The Red Line
It was not a good day for justice.
Deputy Director of the FBI Andrew McCabe, longtime career agent with an impeccable record of service to this country, announced his official retirement, after months of attacks and pressure from the White House.
Republicans voted to release their party's staff-written Intelligence Committee memo attacking the FBI, despite the Justice Department calling such an action, "irresponsibly reckless" for putting classified sources at risk.
Republicans voted to not allow the release a memo from Democratic members of the same Intelligence Committee which referenced material that put charges in perspective.
House Republicans opened an investigation of the FBI and Justice Department.
And Trump announced that he will not be enacting sanctions against Russia that had passed the Senate by a vote of 98-2. And passed the House 419-3. And was signed by the president -- making the sanctions A Law.
How dismal a day was it? That last issue, Trump refusing to enact a near-unanimous law to punish the nation's enemy for imposing itself on our election process, barely made the news, and you only could find it online if you paid close attention because the other stories of the day were so much bigger than even that.
Last night, I was talking with a friend who said, "You know how Republicans are going to spin McCabe resigning? They're going to say that..."
And I cut him off, explaining that I was now at the point where I didn't care what Republicans "were going to say." Because we all know what the Republicans are going to say. They've been saying "it" or some variation for the past year, ignoring reality, dismissing the concept of justice and forgoing the protection of the country against outside and inside attack, all for the sake of being complicit in protecting Donald J. Trump from investigation in the Russia probe.
How ironic that the "line" Trump himself said mustn't be crossed was a "Red" line. One can only imagine how deeply Red it is.
Republicans have shown themselves willing to accept an outpouring of daily lies from the White House and its spokesmen (2,000 from Trump alone, the Washington Post has counted in the past year), while making unrelenting efforts to tear down the FBI and intelligence services which serve to protect the country from attack by our enemies, and shredding the Constitution from abuses of power and obstruction of justice. All just to protect their dwindling racist and white supremacist base.
I wish I could say this is hyperbole. But it's not. The attacks are persistent. The firing of FBI Director James Comey, reassignment of FBI General Counsel James Baker, forced resignation of FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, dismissal and continued attacks against FBI agents Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, Trump ordering the firing of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Republican charges of a "secret society" of dark state FBI agents (which turned out to be just a party related to a gag calendar), House Republicans releasing a private memo to discredit the FBI, pressure on Assistant Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to quit, Trump demanding loyalty from the independent Comey, asking FBI Deputy Director McCabe who he voted for, furious his Attorney General overseeing the independent Justice Department wasn't protecting him, calling the Justice Department "his," House Republicans starting an investigation of the FBI and Justice Department...and on and on and on, to the extent that I don't have it in me to keep adding more to the list.
It is not hyperbole. I can only wish it was hyperbole.
Consider the words yesterday by Walter Shaub, who had been the Director of the Office of Government Ethics in the Trump administration before not being able to take it any longer and resigning --
"So, they're moving from assault on the rule of law to all out war on the rule of law."
It is indeed an all out war on the rule of law. And it is not just Trump flailing away to protect himself from investigation, but being given full protection and support by elected officials of the Republican Party.
I have reached the point of having now no expectation of any actions from the Republican Party -- most especially the House -- in acting to preserve justice and protect the interests of the United States against the nation's Russian enemy. I have no expectation that Republicans in the Senate will act on behalf of justice either, though I hold out the possibility that the smallest handful might do so and act in concert with Democrats to occasionally create a majority. But that's as far as I go. The Republican Party has disgraced itself and removed all credibility, making it instead a front-organization for pure self-interest. Even when those self-interests are approving grossly-incompetent and inexperienced appointees, white supremacists and undermining the State Department. Public service to country is not part of the Republican platform.
And again, this is not hyperbole. And again, I pass along the words yesterday of former Director of the Office of Government Ethics, Walter Shaub.
"Today was a big day for some people who put party over country. It was one of the darker days of the past 40 years for democracy."
This disgrace and removal of credibility is a black mark for its base, as well. And that racist base starts foundationally with an evangelical center which now gives "mulligans" to a leader who has been recorded on video admitting to sexual abuse, been separately accused of sexual abuse by 19 women, had an affair with a porn star while his third wife was pregnant, and paid $130,000 in hush money -- all the while that "family values" core of faux-morality additionally supported a Senate candidate accused by nine women of child molestation.
And from that disgraced, hypocritical core, the Republican base branches out to its racist white supremacists, neo-Nazis and Klan members made up of some "very fine people" in the words of the president -- all without full outrage and total condemnation by his protecting minions in the party.
The Republican Party, as a party, has no credibility any longer. It's gone, they have torn it up and thrown it away. What they say, as a party, has no meaning. What they "say" about Andrew McCabe is empty white noise. About most-anything. The presumption of truth by the Republican Party has been abused too often and is gone. Any trust of the GOP must not only be earned back, but earned with standards profoundly higher than the norm because they've dug a pit too deep. And for the party, it will take many years to earn once again.
This isn't to say that there aren't honorable, honest, decent, well-meaning Republicans. There are. But to remain in their party they too now have hurdles they must face. Because by remaining in their party, they have given aid and comfort to racism, hatred, misogyny, injustice and the cold protection of lies. By remaining in their party, no matter their best instincts, they are tarnished the same way a chimney sweep has to brush off the muck every time he leaves his place of business and enters the world.
Several months ago, I wrote that this is no longer about Trump. That it is now about the Republican Party which is enabling him. That not only holds today, but is more deeply true than before. They are complicit in actions against the United States.
And I wish this were not hyperbole.
Those who sit in the Republican Party defending its actions and those of Trump are so far on the wrong side of history that they can no longer see the line they crossed long ago.
There is hope, and happily there is redemption. But my best guess is that the first significant step will come in the mid-term elections.
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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