The Nunes Memo And The Right's Long Campaign To Declare Its Critics Invalid By Definition
February 3, 2018

In November 1981, President Reagan's controversial interior secretary, James Watt, said this:

I never use the words Democrats and Republicans. It's liberals and Americans.

Over the past few decades, that's been a subtext -- and sometimes the main text -- of a great deal of conservative argumentation. Liberals and Democrats simply aren't American. They aren't trustworthy. Nothing they say is worth acknowledging unless it's being corroborated by a Republican.

By now, conservatives regard even many Republicans as beyond the pale. The opinions of "RINOs" are also invalid by definition. So are the opinions of global critics of the American right.

That's the gist of the argument in the Nunes memo: The renewal of a FISA warrant for Carter Page was based on information from the Christopher Steele dossier. The dossier was financed by the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton's campaign, therefore it's invalid. Steele himself didn't like Trump, therefore what he reported is invalid.

Here's a portion of the memo:

nunes1

You can hate Democrats if you like, but why would Democrats pay an intelligence professional large amounts of money for lies? If they wanted to attack Trump with falsehoods, they could just make them up. They wanted factual information that was detrimental to Trump. Similarly, why would Steele just make up dirt for his clients? He had a professional reputation to uphold. Both sides had a vested interest in obtaining information that was accurate.

Steele was a widely regarded spy. The FBI thought he was trustworthy. There's every reason to believe that the FISA warrant renewal was based on more than the Steele dossier (though Nunes takes great pains to conceal that fact), but there's also good reason to believe that Steele obtained real dirt.

But to Republicans, it's all invalid because it's fruit of the poison tree: the Democratic Party, which is a poison tree by definition.

There's also this in the memo:

passion

What the memo refers to as Steele's "bias" might just be Steele's attitude toward Trump after learning all the skeezy things he'd learned about Trump in the course of his investigations. If you're spying on Joe Blow and your espionage uncovers the fact that Blow is a bad person, does learning about Blow's deparavity mean you have bias against Blow and should no longer stay on the Blow case? That's not a standard I'd like applied to law enforcement officers investigating serial killers, rapists, terrorists, pedophiles, child pornographers, industrial polluters, Ponzi-scheme operators....

But to Nunes and the rest of the right, opposition to Trump invalidates everything the opponent says. It's "liberals and Americans" all over again.

Crossposted at No More Mr. Nice Blog

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