One of the most important qualities a good reporter can have is a very low threshold for outrage. Useful, critical coverage of your subject becomes impossible once nonchalance or indifference has inured you to scandal.
This has become a huge problem during Donald Trump’s presidency. Inside the souls of far too many Washington reporters, a never-ending wave of scandals, crimes, indictments and assorted obstructions of justice has washed away this essential capacity for indignation – just when the republic needs it most.
That’s why a book like David Rothkopf’s Traitor still serves a vital purpose, even after dozens of other books and thousands of articles about the president’s felonious behavior. A former senior official in the Clinton administration and editor of Foreign Policy who has taught at Columbia and Georgetown, Rothkopf still has all of the anger a good chronicler of the Trump administration requires.
“Trump is despicable,” he writes. “But beyond his defective or perhaps even non-existent character, there are the near-term and lasting consequences of his actions. We must understand these to reverse them, and we must understand how easily Russia achieved its objectives in order to prevent such catastrophes in the future.”
Our president is the literal Manchurian Candidate, without the denouement which made the movie feel more like a caution
Russia’s success in putting Trump in office, he writes, “has to be seen as perhaps the most successful international intelligence operation of modern times”. Rothkopf is implying that our president is the literal Manchurian Candidate, without the denouement which made the movie feel more like a caution than a foreshadowing.
Drawing on the Mueller report, assorted congressional investigations and the work of the capital’s still-functioning reporters, Rothkopf provides an important roadmap through the massive evidence of collaboration between the Trump campaign and the Russian secret services – including 272 contacts between “Trump team members and Russian-linked individuals, in almost 40 meetings”, noting that “at least 33 high-ranking campaign officials, and Trump advisers” were aware of these contacts, including, of course, Trump himself.
In between detailing Trump’s transgressions at the beginning and the end of this compact volume, Rothkopf provides a brisk history of many other Americans rightly or wrongly accused of treason, from Benedict Arnold and Aaron Burr to Robert E Lee and Alger Hiss. [Continue reading…]