Never-Trump Right Gets Us to the Hub of the Matter

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If I may dabble, for a moment, in national politics, I’d like to express my relief that, maybe, we’re getting to the core of the Trump-Russia divide among Americans, generally, and conservatives, specifically.  National Review’s David French provides the helpful phrasing:

… there now exists evidence that senior members of the Trump campaign tried unsuccessfully to facilitate Russian government efforts to defeat Hillary Clinton.

I’ll say, at the outset, that I agree with French’s conclusion that the “Russian investigation” is “a national necessity,” but those touting these latest findings seem to be implying that there’s a bigger “and so” to what we know so far, and in that regard, I don’t agree with French that “No American — Democrat or Republican — should defend the expressed intent of this meeting.”

To see why, observe how French phrases the sentence I blockquote above:  Does he really think that the Trump campaign’s motivation was to help Russia, in contrast to helping their own campaign (which, we still have to presume, they thought was for the good of country — of their own country)?  Honestly and truly, as an objective matter, I’ll insist that those are two different things.

Otherwise, what’s the meaning, here? That the Trump campaign was morally obliged not to take information that might illustrate the sleazy, compromising, and perhaps illegal dealings of his competitor? That they were supposed to give Hillary Clinton, who they presumably thought would be harmful to the country as president, the unfair advantage of keeping quiet her transgressions because the information might come from a compromised source, despite the collusion of our self-proclaimed objective news media to minimize and brush aside information harmful to its favored candidates?

This is the trick of the news media’s drum-pounding about “collusion.”  What if there really had been useful information available for that meeting, but what if Russia had put it out through American news media and then the Trump campaign had run with it?  Would that get us to a just-fine, non-collusion place?

My honest, non-Trumpist opinion is that the additional separation doesn’t make a moral difference, just as having a lower-level, plausible-deniability staffer vet the potential information transfer wouldn’t have made a moral difference, and that there is nothing morally culpable in taking the meeting per se.  Taking information that you think is good for your campaign and, therefore, good for your country does not count as treason (even in a figurative, moral sense) just because a hostile foreign power thinks it will benefit, too.

Show me President Trump selling out his own country to benefit Russia or himself (personally) through some deal with Russia, and you’ve got something.  Running with false information from a foreign power would be bad, too, and the Trump campaign’s horrid use of National Enquirer conspiracy theories against, for example, Ted Cruz proved that the candidate wasn’t above doing that sort of thing.  But that’s not what we have, here… at least not yet.

An expectation that the Trump campaign would have gone to such lengths may be an unspoken component in the Never Trumpers’ reaction to the latest revelation.  Therefore we come right back to the “and so.”  Is the “and so” that we continue to support an investigation?  In that case, fine, but the argument is only useful in opposition to somebody suggesting that the investigation should be closed.

Or are we supposed to hobble the president’s agenda because his campaign was (surprise, surprise) impure?  In that case, sorry, but I still have to insist that you’ve got nothing.



  • Mike678

    Good analysis. If we were to have a re-run of the “The Crucible,” I’d say Nancy Pelosi and Liz Warren have earned the roles of Abigail Williams and Betty Parris. Chuck Schumer could easily play Thomas Danforth.

  • Rhett Hardwick

    Most Trump voters that I know are taking the attitude that “We hired you to drain the swamp, we understand the swamp is full of critters”. They wonder “where’s the beef”. Some question why it is not countered by an investigation of the millions, and millions, the Russians are believed to have donated to the Clinton Foundation.

    Project Veritas has produced another video where a CNN producer admits “The Russia story is B.S., but it gets us ratings”.

    I don’t think his base is being shaken, If so, it more because he isn’t moving ahead.

  • Mario

    Otherwise, what’s the meaning, here? That the Trump campaign was morally
    obliged not to take information that might illustrate the sleazy,
    compromising, and perhaps illegal dealings of his competitor? That they
    were supposed to give Hillary Clinton, who they presumably thought would
    be harmful to the country as president, the unfair advantage of keeping
    quiet her transgressions because the information might come from a
    compromised source[?]

