How long is your memory? For example, can you remember as far back as a month ago? Way back on June 15, the big, big news was that five sources, all anonymous, had leaked to the Washington Post that, at the end of a meeting with then-FBI Director Jim Comey, President Trump had cleared the room and then asked Comey to go easy in his investigation of short-term National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Cries of "Obstruction of Justice!" rang out from every corner of elite Washington. The story completely dominated the news for multiple days. It fell of course to the Manhattan Contrarian to make the obvious point that the President holds the full prosecutorial discretion power of the government, and under direct grant of power in the Constitution he can order that anyone he wishes not be prosecuted at his complete whim, for any or no reason. Admittedly, I wasn't the only one who made that obvious point, although the ratio of the insane commenters to the sane ones was at least 10 to one. But the meme was so ridiculous that it was forgotten within a few days. By now it seems like ancient history -- although possibly subject to revival by Special Prosecutor Mueller. (If that happens, we'll really know that the world has gone irredeemably nuts.)
But what is it about humans that, when a few people lose their minds, thousands and millions more join in and mass hysteria ensues? There have been dozens of examples in my lifetime. Philip Terzian, in the current issue of the Weekly Standard, helpfully reminds us of "The Great Day-Care Sexual-Abuse Panic" of the 1980s and 90s. If you aren't old enough to remember back that far, you may not even believe that this possibly could have occurred. The case that started it all came out of the McMartin pre-school in Manhattan Beach, California:
A generation of preschoolers had [allegedly] been subject to all manner of sexual degradation and physical abuse, including rape; small animals had been ritually sacrificed and children fed their blood; there had been field trips to local cemeteries to dig up corpses. Peggy McMartin Buckey was accused of “drilling” the limbs of students, and her 26-year-old son was alleged to have levitated inside the schoolhouse. In retrospect, of course, the details were not just lurid but ludicrous.
And in the wake of the McMartin case, dozens more such cases with remarkably similar allegations, involving hundreds of defendants, were brought around the country. I can remember cases from places as disparate as Malden, Massachusetts, Wenatchee, Washington, and Edenton, North Carolina. Reading articles about these situations at the time, I could only shake my head at the insanity, and wonder when -- if ever -- people would return to their senses. Over time, all or nearly all of the cases fell apart, and the defendants were exonerated -- some having served jail sentences in excess of 20 years.
The blunt fact is that the “satanic” day-care ritual-abuse cases of the 1980s and early ’90s were our contemporary version of the Salem witch trials of the 1690s; and since human nature tends to be immutable, they featured many of the same symptoms across the centuries: mass hysteria, impressionable and unreliable child-witnesses, prosecutorial zeal and abuse, a mob tendency to prey on the hapless and defenseless.
So dare I mention "Russia"? This one is right up there as perhaps the most pervasive mass hysterias of my lifetime. The only real rival is catastrophic climate change hysteria. After now about 8 months of non-stop "Russia collusion" stories and literally nothing emerging as evidence to support them, yesterday the majority of the top stories on RealClearPolitics were more of same. Donald Trump, Jr. met with a Russian operative in June 2016 hoping to get some dirt on Hillary Clinton! That just has to be a crime! How about TREASON!!!!! I can choose from among dozens of the completely unhinged, but for now I'll pick on Ruth Marcus, writing in the Washington Post on Tuesday, "The Donald Trump Jr. emails could hardly be more incriminating."
By explicitly linking the source of the information to the Russian government and by describing it as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,” Goldstone made crystal clear that he was offering the campaign a chance to collude — yes, that word is appropriate here — with a foreign government to “incriminate Hillary” Clinton and help win the presidency. By reacting as he did, eagerly accepting the offer of this foreign aid, Trump Jr. made clear that he was a willing part of this incipient conspiracy — and yes, that word is appropriate here, too. “If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer,” he responded, within minutes of receiving the inquiry.
Hey, Ruth, can you bother to tell us what is the supposed crime? I think that after too many years at the Post poor Ruth is under the impression that "conspiracy" is a crime without any underlying wrongdoing, at least as long as the perpetrator is a Republican. How about conspiracy to buy a vanilla ice cream cone at the DQ?
For a sane take on the situation, I recommend Eugene Volokh's post "Can it be a crime to do opposition research by asking foreigners for information?" To be fair to them, Eugene's site is affiliated with the Washington Post as well. Most important nugget:
Americans have the right to receive information even from speakers who are entirely abroad. See Lamont v. Postmaster General, 381 U.S. 301 (1965). Can Americans — whether political candidates or anyone else — really be barred from asking questions of foreigners, just because the answers might be especially important to voters?
The question answers itself. Eugene goes on to eviscerate arguments made by various deranged TDS sufferers about such information being a "thing of value" under the statute that restricts campaign contributions from foreigners. If you are interested in the subject, you might want to read the whole thing. But frankly, at this point I would recommend that you don't waste any more of your valuable time on this Trump/Russia hysteria.
Law professor Alan Dershowitz also weighed in at Newsmax on Tuesday, and then in an appearance on Neil Cavuto's program on Wednesday night, as reported in the Washington Times:
Mr. Dershowitz . . . said he doesn’t “see any crime at this point” in Mr. Trump Jr.’s behavior. “Even if the worst case scenario as far as we know now, is the Russians get in touch with Trump Jr. and say, ‘we have some dirt on Hillary Clinton, come we’ll give it to you’ and he goes and gets the information. That’s what the New York Times did with the Pentagon Papers, that’s what the Washington Post did and many other newspaper did with information with Snowden and Manning,” he told Newsmax Tuesday. “You are allowed legally to use material that was obtained illegally as long as you had nothing to do with the illegal nature of obtaining the information, so at the moment I see no legal jeopardy for Trump Jr.”
Alan, you are doing your best to keep your friends from making fools of themselves, and you're getting nowhere. Maybe you need a new group of friends.