There’s a useful phrase here in Washington, DC: “Strange New Respect.” Those words are usually uttered with a smirk, because the point is to emphasize the irony: That is, somebody, or something, that once was not admired is now … admired.
A case in point is the FBI. Not so long ago, most liberals were not fans of the Bureau, and yet now, they are quite—quite!—concerned about its wellbeing and good name.
Yes, amidst the furore over the Russia investigation—and its salacious sidebars, including the long-running romance between text-message-happy Deep Staters—the FBI now finds itself loved by many liberals. Loved, too, by the Main Stream Media and by Democratic politicians.
The flashpoint has been still-secret memo from Rep. Devin Nunes, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. You know, the memo alleging collusion between the FBI and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
If there was ever a case of The People’s Right To Know, surely, this would be it. And yet strangely, the usual-suspect champions of openness are uninterested in having the Nunes memo see the light of day.
For example, those journalistic crusaders at The Daily Beast disclaim any interest in the Nunes memo, except to blast it. Indeed, in a reversal from its typical championing of the First Amendment, the Beast now happily bows down to governmental authority as it calls for squelching the memo. And why is that? Quoth the Beast: “Hill Democrats and former FBI officials say it’s a ploy to damage public confidence in the FBI.” [emphasis added]
Meanwhile, speaking directly for the political class, Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on Nunes’ committee, is suddenly concerned about disclosures. He now worries that “the majority memo distorts the work of the FBI and the Department of Justice.”
Poor old Virgil is suffering some whiplash here. He’s old enough to remember when the MSM and the Democrats didn’t feel so warmly about the FBI. He remembers the dislike—hatred might not be too strong a word—that liberals aimed at the FBI of J. Edgar Hoover’s day, and during most of the time since.
Hoover, who ran the bureau for nearly half a century before he died in 1972, was the object of endless articles, editorials, exposés, and books. Indeed, four decades after his death, Hollywood put its boot on his grave yet again, with a defamatory movie about him, starring that ace progressive, Leonardo DiCaprio.
Yes, in days past, the last thing that anyone on the left worried about was protecting the good name of the FBI—because in their eyes, it had no good name.
Liberals cheered the news in 1971, for example, that a group of conspirators had broken into an FBI office in the Philadelphia suburb of Media, Pennsylvania, revealing documents about COINTELPRO, an FBI program, going back to the 1950s, aimed at monitoring possible subversives.
The COINTELPRO information was both secret and stolen—and the left couldn’t get enough of it. The documents were printed, publicized, and studied. And then printed, publicized, and studied some more. As Noam Chomsky, the dean of left-wing activists, would later write, the COINTELPRO revelations showed “The commitment of the FBI to undermine and destroy popular movements that departed from political orthodoxy.” In other words, the burglars were to be regarded as heroes, period.
Those same break-in conspirators were celebrated yet again in 2014, when they finally came forward to bask in chattering-class adulation; they were duly celebrated with puffy articles, books, and even a PBS documentary. And when the aging conspirators died, their lives and works were, of course, remembered fondly by The New York Times.
Want more evidence that the left used to love full disclosure, even illegal full disclosure? We might recall the case of Daniel Ellsberg, the onetime defense researcher who, also in 1971, leaked the Pentagon Papers. That was an illegal act, too, and yet liberals made Ellsberg an instant hero. Indeed, after all these years, the always-reliable Hollywood has seen fit to make that story, too, into an A-list movie.
Focusing only on the single decade of the 1970s, we can recall many other instances of liberals lionizing leakers and other disclosers: Philip Agee, the Pike Committee, and the Church Committee. And oh yes, the revelation about the Glomar Explorer. In each case, national security experts warned that exposure could jeopardize the safety of the country, but to no avail; the left, in its feeding- frenzy mode, didn’t care about any such concerns. In fact, at least one American intelligence operative died as a result of these disclosures.
Yes, in those years, and in most years since, the left has demanded “openness,” no matter what. Remember the celebration of the Edward Snowden leak? That was less than five years ago, and again, nobody on the left seemed to care about national security.
Yet things are different now. And why might that be? Why this Strange New Respect for the FBI?
It would seem that the Deep State has changed its mind.