President Trump signing an executive order, 1/25/17
Credit: Karl-Ludwig Poggemann/Flickr

I’m trying to imagine what the right-wing media would do with a headline like this one from Bloomberg News if it referred to the presidency of Bill Clinton or Barack Obama or *gasp* Hillary Clinton.

When I think about how they’ve treated things like the Fast & Furious “scandal,” let alone Benghazi! or Hillary’s private email server, I do not even go back to the McCarthy Era to envision the cacophony of righteous indignation that would rain down on a Democratic president who was this lackadaisical about protecting our national security secrets.

They would call for impeachment and they would never stop.

The thing is, they’d actually be justified. They’d also be late. We already have solid evidence that Trump’s first national security adviser, his campaign chairman, and his deputy campaign chairman were all susceptible to blackmail to the Russians and interested in doing their bidding. All three have been indicted. Two have pleaded guilty, and the other has about as much chance of being found innocent as I have of leading the NBA in blocked shots.

The distinguishing flaw of McCarthyism was that it took what was an actual national security concern and it used it in a political way to score points by accusing mostly innocent people based on flimsy or nonexistent evidence. That certainly wasn’t the only flaw, but it’s what made McCarthy’s behavior so egregious and shameful that it was indefensible. It was certainly possible to take more precautions to defend our national security against Soviet infiltration without grandstanding and ruining guiltless people’s careers and lives.

But we know things about the people around Trump that are not theoretical or unproven. We know that Paul Manafort and Rick Gates had massive criminal liabilities in the United States that the Russians could have exposed at any time. We know that Manafort owed about $16 million to a Putin-connected Russian oligarch who had been banned from entering our country because of his alleged connections to the Russian mafia. We know he was desperately trying to get the money to pay him back and offering him briefings on the campaign. We know that Michael Flynn accepted payments from the Russians that were illegal and that he lied about it, thereby putting him at the Russians’ mercy. We know that Trump invited high-ranking into the Oval Office, bragged about firing the FBI director because he was investigating their relationship, and then gave away highly sensitive classified information about Syria that had been provided by the Israelis.

This is the context in which thirty members of the administration had access to classified information without having passed a basic background check to assure that they weren’t vulnerable to blackmail.

The Democrats have a lot of possible ways to attack this administration, but this is the most substantive of them all. It shouldn’t even be political, although everything is ultimately political in some way. Certainly, the Republicans hypocrisy on this issue is political. And it’s the very definition of putting our national security at risk.

In my opinion, the Democrats should latch on to this like a rabid pit bull and not worry about foaming at the mouth. Lord knows, that’s what the Republicans would do. And, for once, they’d be right.

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Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at