American Culture

Oppo research in the era of Nunes

Seems+legit[1]There must be something in the water supply.

The Nunes memo is a done deal, out on the intertubes for everyone to speculate about. It should be crystal clear to all but Trump’s most loyal base, and most certainly to the cynics who drafted the memo and subsequently urged its release, that the document suffers a fatal rational flaw…unverifiability. Yet I see both sides of this debacle bordering on constitutional crisis making the wildest prognostications based on…

…well, trust. It sure as hell isn’t based on conclusive evidence. Either that, or our vocal internet commentariat is just infested with people who have clearance and access to proofs, when available, one way or another. No? Well, then. Trust.

Oh, and as I’ve become quite fond of reciting lately, from Proverbs 12:22, lying lips are an abomination to the Lord.

Here’s the Intel Committee’s majority members in whom right-wing partisans are placing their trust.

Devin Nunes: “President Trump has signed more bills into law “than any president previously before at this stage in the game.”” Lie, or error? Either way, he’s not made a correction, so is content with the effect of this error on perception, which is pretty much the purpose of telling a lie. Is there no moral culpability for benefiting from a lie one doesn’t intend to tell and doing nothing about it? You decide.

Mike Conaway? Whatever his politics, if there’s dirt on him, it’s not easy internet pickings. He’s just a dishonest apples to oranges kind of guy.

Peter King, though? “Nobody suffered any lasting injuries” from the CIA interrogation program.” Abominable lips on that one. Seems legit.

Frank LoBiondo? Says “new estimates from the Congressional Budget Office conclude the final price-tag” for the health care law “will exceed $2 trillion — more than double what was initially reported.” If you look at the analysis, that’s not an error. That’s a misrepresentation. Welcome to the Abominable Lips Club, Lobee. Trust away!

Tom Rooney: A proposed U.S. Labor Department rule for children working on farms “would even ban youth from operating a battery-powered screwdriver or a pressurized garden hose.” So, he yoinks this comment straight from his nethers and PF is generous by calling it half true. Never mind that it’s a moot point. He just completely made shit up. An ALC lapel pin for Lyin’ Tom, please. What’s not to trust?

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen: Says Chuck Hagel “opposed sanctions against Iran.” Not the worst offender, by far, but BS is BS. Oversimplifying someone else’s position on an issue for partisan, biased reasons is a misrepresentation. It’s dishonest. Ignoring salient nuances is deceptive, especially when the intent is to play to an audience for effect. File this under “lies of omission.” Welcome aboard! Lots of trusting souls to mislead for you here.

Michael Turner appears to be of the same low-grade stripe of professional political fibber as Illy. He’s got a couple of half-truths under his belt. Yet again, peddling partially correct information to bias your constituents in your favor. Spray all the air freshener you want, that’s still hanging in the air like bad fish. Garden variety political bullshitters like this get an Honorary Membership because there’s just no slapping lipstick on that pig. Trustworthy on the politics of witchhunting when there’s partisanship to be had? Not so much, but go ahead if you’re a fool.

Brad Wenstrup: At a quick glance, he’s so clean he squeaks, regardless of his politics. Hell, he’s even a bit heroic now and again. His teeth practically make that little *ting* sound when you look at his pictures.


As Lisa Simpson might say, “he’s dreamy.”

Chris Stewart is just begging for a fact-check. At a quick glance, he could have almost been another Brad. But check the news, and he’s got some wild and sweeping statements to make that defy reason. Our nations top cops shouldn’t be politicized? Hello, my friggin’ local sheriff’s election puts R’s and D’s after the names. The whole claim elides something critical, and the elision makes the lie. Cop A has reason to believe Suspect X is dirty. Suspect X is also “one of them.” Since I love mixed metaphors, let’s just say Cop A saw smoke from X’s general vicinity. Does it matter how the smoke got there? Shouldn’t Cop A be looking for fire? That’s basically just broken windows policing when its down at the neighborhood level. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Now, if it also happens that X is one of “them,” that’s just extra feel-good points as long as it doesn’t become an excuse to violate their rights when taking them down. Just book ‘im, Danno, and enjoy the sweet taste of retributive justice without taking the cheap shot.

