A Dangerous Game

Yesterday afternoon the FBI carried out a search and seizure order at Mar-a-Lago, and everyone is already weighing in with an opinion. From political pundits to the man on the street, everyone wants to either hang Merrick Garland or praise him.

Trouble is, no one – not a single one of us – knows why that order was executed. Not even the ‘pundits’ at Fox News, CNN or any other media outlet that peddles in political turmoil. The only ones who know at this point are a) the DOJ personnel who were involved in applying for the search order and b) the Federal District Court judge who actually issued it. Even the FBI agents who searched the former president’s property were not aware of what was in the affidavit accompanying the application (more on that later).

Meanwhile, everyone is up in arms. This whole Us versus Them thing has become something of a game, and anyone can play. All you need is an opinion and a political gripe and you, too, can roll the dice. And since it’s my turn to roll, I’m going to serve as the dungeon master and set some rules. The first rule is ‘Before you draw conclusions, know the facts’. I’m not talking opinions or political-speak but the raw facts. The second rule is, ‘Re-read the first.’

Informationally, we live in the greatest time ever. The internet, cable, streaming TV, and satellite radio have blessed us with more information than we can process. The trouble is that our tribal instincts turn us into channel selectors. We get our information from the sources that tell us what we want to hear, so why should we fact-check? That would only spoil our mindset. This is making us dumber than ever, whereas we should be smarter than ever.

And guess what? The political parties and the media all know it! In fact, they count on it to get elected or get their ratings up. It has to stop.

The Mar-a-Lago search appears to have been done for real reasons, just like any of the other thousands of surprise searches conducted every year. We just don’t know yet what those reasons are. That’s the only thing you should be taking away from the newscasts at this point. Everything else is mind manipulation by the media and a bunch of blowhard political figures looking for attention.


To the Trump supporters, I say this: What took place at Mar-a-Lago is serious stuff, and the DOJ knows it. If the DOJ was looking to destroy Trump, do you think they’d go raiding his house knowing he’ll only put on his victim hat and use it against them? What a stupid idea! But if that’s really what you think this is all about then be patient and let it to backfire. Only then will you have some meat behind your ‘Banana Republic’ and ‘Witch Hunt’ charges. Until then you’re allowing yourself to be played as a pawn.

To the Trump haters, I say this: stop counting your chickens. What if the FBI turns up nothing? What if this was all based on a bad anonymous tip, for example? The fallout on the Democratic Party is going to be devastating! Trust that Merrick Garland wouldn’t take such a chance but also realize that he’s human. You are always the first to espouse the virtues of the Constitution, so don’t forget that in this country everyone is innocent until proven guilty.

For the time being, we should assume that the DOJ had good reason to go into Mar-a-Lago when they did. We do know that Mr. Trump brought with him at least a dozen boxes of documents when he left the White House last year. We know that someone flushed torn-up notes, and that at least one former White House official claims she saw him discard or carry away documents that are supposed to be preserved. We know that officials were at Mar-a-Lago in June on a more ‘cordial’ basis, and it stands to reason that they would have taken care of this matter back then if they could have. Let’s face it: it’s hard not to speculate.

And that’s okay, so long as we admit to ourselves and everyone else that our speculations are based on opinion and pretty much nothing else. You see, the ones who drive this speculation – the game masters if you will – are politicians and the media. They’re all spinning this and looking for a way to gain by it.

We should be careful not to fall into that trap, yet we always seem to join in the chorus like the trained monkeys we’ve become. The rhetoric about the Mar-a-Lago search being a Banana Republic move is absurd – and more than just a little ironic when you think about it. ‘Banana Republic’ refers to the dictatorships down island and in Central America, where a strong man ruled with an iron fist and could do anything he liked. Those guys would not have requested a search warrant; they would just take what they want and disappear anyone who tried to get in their way.

In the United States of America, we have a process for a search like the one at Mar-a-Lago. A government agency (here, the U.S. Dept. of Justice) applies to a judge for a search warrant. The application must cite the crime that is thought to have been committed, and why a subpoena will not suffice – usually because there’s a real danger that the evidence will be destroyed or secreted away. Accompanying this application is an affidavit, sworn under the pains and penalties of perjury, describing in detail the facts upon which the application is based. Sometimes these warrant applications are turned down because the judge is not convinced it is necessary. When they are issued, there’s always a good reason.

This process is carried out every single day somewhere in this country. And former presidents, who are not above the law, are subject to the same warrants. Does this sound like ‘Banana Republic’ stuff?

I’ll tell you what would be ‘Banana Republic,’ and that’s allowing a politician to manipulate the masses into sending him or her to the White House with a mandate that the politician can do whatever he or she likes – legal or illegal – so long as they give their supporters what they want politically. The best way to do this would be to create an ‘enemy’ of the ‘righteous’ people, ratchet up the paranoia about that ‘enemy’, and get these ‘righteous’ ones so angry and worried that they’ll do practically anything that politician says. Meanwhile, the politician lies, says things are true without any proof, does nefarious things behind the voters’ backs, flirts with or even breaks the law, and maybe profits off the office. Whenever he gets caught, he simply blames the ‘enemy’ for victimizing him. That’s ‘Banana Republic.’

So, enough of the rhetorical claptrap! It’s hurting all of us by weakening our system of government. Let’s give the DOJ the benefit of the doubt. The truth will come out eventually. The Mar-a-Lago search had to have been done for one of three reasons: a) for nefarious political gain, b) out of stupidity but with good intent, or c) because they know something we don’t know. I’m betting it’s (b) or (c), but we’ll just have to wait and see, won’t we?