Sometimes, rather than read a story, you need to scan all the stories, and look at a calendar. If you did that yesterday and into this morning you noted something extraordinary. On the first day of Trump appointment hearings and Obama’s “farewell” (in quotes because I don’t think he is going anywhere) address, really the first functional day of the Trump administration, was all sorts of stories about dossiers and plagiarism and religious protests. Do you think that timing is coincidence? Moreover, for every dossier story that popped up last night and this morning (dozens and dozens) I have only seen one story – one – that bothered to check out what can be actually checked out in that unsubstantiated mess of rumor.
What we have witnessed in the last twenty-four hours is not news – it is a concerted effort to delegitimize the Trump administration as it begins. I am not accusing anyone or group of a conspiracy here, nothing that grandiose. This is simply the latest and most dangerous expression of the fear and angst that has gripped the left, in the government, in the media, and elsewhere, as what they thought was there permanent majority crumbles under them.
What is most deeply troubling about this is not that Trump has opposition, even vehement opposition – it is the lengths to which that opposition is willing to go. It is one thing to oppose, it is another thing altogether to try to undermine public confidence in the government itself. The closest the right as ever come to this in recent years is the birther movement and that had about as much traction as a Smart Car on an icy street among legitimate players in the conservative movement. (I know, I know, the president-elect was birther #1 for a while – but not at anytime during his campaign or since has that been true.) I will not deny that the right has its share of conspiratorial nonsense. But garbage floating around in the blogging underbelly of the Internet is something altogether different than serious reports in every major news outlet in the nation – none of whom ever treated the birther story with other than the mocking contemptuousness it deserved.
Of course, there will be immediate cries that this was contained in an intelligence briefing given the president-elect and therefore has more weight than the birther thing ever did. Just remember, no one has politicized the presumably non-political agencies more than Obama and those agencies are still under the control of Obama appointees. This had to be leaked – who did the leaking? My money is on one of the political appointees.
It is one thing to oppose the government – it is another thing altogether to destroy the confidence in it that makes the nation actually function. On the one hand you debate – on the other hand you give people a reason not to abide by the law, which will inevitably lead to lawlessness. But it would seem that, particularly on the left, we can no longer tell the difference between those things. In the end such is an expression of narcissism where people feel their personal stances are so important that there are no limits on what they will do to achieve their ends. It is self-absorption, pure and simple.
Such is what truly frightens me about the future of the nation. Stepping back from it for a moment, this dossier story seems like nothing more than an effort at personal tit-for-tat for the birther stuff that marked the beginning of Obama’s administration. But in the first 24 hours of the story it has already blown completely out of proportion from anything the birther story ever achieved. That illustrates how narcissism has grown in the nation during the Obama administration. That growth is not surprising – Obama was, if nothing else, narcissist-in-chief – but it is reaching frightening levels.
The bottom line is this – the nation only works as long as people see it as legitimate. Once the confidence erodes, the nation will seek to work. The more self-absorbed and narcissistic we are the less confidence we will have in anybody but ourselves. The government was never designed to deal with a crisis like that. The government has no tools to battle an epidemic of narcissism. And all this while a serious crisis of the sort the government is designed precisely to deal with brews in Asia.
In the end this is a spiritual crisis – and for today the action item is prayer. We are cursed to live in interesting times.