Rick Crawford just comes across as another mealy-mouthed pol who can’t resist an all things to everyone answer that nevertheless serves a partisan purpose.

Trey Gowdy, I really liked you when you earned your viral fame by reminding the presidency that Congress isn’t in the business of making suggestions. But then there’s Benghazi, and boy, oh boy, oh boy. Even with all the tinfoil, you still managed to get checked hard only twice, but you know…you’re not the retracting sort, and you had points to score, and even with retirement on your horizon, you’ve not been forthcoming with some minor, but necessary reversals.

Says the State Department has “had half a year” to respond to a Benghazi document request, yet “I have not gotten a single, solitary scrap of paper.” How PF comes up with Mostly False for an outright whopper is beyond me. That pants fire had to take some skin with it. Other than that, PF picked on his last flag flying comment. Sometimes PF is a collection of dipshits.

Elise Stefanik’s trouble with truth is to politics what a cold sore is to a pretty face. When asked about bills in Congress important to the North Country, Derrick responded ‘I just don’t know enough about it.’ Once again, PF is too kind. Did you take a political opponent’s comment out of context and try to deceive voters with that? What shade of lipstick goes well with abomination?

Will Hurd: I couldn’t find any quick dirt, but he did voice his reasons, if in measured tones. If there’s a reasonable voice on the right side of the committee aisle, one that’s even qualified to have an opinion given his ex-spook resume, his might be it. Civil liberties is a weird case to make, and I don’t buy it, but it’s also hard to call direct BS on it.

That’s a pretty motley assortment.

What about on the Dem side?

Well, there’s Adam Schiff. PF seems to not have gotten around to him. The Federalist did. I can’t vouch for whether the GOP actually did vote to bring the Dem memo to the whole House or not, but it’s a consistent GOP tale. Hold on, since when is that a measure of truth? Schiff still stinks.

As to Jim Himes, this remains to be seen. The GOP claim is that the only changes were grammatical, not in content. Should that turn out to be true, Himes is in a position to have known better and would be full of shit in this case, and why? Seems partisan to me. Not off to a great start, Dems.

Terri Sewell comes up clean, unless I’m missing something. She’s absolutely not a Trump fan, but that doesn’t make her a liar. Evidence needed. Maybe trustworthy-ish. Maybe? I mean, this is still Congress. That’s a tall order. On her own merits…okay. For now.

For Andre Carson, the problem is that when you go too far out on a limb, you tend to fall off. “Our larger domestic threat is from racial supremacist groups.”   Whatever my rancorous indie cred, I’m still a left-symp, and I love lobbing out the right-wing domestic terrorists pose a bigger threat molotov now and then. But this kind of overreach is of the same stink as “all Trump voters are racist.” This kind of hyperbole hurts the cause. However noble the intentions, and anti-racism is pretty fine and upstanding in my book, one doesn’t win the moral high ground on lies.

Jackie Speier. Hrm. Makes unsubstantiated claims that ultimately rest on “trust me.” Equivocates with the best of them. Undetermined. Keeps dodgy company, what with being a Congressperson and all.

Mike Quigley: He might be partisan, but I haven’t seen a lie here. Speculation, maybe well-founded or not, sure. As for his claims about the Dem memo, if that’s released, we’ll have a better idea of this guy’s relationship with truth…if it turns out he’s full of bull. Can’t well deduce much else, now can we?

My gut is that Eric Swalwell is telling truths here, but that’s my bias. Absent that, he’s brash and cynical, but I don’t see where he’s mistaken without evidence to the contrary. Trust him? Again, this is Congress.

