The Usual Idiots that Gave Us the FISA Mess

Okay, so now the Nunes FISA Memo is out and it shows that the Justice Department and the FBI were used to wiretap the Trump campaign on behalf of the Democratic Party.

I doubt that this game of using the FBI and the DOJ and the FISA court to assist the Democratic Party in its vital national work of spying on the opposition started with the 2016 election and the Trump campaign. I’ll bet you a nickel that “they” have been doing this for a while. That’s because the facts as they have come out do not suggest at all that the opposition surveillance team was doing it for the first time, or worrying that “we could do this, but it would be wrong.”

So here is my question. How long has this political use of the FISA court to wiretap the opposition been going on? Hello, investigative journalists! Now is your chance! Liberals need not apply.

My question is: who started this? And how long has it been going on?

My guess is that it has been going on at least back into the first Obama administration. And my guess is that it started with the need to know what the 2012 Romney campaign knew about the IRS anti-Tea Party shenanigans or the Benghazi train-wreck. What your average political crook needs to know is: what do the other guys have on us?

We know this about the Obama political operation: that, going back to Obama’s senate campaigns, Obama’s operation has used illegal methods to dig up dirt on the opposing candidate and win elections. They made their bones getting information about the opposing candidates’ sealed divorce records. Somehow the campaign used its local “deep state” contacts to unseal sealed and confidential court records. Hey, why stop now?

A campaign with people willing to break the letter and the spirit of the law will inevitably staff its administration with similar folk.

And then Shakespeare kicks in with “oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.” That’s what happens when you have an administration headed by an idiot who got there by cheating. Once you start cheating you find that you can’t stop.

I am coming to believe that the best way to understand politics and war is to assume that the principals are idiots. Let’s apply the principle to U.S. presidents since World War II.

Truman and Eisenhower: not idiots. They set up the Cold War to contain the evil Soviet Union and restored the U.S. economy after World War II.

Lyndon Johnson: idiot. He stumbled and bumbled in Vietnam and created the Medicare and Medicaid and the Great Society that ate the U.S. budget.

Richard Nixon: half idiot. He may have wound down the Vietnam War and created an opening to China. But he wounded the U.S. economy by playing along with idiotic Keynesian economics.

Jimmy Carter: idiot. He took the Nixon economic mistakes and made them worse. And bollixed up foreign policy with his “inordinate fear of communism” notion and his abandonment of the Shah of Iran.

Ronald Reagan: not idiot. He restored the U.S. economy with supply-side economics and won the Cold War “without firing a shot.” Some amiable dunce.

George H.W. Bush: idiot. Gave away the gains of the Reagan years by appeasing the Democrats on the budget and taxes.

Bill Clinton: half idiot. Allowed his foolish wife to advance a government takeover of health care, but allowed a Republican Congress to repair the federal budget, just a little.

George W. Bush: idiot. Rallied the nation after 9/11 but stirred the Middle East into a hornet’s nest and allowed a real-estate boom to escalate into a bubble and a once-in-a-generation financial panic.

Barack Obama: idiot. Burdened the U.S. economy with new spending and regulations just when it needed to lighten its burden to recover from the Crash of 2008. Got into foreign policy stupidities from Cairo to Benghazi and Syrian civil war. Encouraged divisive identity politics. And spied on the opposition.

I was watching Season 2 of Victoria last night and Lord Melbourne, Queen Victoria’s beloved “Lord M,” the British prime minister who shepherded her through the first years of her reign and the guy that steals the show, is made to say that “any damn fool” can be prime minister. Not quite, Lord M.

Any damn fool can make a mess of running a government, and he usually does, partnered in folly by his damn assistant fools. That makes it all the more remarkable when a guy that all the cool kids call a damn fool manages to rise above the conventional wisdom -- and even the chicanery of deceit and partisan trickery -- so that people look back in amazement and realize he was not an idiot, like all the others.

Christopher Chantrill @chrischantrill runs the go-to site on US government finances, Also get his American Manifesto and his Road to the Middle Class.