White House

Anti-Trump Psychodrama 10.0?

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff speaks during a news conference about impeachment proceedings in Washington, D.C., September 25, 2019. (Al Drago/Reuters)
‘Groundbreaking’ disclosures fall apart, hoaxes are exposed, the media are discredited, over and over and over again.

What do the Kavanaugh hearings, Jussie Smollett, the Covington kids, the Mueller investigation, and now the Trump phone call all have in common?

Staged melodrama, media collusion hysteria, progressive demands that justice be served immediately, promises of walls-are-closing-in blockbuster revelations from new witnesses, supposed surprise revelatory documents, fusions between Democratic politicians and Washington bureaucrats — and then bust, nada, and teeth-gnashing as the truth catches up to various rumor-mongers.

The disgraced purveyors of lies — a Christine Blasey Ford, Michael Avenatti, Nathan Phillips, Jussie Smollet, Adam Schiff — for a time go mute, content with progressives’ praise that they lied for a moral cause and almost pulled it off.

The particular narrative is not all that important, at least compared with a general overriding theme: We are in a virtual civil war, and the Left believes that it can win over the hearts and minds of 20 to 30 percent of the swing voters in the United States with therapeutic tales of racism, sexism, unearned white privilege, and right-wing greed and selfishness, and also by destroying the elected president. Particular events in the news are warped and twisted, to the degree that they can be, to serve that narrative — on the principle that the superior moral end of ensuring a radical equality of result more than justifies the often tawdry and dishonest means to achieve it.

Christine Blasey Ford’s recovered-memory accusations that a teenaged Brett Kavanaugh, nearly 40 years ago, had assaulted her were not corroborated by any firsthand witnesses, and Ford provided no reliable information on the place or date of the alleged assault. The investigation did turn up plenty of contradictory evidence, including denials from her closest friends and from people she herself named as witnesses to the alleged attack.

Just this September, Kavanaugh 2.0 played out, when two New York Times reporters wished to revise the psychodrama on its first anniversary by publishing new lurid assault charges that someone had “pushed” Kavanaugh’s dangling phallus into the hands of an innocent woman. That macabre tale imploded within hours after we learned that the supposed victim had no memory of the assault and that the single secondhand hearsay source was a left-wing politico who chose to remain quiet about his former charges.

About ten months ago, we witnessed another progressive morality farce, between stereotypical evil white Christian kids wearing MAGA hats and a saintly Native American, Vietnam veteran Nathan Phillips, who was threatened by the punk kids and yet spoke truth to power when he resisted their slurs by beating a drum.

Phillips, we were told, had served in battle on behalf of spoiled white kids who repaid with insults and racism befitting their privileged airs. When it was revealed that the activist Nathan Phillips had never been to Vietnam, that he was a chronic liar, that he was the one who had first walked over to the teenagers and initiated the stand-off by banging a drum in their faces, and that the kids were being mocked by a group of African-American cult activists, the Left shrugged, went quiet for a bit, and then assumed that facts were not very important because a greater truth had been revealed in yet another pushback against the white male Christian hierarchy.

Shortly after the Covington caper, an apparent opportunist has-been actor Jussie Smollett, of half African-American ancestry, gave America his own concocted fable about being attacked by two white supremacists in MAGA hats, who were apparently (while carrying bleach and rope) randomly prowling the liberal streets of Chicago — in the early-morning hours in subfreezing weather — hoping just maybe to lynch any young, gay African-American actor like Smollett on his way to buy a sandwich at 2 a.m.

In his retelling of the epic battle with the two racist monsters, the doused and noosed Smollett managed to beat them back, hold on to his cellphone and sandwich, and make his wounded way home, with the rope still around his neck. Smollett was crushed that his attackers not only used the N-word and gay slurs but also went so far as deride his television show Empire — an African-American cable-television series that was apparently a big hit with the white-supremacist community.

The Left, of course, went ballistic. Politicians and stars virtue-signaled their outrage at yet further proof of Trump’s racist America. When it was revealed that two black Nigerians admitted that Smollett had hired them to stage the mock assault, and had them dress up with the suitable masks and red-hat props, the story fell apart. Nonetheless, the felony charges against Smollett (for disorderly conduct and filing a false report) were quickly dropped, and embarrassed leftists have rarely mentioned the caper, despite the cost and harm it did to the nation.

In May 2017, Robert Mueller was appointed special counsel to investigate Trump’s alleged “collusion” with the Russians and “obstruction” in seeking to impede Mueller’s “all-stars” and “dream team” of mostly progressive lawyers, some who had a history of close association with Clinton interests and many who had been donors to the Clinton campaign. For the next 22 months of the $32 million investigation, the media weekly leaked supposedly sensational disclosures leaked by “unnamed sources” and “high-ranking officials who prefer to remain anonymous.” Adam Schiff was periodically wheeled out to grimace and say he was disturbed at the shocking crimes of Donald Trump that he had seen in secret.

