The following column by Joseph T. Wilkins on April 3, 2017, is titled, "If this be treason, let us make a hash of it."
Nicholas Kristoff, a celebrated columnist for the New York Times, ran a column recently captioned "There's a smell of treason in the air." I'm glad a writer of such stature hung the bell on that particular cat. Unfortunately, as I wrote in January, technically it's "probably not treason" because the crime of treason requires helping some opposing entity in a shooting war.
We are not at war with Russia in the technical sense (although Hillary may hold a different opinion). Vladimir Putin seems to think he's at war with us, and Paul Manafort has gotten quite rich nurturing that fantasy. Ten million bucks a year, with nobody knowing how many years that contract will run. So far Manafort's earned his money. He delivered Putin's candidate to the White House. For the rich and the greedy, secure in the knowledge that the Republican control of Congress and the Supreme Court will keep Trump in office as long as it takes to empty the national cash register, the brakes are off. America is being set up for the most massive looting spree since William the Conqueror landed at Hastings in 1066 with his army of get-rich-quick freebooters.
What we don't know is which dot in the White House is beholden to which dot in Moscow. Those waters are muddier than the Mississippi River. Reports are bubbling to the surface that Trump is personally in the tank to Putin's buddies for hundreds of millions, going back to the days when he needed a financial tow-rope to pull him out of the Atlantic City casino quicksand into which he was sinking. Our best journalists are scrambling just to keep up with Trump's on-going diversions of "bright, shiny objects", let alone trying to figure out how much Michael Flynn was grabbing from the Russians, the Turks, and other sponsors while wearing the uniform of our national security advisor. It will take years to find out what Steve Bannon, formerly of Breitbart News, is doing behind the closed doors of the White House.
The House investigation of all that is a depressing joke. Devin Nunes, Republican Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, is a one-man circus; the Congressional counterpart to White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer. Both are twisting themselves into pretzes trying to dance around Trump's shenanigans without the strings from the puppeteers showing. Where is Herblock, that grand old cartoonist whose cartoons had huge footprints leading from Watergate right to the White House, now that we need him?
Meanwhile, our endless ranks of overpaid TV pundits are making a big deal about whether Flynn should be granted immunity from criminal prosecution if he sings about the Russian-Trump skullduggery. What none of those talking-head geniuses seem aware of is that Trump is backing Flynn, and can solve his own and Flynn's problems with a Presidential Pardon. Two minutes with the Presidential Pardon pen and there'll be no more nonsense about using Flynn as a lever to pry Trump from office.
I think treason has taken up residence in the White House, and is there to stay. Maybe you can't convict anybody of treason without a formal war, but let's not quibble. What's going on looks like a complete hash, but it is as much treason as anything Benedict Arnold ever pulled.
That being said, maybe it's time we re-think what war is in our times. That might help our Republican friends, who get confused easily. Now the Grand Old Party is being told that the cold war was all a bunch of hooey and we should buddy up with Putin. Sudden changes like that can cause political whiplash.
One of my favorite Harry Truman quotes is from a campaign speech in which, emphasizing his point with that famous two-handed chopping motion, he asked his audience, "How many times do you have to get hit on the head before you figure out who's hitting you?"
Editor's note: This article is reprinted with the consent of Joseph T. Wilkins, who is the author of "Kennedy's Recruit," "The Speaker Who Locked Up the House" and "The Skin Game and Other Atlantic City Capers." All are available on Amazon's Kindle.