In Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar,” a soothsayer confronts Caesar: “Beware the Ides of March,” he warns. In 44BC, the Ides foretold the death of Caesar. In 2017, they portended a difficult month, domestically and globally. Creating further mistrust among already polarized Americans has been a rash of “fake” news, which I define as not just news that is blatantly false, but news that is based on innuendos and half-truths. One example: A week ago, a column in The New York Times carried the headline, “Amid ‘Trump Effect,’ Fear: 40% of Colleges See Dip in Foreign Applications.” It was half true. The survey found that 39% of responding institutions did see a decline in applications, but 35% saw an increase and 26% had no change.
The allegation that Putin interfered in the 2016 election on behalf of Donald Trump is predicated on the likelihood that Russia did try to interfere in the election. It should not surprise us. Interference in elections is something competing nations do. However, the implication that Putin would have preferred Trump, an untested politician and a man characterized as volatile, stupid and xenophobic, is nonsensical. It is unlikely he would have preferred Mr. Trump to Mrs. Clinton, a woman he knows – and perhaps dislikes – but who he had been able to use for his benefit. Think of Russian ties to the Clinton Foundation and Russian purchase of U.S. uranium assets, with help from the Clintons. Consider the Podesta brothers. It makes no sense that Putin would have preferred the unknown to the known.
The assertion by Mr. Trump that Obama wiretapped him has been met with derision and disbelief. While it appears far-fetched, intercepted communications among the Trump transition team were uncovered in an investigation into links between Russian officials and associates of President-elect Donald Trump, at least according to an article in The New York Times by Michael Schmidt, Matthew Rosenberg, Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo on January 19, 2017. The article begins: “American law enforcement and intelligence agencies are examining intercepted communications…into possible links between Russian officials and associates of President-elect Donald J. Trump.” Further on, they add, “One official said intelligence reports based on some of the wiretapped communications had been provided by the [Obama] White House.” Are we now witnessing the uncovering of a massive ‘cover-up’?
In 2013, former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid detonated the nuclear option for all judicial nominations, other than for the Supreme Court. Would it be surprising if current Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell invokes the nuclear option for Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch if Democrats filibuster? Polarization has poisoned our politics. It has made us less civil. Would Republicans treat an incoming Democrat President, in four years or eight years, with dignity or with disdain?