The Corner

Politics & Policy

Let’s Wait and See about the FBI ‘Conspiracy’

The heated rhetoric from Hill Republicans, talk radio, and some Fox News opiners is rapidly approaching eleven on a ten-point scale. Yesterday, Rush floated the idea that the Deep State might be so pernicious that it deceived George W. Bush into the Iraq War. Lou Dobbs wants “top people” at the FBI taken into custody by U.S. Marshals. Ditto Hannity and Pirro. And, of course, Jerry Falwell Jr. is in on the act.

But when Senator Ron Johnson got over his skis last night asserting not just bias but “corruption” at the FBI and hyping claims from an “informant” of a “secret society” scheming to do . . . something, I got a bad feeling. Asked by Bret Baier to clarify what, exactly, the senator was insinuating, Johnson responded with little more than a shrug and a statement that the matter needs to be dug into.

On the left, everyone is laughing and heaping scorn on this alleged effort to distract from the Mueller probe, which they all seem convinced will find proof that Donald Trump is indeed a foreign agent obstructing justice for fun and profit.

Me? I’m stuck in the middle again.

From the outset, I’ve mostly taken a wait-and-see approach to the Russia “collusion” allegations and the Mueller probe. I think I’ll take a wait-and-see approach to all of this Strzok-Page-secret-society stuff too. There’s just too much theatrics and chest thumping involved. By all means, let’s have the appropriate investigations. Let’s have some hearings. Let’s make it so that poor Andy McCarthy never, ever gets any sleep, as he remains one of the few explainers of this stuff who never loses his cool or takes leave from the facts.

Again, there are some legitimately disturbing facts (and allegations of facts) swirling around the FBI, the Mueller investigation, etc. But there’s also an astonishing amount of manufactured outrage, absurd dot-connecting, and near-hysteria. It’s as if everyone who shouts about the other side being conspiracy theorists needs to have a conspiracy theory all their own as well.

Meanwhile, this #ReleaseTheMemo campaign is obviously a PR stunt. But that in itself is not damning. PR stunts are sometimes valid efforts to get a real story out. I’m actually impressed that congressional Republicans were effective at messaging for once. I wouldn’t have predicted that it would work this well. After all, Republicans insinuating that a memo written by a Republican committee chairman in a Republican-controlled Congress during a Republican presidency is being hidden from the public by some force or entity other than the Republicans strikes me as kind of hilarious. As is the idea that all of these Republicans saw it, but no one leaked it because leaking is just wrong. (It is wrong, but come on.) That said . . . hey, it was just crazy enough to work.

Of course, this stunt — and so much else — will look not just absurd but dishonorable if the memo doesn’t live up to the hype.

That’s why I’d caution Republican politicians from taking their cues from President Trump’s Twitter feed or the media platforms that unapologetically fuel his persecution complex. If professional opiners want to go the way of Alex Jones and Jim Hoft, fine. But the GOP itself should think twice. If Ron Johnson’s performance on Special Report last night is a preview of what is yet to come, I think some Republicans may be painting themselves into an ugly corner. If you go all in with this conspiracy mongering, the only way to be vindicated is if the conspiracy is 100 percent verified. How often does that happen?

Jonah Goldberg — Jonah Goldberg holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute and is a senior editor of National Review. His new book, The Suicide of The West, is on sale now.

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