Opinion: A whiff of panic in the air?


I swear, those red MAGA hats must come with the tin-foil inserts pre-installed at the factory in China. Listen to this stuff:

"Mueller is corrupt, the senior FBI is corrupt. The system is corrupt and until you get back up and say -- realize how really truly corrupt this is, there's a sickness here ... I think it is frightening. If you believe in the rule of law and you believe in America, what we are learning is genuinely frightening."

That, ladies and gentlemen, was Newt Gingrich on Fox News Wednesday night, continuing his 40-year crusade to undermine the faith of the American people in their institutions and systems of governance. The damage to the country done by that man over his career is already incalculable -- in fact, if there's a hell for politicians, Gingrich will have a place of honor, where he will be condemned to listen to Hillary speeches for all eternity.

But this? This takes it to whole new level.

When Robert Mueller was appointed as special counsel back in May, the same Newt Gingrich now attacking him as corrupt, sick and frightening was singing a very different tune:

What happened, you ask? What happened to turn Mueller from a superb choice, a man of impeccable honesty and integrity, into a threat to all that is great about the United States of America?

Four indictments and two guilty pleas happened.

And of course, Gingrich is far from alone.

Back in May, this was Tucker Carlson of Fox News lauding the selection of Mueller:

"Mueller is an adult, and not just because he's a 72-year-old former Marine who earned a Bronze Star leading a rifle platoon in Vietman.... He has earned a reputation for rectitude. ... Mueller, in other words, is about as impressive choice as the Justice Department could have made."

This was Carlson earlier this week:

"The point is clear, the FBI is out of control and not just in the Trump investigation but much more broadly. An agency charged within enforcing law clearly considers itself above the law, and that's a threat to you and every American, no matter who you voted for."

And then of course there's Sean Hannity. Brian Stelter of CNN helpfully highlights this recent exchange between Hannity and Gregg Jarrett, "legal analyst" for Fox News. It's downright hysterical, and I mean that in both meanings of the word:

JARRETT: "I think we now know that the Mueller investigation is illegitimate and corrupt. And Mueller has been using the FBI as a political weapon. And the FBI has become America's secret police. Secret surveillance, wiretapping, intimidation, harassment and threats. It's like the old KGB that comes for you in the dark of the night banging through your door."

HANNITY: "This is not a game, this is not hyperbole you are using here."

JARRETT: "No!  Ask Paul Manafort. They came for him and broke through his front door...

HANNITY: "And if it happened to him, Gregg ...."

JARRETT: "It can happen to all of us, absolutely. The FBI has become a shadow government now."

No hyperbole there, nope. And if it happened to Manafort, it could happen to anyone ... that is, anyone who is charged with laundering more than $18 million from foreign tyrants, who didn't report it as income to the IRS, who secretly lobbied for foreign powers, and who lied about it all to the FBI. So yeah, almost anybody.

There is much to glean from that exchange between Hannity and Jarrett, including confirmation that we do indeed live in the Age of Miracles. It has been nothing short of miraculous to watch Republicans discover previously hidden virtues in Vladimir Putin, and also to witness evangelicals embrace a thrice-married Manhattan playboy/casino owner as their Moses who will lead them to the Promised Land. The third miracle is now upon us, in which conservative Republicans in a Republican administration convince themselves that they are the modern counterparts of '60s radicals like Fred Hampton and Huey Newton, victims of persecution by a liberal FBI "deep state."

It's funny, but not really. These attacks on the FBI and Mueller are a sign of panic and desperation, a "tell" that the Trump supporters fear much worse revelations to come. They are preparing the ground, seeding their audience with the explanations they will need to dismiss it all, and to rally around the president when he fires Jeff Sessions, fires Mueller and Rod Rosenstein.

Personally, I'm not sure that day is coming. But these folks sure seem to be.