Old Tricks

When I saw the news that Trump was waving ‘secret’ papers at the camera, I was immediately reminded of another, similar moment in US history:






Yes, we’ve seen this trick before. Be suspicious of ‘secret’ documents (or secret anything, for that matter). In the image to the left, we have infamous secret-document-waver, former US Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-Wis). On the right–well, you know who.

McCarthy waved his piece of paper at the cameras while claiming he had a list of known communists working in the US State Department. I don’t think he ever claimed that his ‘list’ and that sheet of paper he was waving around were the same document, but that’s certainly the idea McCarthy wanted to convey. And now Trump appears to be using the same tactic.

Do you remember Richard Nixon’s ‘secret’ plan to end the Viet Nam war? It was a plan that didn’t exist, but it won Nixon the election. And many of those singled out by McCarthy had their careers destroyed. Secret evidence, secret policy, secret agreement–whatever you call it, it’s a dirty trick and a very effective one.

Never blindly accept ‘secret’ evidence as support for anything. As soon as someone claims the evidence is secret, then it cannot be evidence and it’s no longer secret. It’s obvious that some things need to be kept secret, but other forms of additional support should be readily available for inspection. Be wary of those who ask for your trust without offering anything in return.

No one on this planet knows what’s going through the Donald’s mind. And there appears to be some question as to whether even Donald himself knows what’s passing between his ears. Is he hoping the credulous will believe that piece of paper is a check from Mexico to pay for the Wall? Or an agreement about immigration? Or could it be a piece of paper with writing on it that has nothing to do with Mexico? Simply a prop? Kellyanne’s shopping list?

Another matter to bear in mind is the fact Trump, Nixon and McCarthy share something in common: Roy Cohn, a stinking piece of corruption masquerading as an officer of the court, who was admired–and sometimes employed–by each of the three. Yes, Cohen was a legitimate attorney, but one who was contemptuous of the law. He could only see the law as a tool to be used for winning, not for discovering the truth. And Cohn essentially taught the others that winning on any terms is more important than truth.

My comments here are coming close to the problem of guilt by association. Nothing can be proved simply on the basis of these four men associating with each other, but the association seems to lend itself to a pattern of deception and dishonesty that may bear further investigation.

What if a Democrat claimed to have a list of known Nazis in the Republican Party, but the list is secret? I don’t think very many reasonable people would be impressed. Trump is leading us to believe he has an immigration deal with Mexico, but it’s difficult to think of any good reasons to keep that deal secret. Unless there is no deal.

[Since this blog post, a photographic enlargement and analysis of the suspect document appears to reveal language one would expect to find in such an immigration agreement, but the signatories are low-level functionaries and not the leaders of the two nations–this indicates the document Trump waved around was a draft version and not a real international accord. That’s right, fake news]

Author: Craig Butcher

Craig Butcher is an award-winning educator who has taught critical thinking skills for more than two decades. In addition, he has worked on Capitol Hill as a congressional staffer and has been a top-rated broadcaster.