There's a lot not to like in President Trump's weekend Twitter rant regarding alleged wiretapping of Trump Tower ordered by his predecessor in the heat of the 2016 campaign. For one, there's been no evidence offered to support Trump's claim. For another, accusing President Barack Obama of using the tools of the intelligence community for purely political means is a very big accusation to level, particularly when there's no proof.
But, the worst thing that came out of this whole wiretapping mess is this quote from a White House official, reported by Mike Allen of Axios (boldface is mine):
“The president just has a great nose for these things. Even if it turns out not to be true that they surveilled Trump Tower, he will have a very good point to make about the level of sabotage coming from Obama holdovers.”
Even. If. It. Turns. Out. Not. To. Be. True.
Look, I am a cynical guy. It comes from covering electoral politics for the last 20 years. But the astounding cynicism of that quote surprised even me. What that unidentified White House aide is saying is that even if the current president of the United States actually made up a very serious allegation against his predecessor, it would be a good thing because it would have injected the idea that the remnants of the Obama administration are trying to poison the well for Trump.
WHAT? This is me hearing that:
Under this logic, Trump can say and do anything — even if he knows it's not based in fact — because it has the potential to be good for him politically. His base believes in the idea of the “Deep State” — the cabal of reporters and establishment types who control everything and have screwed up the country for years — and so charges about what the Deep State is allegedly doing will always work, even if there is no truth to them.
Down that road lies real danger to the country. One of the responsibilities of being the most powerful person in the country is that you don't just say stuff you aren't sure is true because it will a) further a pet theory you have and/or b) score points with your political base.
But that's exactly what Trump is doing here. He's playing to the crowd, giving them the red meat he knows they're hungry for. And who cares if it's, well, accurate or right or responsible? At least he — and his administration — got it out there, right?
Oomph. Actually: Double oomph.