If you have HBO I encourage you to carve out some time to watch their latest documentary on the life and times of former Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee. The most important take away from the film is how different the so-called Russian collusion scandal is from Watergate, which brought down Richard Nixon. Yet, in watching this documentary you can easily grasp the desperate fantasy of the Trump-haters who are hoping for a repeat of a President being humiliated and forced from office.
The other major event in Ben Bradlee's life that provides more insight into the current Trump Derangement Syndrome that has seized most of the media is the Janet Cooke scandal. Cooke, an African-American woman hired by Bradley, became infamous for fabricating a story about an 8 year old inner city heroin addict. Her editors included Bob Woodward and Ben Bradlee. Their desire for the story to be true blinded them to the bald lies of Cooke. She won a Pulitzer for her story, but it fell on Bradlee to inform the Pulizer committee that the award could not be accepted. This was a major stain on his legacy.
That sure sounds a lot like the current state of the media. We have witnessed this type of hysteria ourselves in just the last two days. First there was the Brian Ross debacle, which entailed Ross peddling the lie that Trump ordered Flynn to contact the Russians. That "fake news" elicited an emotional orgasm from Joy Behar on The View. She was on the verge of writhing on the floor as she prematurely celebrated what she thought would seal the impeachment of Donald Trump. Whoops. Ross had to retract that story.
Second, there was today's claim that the ironically named "Independent Counsel" Robert Mueller had subpoenaed Deutsche Bank demanding Trump's Bank records. That report struck me as quite odd because this was old, recycled news. Remember this from last July? (Here's the link, dated 20 July 2017):
Deutsche Bank, which had loaned him hundreds of millions of dollars when no one else would, even after he sued the firm. Now, investigators probing the ties between the Trump campaign and Russia are wondering why—and they’re beginning to take a closer look at the president’s accounts with his favorite bank, which also happens to have strong ties to Russia itself.
The New York Times reports that banking regulators are currently “reviewing hundreds of millions of dollars in loans made to Mr. Trump’s businesses through Deutsche Bank’s private wealth management unit . . . to [see] if the loans might expose the bank to heightened risk.” Meanwhile, the Guardianreports that executives at Deutsche are “expecting that the bank will soon be receiving subpoenas or other requests for information from Robert Mueller,” and that the special counsel’s investigative team and the bank have “already established informal contact in connection to the federal investigation.”
What the hell? Why was the media today cheering and acting like this was some new revelation. Then things took another weird turn. The White House and Trump lawyers flatly denied the story:
“We confirmed that the news reports [that] the special counsel had subpoenaed financial records related to the president are completely false,” Sanders said during the daily press briefing.
“No subpoena has been issued or received. We have confirmed this with the bank and other sources. I think this is another example of the media going too far and too fast and we don't see it going in that direction," she said.
Now please compare and contrast today's events with those from the Watergate era. Back then Richard Nixon accused the press of lying and making up facts, but it turned out that the press largely had the story right. It was Nixon who was lying.
Trump is derided regularly as a liar and mocked for his attacks on the press but, so far, it is the press that has been pushing prevarications. Trump, by contrast, is not experiencing the humiliation of Richard Nixon, who insisted he had no knowledge of the Watergate break in. Nope. Trump strongly insists that neither he nor his campaign colluded with Russian and the evidence revealed to date backs him up.
Watergate and "Russiagate" do share a common trope. During Watergate the Washington Post was mostly a lone voice covering the story. Washington Post publisher at the time, Kate Graham, reportedly remarked that she was worried that none of the other papers were covering the story. And it was an important story. It exposed political corruption and abuse of power and a threat to our democracy.
How is that in common with Russiagate? The real story is that the FBI, the NSA and the CIA effectively conspired to try to destroy the Presidency of Donald Trump. Hardly anyone in the media, mainstream or fringe, are writing about this fact and trying to rally public support for action. What is one to say when confronted with the fact that the FBI paid money to a former British spy for alleged dirt on Donald Trump that was initially commissioned by the Clinton campaign. And who is the FBI Agent paying for the dossier? Why a fellow now revealed as a Clinton partisan.
This piece is intentionally short. I just want to get the discussion rolling. But there is something rotten in Washington and it is not Donald Trump, no matter how boorish he is at times.