Thursday, February 16, 2017

Thinking about Flynn

I'm still thinking about the long-term use of this space and whether political commentary should play such a major role in it. Regular commenter Jerry suggested that one use of the blog should be to explain things clearly:
We know you have clear opinions about what SHOULD be happening. Just contrast news reports with that and let us sort out the inconsistencies. 
So on that note, let's consider the distinctions between the Wikileaks postings of John Podesta's hacked computer vs. the current leaking that brought down Michael Flynn.

  • It is possible that the Russian government, or an affiliated entity, was involved in the hack of Podesta. There is no evidence that anyone from the federal government was involved.
  • It is without question that federal government officials, who prefer to be anonymous, were involved in the Flynn incident.
  • Podesta was not a government official at the time his computer was hacked.
  • Flynn was not a government official yet, but was going to be.
  • We can accurately gauge the validity of the Podesta materials, because they are posted for all to see.
  • We cannot gauge the validity of the Flynn materials, because the information is classified.
The last point is crucial. Andy McCarthy, the former federal prosecutor who now writes for National Review, has a useful suggestion for how we might get at the truth about Michael Flynn's actions:

The Flynn affair is a tale of intrigue, with head-spinning twists and turns, manipulative spies, narrative-weaving pols, and strategists who mostly outsmart themselves. It is easy to get lost in the weeds. There is one easy way to get to the bottom of it, though — one way to get a real sense of whether General Michael Flynn, the now-former national-security adviser, is a lying rogue who deceived every Trump administration official in sight, or the victim of an elaborate “deep state” scam whose real objective is to destroy not merely Flynn but the Trump presidency.

Let’s go to the audio tape: the government’s recording of a December 29, 2016, conversation, intercepted under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), that Flynn had with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States. 
Releasing would solve the mystery. But it's not likely to happen. McCarthy explains why:
For now, the so-called deep state — the intelligence operatives and highly placed officials who run the United States government because they have the power to ruin their opposition — would apparently prefer that we not hear the tape. Many of them are Obama functionaries who are content to shape opinion by leaking their edited version of events to media allies. Some of them are Trump functionaries whose mishandling of what may be a tempest in a teapot has made them vulnerable less than four weeks into the new administration.
So as you consider recent events and their presentation, it's crucial to understand you only know what you are being told. McCarthy also explains the motive:
Flynn, a retired three-star Army general, is not just a long-time intelligence veteran. He was the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). How could he not have realized that, even in the best of times, Russian officials are routinely monitored under FISA — and this, far from the best of times, was a time of high suspicion? It seems inconceivable that Flynn did not consider the likelihood, the virtual certainty, that he was calling a wiretapped line, that his call would be recorded and reviewed by the intelligence community — a community he was part of and has made a business of antagonizing since being fired by Obama in 2014.

Even if the call had been prearranged by text messages (the two men have known each other since Flynn’s DIA days), how could Flynn have gone through with it when Obama’s announcement of punitive measures that very day made it a certainty that Kislyak would mention them? It makes no difference that Flynn had no intention or authority to make a deal with Russia on Trump’s behalf. If Kislyak broached the subject of relief from Obama’s actions — something that Flynn would be powerless to prevent him from doing — it could then be reported, accurately if misleadingly, that they had “discussed the sanctions.”

That was all the Democrats needed.
Indeed. Narratives are everything and Team Trump has lost control of the narrative, just as Team Hillary did when the Podesta materials were decanted at Julian Assange's direction. Trump has myriad ways to seize control of the narrative. He'd better get to it.


W.B. Picklesworth said...

Different actors can seize the narrative and try to manipulate people in the short term. What's of more interest is how their actions contribute to a meta-narrative. It isn't that hard to imagine oneself 20 years from now looking back with incredulity that the deep state thought it was a good idea to come out of hiding and openly flaunt their power against a recently elected president. Their power is at least significantly predicated on operating in the shadows. How well does it work when people begin to see it?

A theme seems to be emerging. Institutions are showing a sense of entitlement that blinds them to how their actions are undercutting their credibility and power. Modesty isn't just for pansies. It's also a fine way to hide your malfeasance from moderates and apolitical types. Why give that up willingly?

All these institutions are making a risky play. It's exciting, really. In the normal run of things citizens can't hope to move Leviathan, much less change it, vote and protest as they might. But Leviathan's cockiness has opened up at least the potential for change.

Bike Bubba said...

The trick is whether the republic will survive the "old guard's" grasping for power as the people realize--or don't--what is going on, I dare say.