    Yes (is this really so tough?). Putting aside the assertion that conspiring with a foreign power to undermine elections might be a good thing, you still don’t do it because it opens you up to blackmail later. Whether or not the motivation was to help Russia is silly (everyone is always out to help themselves first, especially politicians and including, by the way, the Russians), the question is whether the result was to bolster Russia, and how far the Trump campaign was willing to sell out the US to them for his personal aggrandizement.

    None of this is difficult, and if this were Ted Kennedy (which is once was) you’d see that. But Trump, as usual, gets a pass.

    • Rhett Hardwick

      In case anyone fails to get the Ted Kennedy reference:http://www.newsmax.com/Reagan/ted-kennedy-russia-kgb-ronald-reagan/2017/06/16/id/796526/

      “how far the Trump campaign was willing to sell out the US to them for his personal aggrandizement.” So far, I haven’t heard any allegation of a “sell out”. There is no Zimmerman Note.

    • Mike678

      I agree with much of what you say, except for the last part. What leads you to believe that Jr. was ready to do anything more than to agree to the meeting for the promised information? I understand that Clinton’s pay to play corruption has raised our cynicism levels, but again, what facts support your ‘question’?

    • Justin Katz

      Mario,

      Thanks for the comment. I see two necessary responses:

      First, I’m not sure how your definition of “undermining elections” could fail to fault Trump simply for working to win his campaign if that was what the Russians’ favored outcome. As Rhett’s link shows, Kennedy’s activity was quite different, including active cooperation that explicitly sought to promote Soviets. Taking information from Russia does not inherently “bolster Russia,” unless it is the election of Donald Trump that “bolsters Russia.”

      Second, you skip one of my key questions. What would it mean for Trump to not get a pass? The meeting was dumb. The president’s character is objectionable. All of this I’ll cede. All of this was known before the vote, and America still gave him the victory over the other option. And so… what then?

      • Mario

        I like to combine my answer to your first question with a response to Mike above, because it’s the same. You don’t take information from Russia for the same reason that you don’t take a loan from the mob. No responsible adviser would let you take the meeting. Even if all you care about is yourself, you are making a huge long-term error because Russia knows where you got the information. And seeing as how it is reasonable to think that people would be upset at learning what you did to win (assuming you aren’t a celebrity, maybe) you’ll be induced to giving favors to the Russians later to keep them from revealing their involvement. Taking the meeting makes the Russians stronger even if no information is traded, because you’d expect the Trump campaign to want to hide that the meeting took place, which is exactly what they’ve been doing.

        Now I don’t know how the information about the meeting is being released (I assume it’s either Flynn or Manafort looking for protection from prosecution), but you have to see all of the lies and evasion as evidence that the Trump team was completely open to being blackmailed just from what we know happened, which may not yet be everything.

        I don’t know what ‘no pass’ would look like, I just want some evidence that people won’t immediately jump to excuse whatever they see. We went from “no dealings with the Russians” to “I forgot meeting him” to “secret meetings, but only about adoptions,” to “oh, yeah, opposition research, too.” I want the people that took the “no dealings at all” position at face value (despite ample evidence that the Trump people were lying) to recognize that they are now defending exactly the same secret campaign meetings that they would have agreed were awful back when they were sure they didn’t happen. I don’t remember people saying “I believe him when he says he’s not working with the Russians, which is really a shame because he should have been.”

        • Mike678

          Interesting. You assume a quid pro quo and then run with it–with no evidence but your own suspicion (and perhaps, ample examples by corrupt RI officials). You even use a faulty analogy to ‘support’ your position. Yet you want “some evidence that people won’t immediately jump to excuse whatever they see.” Where is your evidence? Press reports exaggerated and sensationalized for public consumption? Where is the quid pro quo? What did this lawyer get? We agree it was a stupid meeting–but does that make it criminal? Is calling it stupid giving it a pass? Are all Russian citizen’s Putin puppets? If so, why did Lynch bring her into the country?

