“How could you believe me when I said I loved you when you know I’ve been a liar all my life?”
— Song by Burton Lane, from the movie “Royal Wedding,” 1951
Pointing out a truth that others might not want to see or acknowledge does not always make one popular.
Way back in 2012, then-Republican candidate for president Mitt Romney was widely ridiculed for arguing that Russia was the greatest threat to American security.
Way back on Sunday, Utah Sen. Mike Lee had people all over the nation slapping their palms to their faces when he said that nothing in the report from special counsel Robert Mueller had caused him to change his mind about the awful person in the White House and, further, that he doubted that many other people would change their minds, either.
The reason that Romney wasn’t taken seriously seven years ago was likely that, when we heard Russia described as a threat, most minds ran to images of nuclear missiles firing up, columns of tanks moving across the German frontier, MiGs flying over the Golden Gate Bridge, and it was all dismissed as the fantasy of a guy who has seen too many Cold War movies. (And/or didn’t get the point of “Doctor Strangelove.”)
What wasn’t heard — what Romney did not get across or, perhaps, even fully understand himself — was that those threats are soooo 20th century. The problem posed by Russia, as everyone who isn’t president of the United States now grasps, was in the skills its leaders and security apparatus were developing in what’s called “asymmetrical warfare.”
Half a century ago, that meant the armies of superpowers unable to overcome forces of small but dedicated insurgencies, as the United States discovered in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, and as the old Soviet Union found out in — wait for it — Afghanistan.
Now it also means the shell of the old KGB, as well as backwaters such as North Korea — and, yes, Mr. President, some fat guy in his mother’s basement — vastly amplifying their power by using cheap computers and free publishing tools such as Facebook and Instagram.
The Mueller report makes absolutely clear that Russia used those tools to illegally break into databases and email servers, and to disseminate that information, alongside a passel of outright lies, for the express purpose of getting the Current Occupant elected.
(And, though that wasn’t in Mueller’s portfolio, getting the United Kingdom to leave the European Union.)
Maybe because it would help the Russian government and its allied business interests become more powerful in relation to a Western alliance that was falling apart. Maybe just because they thought it was funny.
Whatever it was, politicians and pundits of all stripes are coming around to apologize to Romney for dismissing his warning. Mitt suffered from what science fiction writer and philosopher Robert Heinlein described a long time ago: “Being right too soon is socially unacceptable.”
Lee, meanwhile, has told what may be another inconvenient truth. This one, though, is less likely to bring him credit for his prescience than it is to incite the Shakespearean riposte, “Thou wouldst make a good fool.”
Lee is probably right, but he should at least have the decency to be sad about it.
He is probably right that nobody in the House, in the Senate, on TV, in the broad public, is likely to change their minds due to what’s in the Mueller report. The basic facts — the Trump Tower meeting, the fusillade of lies on social media, the relentless distortion from Fox News — were already widely known.
The Democrats who control the House should and will pursue their own investigations, but too many will discount their findings because, well, they are Democrats. The Republicans who control the Senate won’t convict on a House impeachment, no matter how well-founded, because, well, they are Republicans.
Thus does Watergate become The Good Ol’ Days. And everything comes down to whether the voters can prove themselves worthy of the faith the authors of the First Amendment placed in us and see through the propaganda wars that, thanks to our administration, Russia will continue to wage.