Like many of you, I first read George Orwell’s “1984” in high school. It instantly became then, and remains to this day, one of my all-time favorite books, despite my initial problem with the Orwellian concept of “doublethink.” I was a literal-minded teenager who had difficulty believing that anyone, let alone an entire population, could sustain belief in the set of self-contradictory propositions that was doublethink. I couldn’t see how that could be done without conflict, conflict particularly from exasperating cognitive dissonance. Luckily, I suspended my disbelief and moved on.
Enter Donald Trump to complete my education. The man who has routinely, since the publication of the redacted Mueller Report, greeted reporters with “No collusion,” has now recently claimed to ABC interviewer George Stephanopoulos that he would have no problem whatsoever colluding with a foreign entity to obtain dirt on a political candidate. That is to say, no collusion, but yes collusion. No collusion, but yes collusion. No collusion, but yes collusion. It’s hypnotic, don’t you think? And that, ladies and gentlemen, in a nutshell, is doublethink.
Some folks think this is Trump messing around with his base, for whom he has such contempt that he believes, correctly to be sure, that he can get away with it. But I’m not so certain of this. I think Trump really believes that reality works however he wants it to, in the great tradition of doublethink. And if no collusion and yes collusion is good for Trump, then it must be true. Of course, it won’t work the same way for Hillary or Joe Biden – or anyone else Trump doesn’t like. But that goes without saying, I guess.
Unfortunately for Trump, receiving dirt on a political candidate from a foreign government, operative or citizen, even if it’s “opposition research,” is a felony. There is no wiggle room. And we have this from, of all places, Fox News, where Judge Andrew Napolitano said, “There’s no wiggle room with respect to dirt, with respect to opposition research, because the Federal Election Commission has already decided in other cases that it’s a ‘thing of value.’ The phrase ‘a thing of value’ comes from the statute, which prohibits the receipt of money or a thing of value from a foreign national, whether the person is working for a foreign government or not.”
Since Trump’s admission that he would engage in collusion with a foreign entity for dirt on a political opponent, he has walked that statement back a bit, then doubled down a bit. No, I won’t drag you through the swampland of Trump’s “reasoning,” it’s enough to know that Trump doesn’t know what he’s really talking about, as usual.
But there can be no doubt that what Trump has done is shocking and ultimately damaging. When Shep Smith of Fox News asked Judge Napolitano what his first reaction was when he first heard all this, the Judge replied, “The president of the United States of America is prepared to commit a felony to get reelected. That was my reaction and it was not a happy one. I was not happy to hear it.” I don’t know about y’all, but that qualifies for my Understatement of the Day.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.