Bruce Thornton is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
To paraphrase a more recent song, it’s hard out there on a Dem. Staggered by Donald Trump’s unthinkable victory in the presidential election, Democrats have continued to be pummeled by the Trump’s tax reform, the supercharged economy, his withering tweet-scorn for them and their media flunkeys, their own failed government shut-down, and a rousing State of the Union address that raised his poll numbers and made the Democrat Congressmen in the audience look like pouting prom wallflowers.
And now comes the “Memo,” the House Intelligence Committee’s exposure of the slow-motion coup engineered by partisan FBI and DOJ functionaries, and other deep-state members of the “resistance.” Now it’s up to “we the people” to demand accountability from these abusers of the public trust and violators of the Constitution.
The intensity of the hysterical spin before and after the memo’s release has revealed the depths of anxiety over the chickens of corruption coming home to roost. Shrieks of “nuance” and “context” are desperate attempts to drown out the bad news. “How dare you!” protestations of the “professional integrity” and “sterling character” of political appointees and rank careerists in the intelligence agencies are pleas to the voters to pay no attention to the blue-state man behind the curtain.
Equally duplicitous as the Dems’ desperate misdirection is the squealing about damaging national security or intelligence gathering methods or vulnerable spies or the Constitution. But we know the FBI wanted to redact the names only to shield the possibly guilty men and women. None of the contents of the memo exposed intelligence-gathering techniques or undercover agents. And since when have progressives cared about the integrity of the Constitution? Where were they when their Messiah Obama, an alleged Constitutional scholar, trashed the Constitutional separation of powers and used an executive order to legislate the DACA program––something he said several times he couldn’t do because it was un-Constitutional?
All this caterwauling and bluster are an obvious misdirection away from the what the memo has revealed: compelling evidence that a cabal in the FBI and the DOJ––anxious to ensure a Hillary victory, and then determined to derail Trump’s presidency––used a flimsy, unverified Russian-manufactured “dossier” financed by Hillary Clinton and the DNC to get a FISA warrant to spy on a fringe member of the Trump campaign preposterously suspected of being an agent of a foreign government. They didn’t inform the court that the dossier was paid for by the political party opposed to Trump, nor did they tell the judge that their other pretext for a warrant comprised leaks to the media engineered by the same fabulist who created the dossier in the first place.
But larger issues are at stake here than the abuse by some in the intelligence agencies to serve partisan or careerist interests. This whole sordid business is a deep and dangerous attack on the foundations of our political order. The Constitution is based on a healthy fear of human nature and its subjection to the corruption of power that is known as tyranny–– “arbitrary power . . . which is responsible to no one, and governs all alike, whether equals or betters, with a view to its own advantage, not to that of its subjects, and therefore against their will. No freeman willingly endures such a government,” as Aristotle defined it. This classic definition of tyranny lay behind the indictment of George III in the Declaration of Independence, which accused the king of “repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.”
Fearful of tyranny and its assault on political freedom, then, the Founders dispersed political power among the three branches of government, and between the federal government and the states. The scope of power is reduced, and checked by countervailing powers, all subject to accountability to the sovereign people through their elected officials. This is the structure that progressives starting in the late 19th century sought to dismantle, and that the current scandal undermines to serve ideology and personal interests at the expense of the sovereign people.
Take a further step back, and we see that the arrogance and power of the government agencies multiplied and expanded by progressives have created the opportunity for the abuse evident in the current scandal. It’s bad enough when the IRS or EPA––their mostly anonymous bureaucrats shielded from accountability to the people––usurp the political power of all three branches of government. Just ask the conservative groups whose tax-exempt status was delayed and subject to arbitrary barriers by IRS functionaries who were opposed to their politics.
But intelligence and law-enforcement government agencies can wield much greater power much more directly on private citizens. The power to surveil secretly American citizens, and to interrogate and indict them based on the secret intelligence the agencies have gathered, lends itself to even worse tyranny. We may not be at risk of torture, death, or endless incarceration, but our lives can be destroyed by the expense of defending ourselves, and our reputations ruined by indictments and convictions not for crimes, but for procedural missteps engineered by zealous prosecutors who, as the cliché goes, can indict a ham sandwich. Soft despotism is still despotism, an assault on our foundational freedoms.
Take the case of Lewis “Scooter” Libby, who was Dick Cheney’s assistant during the George Bush administration. He was caught in the ginned up “scandal” over the alleged outing of CIA analyst Valerie Plame, whose husband was a vocal critic of Bush’s rationale for the Iraq War, and hence a darling of the progressive media. Libby wasn’t convicted of revealing Plame’s name after a two-year investigation, but of questionable charges of “perjury” and “obstruction of justice.” Libby was punished even though the man who revealed Plame’s identity, and was known to the prosecutor, went free. Such injustice should infuriate anyone who prizes freedom.
Such prosecutorial abuse is the embodiment of tyranny as defined by Aristotle and the Founders. Hidden behind veils of secrecy, such inquisitions can use a power that is “arbitrary” and “responsible to no one.” Often the tool of partisan interests, given that so many wielders of this power are political appointees, this power is used “with a view to its own advantage, not to that of its subjects.” The abuse of the FISA court unveiled by the House’s memo, and the investigation of “collusion” with Russia by Robert Mueller, both fit the paradigm of tyranny.
The Constitution, however, has given us our defense against this tyrannical power. Currently Congress is holding investigations to expose those responsible. The memo is just the first step in this process, and we are told it will be followed by others. And there are many more abuses to expose: Uranium One, the rapacious Clinton Foundation, Hillary’s private server and exposure of classified information, her pay-to-play State Department, the Obama administration’s blatant lies about the Benghazi attacks, James Comey and Loretta Lynch’s torpedoing of the investigation into Hillary’s server, Comey’s perjury and leaking of classified information––all need the disinfectant of sunlight provided by the sovereign people’s representatives in Congress.
More important, the abusers of power must be held to account. The DOJ must indict and prosecute all those responsible. We cannot continue to go through year after year of hearings that never end up punishing the guilty. The politicizing and weaponizing of the intrusive power of our intelligence agencies for partisan ends must be stopped, and the deterrence of prosecution created to concentrate the minds of those inclined to continue such abuses. It is intolerable to see a politician as corrupt as Hillary Clinton has been for over two decades profiting from her abuses, or an arrogant partisan careerist like James Comey issuing self-serving tweets, or a disappointed office-seeker like Robert Mueller assembling a partisan staff to weaken a duly elected president with rumor and innuendo.
In the end, though, it is “we the people” who must demand that their rights to equality under the law, and to accountability from those given such power, be respected. We must make it clear to the Attorney General, the President, and Congress that we hold the sovereignty, that we are the “guards of the guardian,” and that we will not let stand such abuse of their sovereignty. In short, we all must act in such a way that shows we are worthy of political freedom, and that as free men and women, we will not “willingly endure such a government.”
The Dems’ current nervous breakdown suggests that the reckoning may be getting closer, that the people will punish them in November for their shameless rationalizations for these abuses of power. So far, their desperate pleas to “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” haven’t worked. Thanks to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes––who has doggedly weathered the calumny and sabotage of the two-bit Iago Adam Schiff and his media flying monkeys––we can see blue-state political and media minions twirling the dials and pulling the levers of their lies and misdirection. We may see that voters in November will not allow them to redraw the curtain.