I can say very sincerely that I don't have much of an opinion of the brains, far-sightedness, or cunning, of the average modern politician. As far as I am concerned the breed of Bismarck and Disraeli, never mind Cavour and Lincoln, is extinct. But for sheer insanity of stupidity, for self-destructive inability to see the nose on your face, for doing the wrong thing at the wrong time in the wrong way and for the wrong motives, absolutely nothing compares with the pursuit of Russian hacking of Democrat computers. The Democrats should forget about those damned e-mails. They should forget about Russian intrusion, Putin, Assange, the FSB, Russian hackers and everything else. They are doing, quite literally, every wrong thing they possibly could. And if they have any influence on the CIA and the FBI at all, they should tell these bodies to shut up about them, too.
Consider, first and foremost, what a disastrous scene is playing out right now. Leaders of America's “intelligence community”, as they call them these days, are going to the President-elect to, in effect, beg him to show some public support for their position. This places Trump in the position of the receiver of supplications, and the arch-spies in the position supplicants. Now, if they think that Trump will ever give in on the issue in any public way, they are so politically stupid that to remove them from their positions would be a relief: nobody who puts himself in such a humiliating and destructive position should be in a position to advise the most powerful man in the world. What the Hell are they thinking? Even if Trump were a good man, he would not have the least incentive to give in to their demands. He has called their credibility into question; to go back on that would be a setback, and also an open sign of creeping compromise with the hated DC establishment he has been elected to trash. And what does he have to lose if he doesn't? Precisely nothing. The half of his supporters who admire him regard his behaviour as all-American, and the half who voted for him in horror at the idea of a third Democrat term had such a low idea of him anyway that nothing could lower it. His core supporters would probably not think of being shocked at nations interfering in each other's internal affairs; as far as they are concerned, that is what they do. And indeed there is something about this that the Democrats, in particular, ought not to be doing, since the idea of American politicians complaining about foreign countries interfering in their elections would make a lot of the traditional left in foreign countries gag. American interference in other countries' politics is part of the hereditary folklore of exactly those forces who ought to be the Democrats' natural allies on the international stage, and to have the CIA of all agencies be the bearer of protests on this subject would rouse the bitter laughter of hundreds of millions from Santiago to Berlin. There are instruments of power that the Democrats should not be seen to be using.
But if the tactics are demented, the strategy is suicidal. The Democrats should have killed talk about those damned hacked e-mails. They should have made sure that everyone forgot that they had ever been published. Because whether or not it was the Russians who hacked them, there is one thing that no Democrat has been able to say: that they are not true. And so long as they are, and so long as they are in public, they show that everything that Catholics and Christians believe about the Democrat leadership and their attitude to them is absolutely true. The ignorance, the brutality, the contempt, the assumption that Catholicism is a remnant to be swept into the trash-can of history, are all there in black and white. And that is exactly what the Democrats should try to make people forget.
Trump has not been elected by the hard-core of unfocussed anger he expresses. He has been elected because millions of Catholics and Evangelicals had become convinced that another term such as the last two would mean the beginning of persecution in earnest, a legal and extra-legal assault on the churches that would lead them to have to make the dreadful choice between apostasy and second-rate citizenship. The split in the Christian communities ran between those who, like me, Catherine Alexander, or Rachel Hamilton, thought that Trump was so bad that he would pollute every cause he touched, and those, like Tony Esolen or Jonathon van Maren, thought that the prospect of a Rodham Clinton presidency had to be avoided even at the price of touching the foul thing. The idea of a widespread Christian enthusiasm for the orange adulterer is grossly overstated. Many people, as Barbara Ehrenreich observed, voted in advance, as if to get the damned thing over with.
But if that is the case, and if the Christian vote made the difference, then, if the Democrats cannot wean themselves of their addiction to abortion and rainbow causes, they should at least do their best not to have it talked about. And that means silence, silence, silence. And if personal documents fall into enemy hands to show what your real attitude is, be superior, ignore them, treat them with contempt. The madder you get, the more you prove that it's all true, and that the enemy has shown you as you are.