Stories From Retail Politics: Since When Is Opposition Research Treason?
For further evidence that the world of public affairs has veered off the path of reason into some kind of mass neurosis, there has been yet another outbreak of hysteria in the U.S. media, this time over Donald Trump, Jr. meeting with a Russian lawyer in last year’s campaign.
I’m just going to pause before proceeding to renew my call to President Trump to issue an open invitation to the Russian Ambassador to sit in on all cabinet meetings. Russia is not a hostile power; we have no differences of interest with Russia; having Ambassador Kislyak sit in on cabinet meetings would have no effect on policy, either ours or theirs, and it would cause our mainstream-media reporters and pundits to hurl themselves from high windows, which I think would be a positive thing for the country. I say do it! Mr. President. Lance the boil.
To the main story here: What actually is the main story? An aide to one of the candidates, hoping to hear some dirt on the opposition, agreed to meet a foreigner claiming possession of such dirt.
How many times does that happen in the average political campaign? Less than a hundred? I doubt it. Less than a thousand? Eh, maybe.
Confirmation here from sci-fi writer Jerry Pournelle, an old acquaintance of mine. I’ll just quote from Jerry’s blog, July 12th. Jerry’s reminiscing about his time as campaign research director for Los Angeles Mayor Sam Yorty in the 1969 mayoral campaign against Tom Bradley. Quote:
When I was a campaign manager for Mayor Yorty … I received countless offers of information for sale about the Mayor’s opponent, former LAPD Lieutenant Bradley. I ignored most of them. One or two were intriguing enough that I accepted meetings with the offerer; on at least one occasion, the offer was through a third party, just as in this situation. In that particular instance, I was offered a number of unsubstantiated rumors which I could have someone run down, mostly of crime victims unhappy with Bradley’s police performance; worth nothing, as it happened, but I think I paid $20 for copies of the documents, none of which proved useful …
Another time, I did pay about $50 to a private investigator for documents relating to some investments Bradley had made, but after inspecting them I could not see any use for them.
Although no criminal acts were involved in any of this, I never informed the Mayor or Campaign Director Salvatore about any of these meetings; why would I? It was just another part of the campaign …
Any campaign manager, offered information damaging to the opponent, has damned good reason to look into the offer, although chances are good that it will come to nothing. Doing so is not levying war against the United States, and as to giving aid and comfort to its enemies, who is the enemy? I was not aware that we were at war with Russia, or ever had been. You can’t give aid and comfort to an enemy you don’t have, and taking a meeting in the Trump Tower in hopes of receiving information rumored to be damaging to a political opponent is certainly not levying war against anyone.
Thanks, Jerry. It’s instructive to hear some plain talk about retail politics. There must be thousands of Americans who’ve been involved in political campaigns as researchers or advisors, as Jerry was, who could tell similar stories.
Does anyone in the mainstream media want to hear those stories, though? Not now, not here — not here in the United States of Hysteria.