Sir Walter Scott made a sound observation in his poem, “Marmion,” when he said, “Oh what a tangled web we weave / when first we practice to deceive.”
The clever writer J.R. Pope was attributed as adding another couplet to Scott’s original:
“But when we’ve practiced for a while,
How vastly we improve our style!”
The huge cast of the Obama Theatrical Company, out on their world tour of the Russian Collusion Delusion, embraced Pope’s sly emendation. They should have heeded Scott’s original.
What with the unbridled hysteria over our latest Chinese import—the CCP virus—the public all but forgot about the story that once mesmerized them: the story whose plot twists and sideshows would have given Dickens a run for his money.
What started out as a solemn charge of treasonous collusion with the enemy to steal a presidential election gradually soured like milk left out in the sun. The team with the most megaphones kept shouting about felonious collusion with “the Russians” while they ran nightly cabarets replete with fictional Russian real estate deals and fictional Russian prostitutes. It was quite a show, a veritable “Gesamtkunstwerk”—or total work of art.
But all good things—and all bad ones, too—eventually come to an end, and finally the expensive, multi-year effort by the deep state to overturn the results of the 2016 election ground to a sclerotic halt.
What started with a suite of covert FBI investigations into Donald Trump and various members of his team even before Trump took office flowered into the fireworks of the Mueller investigation and then came to a pathetic, ignominious end when a confused and doddering Robert Mueller testified before Congress and, inter alia, claimed not to know what was Fusion GPS—the firm that hired the ex-spy Christopher Steele to produce the dossier that provided the impetus for Mueller’s probe in the first place.
Changing the Narrative
The whole thing was as pathetic as it was repellent, amply earning its title as the greatest political scandal in our nation’s history. But just when we thought the sordid story was yesterday’s news, a series of revelations about retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who was Trump’s national security adviser for a few minutes in 2017, catapulted the story back into the center of everyone’s consciousness.
I, like every other scribe in the universe, have written about the case of Flynn ad nauseam. Flynn was an early casualty of President Barack Obama’s deep-state attack on Trump. Fair-minded people have suspected he was set up since the indictment first came down. Now, we know.
The was no reason for the FBI to interview Flynn. He was a designated fall guy, set up by James Comey, Peter Strzok, and other high-ranking members of the establishment, because he would have been in a position to expose the larger “umbrella” operation of “Crossfire Hurricane,” which began in July 2016, and whose aim was to delegitimize Trump and then, when that didn’t work, to overturn the results of a free, open, and democratic presidential election.
It’s a complex story. Mollie Hemingway has a good recap, with a useful timeline in her Federalist column.
What I want to underscore now is the extent to which the recent revelations, brought to us courtesy of the redoubtable Sidney Powell, Flynn’s new lawyer, has changed the game and is in the process of changing the narrative. When the Department of Justice (DOJ) decided to drop the case against Flynn, that was the signal that a sea change was taking place. It was like the execution of “Order 66” in the “Star Wars” saga (except that this time, it’s the good guys who are in charge).
If you sense a sudden chill in the air, an uncomfortable silence, it’s because the usually insouciant deep-state actors from Obama and Comey on down have clearly got the message. Their lot are never called to account for their wrongdoing by the establishment for the very good reason that they are the establishment. They make the rules that we have to obey but that they may ignore with impunity.
Except that Attorney General William Barr has thrown a monkey wrench into their well-oiled machinery. Responding to the DOJ’s decision to dismiss the case against Flynn, Comey nervously wrote on Twitter, “The DOJ has lost its way. But, career people: please stay because America needs you. The country is hungry for honest, competent leadership.”
“Honest, competent leadership,” forsooth!
Also nervous was the queen bee, the spider at the center of this web of extralegal intrigue, Obama. In a gesture that was almost comical in its clumsiness, a “private conversation” with aides was leaked.
Lo and behold, it was leaked to Michael Isikoff, the same Michael Isikoff who was the happy recipient of the leaked Steele dossier way back before Robert Mueller began his Don Quixote-like quest to get Trump. Isikoff links to an audio of Obama’s stage-management remarks. Here is what the former president said:
“The news over the last 24 hours I think has been somewhat downplayed — about the Justice Department dropping charges against Michael Flynn. And the fact that there is no precedent that anybody can find for someone who has been charged with perjury just getting off scot-free. That’s the kind of stuff where you begin to get worried that basic — not just institutional norms — but our basic understanding of rule of law is at risk. And when you start moving in those directions, it can accelerate pretty quickly as we’ve seen in other places.”
This carefully rehearsed effort at narrative correction was brutally anatomized by the commentator and law professor Jonathan Turley. First, Turley points out, Flynn wasn’t charged with perjury.
Second, we now know that Obama discussed charging Flynn under the Logan Act, an act that dates from 1799 that “has never been used successfully to convict anyone and is flagrantly unconstitutional.”
Moving on to understatement, Turley notes that Obama’s strategically leaked statement shows that he is “personally invested in this effort.” Finally, pace the ex-president’s claim, there is plenty of precedent for such dismissals. Turley cites a few.
He also points out this delicious bit of irony: “The Justice Department has dismissed cases in the past including the [Ted] Stevens case. That was requested by President Obama’s own Attorney General Eric Holder for the same reason: misconduct by prosecutors. It was done before the same judge [who heard Flynn’s case], Judge [Emmet] Sullivan. How is that for precedent?”
The Art of the Possible
As I say, it never seems to happen that the important people who develop and nourish the narrative are called to account for the sort of misconduct that is being exposed in the case of Obama versus Trump.
Will it be any different this time around? What if it were proved that Obama knowingly had a hand in illegally framing Flynn and the attempt to frame Trump? What then? Do you expect he would be indicted?
Would Hillary Clinton, no matter what evidence was brought forward of felonious mishandling of classified material, to say nothing of her fabricating a case against Trump by feeding Russian-sourced disinformation to an eager press?
Would Comey ever be held to account?
To ask these questions is to answer them. You would have to go far down the Democratic food chain—to a Peter Strzok or a Lisa Page—before you get to someone dispensable enough to be thrown under the bus.
Which is why retribution is a fond hope. The best we can hope for is a general disillusionment and erosion of authority in the public’s acquiescence to rule by the deep state. That would undoubtedly be a victory, the more thoroughgoing the disillusionment, the better. Doubtless, retribution, in the form of indictments, would be more satisfying.
But politics, as Bismarck observed, is the art of the possible.
Roger Kimball is the editor and publisher of The New Criterion and publisher of Encounter Books. His most recent book is “The Fortunes of Permanence: Culture and Anarchy in an Age of Amnesia.”
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.