The Morning Jolt

Politics & Policy

The FBI’s Coming Catch-22

The FBI’s Coming Catch-22

FBI director James Comey, testifying before Congress yesterday:

The FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts. As with any counterintelligence investigation, this will also include an assessment of whether any crimes were committed.

He later added, “We’ve been doing this — this investigation began in late July, so for counterintelligence investigation that’s a fairly short period of time.”

Late July? When did the FBI think it was pertinent to tell the public?

Talk about a Catch-22. If the FBI finds evidence of some collusion or violation of U.S. laws, it’s an epic scandal, will set up Democratic conspiracy theories for years, will take a sledgehammer to public faith in the Trump presidency… and everyone will rightly ask why the FBI couldn’t uncover anything, or even inform the public about the investigation, until after the election. Heck, not even until after the inauguration!

If the FBI doesn’t find evidence of some collusion or violation of U.S. laws, it’s an epic farce, where the Trump administration can rightfully ask where they can go to get their reputations back.

The jump headline on page A2 of this morning’s USA Today says Inquiry could drag on for years. I realize counter-intelligence investigations take a long time to do correctly and completely, but what is the consequence to Russia or any other foreign power if the consequences to their actions don’t arrive until years later?

It’s Bad. But Should a 22-Year-Old Be in That Position In the First Place?

If you’re on the right, you probably have a sneaking suspicion that non-conservative media prefer to spotlight two distinct types of voices to represent the conservative point of view.

The first is the “Reasonable” Conservative. This figure may or may not be connected to a Republican campaign from a long time ago. This type of pundit for figures like John Kasich, Jon Huntsman, Christie Whitman, and Jim Jeffords, and saw the departure of Charlie Crist and Arlen Specter as great losses for the GOP. This kind of conservative talking head seems to particularly relish criticizing his or her own side, not for failing to live up to conservative principles or inexcusable ethics failures but for “extremism.” They seem to always accept the liberal frame of the host or opposing guest and deep down wish that all thorny issues in governing could be resolved by a bipartisan special blue-ribbon commission to study an issue and come up with a plan.

You’ve probably read some mockery of David Brooks for this non sequitur assessment of Barack Obama:

“I remember distinctly an image of–we were sitting on his couches, and I was looking at his pant leg and his perfectly creased pant,” Brooks says, “and I’m thinking, a) he’s going to be president and b) he’ll be a very good president.”

Or, you know, maybe he’s got a really good dry cleaner. The reason this particular brain fart stuck to Brooks for so long was because the New York Times columnist always seemed like an intellectual who knew so much more than the rest of us… and it turns out he can be as shallow and capricious in his assessment of political figures as we are.

Then there’s the flip side of that coin, the unappealing “Extreme” Conservative, the one who few conservatives want to be caught associating with, and who can be counted on to provide the least likeable, least persuasive, least appealing version of the conservative argument, time after time. The classic example is when then-CNN host Piers Morgan invited Alex Jones onto his program to debate gun control with him. America has many eloquent gun owners and Second Amendment defenders who don’t rant about chemicals in the water turning the frogs gay. The Unappealing Conservative talking heads are usually doing a version of the pugnacious personas of other, better-known conservatives like Rush Limbaugh or Ann Coulter, but they’re doing the shtick badly, and come across as shrill, poorly informed, sneering automatons. They’re either completely unaware of how unlikeable they come across on camera, or cynically enjoy playing the villainous role in the television news version of professional wrestling.

(Yes, I know this comes from a guy who’s got a double chin, offers comments that meander like the Mississippi River, has a lot of “ums” and “ahs” in every podcast, and is neither dignified and refined enough to be a “reasonable conservative,” nor impassioned-on-demand enough to be a firebrand. I’ll let you decide what an entity like CNN International is getting on days like today when they invite me to the roundtable.)

The story of Tomi Lahren is a fascinating example of a young rising star in the world of conservative punditry who somehow managed to jump rapidly from Category B to Category A, or maybe like she’s like Schrödinger’s cat, simultaneously existing in both.

