In 1859 Charles Dickens, one of the greatest of English authors, published his novel: «A Tale of Two Cities» depicting events leading up to and after the French Revolution in Paris and London. Today in 2017, another contrasting Tale of Two Cities is unfolding within the political world. The two cities in question are the capitals of the world’s two superpowers Washington DC and Beijing. Over the course of the weekend of March 3rd China's legislative, democratic organs, the National People's Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference have gathered in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing for their annual ten day legislative session. Three thousand delegates from the vast country of China representing its nearly 1.4 billion people and its 93 diverse ethnic groups have gathered in orderly and solemn fashion to deliberate over, amend and eventually pass the laws for the year 2017; endorse the budget and sign off on personnel nominations. The efficiency and stability of this parliamentary gathering stands in stark contrast to the chaos and confusion currently gripping the capital of another superpower, the United States of America.
While the National People's Congress was getting down to business, the President of the United States was up at 6am in the morning off on yet another Twitter binge. President Trump's Twitter rants have become a hallmark of the dumbed down, superficial and inappropriate conduct of Western political discourse. But what was so shocking about this latest Twitter outburst from President Trump, and there have been many shocking previous tweets, was the fact that without any evidence and Congressional and inter-Agency coordination, the American President made the incendiary accusation that his predecessor, Barack Obama had wiretapped his phone at Trump Tower during the US Presidential election campaign. If this were true, it would be just as big as Watergate, when President Nixon's White House team had illegally broken into and wiretapped the offices of the Democratic National Committee in the Watergate Complex in Washington DC during the 1972 Presidential campaign when Nixon was up for re-election against Democrat George McGovern.
Yet, so far, on all the available evidence, which is zero, it must be assumed it is not true and yet another example of how deranged and mentally unstable Donald Trump is. Senator Bernie Sanders has repeatedly called President Trump a pathological liar. Both the former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and the current Director of the FBI James Comey who would have had to have been involved in the legal process for securing a warrant for such surveillance activities have denied any such warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court was sought, the mechanism under which agents of foreign governments operating in the United States can be spied upon. This is part of the broader trend of evident chaos and dysfunction within the Trump administration and the war that is raging within the US intelligence community and it is deeply troubling. As I have previously written Trump and certain elements of the US intelligence community are at war with each other and it is destabilizing not only for the smooth and stable effective governance of the United States but also the world.
The culture of open and critical debate and oversight of the US intelligence community must be commended, unlike the United Kingdom were articles rarely appear and debate is never really heard or stifled about the practices and political agendas of MI5 and MI6. You never really would find articles or hear debate in Britain, from senior officials such as Hillary Clinton's campaign manager John Podesta who wrote, quite rightly that the FBI is broken. In Britain, there is no healthy and vigorous debate in the media and academia regarding the role, powers, culture and practices of the UK intelligence services. The line is simply parroted ad-nauseam how wonderful they are and what a great job they do and the public, politicians and journalists by and large buy this line and absorb it without ever questioning it. When I wrote two highly critical articles outlining my concerns regarding British intelligence I received pathetic and overly defensive grubby little comments from an organisation which is a front for British intelligence that masquerades as an «independent think tank» that amounted to a How Dare You as if I had violated some cardinal taboo that British intelligence was off limits for analysis and criticism in a so-called free and open democracy such as the UK. More on that particular organisation in another article.
Not so in the United States. It has become clear from the extensive, vigorous and in depth coverage of the US intelligence services from journalists in the loop, former intelligence officials, academics and former government officials that the FBI during the last Presidential election was Trumpland, while the CIA was more wary of Trump and his associates. It is also clear that certain elements within the American intelligence community are now serially leaking information against the Trump administration in an attempt to destroy it by a thousand cuts. In a way, I feel sympathy for President Trump because it is unfair for un-elected, anonymous and largely unaccountable spooks to take it upon themselves to engage in partisan political warfare without presenting any hard evidence to the public and the world regarding the insinuations that Donald Trump and his Campaign actively colluded with Russian intelligence to undermine the campaign of his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton. And until such hard evidence is presented that is what these accusations are, merely insinuations.
It has only been a month and a bit since Donald Trump took over as President and yet the amount of chaos and dysfunction within the United States Government has reached a level not seen since the days of Richard Nixon and the Watergate Scandal. While the Chinese Government in a mature and orderly fashion get on with the business of governing a vast and complex country of over a billion human beings and passing legislation, all done and dusted, implemented and enacted within ten days at the annual two sessions of the NPC and CPPCC, the Republican controlled Congress has not even presented, let alone passed, its repeal and replacement Bill for Obamacare. Those who bang on about the superiority of the Western political system with its model of multi-party competitive mass «electoral» revolving door democracy as opposed to the model of «consultative» democracy and national one party Government should look long and hard and the contrasts of the 2017 Tale of Two Cities.
The damage that is being done to the credibility of American leadership, governance and institutions during this feud between Trump and American intelligence agents is taking a significant toll. It is paralyzing Washington DC and poisoning what was already a sclerotic and deeply pathologically partisan political system that is not producing results. It really would be advisable for someone in the White House to take away Trump's Twitter account. Through tweeting outlandish falsehoods without any evidence and doing so through the immature and tacky medium of Twitter he is doing great damage to his standing. Sooner or later a real crisis is going to explode as is so often the case in any term of a President's tenure but by that stage it will be very hard for any rational person to believe a word Trump says, as was the case with sound thinking people who observed him during the election campaign with his wild, paranoid compulsive lying.
The leakers in the US intelligence community need to stop and if they feel so strongly that they need to give up being spooks in the shadows and have the courage of their convictions to come out into daylight and stand for Congress which is the appropriate democratic body to challenge and hold to account the President of the United States in a politically partisan fashion, not from the comfortable phantom zone of anonymity of Langley or 935 Pennsylvania Avenue. What is clear is if this is kind of behaviour is kept up from Trump and his opponents within American intelligence over the course of four years, the reputation of the United States may never be the same ever again. This really could be the moment when mature, responsible and orderly superpower leadership passes from the city of Washington DC to the city of Beijing.