Welcome to the Third World
Wednesday August 10, 2022
Headline from Politics Insider this morning:
Feds likely obtained ‘pulverizing’ amount of evidence ahead of searching Trump's Mar-a-Lago home, legal experts say.
Pulverizing! Hold that thought.
We’ve reached the stage of American history where everything we see on the news must first be understood as political theater. In other words, the messaging layer of news now almost always dominates the factual narrative, with the latter often reported so unreliably as to be meaningless anyway. Yesterday’s sensational tale of the FBI raiding the Mar-a-Lago home of former president Donald Trump is no different.
As of now, it’s impossible to say if Trump’s alleged offense was great, small, or in between. But this for sure is a huge story, and its hugeness extends in multiple directions, including the extraordinary political risk inherent in the decision to execute the raid. If it backfires, if underlying this action there isn’t a very substantial there there, the Biden administration just took the world’s most reputable police force and turned it into the American version of the Tonton Macoute on national television. We may be looking at simultaneously the dumbest and most inadvertently destructive political gambit in the recent history of this country.
The top story today in the New York Times, bylined by its top White House reporter, speculates this is about “delayed returning” of “15 boxes of material requested by officials with the National Archives.” If that’s true, and it’s not tied to January 6th or some other far more serious offense, then the Justice Department just committed institutional suicide and moved the country many steps closer to once far-out eventualities like national revolt or martial law. This is true no matter what you think of Trump. Despite the early reports of “cheers” in the West Wing, the mood in center-left media has already drifted markedly from the overnight celebration.