A common theme, in looking at America’s galaxy of ills in the fall 2020, is that we are transitioning from a high trust society to one of low trust. Consider though, if we look at the last two decades, the problem is trust in the competency (and motives) of our government. That disease manifests as skepticism and division among citizens.

The last time our Republic had divisions like this, we could reduce the sides to one principle of clarity: slavery. In these last twenty years we have had several crises of our own political legitimacy, with more than one near-Constitutional crisis (don’t forget the Clinton impeachment), and we created crises of legitimacy in the Middle East . No such clarity or principle unites these crises, but they are united by the same mistakes: failure to apply rigorous evidence in making our most important decisions. Worse, those decisions were shot through with political agendas (not coincidentally, with politics controlling more and more aspects of American life).

The agendas are rotting our intelligence institutions, professional institutions (like the FBI), and the Justice Department itself. Only the Judicial branch of our system has held up as a guardrail. Its saving grace, not coincidentally, has been its independence and insistence on actual evidence.

The Mueller investigation was cloaked in expert opinion at a time when expertise is highly suspect. Much of the suspicion is the degree to which the expert opinion serves the partisan agenda(s). “You have experts, we have experts,” is a legal arms race you might see in any American court room. That’s granting that people objectively look at facts, instead of just allowing the conclusions of their tribal affiliations (a hugely optimistic grant). I spent an undue amount of time looking for any principle in the Trump imbroglio(s), and I can say with confidence that no item of clarity, that could be acted on in good faith and in a bipartisan way, was revealed (thanks for that too, lawyers. I’ve written many times of how our legal system is too self-servingly complex to be functional). So, incredible as it is, even after the Iraq intelligence fiasco(s), Americans need reminding:

We should never, ever again take the unverified word of anyone proposing significant action. Scant credibility should be allowed testimony given out of court, where the possible recrimination of perjury doesn’t exist (and politicians STILL have extreme power to evade even those consequences; lookin at you, Bill Clinton).

Little of the evidence given in any of the Trump investigation/impeachment matters meets this most basic criterion. It was curious that the Democrats never applied to the Supreme Court for subpoenas, an action that carries that necessary pain of perjury (3 coequal branches of government. Congress can make demands, the President can make demands. SCOTUS would make 2 demands against 1). Now, it seems clear that testimony in real court, confirmable, and compelled to be true, was not the goal of the investigations. Had it been, the main driver of the process would have had to answer for his proceeding after he was briefed that the Russian collusion case was murky and ambiguous (at best). At the end of the day, and how many hundreds of days did it take to get us to get to the simple point (yet another indictment of our legal system): all of the important players (from Susan Rice to Loretta Lynch) who were positioned to know the truth testified that the Russia-collusion threat was exaggerated, when they were compelled to testify honestly.

With every stone turned over to examine Trump’s collusion with Russia, the President was instead impeached for trying to pot-kettle-black the Bidens in Ukraine. Now that the Hunter Biden laptop matter is no longer an “October Surprise,” all of the calls we heard during the Trump imbroglios of “nobody being above the law” should be applied like-wise. “An investigation is not needed because there is nothing there (because it’s never been investigated), and we are in charge of the investigating, and we find our man innocent before he needs an investigation” is how the Democrats’ position looks to great swathes of the nation (and to this scribbler). This is no longer a purely political question, as AG Bill Barr has given this investigation mandate to John Durham (to accompany his investigation of all of the other investigation(s). This scribbler is skeptical he will be given the room needed to meet his remit.

But what would be the point of more stacked Durham reports, if the point holds? Any finding of fact under this system is bent with partisan distortion, and so should not be trusted. The argument here is that it is wise not to trust, and to do something about it.

This same article warning against the dangers of partisan fact-spinning, confirmation bias, perverse incentives, and the absence of consequences to the decision-makers, might just as well have been written in 2003 about the Iraq invasion. Add in the deja-vu that the causes for the Iraq invasion were also lies hyped by a media failing at its principle obligation: skepticism.

