A Guide to Obamagate-gate

This exchange made news a few days ago.

Whatever Obamagate is, it’s still a big deal on Trump’s Twitter feed. This is from today.

So, what the bleep is he talking about? What is Obamagate? Fortunately, the definitive guide to Obamagate was written for the Washington Post by Alexandra Petri, and you should go there and read her column to fully appreciate what we’re talking about. Then come back.

Back now? Good. Now that we’re all clear about what Obamagate is, we need to consider what it represents to Donald J. Trump. Because he clearly is very worked up about it. David Graham at The Atlantic explains how it all began:

On May 9, CNN reported that Obama had labeled Trump’s pandemic response “an absolute chaotic disaster” the day before, on a call with alumni of his administration. Early the next morning, as part of a long string of Mother’s Day tweets—as these rants exceed themselves, it’s become more and more difficult to find superlatives to adequately describe them—Trump retweeted a user who had mentioned “Obamagate.” The term has quickly become part of Trump’s vernacular, with 13 subsequent uses, including two yesterday.

Precisely what Trump is alleging against Obama is obscure, and probably beside the point. Trump isn’t really interested in alleging any particular crime. The point of “Obamagate” is to try to recapture the force that propelled Trump to political prominence—questioning the legitimacy of the first black president—as he heads toward a difficult reelection campaign in the midst of a global crisis.

Graham calls Obamagate an extension of birtherism. Just as actual proof, including newspaper birth announcements and a long-form birth certificate, could not quell the belief that Barack Obama was born in Kenya and not Hawaii, Obamagate needs no support except the desperate belief that it must be true, whatever it is.

As near as any of us not living in the Trump universe can tell, Obamagate may have started out having something to do with the much-debunked (see also) claim that President Obama personally ordered a wiretap on Trump Tower. But now it is appears to be mostly tied in to the Michael Flynn prosecution and the “unmasking” of Michael Flynn in intelligence reports back in the late days of the Obama Administration. That Obama Administration officials did not know the identity of the person they wanted “unmasked” — the point of the “unmasking” was to see who was being talked about in the reports — kind of eludes the Trumpers. And such “unmasking” is a legal and even routine thing to do when intelligence agencies report hinky activity. But Trump has twisted this around into a conspiracy against him.

Susan Glasser in the New Yorker tells us that Obamagate makes perfect sense, to some:

To outside observers, the charges—like Trump’s original political sin, lying about the easily provable fact of Obama’s birth in the United States—seem so absurd as to be the mere caricature of a conspiracy, as sketched by a con man who couldn’t even bother to offer convincing details. The point, though, is not to convince those who aren’t already in the know. “Obamagate” is niche programming for the Trump superfan audience. If you don’t get it, that doesn’t matter; you’re not supposed to. It’s a slogan, a rallying cry. Details are all but irrelevant. At 8:57 p.m. on Wednesday, Trump sent out an all-caps tweet. The message consisted solely of the word “OBAMAGATE” followed by an exclamation point. To those not following Trump as a daily soap opera, it might seem like a desperate diversionary tactic from a floundering President. To his supporters, it made perfect sense. Which is why, when Trump followed up on Thursday morning with an equally angry and cryptic demand that Obama be called to testify before the Senate—about what was entirely unclear—news organizations mostly ignored him in favor of the morning’s testimony by the recently fired head of vaccines at the Department of Health and Human Services, or, as the Drudge Report called Richard Bright, the “whistleblower of doom.” Except for Fox News, that is, which obliged the President with a banner headline.

The lack of details is a feature, not a bug. If no facts are claimed, no facts can be disproved. David Frum:

The “Obamagate” that Trump tweets about—like the comic-book universes on which it seems to be modeled—is a tangle of backstories. The main characters do things for reasons that make no objective sense, things that can be decoded only by obsessive superfans on long Reddit threads.

So you’re saying that the deep state set up this whole elaborate plot to entrap Trump, but instead of using any of that material, it instead sabotaged Hillary Clinton 10 days before the election?

No, no, you don’t get it. You’ve gotta go back to the Benghazi episode four seasons back. Well, really to Troopergate, but that’s only available on DVD …

Now, you might wonder what good it does Trump to promote a scandal that only one’s superfans believe, when the majority of voters are not superfans. Throughout his “presidency,” Trump has shown total disinterest in expanding his base. Those other people don’t count. He may not understand that his base alone can’t re-elect him.

It has to be said that promoting baseless conspiracy theories worked for him before. Birtherism built his political base, and “but her emails” won for him in 2016. However, the endless congressional investigations and news coverage of the damn emails probably hurt Clinton more than anything Trump said. And it’s possible James Comey, not Trump, cost Clinton the election.

