by Victor Davis Hansen
Victimizers quickly becoming victims is a recurrent theme of Thucydides’ history. In his commentary on the so-called stasis at Corcyra, he offers his most explicit warning about the long-term dangers of destroying legal institutions, customs, and traditions that serve the common good for short-term gain.
The historian notes that in the inevitable yin and yang of politics, the destroyers inevitably will seek, but do so in vain, refuge in what they have destroyed. Between 2017 and 2021 the Left has done exactly that.
What was common to the media’s deification of the criminally minded Michael Avenatti, and the promotion of a series of abject hoaxes? Do we remember the Steele “dossier,” the supposed authority of Fusion-GPS, the Schiff “report,” and the entire Russian “collusion” yarn?
Do we recall how the Left invented the Charlottesville construct out of a supposedly racist and unqualified endorsement by the president of the Klan and neo-Nazis? Who has forgotten the charge of “racism” for merely connecting the origins of COVID-19 to a Wuhan, level-4 security, gain-of-function-research, Chinese-military-affiliated virology lab rather than to a chopped-up wet bat or pangolin?
Do we remember the names of our supposed best and brightest retired intelligence officials who lied shamelessly and on spec for the Biden campaign, claiming that Russian “disinformation” accounted for a supposedly fictitious Hunter Biden’s laptop? And are the fabrications by Joe Biden and the media — that men with guns staged an “armed insurrection” of January 6 and “killed” officer Brian Sicknick — the new standard of truth?
What ties together the efforts of Robert Mueller’s 22-month, $40 million witch hunt, and the two impeachment proceedings — the last dispensing with witnesses, formal hearings, cross-examinations, a special prosecutor, and the Chief Justice presiding, all in mob-like efforts to try to convict in the Senate now private citizen Donald Trump? Must a Joe Biden, one day as president-emeritus and private citizen, fear that there will be no statutes of limitation to his vulnerability, when the vast trove of Hunter Biden’s laptop is finally accessed and turned over to a future hostile congress or federal prosecutor?
What is the common denominator of the Lt. General Michael Flynn debacle, the unmasking and leaking of surveilled American citizens, the nonstop politicized commentaries of retired military officers, and the weaponization of the intelligence agencies? What binds together the text trove of Lisa Page and Peter Strzok, the cleansing of FBI cell phones, or the forgeries of FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith?
What was the catalyst that turned a left-wing Democratic Party into a cultural revolutionary mob? In other words, why in our 233rd year of the republic are Democrats so intent to destroy the Electoral College, pack the court, admit new states to the Union, junk the filibuster, and federalize national election laws? What was so wrong with assimilation, integration, intermarriage, the “content of our character,” and race as incidental rather than essential to who we are? What has the woke revolution offered us instead?
Since when did regaining a House majority equate to impeaching a president on the eve of a reelection campaign, with his future and fiercest campaign opponents possibly as senators to be sitting in judgment on him in any Senate trial? What was common to all the “bombshells” and “walls are closing in” mythologies regarding meetings with Russians in Trump Tower, or mysterious “pings” of Trump tower machines automatically communicating with Russians, or the certain impending indictments of the Trump family?
Since when do we go back over three decades to destroy a Supreme Court nominee, with rumors of teenage drinking and supposed sexual harassment, charges brought without independent witnesses and evidence, but with plenty of solid refutation?
When did the 25th Amendment become a political tool to remove a president before a scheduled election? Since when does a Yale professor become a congressional deity for unprofessionally tele-diagnosing the president as mentally enfeebled—to the acclaim of Congress? Since when do the acting FBI head and the acting Attorney General spin mad ideas of entrapping the president with a wire to oust him as crazy?
Since when do former officials and public intellectuals write openly about the possibilities of a coup d’etat? Or when was it honorable for an “anonymous” and supposedly “important” administration insider to brag publicly about deliberately obstructing and undermining a president, or for retired admirals to address the nation in op-eds raising the possibility of removing a president “the sooner, the better”? What exactly does “sooner” mean?
The ties that bound all these melodramas over the last four years were threefold: 1) venomous hatred of outlier, controversial, and combative Trump; 2) the sanctimonious, near-religious belief that any means necessary were justified in the noble aim of destroying his presidency — and damn any lasting damage to traditional customs and constitutional norms; and 3) no counterforce would ever dream of doing to the Left what it was doing to destroy Trump.
Now we have a new president, a new administration, and a media that has gone from hysterical and venomous hatred of a president to sudden puppy-dog obsequiousness. In a blink, the national press corps molted its National Enquirer exoskeleton and revealed its inner flabby Pravda essence.
What are the lasting consequences of all this madness?
