Most rabbit holes look simple enough, but even a rabbit hole can be dangerous if unseen. A dog can break its leg in one. So can a horse or a human.
There’s another kind of rabbit hole, the Washington kind. These are dug out not by furry rodents but by silky experts in the political shadows.
The Washington rabbit hole is full of half-truths, conspiracy theories, politics, spies and agenda-driven leaks in a town full of smiling liars. And from time to time Americans are invited, or goaded by media and political operatives, into entering one.
These are truly dangerous, because it is this kind of rabbit hole that an entire nation can step into, and when it does a country can break more than an ankle.
And it is in such a Washington rabbit hole that Susan Rice — the famed Benghazi liar and Barack Obama’s former national security adviser — finds herself stuck.
There’s little we can do about it. She’s the one who got herself stuck in there. And she’s the one who can dig herself out.
Rice might start digging out by testifying before Congress without Fifth Amendment protection to prove she’s got nothing to hide.
In this smelly business that has occupied Americans for months, there are two issues for congressional investigators, and the nation, to consider.
One involves the conclusion of intelligence that Russian-backed cyber thieves broke into Democratic National Committee emails and got them released to WikiLeaks to interfere with the U.S. presidential election.
These leaks — of information that Democrats can’t deny as false — damaged Hillary Clinton. There is no question about this. And clearly the Russians interfered. But we haven’t been shown any real evidence, besides rabbit-hole shadows, that Trump or his team conspired with Vladimir Putin.
Still, Democrats cling to this Putin scenario on partisan grounds. It delegitimizes the president and makes Clinton’s stupendous loss easier for them to swallow.
Putin may have “hacked” the DNC, but he didn’t “hack” the election.
And what was in those emails — about Democratic Party collusion with established media outlets on Clinton’s behalf — still hasn’t been dealt with by the institution of journalism. It’s all been ignored and allowed to fester, as journalists continue on their Trump hunts.
But there is no doubt the Russians interfered with U.S. elections, and that can’t be tolerated. What also can’t be tolerated is the hint that U.S. intelligence was subverted for partisan political gain.
Did the Obama White House spy on its political opponents, namely Trump and his people, and leak intelligence information to reporters to damage him?
That’s just as serious as the Russian business. If political spying on domestic opponents is allowed — especially with the kind of data-gathering now available to our intelligence agencies — our republic will collapse in a spineless heap.
If you’re a Democrat, you’ll obsess about one of these issues and brush off the other, and if you’re a Republican, you’ll do the opposite. So why not do what’s right for the country and consider both?
As far as Rice is concerned, she could tell everything she knows about why U.S. intelligence gathered information about Trump transition team officials and the Russians between Election Day and Trump’s inauguration. And she could testify about how those names were unmasked. The name of at least one Trump campaign official, Michael Flynn, was leaked to the news media, which is a felony.
“Let’s see what comes,” she told friendly interviewer Andrea Mitchell of MSNBC when asked if she’d testify before Congress. “I’m not going to sit here and prejudge.”
She won’t “sit here” and prejudge? That’s a polite way of saying “No. There’s no way I want to testify before Congress and have Trey Gowdy ask me questions I don’t want to answer.”
Perhaps that’s because U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., is a former federal prosecutor. And he doesn’t give off sympathetic vibes to Team Obama like Andrea Mitchell, who got the Rice interview as news was breaking about Rice’s role in unmasking the identities of Trump associates picked up during U.S. intelligence gathering.
American intelligence must be allowed to gather intelligence on foreign actors, and sometimes the identities of U.S. citizens caught up in it must be “unmasked” or known in classified settings for proper analysis.
Americans will allow this as long as intelligence-gathering isn’t used for partisan political gain.
“The notion, which some people are trying to suggest, that by asking for the identity of the American person is the same as leaking it — that’s completely false,” said Rice on Tuesday in the friendly interview. “There is no equivalence between so-called unmasking and leaking.”
Rice categorically denied ever leaking the name of her counterpart, Flynn, who was forced to resign in February after he reportedly misled Vice President Mike Pence about his discussions with the Russian ambassador.
“I leaked nothing to nobody,” Rice said.
So while Republicans seize the Rice story in their teeth, liberals ignore it.
“I don’t think we should just discount how big a deal it is that Susan Rice was looking at these [names],” said Sen. Rand Paul, the Kentucky Republican. “She needs to be asked, ‘Did President Obama ask her to do this? Was this a directive from President Obama?’
“I think she should testify under oath on this,” Paul said.
Exactly. Out of the rabbit hole and into the light.