The strong smell of red herring can throw a hound off course. The term red herring originated with the practice of using smoked herring, which are red, to distract hounds from the scent of their quarry. In discourse, a red herring is used to distract one’s opponent in an argument by changing the subject. As a former newspaper reporter, I have experienced many a red herring tossed at me by a public official who wished to dodge my my uncomfortable questions.
Our president Donald Trump prefers to use the red herring to change the subject and distract. Overheard bragging about grabbing women’s genitals and attempting to have sex with a married TV personality, he said this: “It’s locker room talk, and it’s one of those things. I will knock the hell out of ISIS. We’re going to defeat ISIS. ISIS happened a number of years ago in a vacuum that was left because of bad judgment. And I will tell you, I will take care of ISIS.” When Kizr Kahn criticized then-candidate Donald Trump for insulting Muslims, Trump responded by asking why Kahn’s wife wasn’t asked to speak. Challenged about his claim that former President Obama had wiretapped his phones, Trump responded this way: “I inherited a mess, I inherited a mess in so many ways. I inherited a mess in the Middle East, and a mess with North Korea, I inherited a mess with jobs, despite the statistics, you know, my statistics are even better, but they are not the real statistics because you have millions of people that can’t get a job, ok. And I inherited a mess on trade. I mean we have many, you can go up and down the ladder. But that’s the story. Hey look, in the meantime, I guess, I can’t be doing so badly, because I’m president, and you’re not. You know. Say hello to everybody OK?”
Classic red herrings. Smelly.
Now comes U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes, Republican of California, who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, which is presumed to be investigating questions of possible collusion between those working in the Trump campaign and Russian leaders. Nunes creates an impromptu news conference to wave a pungent red herring in an effort to distract a nation from such a potentially damaging investigation. Someone handed him information, claims Nunes, that might hint of possible surveillance that might serve to vindicate Trump’s unsupported claim that he was wiretapped. (Might this someone perchance be named Bannon?)
How can we expect an unbiased investigation to come from a committee chaired by Nunes?
The aroma from Washington grows more pungent daily, and not all of it from red herrings. Smelly as they are, they aren’t throwing anyone off the scent.