The One Detail About Trump's Scandals That Is Staring Us In The Face
Whatever the source and however credible, Trump's many scandals always seem to be plausible, episodic, and consistent, and that suggests they might all be true.
Donald Trump's many scandals seem to spring up like weeds in a garden. The media has been ambling to catalog each new flowering as fast as Trump's team attempts to mow them down. The American public watches this dance with intermittent horror and glee. I like "cutting down weeds" as a metaphor for this tactic because the thing that I observe about the "weeds" of our President-Elect's endless scandals is that no one has gone so far investigating them as to pull them up by the root. Regarding the continued revelations, substantiated or not, about Trump's malfeasance and connections to Russia, at some point, all of the circumstantial, unverified, or quickly dismissed evidence needs to be considered en masse.
What I find so interesting is not that there are so many weeds, but that they are invariably the same species; it's all crabgrass, and strangely there are no dandelions nor the occasional white clover; Trump's scandals are all plausible, even if they are unsubstantiated. When considered together, they create a narrative, almost like each is an episode of the same television show. Last, none seems to contradict any other. Sure, any single item can be questioned, ignored, pruned before it blooms, but the confluence of all the data points, each coming from independent sources, consistently reveals the same story, and separate, new revelations are predicted from past inferences, and no evidence is found to disprove the whole narrative. I think it is as compelling as a single, undeniable truth; all Trump's scandals share the same root cause.
Hillary Clinton's many scandals: her conduct regarding Benghazi, using an unsecured e-mail server, Pizzagate, etc., all arose from very few, and sometimes single questionable sources or were implications based on irrelevant facts, and those conspiracies only sustained themselves due to the passion and number of their proponents. Corroborating evidence rarely seemed to materialize no matter how long and hard people searched. Proof we should reasonably expect to exist if the allegations were true never presented itself. In the case of Huma Abedin's computer, if Clinton deleted emails from her server containing evidence of her misdeeds, it would be a reasonable supposition that the computer of Abedin, a regular correspondent of Clinton's, should be full of copies of revealing messages unavailable on Clinton's scrubbed server. Amid much hoopla and a devastating and unprecedented announcement by FBI Director James Comey, the search of Abedin's computer revealed nothing. The suggestion Abedin may have erased those messages to conspire with Clinton is an inference unsupported by any known facts. In and of itself, finding no evidence to support the theory of Clinton's conspiracy disproves nothing, but over and over again, when investigations into Clinton's affairs failed to present real proof of malfeasance, the question should eventually be put to rest if only the initial, shaky premise fails to be substantiated.
Additionally, Clinton's scandals seem to work against each other, suggesting different narratives. One portrait of Clinton was as a cold, calculating schemer who was only driven by ambition. That hardly squared with her messages asking her staff to help out the various people she met while campaigning, revealed in the Podesta e-mail leak. Does that forgive her many faults? Certainly not, but finding conflicting claims discredits the conspiratorial narrative and helps paint a picture of a real person, complicated and flawed, ambitious and caring at once. Even something as trite as the accusation that she was pandering to an African-American audience when she insisted that she always carries hot sauce on her has been debunked. Many who have interacted with Clinton in the past, not just staffers and aides, could independently confirm that indeed Clinton is a fan of spicy food and regularly is in possession of her own bottle of hot sauce, predating the pandering accusation. Also, scandals like the supposed child-molestation ring consisting of Clinton's inner circle that regularly met in a Washington DC pizza parlor seemed to come out of nowhere. It impugned Clinton's character by ascribing the worst possible traits to her supporters but didn't corroborate or connect with anything else in Clinton's narrative; it was completely random.
In contrast, there seems to be only one Trump narrative, and every revelation isn't a new scandal but a different facet of the same story. New revelations seem to complete a picture of the man and his affairs, and none are so far off base as to be random or contradictory. For example, the various stories about Trump's corruption might ring less true if, upon scrutiny, Trump's foundation was found to be completely above board with no trace of operating improperly. Alas, it to has shown to be fraught with problems and so continues, instead of disrupts, the narrative of an unethical Trump. Each story or development is attacked, decried, and denied by his supporters and Trump, himself, but when the sum of all the claims against our President Elect are considered, a very consistent and disturbing picture of him develops.
The narrative each Trump revelation advances is of a narcissistic, unscrupulous, and self-obsessed member of the international super-wealthy elite with questionable business ties all over the world, dubious ethics, and a history of sexual aggression, rape allegations, and child sex-trafficking. In the pursuit of assured self-aggrandizement and self-enrichment (evidenced by his refusal to divest himself of his business concerns), Trumps runs for president again.
In addition to Trump's continued campaign to delegitimize the current president by raising questions about Obama's birth, he launches his presidential bid at a time of extreme political animosity. Despite his departure from all typical decorum and being vastly unfit for the office, he was rocketed to victory due to a confluence of factors: a critical weakness of his opponent; an ununited Democratic party in the wake of Bernie Sanders' defeat; a racial backlash against the outgoing president; the ubiquity of viral fake news in the singular environment of social media; an electoral system that weighs the power of rural voters; the right-wing dismantling of voter enfranchisement; and, the one thing for which he may be culpable, sustained political sabotage directed by the Russian president.