On the other hand, some elements of the press don’t seem to have learned the lessons of 2016. Greg Sargent:

The latest developments in the Michael Flynn case should prompt us to revisit one of the most glaring failures in political journalism, one that lends credibility to baseless narratives pushed for purely instrumental purposes, perversely rewarding bad-faith actors in the process.

News accounts constantly claim with no basis that new information “boosts” or “lends ammunition” to a particular political attack, or “raises new questions” about its target. These journalistic conventions are so all-pervasive that we barely notice them. …

…For instance, the Associated Press ran this headline: “Flynn case boosts Trump’s bid to undo Russia probe narrative.” Axios told us:

Biden’s presence on the list could turn it into an election year issue, though the document itself does not show any evidence of wrongdoing.

CNN informed us that this is “the latest salvo to discredit the FBI’s Russia investigation and accuse the previous administration of wrongdoing.”

But here’s the problem: These formulations do not constitute a neutral transmission of information, even though they are supposed to come across that way.

The new information actually does not “boost” Trump’s claims about the Russia investigation or “discredit” it. And if there is “no evidence of wrongdoing,” then it cannot legitimately be “turned into an election issue.”

There will be no House investigations, since Democrats control the House. But Trump has a corrupt Bill Barr and a compromised Justice Department at his disposal to at least engage in investigation theater. And, of course, Republicans still have the Senate. At least Miz Lindsey shot down Trump’s call to have President Obama testify before Congress.

In the end, we may have to hope that the American people will understand that Trump is just trying to change the subject from his pandemic failures. In 2016, Trump dominated election coverage. Now he has to share the stage with a virus.

14 thoughts on “A Guide to Obamagate-gate

  1. I get way to many surveys, and I just want someone to proxy.  I need a damn proxy.  And I pick Maha or Rom Emanuel or who they recommend.  All they do is take my donations and send me surveys.  What the hell.  If Democrats do not know now what I want and rant for, what in the shit am I supposed to do.  To they think old farts like me change my mind every three or five days.  No man, old fossils  like me are generally more set in their ways than I am.  I am a lucky one.,  I've got to learn a thing or two since junior high unlike our fearless leader.   Waste my time and waste my money.  

    OK.  Enough said.  I will donate to a deserving proxy.  Just do not send me any more BS emails about how my opinion is soooooo important.  

    Now, if you have put up with my rant and are still reading I did one questionnaire for Biden.  Yes, I broke my rule and will have to do mortification of the flesh and more.  He was pimping for recommendations for VP and of course money.  I was filling out the normal drivel and I saw Michelle Obama's name as a possible to vote for.  Joe would not list her if she vetoed the idea, and he is a gentleman enough to check first.  You talk about a tough ticket to beat.  No wonder we have Obamagate.  They are scared shitless.  Biden/ Obama what a slam dunk team.  


    • Exactly!  Even before I read your astute assessment I was thinking that Trump's statement of "You know what the crime is" sounded like a statement that would come from a participant in a southern lynching when speaking to a fellow participant who was curious to know what the negro had done to justify his being lynched. It's good ol' fashioned southern racist code talking in its purest form. The crime is the color of of the skin, and any incidentals to that fact is just clutter.

  2. As I understand Obamagate, the point is to say that "They UNMASKED FLYNN!"

    That is to say, US_person_1 (or 2, 17, 2356) was discussing something with Russians, and they asked "who is this person? If they're important, this conversation matters; otherwise, it's some idiot puffing himself up." The answer was "General Flynn."

    Note how saying "they" unmasked him makes it look like they were chasing Flynn, and asked to learn about him – rather than the truth, "we needed to know if this was some random joker, or someone important, and it *was* someone important… General Flynn."

    So people learned Flynn was a bad actor, by asking if this bad action was performed by someone meaningful, and they learned that, yes, yes it was.

    Now, here's the thing a lot of people are missing.

    Flynn is a general. He knows that Russia is an adversary of the US. Flynn worked with the  Russians, against American interests. A member of our military, sworn to protect us, from all enemies, foreign and domestic, chose to work with one of our adversaries instead. That he was also on Trump's team – i.e., had the ear of the President-elect (and later President) raised the stakes incredibly.

    And, even if nothing had happened, he'd done something hideously wrong, and illegal, and was able to be blackmailed. For this reason, it was 100% proper to investigate him, if only for the national security implications.

    One problem here, of course, is that the right wing noise machine has been making such horrible, outlandish accusations against ordinary Democrats for so long that pointing out what a *horrible* person Flynn would have to be, to sell out his own country to help the Russians with their plans (even if those plans were "only" to help win an election).

    To describe what Flynn did, accurately, would shock people in a sane world, but the US political arena isn't sane. It would basically sound precisely like the Republicans sound when talking about innocent, important, Democrats. The waters are therefore instantly muddied.