The Left should hope that House Republicans are Marquess of Queensberry players and do not emulate the Democrats’ behavior. They should hope that a Republican chairman of the House intelligence committee would not monitor the phone records of Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA). For if the opposition did gain the majority in November 2022, Joe Biden’s past involvement with foreign monied interests, and the evidence of his shady behavior from his own son’s laptop texts offer a far more convincing case of impeachable offenses—failure to report to the IRS off-the-books income, influence peddling, and abject lying about foreign quid pro quo involvement — than does a single Ukrainian phone call. All that exposure is well aside from Biden’s deliberate decision not to enforce, as his job requires, federal immigration law.
Is screaming that the Trump boys were crooked, about to be indicted, and should be investigated nonstop a good precedent for federal fishing investigations of Hunter Biden? The mystery of Hunter Biden’s audacity and shamelessness seems now simple: as his recent “artist” scam, and the excuses of the White House for his artifices, show, Hunter will never, ever stop his grift.
Why? Aside from the easy lucre, a cynic might conclude that Hunter expresses bitterness at his own “clean” father for not appreciating dirty Hunter’s own slimy and raunchy “sacrifices” to enrich the Biden family in general, and in particular the “big guy” and Mr. “10 percent.” In truth, Hunter’s spite increasingly borders on implicit blackmail of his presidential father, as if something like, “You owe me, so cut me some slack — or perhaps if I go down, so does the family.”
In sum, Hunter is kryptonite to the White House and not just because of his drugs, his pornography, his women, and his criminality, but because in his delusions at least he thinks that all he did was the cost of business for the Biden family, and the proof of his pudding is in his family’s voracious eating.
If the media can force a compos mentis president to take the Montreal Cognitive Assessment to stop the hysteria that he is both enfeebled and should be removed, what do we then do with a Joe Biden who is the first president since Woodrow Wilson who often seems not mentally or cognitively up to the job? Keep talking about Joe’s favorite ice cream or the décor of Air Force One?
Are we now to expect dissident retired generals and conservative admirals soon to swarm the airways and op-eds columns claiming that Biden is derelict, non compos mentis, and, in McCarthyite style, scanning the ranks for mythical insurrectionaries and thus using the tactics of the Nazis and Mussolini to divide us? Is that our new standard? If a Biden campaign helper or advisor is brought up on charges, will Fox, in CNN style, accidentally show up at the home of the accused to film a SWAT team arrest?
In truth, constitutional protections, sane media coverage, and acceptable behavior for the top echelon of the political-military-intelligence-industrial complex were abandoned during 2016. The old rules were jettisoned on the assumption that the nation’s moral superiors and Platonic guardians had the right, and indeed, the duty, to suspend norms and traditions for our own greater good of sandbagging a political campaign, undermining a presidential transition, and removing the elected Donald Trump any way possible.
Again, none of our moral overseers ever produce any historical metrics to justify their precedents of sabotaging of a presidency. Were there Trump sins and crimes in office comparable to FDR having his daughter arrange trysts with his mistress in the White House, or putting Japanese-Americans in detention camps, or emulating JFK’s sexual depravities in the White House swimming pool, or wiretapping Civil Rights leaders for purposes of blackmail, or exposing oneself in LBJ-style, or the Clinton cigar antics, or siccing the IRS, Obama style, on political enemies, or the latter’s intelligence agencies green-lighting a foreign agent to use foreign sources to run a smear campaign against a presidential candidate?
So the problem now is that under such our new precedents, Joe Biden has more exposure to investigations of his own family’s criminality and behavior than Trump ever had.
If Trump was rash, Biden really is cognitively compromised and would not fare as well against the same “prove you are sane” choruses. His executive orders are far more constitutionally questionable than Trump’s. And under the new rules of impeachment, he is far more culpable for using his office in the past for personal gain. The Left fished for liberal federal justices to derail the Trump executive-order agenda, and now the Right will simply copy that protocol and shop around for conservative judges to do the same to Biden’s edicts.
The Left is well on its way to incurring a pushback in 2022 comparable to 2010, with the potential to make the Tea Party boomerang seem like small stuff. And the difference this time around is that there are no customs, no traditions left in treatment accorded a political opponent in office. No one any longer knows what is fair play and what is out of bounds, but only what the Democrats have left us as the new normal: if you deem a candidate, a president-elect, and a president a radical threat to your agenda, then any means necessary to destroy or to remove him and his enablers are not merely legal but absolutely moral and necessary — and damned be the damage to the nation.
What has been sown into the Trump wind, will likely be reaped in the Biden whirlwind.
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Victor Davis Hanson is a distinguished fellow of the Center for American Greatness and the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He is an American military historian, columnist, a former classics professor, and scholar of ancient warfare. He has been a visiting professor at Hillsdale College since 2004. Hanson was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007 by President George W. Bush. Hanson is also a farmer (growing raisin grapes on a family farm in Selma, California) and a critic of social trends related to farming and agrarianism. He is the author most recently of The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won and The Case for Trump.