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Katy Burns: Punishing adversaries of an unfit president

  • John Brennan speaks at the Intelligence and National Security Alliance conference in Washington on Sept. 7, 2011. AP



Monitor columnist
Sunday, August 19, 2018

John Brennan – a man who devoted his entire adult life in the service of his country, primarily in intelligence and counterintelligence, subtle and dangerous forms of warfare against those who would undermine and destroy these United States – has been stripped of his security clearance by the most venal, corrupt, incompetent and ignorant person ever to hold the office of the presidency.

The president accused Brennan of using his status “to make a series of unfounded and outrageous allegations” and of “wild outbursts on the internet and television about this administration.” The former spy-in-chief was accused of “erratic conduct and behavior” by the man who himself embodies “erratic conduct and behavior.”

The truth is, he was punished because he openly tweeted to the current president the following, which I suspect a majority of this country’s citizens would agree with:

“It’s astounding how often you fail to live up to minimum standards of decency, civility, & probity. Seems like you will never understand what it means to be president, nor what it takes to be a good, decent, & honest person.”

It was more than our truth-averse president could tolerate. And so – because he could do so – he took away Brennan’s security clearance, potentially impairing his ability to earn a livelihood.

In doing so, Donald Trump has been clear that this is only the opening shot in his campaign of vengeance against a whole list of those public servants he believes have in some way personally “harmed” him by insulting him. Or, to translate that, people who have had nerve enough to say that he’s not fit for the office of the presidency.

To make sure everyone got the message, including those still employed in the government he currently heads, Trump announced the names of those awaiting the chopping block.

Yes, America, you thought the dark days of Richard Nixon were well behind us. But – ta da! – we have a new leader! And a new Enemies List!

Perhaps Trump is simply emulating his friend and role model, Vladimir Putin. But Putin’s list is presumably private. Not Trump’s. It is threateningly and gloriously public, listing the poor souls whom he seeks to dishonor. Nice!

Brennan – who, unlike Trump, has had a long and distinguished career serving his country – has proved himself well able to face down bullies, and so he is unlikely to be deterred by his most unlikely of enemies, the current president of these United States. But that probably isn’t the case with more vulnerable Trump “enemies” still depending on the employ of the federal government for their livelihood.

Trump justifies his attacks with a blizzard of excuses, but what it boils down to – and Trump in candid moments admits it – is that he believes Brennan and the others on his current list are in some (likely delusional) way responsible for Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. The president hates the Russian investigation, calls it “a rigged witch hunt.”

He admitted in a taped interview that the Mueller investigation is also the major reason he fired former FBI director James Comey, the man he loathes and ultimately holds responsible for all his woes.

Interesting that our president especially hates people who stand leagues above him when it comes to honesty and character.

Only a man who has never once in his long and pampered life had to worry about losing his job and his income could so casually – callously, really – and deliberately deprive less financially favored people of their ability to earn incomes. It could easily be the very definition of cruelty.

And it’s a form of cruelty Trump takes delight in, one he has practiced for years, especially since assuming the presidency. Deliberately, from the first day, he has littered his path with victims who’ve had no recourse as he arbitrarily stripped them of their jobs – jobs they’d done well for, in some cases, years – for no reason other than that he didn’t like them.

Given all the worries that should be consuming the time and energies of the American president in the 21st century – from the inevitable ravages of global warming and the finite number of resources that have to satisfy a growing world population, to a still-fragile national economy in an already unstable world, not to mention a host of hostile nations that wish us harm – it is astounding that the current occupant of the White House can spend his days obsessing over and avenging perceived petty slights by essentially powerless people.

But that’s what we’re stuck with until at least the end of his term: A petulant man-child with a dangerous deficiency of knowledge, seriously impaired impulse control and unlimited power and authority, thanks in particular to the spineless congressional Republicans who happily have put power over principles.

And this man-child who gleefully strips others of their security clearances is – never forget – the same person who, in his early days as president, ushered two Russian “diplomats” into the Oval Office and, bragging about the “great intel” he gets, told them classified information our country had received from the Israelis. And we know this because, while the American press was kept ignorant of the whole meeting, Russian TV was there to record and later broadcast it.

Who knows how many more state secrets will blurted out or bragged about? Or impulsive and rash acts taken in at least the next 28 months between now and Jan. 20, 2021? It’s going to be a long and harrowing time.

(“Monitor” columnist Katy Burns lives in Bow.)