The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion ‘Obamagate’ is here to stay

U.S. Attorney John Durham. (U.S. Department of Justice/AP) (N/A/AP)
Placeholder while article actions load

Al Sharpton asked me this on his Saturday cable news show: “What is ‘Obamagate?’ ”

“The intentional interference with the peaceful transition of power,” I responded.

I explained that the American tradition of peaceful transition of power is the “glory of the Republic.” The central charge of the many for which “Obamagate” is shorthand: Senior members of the administration of President Barack Obama made efforts to cripple President Trump’s ability to govern via unconstitutional methods throughout the transition and even into the first three years of his term.

Zerlina Maxwell, opposite me on Sharpton’s virtual set, characterized the term “Obamagate” as a racist talking point.

Those on the left who seek to diminish Obamagate should know that what they are doing is attempted censorship, an obvious effort to delegitimize the most legitimate of inquiries: Did Obama or any of his senior team — in the White House, the FBI or Justice Department or any of the intelligence agencies, with or without his knowledge — act to sabotage Trump’s assumption of power and effective administration of the executive branch? This question haunts the left; they fear it and assert without any evidence that those who demand answers are birthers. Like Joe McCarthy branding liberals “communists,” the new McCarthyists on the left are trying use a label to defame opponents rather than study the record.

I don’t know why they won’t confront the mountain of evidence of abuse of power. Much of Trump Derangement Syndrome (the disease that afflicts the left and the media and causes them to see evil in all that Trump does) manifests itself in “attributing motive” to opponents. It’s a cheap debating trick. They should know better, but I don’t know if they do or don’t.

But I know McCarthyism when I see it. To define anyone who uses Obamagate as either a racist or conspiracy theorist is outside the norms of acceptable American political dialogue. McCarthyism of the Left will not work outside of progressive cloisters. Obamagate is here to stay because the abuse of power is already obvious and cannot be erased. Only it’s scale and scope need to be determined.

Serious conservatives see in the coming inquiry over Obamagate a debate that would have rallied Abe Lincoln, the first president to represent the Republican Party, because it turns on preserving the constitutional order. Now we are engaged in a great political conflict over whether the Constitution, as amended and interpreted through to today, will be preserved. Many on the left want it so altered as to be unrecognizable. They do not value federalism, the electoral college, the Senate or indeed, increasingly, the first freedoms of religious liberty, press, assembly and petition. Their understanding of “freedom” is very different from that of conservatives.

“The secret to happiness is freedom,” wrote Thucydides. “And the secret to freedom is courage.” The left intends to protect whatever was done by Obama era appointees at whatever the cost. They are willing to sacrifice former national security adviser Michael Flynn and turn their backs on the vast body of evidence that he was railroaded and even today is being denied his basic due process rights.

This censorship works only within the blue bubble. Far beyond the Manhattan-Beltway media elites, millions of Americans who are no more racist than they are astronauts are awake to the deep wrong done to Flynn, and to far more than that.

They are awake to the peril posed by allowing everyone involved anywhere near power again. The good news is that those in charge of the investigation are people of courage. The left will not stop Attorney General William P. Barr or U.S. Attorney John Durham from their work. Durham’s findings on Obamagate will be the final word. If he finds no interference, that will be the end of Obamagate, not the declarations of progressives eager to change the subject, no matter how many or how loud.

Watch Opinions videos:

Democratic Party strategist and lawyer Marc Elias says that flaws in ballot design are often overlooked but have huge repercussions on elections. (Video: The Washington Post)

Read more:

How a Flynn theory became central to the Trump reelection campaign

Marc A. Thiessen: Someone committed a crime in the Michael Flynn case. It wasn’t him.

Erik Wemple: MSNBC’s Ruhle on ‘Obamagate’ farce: ‘I didn’t want to give one ounce of breath or attention to this’

Michael Morell: The only culprit in the Flynn ‘unmasking’ scandal is the Trump administration

Alexandra Petri: Obamagate was the worst crime ever committed and here is what it was

Ruth Marcus: Trump’s strategy: First, dismantle Mueller. Then peddle ‘Obamagate.’