When a befuddled Mueller was finished, he had found no collusion and no grounds to indict Trump for impeding his investigation of the crime that he had just concluded did not exist. When Mueller rambled before Congress, he was unable to remember basic facts of his own inquiry and for the most part appear muddled and confused.

The only salient fact about the collusion investigation was Mueller’s own embarrassing lack of knowledge of Christopher Steele’s fabricated dossier, gleaned largely from Russian plants and sources. The fake-news document had been paid for by candidate Hillary Clinton to undermine the Trump campaign, and it later became a source for lurid stories about Trump that were peddled by Obama-era officials in the FBI, DOJ, and CIA to undermine the Trump transition and presidency.

Not only were there no apologies; there also was no embarrassment that zealots for 22 months and $32 million of wasted money had lied about Trump’s imminent indictment and disgrace. If anyone could have found an iota of wrongdoing on Trump’s part, it was the dream team that hated Trump’s guts, though in the end, they found no collusion at all.

Now on schedule we are on to yet another progressive psychodrama. This time we were told that a blockbuster transcript of Trump’s phone call with the Ukrainian president would prove Trump’s collusion with a foreign power to hurt his presidential rival Joe Biden.

Then the transcript was released, and it showed no quid pro quo. As with the projection of the Mueller case, Trump’s domestic foes in the Ukraine imbroglio were accusing Trump of what they themselves had done. The only explicit threats to cut off Ukrainian aid were made not by Trump but by Joe Biden himself, who boasted, on camera at a public event, that he had forced the firing of a prosecutor — a prosecutor who was looking into his own son’s profiteering in Ukraine — by threatening to cut $1 billion in Obama-administration aid to Ukraine.

Over the next few days, in the manner of these earlier concocted tales, a number of contradictory facts arose that destroyed the narrative. Three Democratic U.S. senators had earlier written the Ukrainian government and, in far more explicit language than Trump used, warned them to investigate in a fashion that the senators preferred.

The Ukrainian government did not, as alleged, substantiate the charges against Trump but in fact asserted that Trump had not pressured them for dirt on Biden in exchange for aid — the sort of gambit that Biden himself had earlier bragged about employing.

Almost daily, pieces of the Ukrainian hoax fell apart. Senator Chris Murphy — who had charged out to issue a statement that Ukrainians on an earlier visit had complained directly to him about Trump interference — now recalibrated his tale, perhaps fearing that Ukraine would release contradictory evidence.

The complaint file itself hardly seemed the work of a whistleblower. Instead, in the style of the Steele dossier and the Mueller investigation, it footnoted liberal media sources as verification, cited past legal rulings and cases, and seemed the work of progressive attorneys. Oddly, whistleblower forms had been mysteriously changed retroactively to legitimize the complainant’s charges on the basis of hearsay without the need for a single firsthand example of direct knowledge of wrongdoing.

Adam Schiff, to heighten the drama of the caper, opened a congressional hearing by reading from the transcript of the Trump call to the Ukrainian president. Only he didn’t. Instead he ad-libbed and recited a fantasy version that contradicted the actual transcript in several places — much as the whistleblower complaint also erred in key ways. When caught, he pled that he was offering a “parody” for effect. Schiff’s staff, it may well turn out, hand-in-glove coached the “whistleblower” well before he went public.

We have learned nothing and forgotten nothing in all these instances. There is an eerie sameness about all of them. The media go berserk with rumors of a “groundbreaking” disclosure. Talking points are issued, which liberal news readers regurgitate ad nauseam. Democratic would-be presidential candidates rush to social media with the grimmest predications and loudest condemnations. Sober and judicious — and terrified — Republican politicians and pundits virtue-signal their own wide distance from the MAGA operatives and Trump himself. No one waits for all the evidence. Instead, they endlessly replay the Ox-Bow Incident over the electronic airwaves.

When it is all over, there are no apologies and no contriteness, just a shrug. After all, if it wasn’t true, it could have been, or it reflected a higher moral truth, and lying for noble ends justifies the means. In fact, those who call out the rumor-mongers, sanctimonious scolds, and political hacks are usually themselves damned as racists, homophobes, Stalinists, Trump robots, conspiracy theorists, or any such slur deemed useful in projectionist fashion to deflect their own culpability.

So here we are, on the eve of impeaching a president on the basis of disgruntled White House staffers, whose rumors in secondhand and thirdhand fashion were passed on to a “whistleblower” who worked hand in hand with partisan lawyers and Adam Schiff to circumvent the normal whistleblower protocols and smear a president.

And we will all shrug and grow quiet — at least until the next Blasey Ford, Michael Avenatti, Jussie Smollett, Nathan Philipps, dream-team, all-star star chamber, James Comey, or “anonymous” crusading “whistleblower” comes forth to seek notoriety and do his yeoman’s work to rid the country of Trump and all his odious henchmen.

Meanwhile, they have no idea of the wreckage they have inflicted on the intelligence agencies, the media, the Democratic party, themselves, and the country — or much less why a growing number of Americans are sick of them all.

Editor’s Note: This piece originally misidentified Christine Blasey Ford as “Susan.” It has been corrected.

NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The Case for Trump.

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