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By Tom Cushing

Much Ado About Nunez

Uploaded: Feb 3, 2018

There’s been a lively discussion warming (if not lighting) the dark shadows of the local blog cemetery, so I thought I’d add a few thoughts and let it smolder-on here.

The subject, of course, is our government’s latest distraction from actually governing – the Nunez memo, or as conservative columnist Bret Stephens calls it: the Nunez Nothingburger.

Now, in trying to be true to my New Year’s Rez NOT to follow my dog in a headlong dash after every Trumpian squirrel, I have Not studied this particular rodent. Thus, legal training – which has become an issue in those buried comments – will not be brought to bear here.*

Except, that is, for this one legalistic observation, which is learned early-on: you never, Ever decide the case after only hearing the plaintiff’s evidence** – here, that's the Memo standing alone. Even the best claims require a counter-argument, and by all accounts, this is not among the best. The fact that the GOPers on the House Committee are strenuously muzzling their counterparts’ rejoinder memo makes me deeply suspicious of both the motives and the quality of the Nunez note. Public debate lies near the heart of the First Amendment.

Free the Schiff*** Rebuttal!

I do have a few other, related thoughts.

First, there’s an excellent podcast series from Slate called “Slow Burn.” It recounts the play-by-play of the Watergate probe – another slow-motion crisis of our democracy - many details of which I’d forgotten. Without pre-judging the outcome of the Russia investigation, it is remarkable how the actions of the Nixon Administration foreshadow current events. And I have to ask: do innocent people really act this way? “We’ll see.”

More importantly, I worry about the corrosive nature of this Administration’s concerted actions on the institutional respect that democratic processes need to survive. I fear that tactics like the Nunez Memo cynically eat away at our democratic foundations, especially among the disaffected and easily swayed minority that constitutes Trump’s most ardent base. Here’s an OpEd from a resigning FBI Agent in today’s paper. He concludes:

“ … these kinds of attacks by powerful people go beyond mere criticism — they could destroy the institution. Although those critics’ revisionist supporters claim their ire is reserved for institutional leadership and not the rank and file, it is the F.B.I. agent on the street who will be most severely affected as public support for federal law enforcement is sacrificed for partisan gain."

"These political attacks on the bureau must stop. If those critics of the agency persuade the public that the F.B.I. cannot be trusted, they will also have succeeded in making our nation less safe.”

Irony abounds.

As much as our physical and digital infrastructures are being neglected (and they are), our institutions are suffering enduring damage that will require time and effort to repair. The best hopes for that healing will be to bring the Russia meddling probe to a proper conclusion – whatever that may be – and for those who share my concern to turn-out and vote in November.

* That said, when I see some of the obviously mistaken legal proclamations in the comments, I feel a bit like the MD whose patients have supplanted medical training with some breathless, “jaw-dropping” clickbait diagnosis in People mag.

** Okay, that's not completely accurate - sometimes, the plaintiff's evidence is so flimsy that it fails to even state a proper claim, in which case no defense is necessary. Some commentators are arguing that such is precisely the case here, especially with regard to the Russia meddling probe.

*** I just learned yesterday that Rep. Schiff is a Monte Vista High grad, before his later academics at Stanford and Harvard Law. For many reasons, I'd like to hear his point-of-view.