Michael A. Cohen is a regular columnist for the Boston Globe.
He has determined that the current era will henceforth be called “the Era of Stupid.”
President Trump’s moronic behavior is the defining feature of American life.
Americans have long divided our nearly 244-year history into eras. There was the Era of Good Feelings in the 1810s and 1820s; the Gilded Age in the late 19th century; the New Deal Era in the 1930s; the Reagan Era in the 1980s; and, more recently, the era of the War on Terror.
I have a suggestion for how we should define the Trump Years: The Era of Stupid.
Granted, “stupid” is not a highbrow word, and I’m dubious that it will catch on in the same way as the “Jazz Age.” But in its simplicity and crudeness, it vividly captures the absurdity of our times.
There are so many “stupid” examples one can choose from: Sharpie-gate; the president’s talk of buying Greenland; his musing on whether it’s possible to nuke a hurricane or inject people with disinfectants; his refusal, aped by many of his followers, to wear a mask in the midst of a global pandemic. The list goes on and on.
But the president’s latest fixation is perhaps Peak Stupid — “Obamagate.”
I should say from the outset that writing about Obamagate raises a tricky question: How does one pass judgment on something that doesn’t actually exist?
As best I can tell, Obamagate refers to a charge that former president Barack Obama and former vice president Joe Biden knew in advance about, or perhaps conspired in plotting, the FBI interview of former national security adviser Michael Flynn that led to his prosecution. It also appears to refer to efforts in late 2016 to “unmask” Flynn, which describes a routine national security process to reveal the identity of Americans mentioned in National Security Agency (NSA) intelligence reports.
The problem with these accusations is that they elide some rather pertinent facts.
For example, the FBI interview of Flynn happened after Trump took office in January 2017. And how exactly was the Obama Administration targeting Flynn for unmasking when they could not have known Flynn’s identity before the unmasking? (I feel stupid even writing this question.)
All of this is somehow connected to the Russia investigation, Trump suggests. But many of the unmasking requests from Obama administration officials appeared to revolve around Flynn’s shady dealings with the Turkish government, for whom he was lobbying. And the vast majority came before he got entangled in the Russia affair with his controversial call to Sergei Kisylak, the Russian ambassador to the United States — a call he lied about to the FBI. That lie was a crime, to which he later pleaded guilty.
Far be it from me to inject facts into the Obamagate fever swamp, but there does seem to be a simple reason Flynn was regularly being unmasked by Obama administration officials — he was engaging in behavior that merited unmasking requests.
Of course, facts don’t really matter here because trying to untangle the web of inanity at the core of Obamagate is like trying to debate molecular biology with a 2-year-old. Indeed, when pushed at a White House press conference to identify what crime former President Obama allegedly committed, Trump answered, “You know what the crime is. The crime is very obvious to everybody, all you have to do is read the newspapers, except yours.”
These are words. Any connection to reality is purely coincidental.