Joaquin Castro seems to be a rising star when it comes to making shit up for political gain. His speculation has some of the same stink as Quigley’s, but there’s a hearty enough dose of misrepresentation that PF went from Barely True to Mostly False as further details emerged. Caveat emptor.

Lastly, we’ve got Denny Heck. Here’s another case of needing to wait for the smoke to clear to know whether he’s being aboveboard or off the rails.

After assessing these quick n’ dirty scorecards, we’ve got no more actual, useful evidence out here among our unwashed selves than we started with, and tons more speculation. And we run into this weird good cop/bad cop thing on both sides. You’ve heard it before. If a good cop knows about a bad cop and does nothing about the bad cop, doesn’t that make the otherwise good cop a bad cop, too? Well, both majority and minority sides of the House Intel committee have a couple of folks that, barring their involvement with Congress, might almost appear clean (well, insofar as any plutocrat in our 2-party artificially imposed duopoly can technically be clean of anything at all). If their more obviously abominable comrades in Congressional arms are acting and speaking from malign intent, wouldn’t the so-called good guys have an obligation to their own constituencies to say something (if not their own personal convictions)? If there’s dirt, do they get dirty by contagion?

After all this, shouldn’t it be clear that for one to have a strong conviction either way, absent evidence or any hope of ever having access to all the evidence, we’re basing our stances on trust?


What does that say about us?

Meanwhile, we’ve got the right-wing propaganda mill spinning a tale that the Dems are especially hypocritical for pushing the The Post (about the Pentagon Papers and the push to release them) while decrying the GOP release of their memo. Apples to oranges of that caliber? Pure D bullshit. There’s those lying lips again. If this is to be analogous to the Pentagon Papers, it would seem the analogue would be the Steele Dossier, not the GOP memo, maybe the Steele Dossier plus both the GOP and Dem memos (and as much declassified evidence is necessary for the American public to make sense of their tangled webs). But the GOP memo by itself? I don’t think so.

After looking at more of this farce than I ever cared to, I’ve only reached one conclusion, and it’s about oppo research more generally, and what Congress’ role needs to be. Oppo research is an ugly game, but it’s politically de rigeur now for any candidate lacking the spine to run an issues only campaign, read: so horribly many of them. It has the same distaste as hiring a PI to dig up dirt on someone with the dash of grungy thrill one might feel paying for a background check on a date. It seems unlikely we’ll ever can those worms again, not so long as it’s okay at one level, but not at another. I’m a sucker for coherence and consistency.

Here’s where I draw my line…foreign “agents.” Somehow we’re supposed to believe that having a subject of the British Crown poking around in America’s underwear drawer in search of “evidence” is more desirable than having a subject of the Kremlin digging around in our skivvies. No. Are we daft? What about securing the services of a foreign operative, directly or otherwise, seems like a good idea? We’ve now sent hostile powers the world over a clear memo, no clearance or release needed: we’ve got dark money, you’ve got spies. Let’s talk and see if there’s some chemistry. We have financially incentivized the activation of countless foreign spooks. I haven’t seen any analysis to that effect yet, so maybe I’m nuts (it’s 3:30 AM for a Friday night insomniac with an ax to grind, after all), but doesn’t that pose a threat to the efficacy of both our intelligence and counter-intelligence operations? Does that murky world really need billionaire-incentivized foreign intel operatives stirring the mud? I don’t think so.

Since all this is going on and we seem to be horribly unclear as to what the rules are when it comes to foreign persons and our dirty laundry research, Congress seems to have a clear cut responsibility laid out before it. Congress: write a damned law already, a quick, clean simple law, and if there’s a free speech issue, let the courts sort it out later. Ban any form of consideration or quid pro quo in exchange for foreign-derived oppo research. Maybe then, if some overseas scumbag has actual proof of an actual thing that should legitimately ruin the odds of a candidate for US office, maybe that scumbag will be stuck with doing the decent thing and just taking it to the press with evidence that can be revealed in the reportage.

Why the distinction? One is speech. The other is an abridgment of our sovereignty.