“At times it looked like it might cost them their jobs, their reputations, and maybe even their lives.”
— Tagline from All The President’s Men, the 1976 film about two journalists investigating Watergate.
By Dan Peak
The Commoner Call (1/3/18)
Dear Fellow Readers,
A Commoner Call reader suggested watching the 1976 movie about Nixon and Watergate, All The President’s Men again. It was a great suggestion. There comes a point late in the movie where Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein are told their lives are at risk. They dug in and worked harder. There is a funny exchange where they are accused of being out to stop Nixon from being reelected. Bernstein offers, “I hate both parties”, and Woodward admits he voted for Nixon. Both takes from the movie guided this edition.
People putting careers and maybe lives at risk to rise above politics and do what is right, or some who choose to sink to a lesser level by putting politics and self-interest over country and patriotism.
Are we witnessing any heroes now? Are there really people that will risk a great deal to do the right thing? Or is all of ‘it’ the lowest common denominator of corruption, greed and Machiavellian politics?
Let’s consider a few persons from this past year that threw themselves in front of the Trump train – heroes, victims, target … or all of the these?
To set the tone we’ll offer the name of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. Certainly everyone remembers her testimony from SCOTUS nomination hearings for Brett Kavanaugh. Kavanaugh, not seated on the Supreme Court, angrily accused all: “…my family and my name have been totally and permanently destroyed”. In October, following Kavanaugh’s appointment, the Guardian ran this sub-head: Ford has faced aggression and ridicule, as well as support and admiration, and the glare of unwanted notoriety is unlikely to fade anytime soon.
While accurate, it doesn’t quite capture the hit job to which she was subjected. One example, she was questioned for the integrity of a GoFundMe crowdfunding page that was used to pay her and her family’s expenses while she lived in secrecy following threats of violence. Yet here too, Dr. Ford acted at a higher standard by donating unused funds to trauma survivors.
By comparison Trump agreed to shut down his Foundation in the face of charges of “persistently illegal conduct” while the New York State Attonery General seeks $2.8 million in “restitution” because Trump can’t be trusted to use the remaining funds legally.
Are there heroes? Is it black and white or transactional? Here’s a perfect example of how it may not be so easy to sort; or perhaps just an imperfect example of gray: Mitt Romney Says Trump ‘Has Not Risen to the Mantle of the Office’.
The newly elected junior senator from Utah takes aim at Trump:
“With the nation so divided, resentful and angry, presidential leadership in qualities of character is indispensable,” he wrote ahead of his swearing-in on Thursday. “And it is in this province where the incumbent’s shortfall has been most glaring.”
The message is clear and damning. By comparison, the answer to the question of heroism is best framed by Trump:
“Question will be, is he a Flake?” on Wednesday morning in his first response to Mr. Romney’s essay. “I won big, and he didn’t. He should be happy for all Republicans. Be a TEAM player & WIN!”
Is Romney a Flake? Will he fall in line and be just another Russpublican congressional bot? The Republican National Committee is making noise to limit inter-party challenges to Trump, including a possibility of already declaring Trump the defacto nominee for 2020.
Scary ‘Ghost Stories’
Let’s consider the case made by Rachel Maddow for former FBI agent Peter Strzok. Trump has ended many careers at the Department of Justice and the FBI to protect himself. Trump even explained to Lester Holt on NBC why he does what he does, “And, in fact, when I decided to just do it I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story,’ “
Well Peter Strzok knows a lot about Russia and espionage, and his history is full of real achievements. Before becoming section chief of the Counterespionage Section, Strzok was the lead agent in the FBI “Operation Ghost Stories” which led to the outing of Andrey Bezrukov and Yelena Vavilova, Russian sleeper agents who became the inspiration for the FX program, ‘The Americans’.
Trump made sure Strzok was fired from the FBI after a 22-year career. Russpublicans cared little about what it meant to Strzok — or the security of the nation — while rushing to enable Trump.