The case for the Iraq invasion was as thin on fact as the drives to impeach the President (or, better: chockablock with obfuscating complex “facts”). Almost none of the members of Congress who voted to authorize the war actually examined the evidence for it. None of them were compelled to swear true, or suffer the consequences of perjury. They voted for the war accepting as proof opinions just cloaked in expertise, and that was bad enough. Worse, they voted for the war because that was the direction the political winds were blowing. Politics made them want the war, which caused the confirmation bias. And the war was launched because everyone was copying everyone else’s jumped-to conclusions, which were serving political calculus. Great Britain went to war alongside us because they trusted in our due diligence.

So: we invaded a nation, in defiance of all international legal norms since Nuremberg. That same international law we depend on for the legitimacy of our rights-based approach. This created a two-decade, multi-party Islamic civil war, which torched the most volatile region in the world, which set off the worst refugee crisis since the Second World War, which even today challenges the political limits to the rights-based world order in Europe (Brexit, Euro-scepticism), because we did not apply due diligence to the finding of fact.

Skepticism failed us again as the same people who were wrong about the necessity for the wars, peddled over-optimistic prospects of the capacity of the wars to raise up the people being warred-on. The same way they soft-sold the staggering cost. The same way they hyped their confidence in being able to remake an ancient culture into America’s image. The same way they persevere in these same arguments for the Afghanistan project for the better part of a generation (and to this day).

We need to truly internalize that not one professional, the people we pay to KNOW these things, ever came forward and publicly disclosed their fears that we were embarking on any of these debacles. Not one went public with the fact that the intelligences in the Mueller investigation/impeachment fiasco/invasion/of Iraq was far too ambiguous to base risky action on. Not one has come forward to warn us that our attempt to rebuild Afghanistan is a fool‘s errand, carried on by fools for two millenia. For that matter, not one senior official came forward with the truth of our miring in the Vietnam war: the War College studied the Vietnam war many times, and never found any path for winning. None of them went public with their reservations.

Our leaders are unworthy of trust, but we have not yet translated that into restraining them more effectively. More accurately: Democrats internalize a mistrust of Republicans, while Republicans internalize a mistrust of Democrats. Most miss that the abuse of trust is systemic, with both sides culpable (while we libertarians remind: “why can’t we just neutralize them all?”).

That wars and secret-evidence attacks on other Americans is a desirable thing, something that our representatives will lie, cheat and steal for, to advance their careers, and get reelected 90% of the time for, is nobody’s fault but ours, though. Call it karma on us that we demand such real conflict over such fake gas. If we demanded truth, peace and understanding, our representatives would have to lie, cheat and steal for those.

Authors’ note: called-for skepticism in the Texas electoral fraud suit before SCOTUS reinforces the point, both ways: Red America will see the suit summarily discarded as Team Blue lawyerly calumny (and an extension of tricks to force Trump from office throughout his duly-elected term). They have a valid complaint: a State in a voting Federation absolutely has standing to sue for irregular electoral practices in another state. This is Constitutional bedrock. Only state legislatures may set election law, not Governors, and not Secretaries of State. A SCOTUS examination of the evidence would have been consistent with this theme’s call: politicians lie, cheat and steal for political gain, and trusting them is foolhardy. This scribbler remains skeptical that fraud on a level needed to change the election’s outcome was possible, there remains no extraordinary evidence for this extraordinary claim. Irregularities in an election during the pandemic of the Century were inevitable. But claims of fraud will long taint our system because the SCOTUS declined to look at them in an ON THE LEVEL, legal process.

Eugene Darden Nicholas

About Eugene Darden Nicholas

Eugene Darden (Ed) Nicholas is from Flushing Queens, where he grew up sheltered from the hard world, learning the true things after graduating college and becoming a paramedic in Harlem. School continues to inform and entertain in all its true, Shakespearean glory. It's a lot of fun, really. In that career, dozens of people walk the earth now who would not be otherwise. (The number depends on how literally or figuratively you choose to add). He added a beloved wife to his little family, which is healthy. He is also well blessed in friends and colleagues.


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