Sunday, October 9, 2016

Trusting Trump with Secrets

Looking back on World War II as a young adult, I got the impression that parts of US culture put a bit too much emphasis on secrecy and spying and code-breaking for reasons having more to do with the Cold War than with the victory against the Fascists of the Second.

      * I had grown up on George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four and knew how important fear and suspicion of "spies and saboteurs" are for reinforcing loyalty and group solidarity. As Senator Arthur Vandenberg advised President Truman, the government had to "scare the hell out of the American people" to get support for the Cold War — and the scaring the hell out continued, including stoking fears of spies.
      * Stressing the elegance of code-breaking and triumphs of spying drew attention away from how much the Allies owed for victory to the brute-force barbarism of the Red Army smashing its way west into Hitler's Reich.
      * Stressing the elegance of code-breaking and triumphs of spying drew attention away from how much Allied victory was the result of US Federal government coordination and to some extent cooptation of US industrial production and other aspects of a directed, highly regulated capitalism.
      * Stressing Russian theft of American secrets helped denigrate the ability of the Soviets to use their German scientists almost as well as we used our German scientists for the rocket, missile, and other programs of the Cold War, and helped justify the execution of Ethel Rosenberg.

Well, etc. We did have intelligence and spy-craft triumphs during the Second World War, and "spies and saboteurs" are a threat — and terrorists as well; but my highly unoriginal feeling was and continues that the threat is often overblown and over-emphasized. 

Which brings me to Hillary Clinton's 33,000 deleted e-mails and Donald Trump's attack thereon early in the debate of 9 October 2016. (I don't know if they went back to it, since I returned from the gym where I was watching the ... show to finally write this blog post.)

What got me was Mr. Trump's chiding former-Secretary Clinton for not know that a circled "C" on a document indicated classified/confidential material. Hence, Mr. Trump indicated, Ms. Clinton couldn't be trusted with secrets. And the following went through my mind, coming from the big story of the weekend of Mr. Trump's comments on a bus about imposing kisses and, well, grabbing what once was called "queynte."

    If one is going to confess to a possible crime, much less to brag about committing one, it is well to check if you are in the presence of someone wearing a "wire." Mr. Trump bragged about a couple acts  somewhere between crude and criminal on a bus at a television studio while people around him were clearly wearing microphones and he himself was miked.  
     There was no subtle "C" here; there were obvious microphones, and if he was sufficiently stupid to admit to groping or assault in the presence of visible microphones — while wearing a microphone! — he is in no position to talk about anyone else's handling of confidential material unless they're sending pdf's of it to ISIS and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. 

    It's not so much that "Power corrupts," including, apparently "star power." The crucial thing is that Power regularly "makes arrogant," and "arrogant makes stupid"; and Mr. Trump clearly is too arrogantly stupid to be trusted with secrets, even his own. 

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