Donald Trump certainly turned us into a banana republic on Sunday night, didn’t he?
Besides being caught in a 2005 recording saying the most vulgar, disgusting things we’ve heard since the last Miley Cyrus performance (or Lena Dunham interview), Trump said that if elected, he’d appoint a special prosecutor to look into Hillary Clinton’s history of misdeeds in federal office.
“Banana republic!” shouted the left. Criminalizing politics! Threatening to use the judicial system against people you have political differences with! Q.E.D.
Andrew McCarthy stepped in nobly at NRO to point out that Trump wasn’t proposing to criminalize politics (which is true), and that it’s the FBI’s and DOJ’s own behavior in the Hillary investigation that actually makes us perilously like a banana republic (which is also true).
So we’re indebted to McCarthy for going to the trouble in that regard.
President Obama, meanwhile, laid a demagogue’s trowel on the topic while he was stumping for Hillary on Tuesday in North Carolina. He misstated three of Trump’s points from the debate, turning them into a falsehood-based set of soundbites, all abetted by the account written up in the Washington Post:
Obama denounced Trump for saying during a debate with Clinton on Sunday that he would put her in jail over her use of a private email system while serving as secretary of state, and for minimizing Russia’s alleged role in the hacking of the emails of the Democratic National Committee.
“You threaten to put your political opponent in jail — no trial, no indictment, no lawyers,” Obama said. “When you welcome Russian meddling in our electoral process, you’re disregarding not just facts or evidence or a free press, you’re chipping away at basic values like tolerance and due process and mutual respect. Our democracy doesn’t work that way.”
See how they did that – Obama and WaPo? Trump never said he’d “put Hillary in jail over her use of a private email system.” He implied that she deserved jail by joking that if he were president, that’s where she’d be.
And hold on, there, Shraggy. That distinction matters, because of what Obama bootstrapped in by not making it. WaPo’s falsified restatement of Trump sets us up for what Obama said: “You threaten to put your political opponent in jail — no trial, no indictment, no lawyers.”
Which, of course, is the opposite of what Trump actually did say during the second debate. To wit: “I would appoint a special prosecutor.”
That means he would follow due process of law. There would be an indictment if warranted, a trial, and as many lawyers as Hillary and the long-suffering taxpayer could keep borrowing the money to pay for.
Obama’s equally false business about Trump “welcoming Russian meddling” is throw-away filler, added to seem to bolster a case against Trump that doesn’t hold water. But Obama didn’t really have to go to that trouble. WaPo’s there to do the work for him, framing Obama’s false implication about what Trump said by wording the news report as if it’s what Trump did say.
That happens every day, of course. As Ann Coulter noted a month ago, we’re driven to channel Mary McCarthy on Lillian Hellman, and say of the MSM that every word they write about Trump is a lie, including “and” and “the.”
But there’s a cream filling to this doughnut. The alert editorial staff at the Wall Street Journal pointed it out this morning. If a special prosecutor to go after Hillary for misconduct in federal office is a “banana republic” proposal, Trump is a late-comer. The proposal was already made – in 2008. By presidential candidate Barack Obama.
WSJ’s editors think it’s a bad idea, which puts them closer than not to the basic posture of the Boston Globe. But WSJ has the grace to acknowledge that Obama brought it up and thought it was a great idea, when he was campaigning in 2008.
Then again, where could Mr. Trump have conjured such a bad idea? Well, maybe from a certain Senator who ran for President in 2008 promising an investigation of the Bush Administration’s “torture” of jihadist detainees. Here’s how he put it in April 2008:
“What I would want to do is to have my Justice Department and my Attorney General immediately review the information that’s already there and to find out are there inquiries that need to be pursued. I can’t prejudge that because we don’t have access to all the material right now. I think that you are right, if crimes have been committed, they should be investigated.” He went on to say he didn’t want something that would “perceived” as a “partisan witch hunt,” but the signal was clear.
Andrew McCarthy would step in here and make a distinction for us. At NRO, he frames the separate case that investigating Hillary for literal violations of the United States Code is not the same thing as “criminalizing politics.” His case would mean that what Trump proposes is not like Obama’s proposal to criminalize interrogation policy after the fact, in order to go after the Bush administration (which, as WSJ recounts, Obama had Eric Holder try to do).
So you can choose whether you think McCarthy has the stronger point on the “criminalization of politics” issue, or WSJ does, in its op-ed.
But the bottom line is that the left’s sudden sanctimony about threatening political opponents with prosecution is a big, fat, dead-fish slap of hypocrisy. To round out our hypocrisy tour d’horizon, Bre Payton at The Federalist assembled a list of other instances in which Democrats have recently fought policy points by attacking people in court – including some who were their direct political opponents.