Some of the most puzzling pieces of news this week concerned the comments of Peter Strzok, a highly-respected FBI counter-intelligence agent dismissed over the summer from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Russian election meddling. Mr. Strzok, exchanging e-mails with his mistress, FBI investigator Lisa Page, declared that Donald Trump was an "idiot," that he, Strzok, believed that "Hillary should win 100,000,000 – 0," and that Mr. Trump’s views were "bigoted nonsense."
Ms. Page called Mr. Trump a "loathsome human," and, before Strzok was taken off the investigation, Ms. Page had told him that "Maybe you’re meant to stay where you are because you’re meant to protect the country from that menace."
What could lead these two important, and presumably intelligent, officials to say such things? Why the vitriolic hatred of Donald Trump? Why the feeling that he posed a danger that it would be the duty of a responsible civil servant to act to prevent? Could it be because these bureaucrats held an ideological world view — one now prominent in the party of Hillary Clinton — that was completely different from that of Donald Trump and his supporters; that part of that world view was a conception of the good radically at odds with that of the president’s?
At some level, this was clear even during the campaign, when this Trump loathing first penetrated the media. What was said then (and it remains true) is that Trump was fighting a "culture war," or fighting "political correctness." Precisely what those terms meant was not spelled out. This seems a good a time to attempt to illuminate what is at stake, since we are watching, with the unfolding of Robert Mueller’s investigation, the climactic stage of this battle — for the soul of our nation.
Beginning with the Johnson administration and the Vietnam War of the late 1960s, much of American academia and America’s youth lost a basic faith in the country's direction.
This was felt on our campuses that the war in Southeast Asia, a war that was the last in which unwilling U.S. citizens were drafted, was not about securing freedom and fighting for basic human rights, which had been the rationale for our wars from the time of the American Revolution, through the Civil War and including World Wars I and II and the Korean War.
Instead, what those on campuses in the 1960s can remember, was the suggestion that the Vietnam War was fought to maintain the hegemony of the American military and American economic and corporate interests globally, and also to maintain, essentially, an armed American imperial presence in other parts of the world.
Whether this was true or not, it certainly fit in with the rise in the 1970s and 1980s on American university faculties of a Marxist, universalist, outlook, one that held that nationalism was a destructive force. Moreover,this view maintained that it ought to be the job of national governments to participate in a world-wide effort to break down borders, to facilitate immigration, and, to redistribute resources not only domestically but also internationally. An older view, that of the Founders, which had seen the purpose of government as being more modest, simply to secure the basic civil, religious, and property rights of the citizenry, gave way among most teachers and students at our universities, in our journalism schools, and eventually in the Democratic party, to this newer view of government, one charged with an ideological mission at home and abroad.
This internationalist and redistributionist ideology meshed perfectly with the increasing sense among our chattering classes that it was the task of government (in all three branches) to redress treatment of the least powerful in society, including those formerly purportedly discriminated against because of their gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation.
There had been much discrimination in American society, and much need for redress. Yet those who championed this new redistributionist notion of government (one that differed little, really from European versions of Socialism) brooked little or no dissent, and, by the time of the election of Barack Obama, a clear and proud proponent of this ideology, the older view was not only virtually extinct in the academy— it was subject to vitriolic contempt.
It is that contempt that shining forth in Mr. Strzok’s and Ms. Page’s comments, as well and Mrs. Hillary Clinton’s excoriation of the "deplorables" who supported Donald Trump. If FBI agents should have any biases, it ought to be against crime and corruption, but Mr. Strzok seems to have had no concern with Mrs. Clinton’s deleted e-mails, or her home-brew server which might have been compromised by foreign powers.
Apparently, Mr. Strzok is responsible for softening the language of FBI Director James B. Comey, describing Mrs. Clinton’s conduct as "extremely careless," rather than the more harsh standard of "grossly negligent."
In any event, what Mr. Strzok, Ms. Page, and Mrs. Clinton condemned is what, until recently, most Americans believed had made this country great. Hence President Trump’s winning appeal to his supporters, and hence the palpable fury of his enemies, as their inability to persuade their fellow citizens of the validity, much less the nobility, of their ideology becomes manifest.
Stephen B. Presser is the Raoul Berger Professor of Legal History Emeritus at Northwestern’s Pritzker School of Law, the Legal Affairs Editor of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, and a contributor to The University Bookman. He graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Law School, and has taught at Rutgers University, the University of Virginia, and University College, London. He has often testified on constitutional issues before committees of the United States Congress, and is the author of "Recapturing the Constitution: Race, Religion, and Abortion Reconsidered" (Regnery, 1994) and "Law Professsors: Three Centuries of Shaping American Law" (West Academic, 2017). To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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