    And, of course, the Republicans don't care that they're lying like cheap-ass rugs (that is: rugs made from donkeys  by incompetent muleskinners – heck, I didn't even know they really *skinned* them, for real!); they don't care that "unmasking" is "who is this bad actor?" – they'll say "but they *unmasked Flynn*, specifically; why would they do that, if not to harm Trump?" – changing the subject, and demanding a defense for prudent, care taking actions.  It's the equivalent of "yes, I saw children at play, and one ran in the street, so I stopped my car." being described as "they nearly *HIT* that poor innocent *CHILD*"

    I honestly don't know how Republicans who support this garbage live with themselves. Don't they *ever* realize that *sometimes*, reality is going to come breaking in? Duh. Dumb question – witness their response to the pandemic.

    • The thing that distinguishes the 40% in Trump's base is their tribal view of all issues as "US v. THEM!"

      He just pushes their buttons to exacerbate the anger and resentment that fuels everything they do. Most people, including myself, just take things as they come – I don't have a pre-packaged attitude for anyone (except Trump supporters who are assholes).

    • It's the equivalent of "yes, I saw children at play, and one ran in the street, so I stopped my car." being described as "they nearly *HIT* that poor innocent *CHILD*"

      Or like someone asked "Hey, did you hear the neighborhood liquor store got robbed last night?" and responding with "Yeah and they arrested my kid for it just because he was seen running from the store with fistfuls of money COPS I TELL YOU he's just a good kid."

  3. The Democrats cannot lose this time. As in existentially cannot lose. Did anyone see  Maddow today? She exposed the Georgia graph lie, and earlier NPR exposed the Florida lie accomplished by moving death reports to the state's health department, away from medical examiners, and deleting deaths of snowbirds, tourists, non-permanent residents, etc.  Republicans keep lying and Democrats keep not getting up and waving the truth hard enough to be effective.  

  4. If there is genius to be found, while looking for some hook upon which he can hang his reelection chances by exciting his base, it's of calling some indeterminate act by the former POTUS a crime, "Obamagate," that genius is in the vagueness of any crime(s) allegedly committed (which is what tRUMP ought to be: COMMITTED!).

    There are any number of possible crimes and interpretations of what, where, when, why, and how Obama did what he DIDN'T do.

    tRUMP is leaving any details in his accusation(s) out, not just because, as far as any actual crime being committed, "there's no there there – which there isn't; or that he's an imbecile – which he is; but because it makes his MAGAT minions dream up all sorts of horrible possibilities!

    As we all know, no crime was committed.  In fact, it would have been "criminal" if Obama didn't ask for unmasking the individual(s) deal with the Russians.

    To clarify exactly what the crime in Obamagate is, it's as 'paradoctor' said, the former President's crime in "Obamagate," is his color.

     But not just his color.

    tRUMP is the polar opposite of Obama: In intelligence, in empathy, in compassion, in demeanor, in temperment, in looks, in fitness, in patience, in familial responsibilities, etc…

    If that's "Obamagate" then President Obama should plead guilty as charged!!!






    *Booking, in the sense of being an accused criminal brought into a police station for verification of critical informatiom.

  5. The House Oversight Committee should immediately begin a public and televised inquiry into Obamagate, demanding testimony of Fox news personalities who have reported it. What is it? Who knows this huge truth? Then call President Obama to testify – force the farce into the public view. The sham functions as aa device – everyone fills in the blanks of what they want 'Obamagate' to be. Oh, Hell. Invite Trump to testify.We need the comedic break

  6. The Trump show is morphing into a version of the old TV show Beat the Clock. He's got less than 6 months to effectuate a complete corruption of government. He might have to disband Congress if he hopes to complete the task before November. Who knows? Maybe he will invoke and reinstitute the divine right of kings.

  7. A shot across the bow:


    Does Trump have any idea what he's just done here? To him life is an ongoing struggle for position in a dominance hierarchy, and here he's launching a frontal assault on …

    Barack Obama.

    In politics, specifically. Trump is challenging Barack Obama to political combat. How do you express any equivalent for that? He might as well challenge LeBron James to a game of one on one. Challenge Garry Kasparov to a chess match. You don't even want to compare it to any kind of actual physical combat, because that would just be ugly.

  8. Which is why, when Trump followed up on Thursday morning with an equally angry and cryptic demand that Obama be called to testify before the Senate—about what was entirely unclear—news organizations mostly ignored him …

    Theoretically speaking, they shouldn't ignore him. 'Trump accuses Obama of crime, can't say what it is; latest example of deteriorating behavior' is a perfectly respectable, objectively factual headline for a true and important story.

    But of course, they wouldn't do that; they'd "But her emails" the whole thing. Some of them are already starting to.

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