Strangely, after mistrusting and criticizing — once suing — the FBI for much of my adult life, I find myself in support of the organization’s current presidential investigation. I feel somewhat the same about the CIA, which concurs that Russia supported Trump’s election.
See what Donald Trump does to you?
Oddly enough — though what is odd anymore? — the reverse thing is happening to most conservatives, especially congressional Republicans, once worshippers of the FBI. (There used to be some moderates among them.)
These days, again thanks to Trump, one has to search far and wide for a consistent, balanced, fair minded GOP congressman or senator. That might be a slight exaggeration; it’s just that every time I see one standing up, he or she disappoints by backing down on the very next issue. (John McCain, Susan Collins, Bob Corker, etc.)
The FBI under J. Edgar Hoover and immediately after was a right-wing institution given to illegal searches and surveillance, often for political purposes. This was true from before the rise of Joe McCarthy through the civil rights era, when the Bureau sided with southern segregationists, notoriously bugging Martin Luther King’s bedrooms and peddling the transcripts to the media. Hoover also had recordings from John F. Kennedy’s bedrooms, which he threatened to make public if Attorney General Robert Kennedy ever tried to fire him.
Similarly, the CIA notoriously was involved not just in illegal domestic spying but international sabotage and involvement in political assassinations while mucking about in the elections and politics of numerous countries — especially in South America.
Those are not just this leftist’s wild fantasies. Most of its illicit activities were exposed by Senator Frank Church in his 1975 in congressional hearings.
I am no reflexive defender of institutions, but the point is that Donald Trump, who has been called a “deinstitutionalist,” has been working overtime along with right-wing media and much of of the Congress to destroy confidence in these organizations and the Department of Justice (to say nothing of Congress itself), identifying them as the “deep state” or “secret society” out to destroy him.
He already has done a fine job of demolishing confidence in the mainstream media — another institution necessary to our democracy, which, though imperfect, generally do a fair and honest job.
Why? Obviously because he is under investigation for collusion and conspiracy with Russia to defeat Hillary Clinton, for probable obstruction of justice and for money laundering.
He calls this “fighting back,” but it’s clear he is trying to save his and his family’s rear ends. The problem is, once his fate has been determined, the institutional damage is likely to remain.
Widespread mistrust of federal law enforcement and the intelligence community, though not without historical cause, are ingredients that exacerbate America’s great divide. Already we have seen people willing to take up arms against the government and get away with it in the two armed standoffs over publicly-owned cattle-grazing land. Can other insurrections be far off?
Even the clearly crooked Richard Nixon ultimately respected basic American institutions and resigned instead of continually trying to undermine them. That says a lot about his current successor.
Political consultant Don Rose writes for the Chicago Daily Observer, where this was posted.
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