For a while there, we all thought that Donald Trump’s pre-dawn, March 4 Twitter tirade targeting i) Barack Obama for allegedly tapping the phones in Trump Tower, and ii) Arnold Schwarzenegger for being generally “pathetic,” was ridiculous.
After all, it wouldn’t be entirely out of character for Trump to take to his Twitter account to blow off some steam.
And indeed, in the weeks that followed the wiretapping allegations, no one has been able to produce any evidence, which would seem to support the notion that Trump got his information from a Breitbart article which itself was lifted from a Right-wing radio rant.
But our fears were allayed on Sunday. No longer are we in the dark about exactly how it is that the American “deep state” (which we previously assumed lived only in the mind of Steve Bannon) is surveilling the Trump team. Because Kellyanne Conway – God bless her – explained everything to the Bergen County Record. Here’s how it works:
You can surveil someone through their phones, certainly through their television sets [and] microwaves turn into cameras. We know this is a fact of modern life.
See there? Proof that the powers that be are out to get Trump was right under our noses all the time – where “under our noses” means the smell of burnt microwave popcorn.
Now the thing about using microwaves that turn into cameras as evidence of a spurious wiretapping claim is that as it turns out, most of America wasn’t aware that microwaves were capable of plotting coups. So suddenly, the Trump administration was forced to provide evidence for a claim that was itself provided as evidence of a previous claim.
Fortunately, Conway was up to the task. Here’s what she told CNN on Monday:
I’m not Inspector Gadget. I’m not in the job of having evidence.
So that kind of puts us at a dead end.
C’est la vie.
But it would be a shame if we let Conway’s microwave theory just die on the vine, because after all, it is surely one of the most spectacularly ridiculous things anyone ostensibly representing the White House has ever said. So in the spirit of keeping this story alive, I thought I’d highlight the following out Tuesday from the Washington Post, whose Michael Gerson reminds us “the role of conspiracy theories has been consistently underestimated in the rise and appeal of President Trump.”
Trump came to the political attention of most Republicans by alleging a conspiracy to cover up President Barack Obama’s supposedly foreign birth. “How amazing,” Trump tweeted in 2013, “the State Health Director who verified copies of Obama’s ‘birth certificate’ died in plane crash today. All others lived.” In conspiracy thinking, implausibility is merely the sign of the enemy’s subtlety.
Children sitting in Professor Trump’s history class would learn that Obama was America’s first Muslim president; that his co-religionists celebrated in the streets following the 9/11 attacks; that their vaccination schedule is the dangerous scam of greedy doctors; that Ted Cruz’s father might have been involved in the death of John F. Kennedy; that Hillary Clinton might have been involved in the death of Vince Foster; that unnamed liberals might have been involved in the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.
More recently, Trump has claimed – based, so far, on nothing – that Obama ordered the bugging of Trump Tower. And Trump’s allies, with the White House’s blessing, have alleged the existence of a “deep state,” conducting what talk radio host Mark Levin calls a “silent coup.”
If the “deep state” refers to a cadre of federal employees who are unhappy serving an ethno-nationalist president who apparently hates them, then many would gladly claim such citizenship. But this is not what Trump’s most loyal supporters are talking about. The de facto coup is allegedly being conducted by a conspiracy of national security professionals who wish to overturn the results of the 2016 election. Radio host Rush Limbaugh recently claimed that the latest WikiLeaks dump showed “the CIA has the ability to mimic Russian hackers.” He went on to claim that “there isn’t any evidence” of Russian involvement in the Democratic National Committee breach. “But we have all kinds of supposition that the American deep state is deeply involved in whatever sabotage is being conducted on the Trump administration.”
This accusation is made by a disturbing collection of overlapping interests and voices: Vladimir Putin, Julian Assange, Nigel Farage, Breitbart News, a variety of talk radio hosts and much of Trump’s inner circle of advisers. They share the goal of defanging American intelligence services and having America accept a shrunken global role. Leaking from the CIA is the context in which Trump once asked, “Are we living in Nazi Germany?”
Does Trump himself believe the conspiracy theories he so effectively employs? It is the wrong question. In these cases, Trump does not support things because they are true; they are true because he supports them. And he expects everyone who works for him to publicly and vocally embrace his version of reality.