This isn’t Watergate. This isn’t treason. And there’s still no smoking gun.

This isn't Watergate. This isn't treason. And there's still no smoking gun..

There once was a shepherd boy who was bored as he sat on the hillside watching the village sheep. To amuse himself he took a great breath and sang out, “Wolf! Wolf! The Wolf is chasing the sheep!”
The unflagging tedium of the Trump-Russia-Manafort-Guccifer 2.0-Kushner-Page-Comey-Flynn-Steele-Stone-Lavrov-Mueller-WikiLeaks-Fancy Bear-­Intercept-CIA-FBI-NSA-BBC-Don Jr. saga refuses to go away. Every day there are new breathless reports, fresh for-initiates-only micro-revelations that inspire screeches of “Treason!”

But there is still no smoking gun.

Now hold on, you may be rage-typing. What about his emails? You know, those emails in which Donald Trump Jr. was promised “official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful” to his father; those emails about “very high-level and sensitive information” that “is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump”; those emails in which Trump Jr. gleefully replied, “If it’s what you say I love it.”

To which I say: This is still not a smoking gun.

This is hardly the first This is it moment the media has begged us to acknowledge. Please remember that a year ago we were expected to believe that Donald Trump had committed treason by begging the Russian government to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails live on cable television, before an audience of millions. We all know that this is exactly how espionage works and that there is no way that the smiling ex-reality television show host was making a joke about the actual documented collusion between the former secretary of state’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee, which marshaled their forces against an honest public servant who could arguably have beaten Trump in a general election if the primary had not been rigged.

And so it has continued, uninterrupted without so much as a hint of self-reproach or critical reflection, and so it will continue, presumably, “from day to day / To the last syllable of recorded time,” in saecula saeculorum. One week James Comey is a selfless hero for not giving in to febrile right-wing pressure groups and conspiracy theorists by recommending charges over Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server to conduct official State Department business; a few months later he is a conservabro villain doing his team a solid by speaking publicly about the FBI’s ongoing investigation of Clinton’s email use; fast forward to a few weeks ago, and he is a dauntless profile in courage because he wrote down things that the president said to him. It’s one thing after another, and no one seems to be tired of it.

Today we are supposed to mouth along because Don Jr., who is not as dumb as he looks (which is not, I realize, setting the bar very high), tweeted screenshots of his Nigerian-prince-like email exchanges with a poseur who pretended in the loosest possible sense to represent the interests of the Russian government. The emails led to a meeting that went nowhere. Knock me over with a feather.

These gaspingly reported revelations about the Trumps will make you furious if you want them to. They may make you squirm if you have suddenly decided that the unfettered operation of our intelligence services is extremely important now even if it used to be boring when Jeb Bush released 40-page white papers on the subject and you tweeted about turtles instead. They may confirm your belief that the Trumps are traitors. But none of this new information offers any actual direct evidence that President Trump knowingly or otherwise colluded or in any sense partnered with Vladimir Putin or the Russian government to secure his election as president of the United States.

And really: Is anything that we actually know today about Trump and Russia worse than what we knew last year about Hillary Clinton?

Here was a presidential candidate whose husband, a former president, runs an international pseudo-charity that keeps him on a never-ending series of private jet flights to an equally interminable number of luxury hotels in exotic locales — a gruesome neoliberal shakedown machine with metal tentacles sunk into the bank accounts of shady businessmen and tinpot dictators the whole world round. An infinite number of grasping conflict-of-interest stories could have been written about the Clinton Foundation, and many were. But they didn’t matter nearly as much as TRUMP AND RUSSIA.

Which brings us to what all this is really about: the 2016 election, which will not end until its successor in 2020 formally begins, something I expect by the end of the year, if it hasn’t already happened yet. Russia did not swing the election to Trump. He won because Americans, including hundreds of thousands who had voted for President Obama eight years previously, thought he was a more compelling candidate than Clinton. Trump did a better job speaking the language of solidarity to the working class. Get over it, and pick a better candidate next time.

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