The New York Times has been a prime proponent of the Trump/Russia collusion illusion. Andrew McCarthy usefully reviews the iterations of the illusion in “Collusion 3.0: Russia and the NRA.” McCarthy notes that the first attempt to suggest a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin to subvert the 2016 presidential election centered on Carter Page and originated in the Steele dossier helpfully produced by the Clinton presidential campaign.
McCarthy observes that Steele himself backtracked on the dossier in the face of libel lawsuits. Unable to make out the veracity of the dossier, Steele has taken the position that his handiwork was “raw” and “unverified,” passed along to American law enforcement because he thought it should be investigated, not because he was vouching for its truthfulness. This was Collusion 1.0.
The Times has tacitly moved on from Collusion 1.0. It hasn’t expressly abandoned it. Yet it has brought us a new story in Collusion 2.0. It is a story in which “an even more obscure Trump-campaign figure, twentysomething climber George Papadopoulos,” starred in the origin of the counterintelligence investigation undertaken by the Obama administration. But the Papadopoulos story comes with a glaring hole in the middle: “Papadopoulos’s version of events means the Trump campaign had nothing to do with Russia’s acquisition of Clinton emails.”
Somebody get me rewrite!
Rewrite has brought us Collusion 3.0 courtesy of this McClatchy story by Peter Stone and Greg Gordon. At the center of their story lies the National Rifle Association. It has also brought us a headline that might startle Times readers who take the news pages of the Times at face value. There as the headline over Michelle Goldberg’s op-ed column on the McClatchy story the Times has placed the query “Is this the collusion we were waiting for?” One wonders if Times readers can unpack the statement implicit in that question.
Andrew McCarthy gives Collusion 3.0 its due. He has an open mind regarding the possibilities, which do not make out collusion with the Trump campaign. He is scrupulous with the details. His column performs a service. I think it is must reading. I continue to doubt that the Kremlin favored the election of Donald Trump, however, and we have yet to reckon with the Kremlin’s possible role in transmitting the dirt found in the Steele dossier.
Goldberg warns Times readers to contain their excitement: “It’s important not to get carried away, if only because a scenario in which the Russian investigation ensnares the N.R.A., probably the most influential conservative group in the United States, seems a bit too much like Resistance fan fiction, too delicious to be true.” It’s a warning that would have served Times readers well in the case of the Times stories retailing Collusion 1.0 and Collusion 2.0 as well.
Times readers aren’t giving up on Collusion 1.0 or Collusion 2.0. The process here is additive. Now we have Collusion 3.0. Scott Fitzgerald held 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, but why stop at two opposed ideas? Times readers will test the outer limits of Fitzgerald’s proposition.