In Which I Agree with Dana Milbank

In Which I Agree with Dana Milbank April 12, 2017

Dana Milbank is not exactly my favorite columnist in the world, but I have to agree with his latest column about the unnecessary and often absurd use of conspiracy theories and wild speculation in opposition to Donald Trump. We need to stop emulating the people we criticize.


Maybe we should muzzle the wag-the-dog talk.

MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell led off his show Friday night with an alarming report: Russian President Vladimir Putin may have told Syria’s Bashar al-Assad to launch last week’s chemical attackto let President Trump respond militarily — thereby boosting Trump’s standing in the United States and dispelling the belief that he is too close to Putin.

“It’s perfect,” O’Donnell said, telling viewers “what you won’t hear is proof that that scenario that I have just outlined is impossible, because . . . with Donald Trump anything is possible.”

I’m a fan of O’Donnell, and it is technically true that we can’t prove that Putin didn’t orchestrate the attack to boost Trump. But by that logic, we can never prove to everybody’s satisfaction that there wasn’t a second gunman on the grassy knoll, that Vincent Foster wasn’t murdered, that there wasn’t a controlled demolition inside Building 7, that former president Barack Obama didn’t forge his birth certificate, or that the government isn’t controlling our minds with fluoride.

But speculation without evidence is at best distraction, and at worst it allows Trump’s defenders to discredit the whole story about Trump’s contacts with Russia and Russia’s attempts to tilt the election his way…

The chemical conspiracy, as The Post’s Avi Selk noted, debuted on a left-wing site called the Palmer Report. This is part of a larger phenomenon that has already taken root online, where in some quarters full-blown cases of Trump Derangement Syndrome have already broken out. Trump won the presidency and now governs by creating a parallel universe with alternative facts. There’s a temptation among his opponents to respond in kind. But the way to counter Trump is to speak the truth, not to fight him with more fake news.

Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding. We have a winner. It isn’t just unnecessary (there’s obviously more than enough real things to criticize Trump about), it actually undermines that legitimate criticism in exactly the same way that the extremist nonsense from the far-far-right allows us to dismiss the more mainstream conservative positions. I really wish my fellow liberals would cut it out and stick to the facts rather than evidence-free and wildly exaggerated speculation.

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