What happened to liberal Democrats, and their concerns about civil liberties and government surveillance of American citizens?
Liberals once hated the CIA. And they loved the Russians. Yeah, you can look it up.
And their liberal friends in liberal Hollywood made movie after movie about the dangers of The Deep State and its awesome surveillance powers. One of the best was "Three Days of the Condor," with liberal icon Robert Redford fighting the malevolent CIA boss John Houseman, who longed for "the clarity" of world war.
Years later, Edward Snowden became the liberal demigod and WikiLeaks was their winged chariot of truth and beauty. Liberals fretted about the powers of the intelligence community being used on private citizens for political reasons.
So what happened to them? What happened to the ideals of these liberal Democrats?
Donald Trump was elected president, that's what happened to them.
And now you can clearly see the change in them as Trump's national security adviser, Michael Flynn, has become feast for the crows.
Flynn deserves his punishment. Make no mistake about that. He reportedly lied to Vice President Mike Pence about his phone conversations with a Russian ambassador that included discussion of the Obama administration's sanctions against Russia.
As a former general officer, as a former Defense Intelligence Agency boss, Flynn understands the chain of command. There is no lying to a superior officer, and Pence was his superior. Lying to a superior is grounds for court-martial. Or, at least gives pretext for a quick and brutal departure from the Trump White House, which is what happened.
So Flynn is gone, forced to resign, his head high on a spike upon the Democratic Party ramparts.
Democrats jeer at his head up there. It's as if this episode were street theater in olde England, with Punch and Judy entertaining the small folk. And Flynn's head, up there above them, is pecked endlessly in the sun.
But what victory are they celebrating, exactly? And at what cost to the republic?
What would have been bothersome to liberals of old (the pre-Trump kind) is that Flynn may have been targeted for a takedown by the Deep State intelligence operatives liberals once loathed.
Flynn and Trump warred with the intelligence community during the campaign, and Trump called out the CIA and others on multiple occasions, tweeting at them, provoking them.
Most recently, Trump was furious that his private conversations with the Australian prime minister became public and were used as a club to pound him in the pages of the "Never Trump" Washington Post and other establishment newspapers.
The damning news was that there are reportedly transcripts of Flynn speaking with the Russian ambassador — before Trump was inaugurated president. The conversations were recorded during routine monitoring of foreign officials' communications in the U.S.
The American public should know what this is about. I have a hard time believing Flynn was a traitor. But I don't have a hard time believing that arrogance and foolishness are necessary prerequisites for a hard public fall.
What's astounding about this is that news reports on Flynn's conversations with the Russian ambassador also mentioned something else.
They mentioned the existence of many intelligence community sources, and these many intelligence sources presumably read the transcripts and leaked their contents to reporters.
That's what is amazing. That the intelligence community records the conversations of a private citizen and leaks to damage and weaken a president.
Liberals — who once prided themselves on being civil libertarians — are overjoyed. They don't question their good fortune. They celebrate.
Now Trump is in open, public war with American intelligence, and liberals cheer on the intelligence community leakers.
Trump declared his war with American intelligence on his Twitter account and then did so in person as he stood in the White House at a news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
"I think he's (Flynn) been treated very, very unfairly by the media — as I call it, the fake media, in many cases — and I think it's really a sad thing that he was treated so badly," Trump said.
"I think in addition to that, from intelligence, papers are being leaked, things are being leaked," said the president, adding that such leaks were a "criminal action, criminal act."
The president's references to Flynn are awkward and politically self-serving.
But the president's reference to the intelligence community — in his government — is an open declaration of war. And it's dangerous.
Democrats are on the outs, so they love this story about Flynn. It feeds into their belief that Trump is some tool of Russian strongman Vladimir Putin. It's not whether they believe it that matters. What matters is that they see a way to sear this deeply upon the American mind before the 2018 elections.
Democrats will continue to push this theme, even if it means celebrating a possible takedown of administration officials by American intelligence, and the many sources of those reports.
So why aren't liberals more concerned, when once they'd be outraged about authoritarian tactics?
For the same reasons they weren't concerned about presidential overreach when their guy was president, with his imperial pen and his phone.
Because for many Democrats, just like for many Republicans, it's all about power, isn't it? And ideals — even those which help keep the republic — be damned.
John Kass has covered a variety of topics since arriving at the Chicago Tribune in 1983. Kass has received several awards for commentary and journalism, from organizations including the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi, , the Scripps Howard Foundation, the Press Club of Atlantic City, the Chicago Headline Club's Lisagor Award for best daily newspaper columnist. In 1992, Kass won the Chicago Tribune's Beck Award for writing. to readmore of his reports, Click Here Now.