Let’s consider another lesser-known hero being smeared by Trump: Trump Said Mueller’s Team Has ‘13 hardened Democrats.’ Here Are The Facts.
No one loves Trump’s attacks more than Trump; “resentful and angry” is how Romney describes it.
Here’s one of Special Counsel Mueller’s team maligned by Trump.
“Aaron Zebley, a former partner at WilmerHale who has previously served with Mueller at the FBI and as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia.”
Here’s the Wikipedia description of Zebley’s service with the FBI:
“Zebley was an FBI working for the bureau’s for seven years. As an FBI agent, Zebley investigated ‘s in 1998, and after was assigned to the FBI’s team, which investigated the terrorists responsible for the attacks. Zebley was one of the investigators who built the case against , who was ultimately sentenced to . Zebley testified at Moussaoui’s trial.“
Wired has a good article on the Mueller team which opens with some history of Zebley’s work to capture Zacarias Moussaoui: Robert Mueller Chooses His Investigatory Dream Team.
“PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP had almost certainly never heard the name Aaron Zebley before the announcement that the former FBI agent was joining the into ties between Trump’s campaign and Russia. But to those who have followed the arc of the bureau during the past twenty years, Zebley’s is a name that underscores just how far-reaching and dogged—and potentially long—the probe will likely be.
“Just ask Steve Gaudin’s ex-girlfriend.
“She wasn’t at all happy when Zebley, her boyfriend’s FBI partner, called at 3 one morning in August, 1999… The couple was even looking forward to an imminent, albeit brief, summer vacation.
“But then came the call from Zebley.
““I’ve found Ali Mandela,” Zebley said, excitedly. Mandela, the fugitive terrorist suspected of helping execute the previous year’s bombings of US embassies in East Africa, appeared to still be on the continent, he told Gaudin. Somewhere in South Africa. They had to leave immediately.
“Angry at yet another sleepless night… some advice: Don’t bother coming back.
“But that was just the way it was for the elite agents on one of the FBI’s most storied squads. Nothing could come between them and their search for justice.
“The details of that trip—and the subsequent capture of one of America’s most wanted terrorists by Zebley and Gaudin—help illuminate the makeup of the special counsel team that former FBI director Robert Mueller is assembling. It’s a team that contains some of the nation’s top investigators and leading experts on seemingly every aspect of the potential investigation—from specific crimes like money laundering and campaign finance violations to understanding how to navigate both sprawling globe-spanning cases and the complex local dynamics of Washington power politics.”
MSNBC host Nicole Wallace’s program offers a strong case with “Why 2019 is poised to be a busier year for Robert Mueller” as one of her Defining Moments of 2018.
We could nominate the entire special counsel team, but we’ll wait to see where we end up.
The point here is the people in the trenches are people with accomplishments and records of dedication, courage and self-sacrifice. People that deserve our respect and undeserving of the attacks and even career-ending resentful actions of Trump.
For the record, the Washington Post story clarifies that Zebley has no declared political affiliation and has made no political donations.
Th president’s pack of modern anti-heroes
By comparison, let’s note just a few of the anti-heroes like “Putin’s favorite Congressman”, former Rep Dana Rohrabacher (was R-CA).
Or outgoing House Intelligence Chair, “If we do not keep the majority, all of this goes away”, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA).
Or the senator former Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) accused as “the senator from Kentucky is now working for Putin”, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY).
The anti-heroes will slither into history and either be remembered accurately for what they were or simply forgotten for being unimportant.
We’ll just ring-fence the entire anti-hero leadership of the national Republican party including Senate Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), former Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA).
And don’t forget the NRA, whose money has made so much of the Russpublican smearing and deceiving possible.
The Clown comforting the converted
There is one Trump associate meriting more attention than the rest: Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani. Many of his peers marvel at what Rudy has become. How far he has sunk: How Rudy Giuliani Turned Into Trump’s Clown.
