Politics is a business of trust and credibility. The object of a political debate is not to convince your opponent of the error of his ways but to persuade the audience not to listen to your opponent; that he is wrong and you are right; that he cannot be trusted but you can be. That doesn’t mean subscribing to ad hominem character assassinations, but your argument should always increase your own public reliability while simultaneously sowing distrust in your opponent.
But be careful not to become overzealous in your attacks. Above all, never exaggerate unless it is clear that you are doing so. Overselling your opponent’s misdeeds will actually weaken your argument, as the mainstream media have failed to recognize in their coverage of all things Trump/Russia.
If Democrats had simply pointed to some odd circumstances and said, “Hmm, that looks suspicious,” they might have led a compelling campaign against President Trump. But by conflating Trump’s actions as treason, treachery, and a volatile threat to our republic, all without evidence, they’ve set the bar impossibly high for any satisfactory payoff. And as a result of the media’s endless obsession with the admittedly “mostly bulls**t” story, not only are most Americans sick of the narrative, but even a potentially devastating bombshell like the Trump Jr., Manafort, and Kushner meeting fell on desensitized ears because — though not good — it wasn’t nearly as bad as the scandal the media have been building up to.
The MSM’s implosion may give us all a hearty laugh at their expense, but beware: Republicans are dangerously close to committing the same grave error in the Wasserman Schultz case.
For a quick recap, Florida Representative and former Chair of the DNC Debbie Wasserman Schultz is under fire for the mysterious situation surrounding Imran Awan, a Pakistani man who worked as one of Wasserman Schultz’s IT staffers for about 12 years. Awan was blocked from the House IT system several months ago and was thus unable to perform any work for the Florida Democrat, yet he remained on Wasserman Schultz’s payroll until Monday, when he was arrested for bank fraud after wiring almost $300,000 to himself in Pakistan and attempting to flee the country. He stole the laptops of several Democratic congressmen and had access to some of their passwords, including that of Wasserman Schultz, who allegedly threatened the Washington, D.C., Chief of Police to hand over her laptop even though it’s now evidence in an ongoing investigation.
Literally everything in this story reeks of suspicion and corruption. There are many theories circulating that Awan could be the true source of the DNC Wikileaks — which would devastate the Left’s narrative of Russian obstruction — or that this might have something to do with the Muslim Brotherhood. Many are demanding that obstruction of justice charges be brought against Wasserman Schultz for her clear attempts to hide whatever’s on her laptop, and others suggest that Awan must have been blackmailing his boss over some untold scandal.
Each of these angles is plausible, but none is sufficiently substantiated to move forward with right now, and we need to be careful not to overstep the information. If the Right pulls out the big guns and hammers a narrative of election hacking, terrorism, and blackmail, all without actual evidence, anything less will pale in comparison and let Wasserman Schultz off the hook. For right now the best offense is subtlety.
Press at the wound, but don’t diagnose it yet. Say things like, “I wonder why Awan received so much money despite not being very good at his job,” or “It’s strange he was still being paid months after his access was revoked,” and “Do you think he had access to all those leaked files?”
Follow Andrew McCarthy’s example with National Review by planting seeds of doubt: “Did the swindling staffers compromise members of Congress? Does blackmail explain why they were able to go unscathed for so long? And as for that sensitive information, did the Awans send American secrets, along with those hundreds of thousands of American dollars, to Pakistan?”
Then let that uncertainty sink in and don’t press any further: “We don’t know if these allegations are true, but they are disturbing.”
The ball is in the Democrats’ court to defend themselves, not in ours to speculate. The information we already have is more than enough to arouse distrust and whittle away the credibility of the Left.
Even without knowing what Wasserman Schultz is trying to hide, she’s clearly trying to hide something. That’s all we need to keep pushing. This might have nothing to do with tampering in the election, but with the media so afraid to cover the story, that’s enough to suggest that they think it could debunk their Russian narrative, and thus that they know the whole thing is garbage.
This should be an easy win if we play it smart. Let’s not spoil this one. This story is catching fire well enough without our smothering it by adding too much wood prematurely.