willing Trump critics.
It Doesn’t Get Much More Blatant Than This
At this point, the press has all but dropped any pretense of objectivity and is peddling outright (and obvious) lies. John Hinderaker at PowerLine described the reporting as “a vendetta”, but I am not sure he went far enough by simply calling out the Associated Press. It was not only the that AP ran a fake news story but the Washington Post, CNN, MSNBC, New York Magazine, the New York Times, and even the Weekly Standard published stories suggesting the warrant as released contradicts Rep. Devin Nunes’s blistering memo from earlier this year.
That’s exactly the opposite of what The Federalist’s Sean Davis and Mollie Hemingway, the Washington Examiner’s Byron York, and even the editors at the Wall Street Journal reported. A simple review of the facts shows that these outlets are correct. This isn’t surprising to the president’s supporters. But the fake news seems so egregious and so willful that it’s becoming impossible for anyone to deny the existence of a concerted media effort to hide the truth for political gain.
Then consider the corruption all of the fake news is trying to cover up. The shocking nature of it is best summed up in Andrew McCarthy’s reaction. As he wrote recently:
When people started theorizing that the FBI had presented the Steele dossier to the FISA court as evidence, I told them they were crazy: The FBI . . . would never take an unverified screed and present it to a court as evidence . . . The FBI would go to the FISA court only with independent evidence corroborated through standard FBI rigor . . . [I]n the unlikely event the FBI ever went off the reservation, the Justice Department would not permit the submission to the FISA court of uncorroborated allegations; and even if that fail-safe broke down, a court would not approve such a warrant.
It turns out, however, that the crazies were right and I was wrong. The FBI (and, I’m even more sad to say, my Justice Department) brought the FISA court the Steele-dossier allegations, relying on Steele’s credibility without verifying his information.
Again, none of this is particularly shocking to people who support Trump and have been watching the attempt at a soft coup unfold over the past 18 months. But faced with such glaring evidence, will conservatives who despise President Trump reconsider their positions?
I can’t help but think of “The Flight 93 Election,” which was maligned by many of the same people. In it, Michael Anton made the case that in 2016, we “had to charge the cockpit . . . or die.” The republic was dying, he argued, under (among other things) a “shameless propaganda tidal wave of the mainstream media” and “vindictive persecution” by government agents. Yet some people then laughed and accused Anton of gross exaggeration. Anton said that any of the other Republican candidates would have promoted more of the same (as Marco Rubio is now doing). They could not understand why voting for Trump was decent in the circumstances, or why a man with Trump’s virtues was necessary for the time.
Do the corruption in the FISA warrant and the egregious propaganda campaign meant to cover it up change their opinion? Have any of them stopped to consider that things are, in fact, as bad as Anton said they were, maybe worse? I am cynical, so I was prone to agree with him from the start, but even I did not understand just how bad things really are.
The Political Shift
These are not merely rhetorical questions meant to torment NeverTrumpers. The simple truth is we are in the midst of a great political realignment, and we should take every opportunity to bolster the side of sanity. The humility and questioning that might come along with such obvious revelations might provide such an opportunity.
Part of that realignment requires a certain deprogramming of America when it comes to how we thought things were. Like a man casting off a caste that was holding him back, we have to break free from false perceptions of how things are and of what we think we know. Events, in this case, should be helping with this.
As we break free of our chains, we have then to flex some unused and atrophied muscles. We have to begin to rethink how we see ourselves and what is required of us. This might be a return to some kind of “conservatism” or it might be a turn toward Americanism. We should think about that. And we might even have to think about what virtue is again, especially in the political sphere.
Changing What We Think
If we are ever to get to the point where we are ready to make the necessary changes to our thinking, three specific habits of thinking will have to be developed.
First, Trump deserves support despite his flaws. Not unqualified support or blind adoration, but support nonetheless. Trump may not be the most moral man, but he has certain virtues that the country desperately needs right now. Courage, energy, and boldness are of great value in a fight like ours. After all, soldiers are not taught to be nice; they are taught to be mean. They are usually coarse in language and deed, but they can be noble at the same time. Trump might be like that. But men like that still need some cheering on. Given the weight on his shoulders, this should not be overlooked.
Second, let’s remember “politics . . . is a team sport.” The world of politics is different from the world of force by the presence of agreement, but agreement requires multiple people. Still, people will always disagree in part. Political unity does not come from perfect agreement, but from agreement about the fundamental things and a certain amount of comradery or goodwill toward each other despite disagreement.
In this, politics is not unlike what you would find on a sports team. This isn’t “tribalism,” but a mere acknowledgment of reality. As even Trump-hater George Will once understood, in politics we have labels and parties to “organize our animosities.” Playing as a team against the things we don’t like, such as Hillary Clinton and the rule of administrators, helps us defeat the really bad political choices. The other side clearly understands this, as the concerted media campaign and coordinated government resistance demonstrate. We must take sides in arguments to convince people and win elections.
Calling balls and strikes from the sideline like some sort of detached umpire is the opposite of being on a team. The second-guesser sitting on the bench or the Monday morning quarterback might think of himself as a member of the team, but sniping at one’s teammates over trivial things does not build the bonds of affection that lead to trust and cohesion.
Finally, we must remember the difference between policy and principle. Politics requires agreement on principle, but allows for disagreement on policy.
Michael Anton addressed this in a recent lecture at Hillsdale College’s Kirby Center. He points out that we must re-examine the things that we call principles of government. Much of what we think of as “principles” are nothing more than policy prescriptions. Understanding that policies are not principles opens the door for republican self-government because it changes the basis of our arguments from ideological to practical. Disagreement becomes more probable but also more palatable. Then we need to have “honest debates among ourselves about how to apply principles to policy.” These policy debates undoubtedly will get heated, but we must have them either way and agree to move forward together. Present circumstances, in our republic that was and might still be, demand this.
As Lincoln said,
We can succeed only by concert. It is not “can any of us imagine better?” but, “can we all do better?” The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise—with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.
The lies and corruption surrounding the Carter Page FISA warrant reveal that our country needs saving. I wonder if, in seeing it so upfront, more of us might agree and the team committed to saving our republic might grow and work more together.
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