Since the election of Donald Trump, liberals have begun to take once-conservative voices like William Kristol and David Frum seriously, as they have become some of the strongest opponents to the President’s agenda. Simultaneously, they have also heeded the words of the highest officials in the intelligence community, such as former FBI director James Comey, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and former CIA Director John Brennan.
In the past, the positions and actions of these men have, in many ways, been deeply damaging to America, largely concerning the war in Iraq. Kristol and Frum were two of the war's biggest cheerleaders, and Frum, as a White House speechwriter, came up with the term "axis of evil." The intelligence community's assessment that Saddam Hussein possessed "weapons of mass destruction" was also a major factor in leading the country into an illegal, pointless war.
But while they have all made grave miscalculations, it is deeply disingenuous to use their politics, as Glenn Greenwald does, to discredit and mock those attempting to hold the Trump administration to account. Being wrong on Iraq (a war Greenwald himself supported) does not preclude you from being right about Donald Trump.
Yesterday, Trump removed Brennan’s security clearance, a grave abuse of power that only further demonstrates his disdain towards the intelligence community that serves his own political purposes. Brennan has been one of Trump’s most outspoken critics, calling his recent appearance with Putin in Helsinki “treasonous.” In his statement to the press yesterday, Trump accused him of “lying,” and “increasingly frenzied commentary [that is] inconsistent with access to the Nation’s closely held secrets.”
This nakedly authoritarian move did nothing to stop Greenwald from thumbing his nose at liberals who cried foul over it, tweeting in reference to the GoFundMe page set up for fired FBI agent Peter Strzok:
Granted, Brennan’s record is far from spotless. He defended the CIA's use of torture under George W. Bush, as well as Obama’s drone strikes. When Obama first nominated Brennan for CIA Director in 2008, many denounced the decision, forcing him to remove the nomination – but that didn’t stop him from nominating him again in 2013. In response to this, the American Civil Liberties Union said, “This nomination is too important to proceed without the Senate first knowing...whether all of [Brennan’s] conduct was within the law.” The Senate confirmed him anyway.
Greenwald, having too much fun mocking those resisting Trump continued tweeting:
Only in his final tweet did Greenwald present anything resembling a good-faith argument:
This reveals where Greenwald's priorities appear to be: first, trolling the left, second, the rise of a fascist despot within his own country.
F. Scott Fitzgerald once said that the test of a first-rate intelligence is "the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function," and the ability to cognitively dissociate between Brennan the Trump critic and Brennan the torture endorser is crucial when analyzing his character. But readers only get to this conclusion by wading through a swamp filled with snark in the previous tweets. Instead of coming to an understanding, he flaunts his moral superiority first and assumes that only he, and not the liberals who oppose Trump, is capable of holding two opposing ideas.
Greenwald's diatribe brings to mind a Jacobinarticle by reporter Branko Marcetic. In it, he attacked the Resistance for listening to people like Brennan, Clapper, and Michael Hayden, who used the same language to attack Edward Snowden's leaks that the President uses to attack the free press. He even took digs at Obama, Robert Mueller, and reporters Jeffrey Toobin and Max Boot for their anti-Snowden stances. "Anti-Trumpism surely has to mean more than just objecting to Trump the figure based on his personal qualities," he argued. "Shouldn’t it also involve resisting all those who share the repugnant policies and values of his agenda?"
The left isn't holding parades for Brennan or calling on him, Clapper, or other national security officials, to run for political office: they simply believe it is important to listen ex-conservative or ex-Bush appointees who oppose Trump, as their point of view comes from a different place than many of his other critics. In making blanket assumptions that the left simply venerates anyone who hates Trump as much as they do, and by spewing sarcasm at them like venom, Greenwald and leftist ideologues only reveals the limitations of their own position.