“Since joining Trump’s team, Giuliani has greeted every new development as a vindication, even when he’s had to bend and warp the evidence in front of him. Like Trump, he characterizes the Mueller probe as a “witch hunt” and the prosecutors as “thugs.” He has, in effect, become the legal auxiliary to Trump’s Twitter feed, peddling the same chaotic mixture of non sequiturs, exaggerations, half-truths, and falsehoods. Giuliani, like the President, is not seeking converts but comforting the converted.
“This has come at considerable cost to his reputation. As a prosecutor, Giuliani was the sheriff of Wall Street and the bane of organized crime. As mayor, he was the law-and-order leader who kicked “squeegee men” off the streets of New York. Now he’s a talking head spouting nonsense on cable news.”
But that doesn’t even tell the entire story about how low Giuliani has sunk: This Is Why Rudy Giuliani Is In Armenia Right Now.
It’s likely most of us would be unaware of Giuliani’s global shilling and grifting if it weren’t for his being Trump’s clown. Giuliani has even managed to combine the two pursuits as a way to make money.
Sure Giuliani spends a lot of time in Ukraine and on one trip to Kiev, “Giuliani reportedly met with President Poroshenko and other government officials, including FM Klimkin (Russian Foreign Minister Pavlov Klimkin). He also gave a talk on global security at the Victor Pinchuk Foundation. Pinchuk is under investigation by the Special Counsel for a $150,000 donation he made to the Trump Foundation in 2015”.
But it gets worse:
“Giuliani’s second trip to Ukraine was in November 2017, the U.S. approval of an to present to the Ukrainian Government. Giuliani arrived in Kharkiv on the private jet of Alexander Rovt, a Ukrainian-American reportedly under investigation by Robert Mueller. During his visit, he met with Kernes and presented security recommendations that he assured the Mayor were supported by the U.S. government.
“Giuliani then traveled on from Kharkiv, meeting again with President Poroshenko in Kiev. According to the President’s website:
““The parties ways to overcome Russian aggression against Ukraine. The President noted special importance of Ukraine-USA cooperation in cyber security sphere.”
“It was later in U.S. media that the Ukrainian Government ceased cooperating with the Mueller investigation in November 2017 and subsequently dropped investigations into Paul Manafort.”
There’s much more, but you get the point – more than Trump’s clown, more than a member of Trump’s grifting family and associates, Giuliani is making money with one hand in U.S. foreign policy and covering possible criminal and political exposure for Trump with the other. All the while clowning for the media with Trump denials.
But the final nod to anti-heroes goes to Evangelicals: The Walls Around Trump Are Crumbling. Evangelicals May Be His Last Resort.
“White evangelical Christian support for Trump may perhaps prove his strongest bedrock, an important key to holding his base. Ron Brownstein and found that key elements of his blue-collar white base moved away from Republicans — with the exception of white evangelicals, who instead showed a “hardening loyalty” to the Trump-era GOP. There appears to be a , with some groups of non-evangelical whites opposing it while evangelical whites continue to overwhelmingly support it.”
There’s even a movie, “,” which presents Trump “as a modern-day “King Cyrus,” the 6th-century B.C. king of Persia who freed Jews from captivity in Babylon. As Stewart notes, Cyrus is the “model for a nonbeliever appointed by God as a vessel for the faithful,” and in the eyes of white evangelicals, Trump plays that role.” Trump is a “savior figure for “Christian Nationalism””.
Or you can just listen to the words of Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. who “claimed that it “may be immoral” for evangelicals leaders “not to support”” Trump.
In the dust bin
We all know Nixon resigned. Most of us remember little if anything about “All The President’s Men”: Colson, McGruder, Hunt, Liddy, Haldeman, Ehrlichman or Mitchell.
It’s the heroes we should remember, celebrate and honor.
We hope for a similar outcome – Trump leaves office one way or another and the enablers fade away to be remembered in anger … if at all.
(Commoner Call photo by Mark L. Taylor, 2016. Open source and free for on-derivative use with link to www.thecommonercall.org )