Conspiracies and Witch Hunts
“You can get discouraged many times, but you are not a failure until you begin to blame somebody else and stop trying.” - John Burroughs
In 1998 when her husband was under attack for, among other things, an inappropriate affair with a White House intern Hillary Clinton said: "The great story here, for anybody willing to find it and write about it and explain it, is this vast right-wing conspiracy that has been conspiring against my husband since the day he announced for president". As is the tendency with many folks, Ms. Clinton refused to admit the fact that her husband's actions (the husband with the slippery zipper) were the cause of his predicament. Was there a conspiracy against her husband? Yes, just as there is a left-wing conspiracy against Donald Trump today (albeit one much less organized). But that conspiracy didn't negate President Clinton's repeated bad behavior.
Finding a scapegoat to blame when we get caught making a mistake is probably a natural response for lots of folks. Heck, I know I used scapegoats a bunch of times when I was a kid. Sorry, Mom...it was really me who set that backyard tree on fire and it was really me stealing Dad's cigars so my friends and I could sneak off and smoke. Oh...and it was my fault the right rear tire on your old Mercury kept getting slick; that car would leave a black streak a half-mile long!
Another example? President Obama blamed "bad apple" insurance companies for cancelled policies after the passage of The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) rather than admitting that the flawed legislation itself was the culprit.
Vilification is another common strategy used to avoid responsibility or to deflect our attention. Unless you've been hiding under a rock you know that former FBI director James Comey, the one fired by President Trump, released a book telling his side of the story. Comey's assessment of our President is unflattering at best (in one of his kinder passages he apparently compares Trump to a "mob boss").
As you probably know, President Trump's GOP buddies are already launching a campaign to vilify and discredit Comey himself rather than addressing the allegations outlined in the book. Just so you know, during his career in the federal government Comey was involved in investigating and prosecuting the alleged Clinton involvement in the Whitewater Scandal and President Clinton's pardon of Marc Rich. As FBI Director Comey sent a letter to Congress about Hillary Clinton's emails that most people believe resulted in Trump's Electoral College victory. And although it isn't necessarily relevant, he also prosecuted Martha Stewart (a major Democratic contributor). Comey served as U.S. Attorney under George W. Bush and was later appointed FBI Director by President Obama. Prior to President Trump's inauguration Comey successfully worked with both parties. In other words, Comey isn't a Democratic Party hack.
Vilification is a common strategy these days. The second trial against Bill Cosby is underway this week in Pennsylvania. In that trial Cosby's attorneys went after the personal character of his most vocal accuser saying she was a "con artist" after "money, money, and more money". The problem with that attack is that Cosby already paid her $3.4 million to keep quiet about her allegations that he drugged and raped her. The current trial is a criminal prosecution so no money is to be gained by anyone. If she is a "con artist" why did Cosby pay her off? Her testimony is intended to put Cosby in prison, not result in financial gain. Again, vilification works better than addressing issues.
And now the "witch hunt" has become the modern equivalent of "conspiracy", or so it seems.
Even though Governor Eric Greitens (R-MO) is married with two children he had an affair with his hairdresser back in 2015 when he was gearing up for his Missouri gubernatorial campaign. And yes...I did say "hairdresser". Yet another good reason to continue cutting my own hair because I thought we still went to "barbers".
This past week the Missouri House of Representatives released a report finding that not only had Greitens had an extramarital affair, he had likely physically abused his lover and coerced her to perform certain sex acts against her will. How did Greitens respond to this soap opera? WITCH HUNT!!! But...the Missouri legislature is overwhelmingly Republican, the committee conducting the investigation contained five Republicans and only two Democrats, and numerous Missouri Republicans are calling for his resignation. If it is a witch hunt it is one being conducted by his own party.
And, of course the best example of vilification and scapegoating these days is President Trump's accusation that the Russia Investigation by Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller is a "witch hunt". I tried to determine how many times President Trump has used the term "witch hunt" in the last couple of years but I lost count. He made that accusation again this past week when his personal attorney Michael Cohen's properties were searched. Again, if this is truly a "witch hunt" it must be one being conducted by political opponents. Right?
Robert Mueller: Vietnam veteran. Appointed as head of FBI by Republican President George W. Bush and unanimously approved by the Senate. Modernized the FBI after the 9/11 attacks to better intercept potential terrorists. Served as FBI Director longer than anyone except J. Edgar Hoover. He is a registered member of The Republican Party.
Jefferson (Jeff) Beauregard Sessions: Republican former Alabama senator appointed by President Trump as current U.S. Attorney General.
Rod Rosenstein: Republican. Nominated by George W. Bush to serve as U.S. Attorney in Maryland in 2005 and unanimously approved by the Senate. Nominated by President Trump to serve as Deputy Attorney General and approved by the Senate 94-6. He approved the warrant to search Trump's attorney's property.
This investigation is NOT being conducted by political opponents. And if this is really a witch hunt I doubt it would have resulted in nineteen indictments (more to come), five of which are against Americans. Four of the five indicted Americans have pleaded guilty.
Just as a "vast right wing conspiracy" could not be blamed for all the Clintons' messes, a "witch hunt" is not to blame for the situations confronting Eric Greitens and Donald Trump. As my Dad always said, "you make the bed you lie in".
The best option, an option available to us all, is to play fair and tell the truth. Why is that such a challenge for so many of our leaders?
THE TOPIC OF MY NEXT POST: The Cost of War