Driven by a desire to undermine the strength of NATO and the United Nations, which are hindering Russia's ability to advance its bellicose foreign policy, and the logical advantage of hobbling Russia's only rival for nuclear supremacy, Putin boosted the most un-American candidate in the 2016 race; Trump far too comfortably slips into fascist rhetoric, refuses to disavow white supremacist support, and displays authoritarian tendencies. Putin's efforts were abetted by Trump's alleged debt to shady Russian oligarchs, (which releasing his taxes would reveal, and so he refuses) unsettling connections to the trafficking of young Eastern European models, and the existence of compromat, Russian intelligence's collection of comprising material with which to blackmail Trump. It appears Trump and members of his campaign knowingly accepted Russian intelligence during the campaign, always uncannily able to foreshadow whatever Hillary hacking scandal was going to break next. Trump was not only the beneficiary of Russian sabotage but appears to be complicit in it, explaining his reluctance to pursue an investigation of it. Putin's actions and whatever compromat he may have gathered to blackmail our 45th president presents a unique circumstance where the President of the United States of America may act in Russia's interests and refuse to stand up to that foreign power due to the fear of being revealed.
The critical difference between the Trump "conspiracy" narrative laid out in the three paragraphs above and any conspiracy theory floated about other politicians is a typical conspiracy theory is a set of unsubstantiated inferences built on the known facts to "triangulate" the supposed impropriety, like suggesting the United States government planned and carried out the attacks of 9-11 and used explosives to drop the World Trade Center buildings. Proponents of this popular conspiracy theory have inferred this by the flawed interpretation of a multitude of unrelated facts. What I have done above isn't really the creation of a theory I'm asking you to accept; rather, I have merely listed the various headlines of Trump's scandals end-to-end and they happen to read like a book. One doesn't need to infer anything about the concealed dealings or calculating intentions of Trump; all one need to do is just consider each purported example of it altogether. I have invented nothing, concluded nothing, and have not asked my audience to accept a thesis of my own invention based on unrelated facts.
I had a quick conversation with noted historian and author Richard Carrier (who, in full disclosure, is my brother-in-law) concerning my observation. For his work as a historian, Richard often uses Bayesian Theory; a statistical model used to assess the strength of a claim of truth based on how likely each piece of evidence is. Richard authored a book applying Bayesian logic to the existence of a historical Jesus Christ, On the Historicity of Jesus. I felt he would be the perfect person to evaluate the strength of my observation. Without getting into the numbers, a Bayesian treatment of my observation would estimate how likely each story is to be true by itself, then gauge how likely one event is to be true in relation to the other evidence presented (thus contradictions cancel out the value of their estimable veracity) and, finally, compound the estimated weight of each properly assessed story in aggregate to determine how likely the whole narrative is. While the veracity the Russian Dossier might be shaky, Trump's connection to child traffickers might be unsubstantiated, his campaign receiving Russian intelligence may be questionable, his child rape and defamation and sexual harassment lawsuits unsettled, and his massive debt to Russian mobsters only speculated, the aggregate truth of each uncontradictory, somewhat likely addition to the narrative brings the plausibility of its cumulative total closer and closer to being reliably regarded as true.
I asked Richard what it might mean that all the less-than-certain evidence of Trump's misdeeds never seemed to contradict itself or be wildly off base. Richard suggested a high amount of consistency could either point to those facts being rooted in truth or evidence of someone framing him. In my estimation, if Trump were being framed, we'd need to consider which of the evidence might predate an attempt to assassinate his character and reevaluate our assumptions in light of that possibility. Of course, a conspiracy to frame the President-Elect of the United States by implicating the Russian Government or by individuals to fabricating lies and going public, while risking their personal, legal, and financial standing, would, by necessity, be an incredibly large effort. It would involve the cooperation of hundreds, if not thousands of complicit agents, each of whom could easily expose such a conspiracy by accident or be moved by a crisis of conscience. It could only happen at great expense such as fabricating evidence, manipulating photos, forging documents and being able to place them in places guarded by employees of courthouses and record halls, or else those people are also part of the conspiracy to frame Trump, to be discovered by investigators, journalists, and hackers, or else those people are also part of the conspiracy to frame Trump, corroborated by contacts in the international business and political world, or else those people are also part of the conspiracy to frame Trump, ad infinitum. One can see, by necessity, an intentional plot to fake the vast sum of evidence of Trump's impropriety would become exponentially bigger and more complex for each new revelation. It bears mentioning exposing such a plot would be as big a story as the reality of Trump's wrongdoing, and any reporter, on the trail of its unraveling, would have just as much incentive to investigate and bring that conspiracy to light. Such an investigation should be an achievable endeavor, given how vast and sprawling such a plot would need to be. Beyond Trump's accusations of fake news for anything that might smear him, no hint of a concerted plot to bring him down has surfaced.
In failing to recognize the bigger picture and properly contextualize the nature of the various scandals of Clinton (contradictory, random, implied) and Trump (consistent, episodic, plausible) is that Trump benefited from never having a single verified story gain traction and eclipse the largest Clinton story. If the news is always on the hunt for the biggest story and no one connects the dots of Trump's many scandals, they all look comparatively small compared to Clinton's one lingering e-mail scandal. Since the news media often equivocates the scandals from the Left and the Right in the name of "fair treatment," the various coverage takes a tit-for-tat nature. This tendency leads to the media searching for analogous features of each candidate's narrative in a misguided attempt to present the facsimile of fairness and offering them up as equal. This creates a headline version of an Ames room, a forced-perspective illusion, which elevates Trump and diminishes his faults, while it degraded Clinton and magnified her faults.
It alarms me that while the nation seems to be taken with the day-to-day salaciousness of Trump news, few have taken a step back to appreciate it in its entirety. We need to stop covering each tweet and scandal as if it occurred in a vacuum and reframe the whole story as the continuing narrative of a compromised and tone-deaf plutocrat, out of his depth, scrambling to gain control of a sinking ship by overloading the media with outrage and shock while brazenly benefiting the people who delivered him to the seat of power. We can approach unsubstantiated evidence and somewhat likely stories with skepticism, but we also need to be aware of the ever resolving picture coming into focus as each new detail always seems to confirm and never seems to contradict the portrait of the man who is going to be the leader of the free world.