Here’s Lahren on December 22, appearing on TheBlaze, lambasting Lena Dunham for declaring she hasn’t had an abortion but she “wishes she had.”

This woman, and I use the term loosely, single-handedly kills legitimacy of the modern-day feminist movement every time she speaks.

…Does she realize how damaging she is to her own narrative? Think about it: the “pro-choicers” are supposed to be about rare and safe abortions. That’s how they avoid sounding like straight-up baby killers…

Then we have Lena freakin’ Dunham out there wishing she could have murdered a fetus. Wishing for the option to kill your child doesn’t exactly say much about the cause, her character, or the pro-choice movement.

And here I thought the loving Left…were all about peace, and love, and light, except when it comes to the unborn, I suppose. Then it’s a different story, a story they write and rewrite to fit their narrative…

And here’s Lahren appearing on The View Friday:

I’m pro-choice, and here’s why. I am a constitutional, y’know, someone that loves the Constitution. I’m someone that’s for limited government. So I can’t sit here and be a hypocrite and say I’m for limited government but I think the government should decide what women do with their bodies. I can sit here and say that, as a Republican and I can say, you know what, I’m for limited government, so stay out of my guns, and you can stay out of my body as well.

Now, most folks would say that if you support limited government and abortion rights, you’re more accurately labeled somewhere on the “libertarian” realm of the spectrum. (It’s not that every last conservative is pro-life, but you certainly don’t see a lot of self-identified conservatives choosing to label their brethren “hypocrites” over that stance.)

The seeming flip-flop on abortion isn’t a good look, but there’s nothing wrong with being 24 and changing your mind, or having conflicting views as you sort out how you see the world. Of course, some might say this is why self-identified conservative cable news networks shouldn’t have 22-year-old anchors.

After our tour we went back to Robert Herring’s office. He asked me what I wanted to do. I told him I would literally “do whatever.” I just wanted the opportunity. He looked at me and said, “how about your own show.” My jaw dropped. I was stunned. I just wanted an internship. He gave me a show.

By age 23, Lahren had her own show on TheBlaze. She’s now 24.

Look, sometimes there are real prodigies. William F. Buckley wrote his first book at 26. Rich became editor of National Review at 29. I don’t remember how old Kathryn Lopez was when she started handling the many spinning plates of National Review Online, but I’m pretty sure she was still getting carded when she ordered alcohol.

When I was 22, I thought it was egregious that self-evidently brilliant 22-year-olds like myself weren’t given their own political talk shows. Now I look back and thank God no one gave me the platform to make a fool of myself. Not only did I not know enough, not only did I not know what I didn’t know; I didn’t even know that I was supposed to know what I didn’t know!

At that time, I thought I was unjustly sentenced to this bitter “dues-paying” duty of summarizing legislation at Congressional Quarterly — followed by really dry, boring, technical reporting of House floor votes, and then years of work on dot-coms and at wire services, covering milk producers complaints about a U.S.-Australia trade deal and senators’ responses to energy legislation and the Boston water system preparation for terrorism and the National Spelling Bee.

What I only gradually realized was that all those years of boring reporting and “paying your dues” is the Mr. Miyagi of reporting and writing training. Wax on, wax off. Inverted pyramid. Who, what, when, where, why, and sometimes how. Interview subject. Almost everybody’s got to pitch in the minor leagues for a while in order to be ready for the challenges of the big leagues.

We go through this every couple years with some articulate teenager who is suddenly appointed a “spokesman for conservatism” by some less-discerning corner of the conservative-media complex; Jonathan Crohn and C.J. Pearson were the two highest-profile examples. Then after a while, the kids change their minds and it’s written as if it’s this giant loss for the conservative movement.

Don’t blame Tomi Lahren for this mess entirely; blame the managers who put her in that position before she was ready.

ADDENDA: I’m up to New York today for another appearance on CNN International.

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