I am no US politics expert. If my head was in a spin before about the supposed Russian involvement in the US presidential election, after the recent House Intelligence Committee hearing into its alleged meddling, I was in need of a cool cloth on my brow. Who was spying on whom, who leaked what to whom, and which campaign was more guilty of using the intelligence agencies to dump on the other – and if Russia had engaged in cyber warfare had it made any difference to the election?
An outraged GHCQ has vociferously denied wiretapping Trump Tower on Obama’s behalf but what about that Christopher Steele, the former MI6 spy who prepared the explosive Trump Russia dossier, in the first place? At whose request was that? Have I forgotten or didn’t anyone ever find out? More to the point, are we going to see him testify before the US Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation into the new President’s alleged links with Russia?
Your guess is as good as mine. After wading through the Telegraph’s Tuesday double page spread on the FBI’s pronouncement that there was no evidence that Obama tapped Trump, I was none the wiser. He wasn’t even mentioned. James Comey’s revelation that they have been investigating suggestions of collusion between the Trump team and Russia since the summer subsumed everything else.
It is not so much fake news we suffer from as a lack of perspective. The pressure on journalists to dump on Trump and sanitise themselves in the process is all encompassing and has blinkered vision and the ability to assess over here.
But a whole new world of discourse opens up if you turn to the US websites. It is not uncritical – even on the Right. The National Review, for example, took Trump to task over his wiretap allegation – a self-inflicted wound, they adjured. They admonished him as would a headmaster a clever but careless child: ‘With every such unsubstantiated accusation, the administration loses a bit of credibility that it will need when it makes an accurate charge’.
But don’t think the FBI escaped their censure. It didn’t. A Catch 22 moment is coming, they warned. James Comey’s testimony that its investigation of the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election went back to late July had sounded alarm bells:
“Late July?” Jim Geraghty the National Review political editor, expostulated, ‘When did the FBI think it was pertinent to tell the public? If the FBI finds evidence of some collusion or violation of US 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 US laws, it’s an epic farce, where the Trump administration can rightfully ask where they can go to get their reputations back.’
On the same day James Tobin added his perspective on what emerged from the hearings: ‘Despite the seriousness of the administration’s predicament, it is still worthwhile pointing out that one key element of the Democratic narrative about Trump and Russia is still utter nonsense. The notion that Russian efforts succeeded in stealing the presidential election from Hillary Clinton has no basis in fact.’
If this isn’t enough for dispirited Trumpeters to take heart then look no further than The American Conservative. Its right-wing veteran founder, Pat Buchanan, thinks Russiagate will backfire. He’s putting his money on ‘those who invested all their capital in a script based on a fairy tale turning out to be the big losers of the Russian hacking scandal’.
It might have been an embarrassment for the Tweeter in Chief he acknowledges, ‘yet longer-term damage may have been done to the Left’.
And if you think Pat Buchanan, described on Wikipedia as a ‘paleo-conservative’, would rest content with that one broadside think again.
‘While the FBI is still searching for a Trump connection, real crimes have been unearthed—committed by anti-Trump bureaucrats colluding with mainstream media—to damage Trump’s presidency. There is hard evidence of collusion between the intel community and the New York Times and the Washington Post, both beneficiaries of illegal leaks—felonies punishable by up to 10 years in prison’.
In the USA the dinosaur eggs have hatched again. If you have alternative views you are likely to report alternative news and its unsettling. But no open-minded person can rely on one slant any longer, not if you are committed to pursuing the truth.
But news is factual, a friend insisted the other night. You can’t argue with a fact, he said. You can, you can argue with the selection of the facts, I said. You can argue with the angle of the light the news torch shines on them. It’s called bias.
When the disinhibited Trump tweets his early morning ripostes he’s shining a different light and from a different angle. Breaking the normal rules of propriety may be threatening and ‘un-statesmanlike’ but it may also be the only way he can take on the ‘liberal’ establishment. As to what each new tweet means or new day uncovers, the only way to get a grip on it all is by reading the US websites.
(Image: Gage Skidmore)