Yesterday, a friend sent me an article from that day's National Review, the conservative publication started by William F. Buckley, and asked me to read it. He's not conservative himself, but there was something in it that didn't make sense to him, and he had a question.
No, I said. I had no intention of reading an article in the National Review. Just because he had driven himself loopy didn't mean I had to. I said I would read a page or two, but that was my limit. Alas, I only got about a page-and-a-half in. It was awful, made wrong assumptions, and was factually inccorrect. All in a page-and-a-half.
The article, "What did Comey tell President Trump about the Steele Dossier?" was intended to be a detailed dissection of former National Security Adviser Susan Rice's emails to herself at the end of the Obama Administration and an explosive expose of what truth they supposedly uncovered.
I first cringed about three paragraphs in. That's when the author had just noted that Rice's email to herself was written a full 16 days after the meeting it was intended to make an account of, and from that length of time he concluded, "An email written on January 21 to record decisions made on January 5 is not written to memorialize what was decided. It is written to revise the memory of what was decided in order to rationalize what was then done."
Well, gee, that's a pretty darn-emphatic absolutely certainty for something that's not only a presumption, but also isn't true. Without breaking a sweat, it's easy to figure out other actual reasons someone might take two weeks to write such a note. For starters, a person could have initially decided that there was no need to write a "contemporaneous" memo to oneself, but two weeks later saw that conditions had changed and so it was best to do so then. Or someone said, "Did you ever take notes of that meeting?" And when answering, no, was suggested it might be a good idea to have a record of them. Now, mind you, neither of those may or may not be want happened, but it doesn't take a PhD in human nature to figure out that either are very real possibilities. Among many others. And perhaps even far-more likely than "lying to change the record." I might even offer some pop psychology that one who "lying to change the record" is the sole explanation is is someone who would do so himself.
So, that was the first yellow caution light three paragraphs in. And then I stopped a page later. Didn't even make it to my two-page goal. The stopping point came when the author was setting up what events were going on around that January 5 meeting -- and then began his "Aha, gotcha!" portion of the hypothetical-expose by casting an eye around wider to notice all the other things that were taking place at the same time. He wrote --
"What else was happening? The Justice Department and FBI had gone to the FISA court on October 21, 2016, for a warrant to spy on former Trump-campaign adviser Carter Page. That warrant relied largely on the Steele dossier..."
And that's when I stopped and walked away. First of all, let's be clear about something: October 21 is not "what else was happening." It's a full 2-1/2 months earlier. Four holidays passed between those days -- Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. (And you can throw in Groundhog's Day for fun.) AND there was a national election in between, as well. "What else was happening?" Seriously, dude??? There's nothing even remotely contemporaneous about that. It's attempting to draw close connections that don't exist. But I digress, because that's not even the "bad" part. The bad part is his pointed statement that the FISA warrant relied largely on the Steele Dossier.
It didn't. We factually know it didn't. And we factually know it didn't because the Devin Nunes memo actually explained that it didn't. That memo, written by as biased a Republican for Trump in the House as there may be, to levels that might be literally criminal, and approved by Trump himself, explained in detail how the FISA warrant was obtained, and the Steele Dossier wasn't even among the top reasons. At best, the parts of the dossier that had already been corroborated were used to support all the other information that had already been gathered which were the basis of the warrant.
So, at that point in the article, one of its foundational points was untrue. Which makes any conclusions meaningless. And that didn't even take into consideration all the other things already wrong in it.
But still, I called my friend to find out what was concerning him about the article.
"What I don't understand," he said, "is that the National Review is True Conservative, and True Conservatives have no great love of Donald Trump, so what in the world is the point of this article? What are they going to great lengths trying to prove? What is the point here? It doesn't make sense to me."
I thought a moment and answered --
Two things. First, there IS NO POINT to it. Don't try to find out what its "point" is. You ill drive yourself crazy trying to find a point. Stop! This is not a strands of evidence carefully tied together to prove a thoughtfully-drawn conclusion. It's an idiotic collection of random charges based on faulty presumptions. There is no point they're trying to prove.
And second, if I had to dive in deep and try to divine some buried reason why this article was written, it's this: the article isn't about trying to support Trump. Indeed, True Conservatives don't like Trump at all. But far more than not liking Trump, they absolutely, gutterly hate Barack Obama with a white-hot passion. They hated Barack Obama for eight years, and they still hate him with a fury that gnaws away at their soul. And if Trump goes down in flames it makes Barack Obama look all the better. So, the article is their True Conservative attempt to do whatever they can to still try somehow to tarnish Barack Obama and try to throw mud at him in any way they possibly can. Even if they have to twist reality and facts to make up their false case.
Ah, okay, my friend said. It then made sense to him. And he could rest more easily.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
Feedspot Badge of Honor