David Brooks asks, Where's the beef: Did someone in or around the Trump campaign collude in some way with the Russians?
We have no way of knowing.
Does someone within the Russian government have some sort of leverage over Donald J. Trump? We can't answer that either, although it's certainly possible.
We hope to see those questions answered. In truth, though, we're less interested in those questions than in a pair of larger political question:
How have Democrats managed to lose so many elections in the past decade? Also, how did a person like Donald J. Trump ever manage to get all those votes? Candidate Clinton won overall. But how did he get so close?
We're more interested in the politics of substance than in the politics of scandal. We think David Brooks has an interesting column today about that general question.
Brooks starts with a recollection about the start of the modern scandal era. He also voices a bit of skepticism about the collusion chase:
BROOKS (6/20/17): I was the op-ed editor at The Wall Street Journal at the peak of the Whitewater scandal. We ran a series of investigative pieces “raising serious questions” (as we say in the scandal business) about the nefarious things the Clintons were thought to have done back in Arkansas.Ah yes—the thrill of the chase! In truth, no one ever understood the actual claims which were made about the Whitewater pseudo-scandal. But it was exciting at the time!
Now I confess I couldn’t follow all the actual allegations made in those essays. They were six jungles deep in the weeds. But I do remember the intense atmosphere that the scandal created. A series of bombshell revelations came out in the media, which seemed monumental at the time. A special prosecutor was appointed and indictments were expected. Speculation became the national sport.
In retrospect Whitewater seems overblown. And yet it has to be confessed that, at least so far, the Whitewater scandal was far more substantive than the Russia-collusion scandal now gripping Washington.
"At least so far," is Brooks right about the collusion matter? Is it even more of a nothingburger than the Whitewater pseudo-scandal?
We can't answer that question yet. But as he continues, Brooks makes some decent points:
BROOKS (continuing directly): There may be a giant revelation still to come. But as the Trump-Russia story has evolved, it is striking how little evidence there is that any underlying crime occurred—that there was any actual collusion between the Donald Trump campaign and the Russians. Everything seems to be leaking out of this administration, but so far the leaks about actual collusion are meager.For ourselves, we won't be surprised if it turns out that some of the crazier elements of TrumpWorld were involved in some sort of collusion. But so far, no such evidence has been leaked by all those "U.S. officials" who are so verbose about everything else. We're supposed to be thrilled by the fact that the apparently crazy ex-general Flynn sat next to Putin that night.
There were some meetings between Trump officials and some Russians, but so far no more than you’d expect from a campaign that was publicly and proudly pro-Putin. And so far nothing we know of these meetings proves or even indicates collusion
The culture of scandal—of "Lock him up"—can be very thrilling. But for us modern liberals, the thrill of the chase is helping us hide from our remarkable inability to talk about major substantive issues in winning ways.
Our tribe is very, very dumb. The current exciting chase helps us avoid that fact.
The culture of scandal is very exciting, especially on cable news, where it's simplified and served to us by our favorite stars. We think Brooks' comments in that general area are also worthwhile:
BROOKS: There’s just something worrisome every time we find ourselves replacing politics of democracy with the politics of scandal. In democracy, the issues count, and you try to win by persuasion. You recognize that your opponents are legitimate, that they will always be there and that some form of compromise is inevitable.That portrait of scandal and cable news is ugly but right on point. In particular, liberals are being sold down the river by the weirdly grinning, multimillionaire corporate tools we're handed on cable each night.
In the politics of scandal, at least since Watergate, you don’t have to engage in persuasion or even talk about issues. Political victories are won when you destroy your political opponents by catching them in some wrongdoing. You get seduced by the delightful possibility that your opponent will be eliminated. Politics is simply about moral superiority and personal destruction.
The politics of scandal is delightful for cable news. It’s hard to build ratings arguing about health insurance legislation. But it’s easy to build ratings if you are a glorified Court TV, if each whiff of scandal smoke generates hours of “Breaking News” intensity and a deluge of speculation from good-looking former prosecutors.
"In the politics of scandal, you don't have to talk about issues?" So true! As Rachel hands us her manifest bullshit, the GOP, behind closed doors, is working on dismantling the ACA.
As the GOP works behind closed doors, Rachel is mugging and clowning, and baldly dissembling, and telling the endless pointless stories her staff pulls out of their ascots. She would jump off the Golden Gate Bridge before she'd discuss the actual way our looting-based "health care system" works. Before she'd discuss the way the corporate world works—the world which is paying her way at $10 million per year.
We liberals! Our inability to discuss health care is the latest chapter in the long book entitled Ridiculous Us. There's a con being played on Ridiculous Us. To judge from the ratings, we love it.