  • Rhett Hardwick

    I have to wonder how much of this is a “Red Scare”. Suppose the non-existent information showing illegality by Clinton was offered by Britain, Taiwan? Since there is no meat here, there seems to only be a constant drumbeat of Russia! Russia!

  • BasicCaruso

    “Otherwise, what’s the meaning, here? That the Trump campaign was morally obliged not to take information that might illustrate the sleazy, compromising, and perhaps illegal dealings of his competitor?”

    Quite the mental gymnastics not to see the problem with accepting favors from foreign governments in secret meetings. I’m not alone in pointing that out. Here’s one conservatives take…

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/right-turn/wp/2017/07/14/the-gops-moral-rot-is-the-problem-not-donald-trump-jr
    Let’s dispense with the “Democrats are just as bad” defense. First, I don’t much care; we collectively face a party in charge of virtually the entire federal government and the vast majority of statehouses and governorships. It’s that party’s inner moral rot that must concern us for now. Second, it’s simply not true, and saying so reveals the origin of the problem — a “woe is me” sense of victimhood that grossly exaggerates the opposition’s ills and in turn justifies its own egregious political judgments and rhetoric. If the GOP had not become unhinged about the Clintons, would it have rationalized Trump as the lesser of two evils? Only in the crazed bubble of right-wing hysteria does an ethically challenged, moderate Democrat become a threat to Western civilization and Trump the salvation of America.

    • Rhett Hardwick

      Inside ” the crazed bubble of right-wing hysteria”,we did not see Clinton as simply “ethically challenged”, nor “moderate”.

      Much in the exchange of secrets is done in secret. For instance at the Congress of Vienna, Metternich was sleeping with (and presumable influencing) the wives of France and Prussia’s representatives. This is known, but history keeps the secret.

      • BasicCaruso

        I’m not a Clinton supporter myself and think “ethically challenged” is fairly accurate.

        As for her politics, I wouldn’t describe her as “moderate”. “Center right” would be more accurate, although I realize framing trumps facts on this one. As usual a picture is worth a thousand words…
        https://www.politicalcompass.org/uselection2016

        • Mario

          No, Clinton is solidly on the left. Not far left, but in no way center-right. Political compass always puts anyone who doesn’t espouse an outright radical agenda in the upper right and, frankly, there’s no way there’s that much space between the positions of Sanders and Hillary. This is a style map more than any reasonable illustration of policy differences. Plus, this sort of analysis, even when honest, puts more stake on espoused positions over reasonable estimations of intent, like believing Obama when he said he was opposed to gay marriage.

          • BasicCaruso

            See FAQ… and I don’t know of anyone on the actual left who views Clinton as anything but right of center.

            https://www.politicalcompass.org/faq#faq21
            You’ve got liberals on the right. Don’t you know they’re left?
            This response is exclusively American. Elsewhere neo-liberalism is understood in standard political science terminology — deriving from mid 19th Century Manchester Liberalism, which campaigned for free trade on behalf of the capitalist classes of manufacturers and industrialists. In other words, laissez-faire or economic libertarianism.

            In the United States, “liberals” are understood to believe in leftish economic programmes such as welfare and publicly funded medical care, while also holding liberal social views on matters such as law and order, peace, sexuality, women’s rights etc. The two don’t necessarily go together.

            Our Compass rightly separates them. Otherwise, how would you label someone like the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan who, on the one hand, pleased the left by supporting strong economic safety nets for the underprivileged, but angered social liberals with his support for the Vietnam War, the Cold War and other key conservative causes?

          • Mario

            How can anyone on the “actual left” say that Clinton is right-of-center when they have such a poor understanding of the center? Right of you isn’t right of center. She is pretty far to the left of me, and I’m am no more than mildly right. And that’s just economically; socially, there’s simply no way she is anything more authoritarian than where I am, and the compass puts me south of the line.

