Jay Bookman

Opinion columnist and blogger with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, specializing in foreign relations, environmental and technology-related issues

Opinion: Forty-five days into a four-year madness

It's pitiful. Pitiful and pathetic.

The president of the United States accuses his predecessor of illegally wiretapping his campaign, a charge that if true also implicates the FBI, the Justice Department and much of the intelligence community in a major, democracy-shattering criminal conspiracy.  He also calls his predecessor "a bad (or sick!) guy."

That same president then sends out a spokesperson -- and apparently the hapless Sarah Huckabee Sanders is the most prominent administration official willing to show her face -- to defend his claim, telling the American people that if these charges are true, "this is the greatest overreach in the greatest abuse of power that I think we have ever seen and a huge attack on democracy itself."

In other words, this is serious, serious stuff.  It is immensely important if it's true; it is also immensely important if untrue, because it would confirm that this president and this administration have no tethers to reality, honor, truth or basic decency.

Yet when asked to produce even a scintilla of evidence to bolster its dramatic claim, what happens? This in-your-face, "alpha male" administration suddenly shrinks into sullen silence.  In a series of tweets over the weekend, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer first demanded an investigation by congressional intelligence committees into President Trump's claim, then concluded with the following:


That is the act of an administration that knows it has no ground on which to stand and no way to defend itself. As I said, pitiful and pathetic.

Let's review some basics here: Trump is the president. He controls the executive branch, where the evidence of such wiretapping would presumably exist. He doesn't need to bring in Congress to investigate. He doesn't need the courts to investigate. He has the answers already, within his own administration. All he has to do is ask.

James Clapper, who until recently served as director of national intelligence, has publicly stated that no such wiretapping occurred. FBI Director James Comey, who would also know, has reportedly asked his superiors at the Justice Department to clear his agency's reputation by publicly confirming that no such wiretapping occurred.

Yet still silence.

In one sense it's understandable. Despite a complete absence of evidence, Trump is insisting to aides and friends that he is right and that he won't back down. In that environment, a public statement of the truth would put the Justice Department in direct contradiction with a president already raging and ranting against the forces inside his head supposedly arrayed against him, according to multiple inside accounts. So officials there are choosing to stay low.

And yes, I guess Clapper could be lying. Comey could be lying too -- in fact, Huckabee Sanders said today that Trump doesn't accept his reported denial. That's right: The president of the United States, through a spokesperson, is suggesting that the head of the FBI is not just an illegal wiretapper but very likely a liar as well, which may mean that a firing is imminent. (That's what it would mean in a normal administration, but then again, that's probably not much guidance in this one.)

All this, and we are just 45 days into a 1,461-day presidential term. My fellow Americans, it's not going to get any better from here on out.


Reader Comments ...

About the Author

Jay Bookman writes about government and politics, with an occasional foray into other aspects of life as time, space and opportunity allow.