May 29, 2018

MICHAEL BARONE: Obama’s spying scandal is starting to look a lot like Watergate.

So much for those who dismissed charges of Obama administration infiltration of Donald Trump’s campaign as paranoid fantasy. Defenders of the Obama intelligence and law enforcement apparat have had to fall back on the argument that this infiltration was for Trump’s — and the nation’s — own good.

It’s an argument that evidently didn’t occur to Richard Nixon’s defenders when it became clear that Nixon operatives had burglarized and wiretapped the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters in June 1972.

Until 2016, just about everyone agreed that it was a bad thing for government intelligence or law enforcement agencies to spy — er, use informants — on a political campaign, especially one of the opposition party. Liberals were especially suspicious of the FBI and the CIA. Nowadays they say that anyone questioning their good faith is unpatriotic.

The crime at the root of Watergate was an attempt at surveillance of the DNC after George McGovern seemed about to win the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, just as the government misconduct in Russiagate was an attempt at surveillance of the Republican Party’s national campaign after Trump clinched its nomination.

In both cases, the incumbent administration regarded the opposition’s unorthodox nominee as undermining the nation’s long-standing foreign policy and therefore dangerous to the country. McGovern renounced the Democrats’ traditional Cold War policy. Trump expressed skepticism about George W. Bush and Obama administration policies on NATO, Mexico, Iran and (forgetting Barack Obama’s ridicule of Mitt Romney on the subject) Russia.

Yep. The thing is, why spy on Trump when everybody expected Hillary to win? I think the answer is that they wanted to gather dirt they could use to destroy him and discredit his supporters after the election was over. See this, for example:

So I think it wasn’t so much about winning an election through dirty tricks, but about something even dirtier, looking for a way to prosecute and bankrupt Trump after he lost, as a warning to others. An awful lot of people involved in this should wind up in jail, disbarred, and unemployed.

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