How strange our political people are!
Their strangeness isn’t enough to make their lives interesting. Ronald Reagan, Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson, the many Roosevelts — all had fascinating lives, no matter how you assess them. Robert Novak, the political commentator, wrote a fascinating account of his own life. But who wants to read a biography of Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton or Charles Schumer or Nancy Pelosi or Chris Matthews or George F. Will?
Yet such people have the power to create those uncanny moments that shake one’s faith in a rationally comprehensible world. It’s as if one heard a voice from the closet, calling, “Eat more rocks!” What? you wonder. What was that? The voice said what?
Brennan has repeatedly denounced Trump for denouncing people in the same way in which he himself denounces Trump.
On August 18, John Brennan, former CEO of the CIA, said something that has had me reading his words over and over, trying to figure them out — but it just isn’t possible
Since the 2016 election, Brennan has made a lot of statements that were over the top, especially statements about Donald Trump, who failed to reappoint him to any leading office in the secret police. He has repeatedly denounced Trump for denouncing people in the same way in which he himself denounces Trump. Responding to Trump’s meeting with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, where Trump neglected either to denounce Putin for interference in the 2016 election or to bomb the former Soviet Union back into the Stone Age, Brennan tweeted (July 16):
Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of “high crimes & misdemeanors.” It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???
That was enough to indicate that although Brennan spent his official life trying to identify people who were committing treason, he has no idea of how treason is defined. (See Article III, Section 3 of the Constitution.) The message showed his incompetence as well as his aptitude for slander. But it was not impossible to understand.
On August 18, however, he went on Rachel Maddow’s show and moved boldly into the realm of the surreal. Maddow noted, quite sensibly, that he had accused Trump of committing treason, but this seemed a new thought to Brennan. Looking, as always, like Zinjanthropus with a bad hair day, he denied that he had done that. Here are his remarks, as transcribed by The Hill:
I did say that it rises to and exceeds the level of high crimes and misdemeanors and nothing short of treasonous, because he had the opportunity there to be able to say to the world that this is something that happened.
And that’s why I said it was nothing short of treasonous. I didn’t mean that he committed treason. But it was a term that I used, nothing short of treasonous.
That speech must have left Maddow feeling pretty woozy; I know it made me that way. As she observed, again quite rationally, “nothing short of treasonous means it’s treason.” “Well,” she said, trying to make some kind of sense out of this, “you didn’t mean that he committed treason, though?” “I said,” Brennan replied, “‘it’s nothing short of treasonous.’ That was the term that I used, yeah.”
The message showed his incompetence as well as his aptitude for slander.
Maddow might disagree with me, but at this point I wondered how many surreal people have infiltrated our government. Plenty, I think. But my worst moment came when I looked at the summary that The Hill, which is a mainstream venue, made of Brennan’s account of his “treason” claim:
Former CIA Director John Brennan said that he didn’t mean President Trump had committed treason when he called Trump’s press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin “nothing short of treason."
Brennan clarified the comment during an interview Friday, after NBC’s Rachel Maddow said Brennan said the press conference “rose to treason.”
Clarified . . . Clarified? Tell me, isn’t that Rod Serling, standing at the back of the set?