            The Political Compass is propaganda aimed at establishing a fake neutral measure to sway public opinion.

          • BasicCaruso

            If Clinton is “the left” that leaves no room for the actual left. Much of Europe falls into that category and you can see that on the Political Compass diagrams of say the German or Irish political parties.

            Only in the U.S. could the premise that Clinton is some type of arch leftist be met with anything other than derisive laughter. I suspect that folks here just don’t realize that neoliberals such as Clinton are generally reviled by the left. In many ways, a Trump presidency is preferable. Here’s an illustrative example…

            https://www.counterpunch.org/2016/07/29/long-live-the-queen-of-chaos/
            The system that Mrs. Clinton and Donald Trump— past friends who attend each other’s public functions and private affairs and whose children thrive together in the closed lootocracy of officialdom, are vying against one another to ‘lead’ a spoils system where ‘leadership’ means the ability to arrange profitable outcomes for private interests through ‘public’ means. Neoliberal militarism is private profits created through public death, destruction and misery. The profits explain why Hillary Clinton is never held to account for deadly sanctions, gratuitous wars that turn into geopolitical catastrophes, social policies that turned the poorest 40% of the country into a beggar class and racist strategies like mass incarceration to divide the working class. Given her actual record, Black support for Mrs. Clinton is akin to choosing between AIDS and cancer.

          • Mario

            This is exactly why they established a fake, meaningless center to compare against. They know people, maybe especially on the left, have an atrocious sense of scale, where the differences between the 2nd & 3rd international are deep, meaningful questions and wars rage over archaic second-wave feminism vs. intersectionality, but whether a country develops something closer to universal healthcare vs. maintaining a private system are just quibbles among the far right. Your ideas about the policy differences among the “actual left” are way out of proportion with reality. I’d recommend Homage to Catalonia.

            I suspect that folks here just don’t realize that neoliberals such as Clinton are generally reviled by the left. In many ways, a Trump presidency is preferable.

            I believe they know exactly that. That’s why they keep winning while the left stays home and makes new protest signs.

            I’ll answer this one here, for cleanliness:

            Not sure I understand you. You think the government should be more involved in your personal life than does Clinton? That can’t be true.
            That’s kind of the point, left and right don’t do it justice.

            If the government’s role were the only measure of social permissiveness, sure, but that would make you pretty authoritarian too. But there’s also the role of the culture as a whole, where I suspect she would be much more laissez faire than I would be. I don’t want the government involved, but I’ll still judge you for your silly ideas.

          • BasicCaruso

            Not sure I understand you. You think the government should be more involved in your personal life than does Clinton? That can’t be true. That’s kind of the point, left and right don’t do it justice.

            Check out the “Horseshoe Theory”…

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horseshoe_theory
            The horseshoe theory in political science asserts that the far left and the far right, rather than being at opposite and opposing ends of a linear political continuum, in fact closely resemble one another, much like the ends of a horseshoe.

        • Rhett Hardwick

          Fairly meaningless without a statement of methodology and who was surveyed. Democrats love to refer to Trump as “Fascist”, what surprise they would vote him as “authoritarian”.

          • BasicCaruso

            The Political Compass is not a survey. The exact methodology is proprietary, but it’s a determination based on policy positions during the campaign and on politicians’ voting records where they exist. Notably Trump ranked only slightly more authoritarian than Bush (Jeb) and Cruz.

            “Please note that the positions on the chart are based on speeches, manifestos and, where applicable, voting records. If positions markedly change during the campaign, we will revise the chart accordingly. Already the positions of Trump and Clinton differ slightly from the primaries chart.”

            You can take the test and see how accurate you think it is for yourself. Quite fun, actually.
            https://www.politicalcompass.org/test

          • Mike678

            Russ likes it because it fits with his bias–see “confirmation bias.” We all do it to some extent, but Russ often takes it to an extreme.

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