I was thinking about part of what I said last week about The Memo. I ended with talking about two competing Stories of What Happened. The thing is, I don't know that I put it strongly enough. The story I believe happened goes perhaps something like this:
Vladimir Putin and his associates attempted to interfere in the US election, preferring that Donald Trump become President of the United States rather than Hillary Clinton. To that end, they at least illegally spied on government officials, former government officials and private citizens, and stole information from the political parties. In addition, Putin and his associates carried out a propaganda and misinformation campaign with the intent of sowing dissent and undermining faith in American institutions and leaders. Also, Putin and his associates suborned or attempted to suborn Donald Trump and some of his associates, through blandishments and blackmail. Donald Trump and/or his associates were aware of some portions of this, and remained silent about this outrageous and illegal assault—or actively abetted it. Some of those associates have already admitted to lying to law enforcement and others may have otherwise obstructed the investigation into the perfidious plot.
I want to make it clear: if this is true, it is utterly outrageous. I mean, look at that—I am actually accusing associates of the President of the United States of working with a foreign government in illegal espionage. That's a big fucking deal.
Now, I'm going to let Sean Hannity give the other story:
Now, tonight, we have irrefutable proof of a coordinated conspiracy to abuse power by weaponizing and politicizing the powerful tools of intelligence by top-ranking Obama officials against the Trump campaign, against the Constitution, and against your Fourth Amendment rights. They have been deeply shredded by deep state, unelected bureaucrats all in an attempt to influence an election and then undermine a duly elected president, that being President Trump.[…] It proves that the entire basis for the Russia investigation was based on lies that were bought and paid for by Hillary Clinton and her campaign. The Mueller investigation does need to be shut down and the people responsible, who we will name tonight, many need to go to jail.
Perhaps that's unfair, since I'm quoting from the transcript of the intro to his show, not from some sort of written summary. So I'll try:
Hillary Clinton and her associates attempted to interfere in the US election, by hiring a third-party company to put together a dossier that baselessly claimed that, well, all of the stuff in that paragraph. Then high-ranking officers within the FBI and Department of Justice used the dossier to initiate surveillance of her opponent's associates, misleading the FISA court about its provenance. Those officers or other associates of Hillary Clinton leaked sensitive information about her opponent's associates, including falsely accusing them of criminal behavior. When they failed to get the election outcome they preferred, they actively undermined and traduced the duly-elected President and his appointed advisors and are still doing so.
I want to make it clear: if this is true, it is utterly outrageous. I mean, look at that—they are actually accusing high-ranking federal law-enforcement officials of using the national security apparatus to attempt to sway the Presidential election and destroy the careers of the duly-elected President's associates. That's a big fucking deal.
I believe that those allegations are false, but they are very serious allegations indeed. When those serious allegations are being made by people who are—not Sean Hannity, I mean, obviously, but when those kinds of allegations are being made by Congressmen and Senators and by the President himself, they need to be taken seriously. We can't just look at those two stories and shrug and say who knows and carry on with our experiment with participatory self-governance. We need to finish this, eventually, with the real evidence of who did what becoming public. And, I'm afraid, we need as a nation and as a culture to find a way to come to a consensus about that evidence. We need to agree about the facts of what happened.
I mean, I say need. Obviously, that's for values of need that I can't easily determine. Did we need to agree about the assassination of John F. Kennedy? Did we need to agree about whether Richard Nixon was a crook? Did we need to agree about the Tet offensive, or about Alger Hiss, or about the Rosenbergs? Whether we needed to or not, we did not agree about the facts underlying those things, and we still exist as a nation and as a culture. I think it has been terrible for us to have such basic factual disagreement about our history (interpretive disagreement, on the other hand, is always good for us) but we have survived anyway, haven't we? And as hard as it is to imagine, it's fairly likely that in ten years, a third of the country will still believe the first story I tell up there and a third will still believe the second.
Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,