For a very long time, Republican politicians have portrayed themselves as upholders of the rule of law. The majority of voters supported Richard Nixon over Hubert Humphrey in the 1968 presidential election because Nixon promised to stop race riots and restore “law and order” to the United States. And, racist or not, the Willie Horton advertisements that George H.W. Bush deployed in the 1988 presidential election cycle were part of a concerted effort to appear tough on crime. Despite being outwardly tough on crime, George H.W. Bush oversaw and lied about money and guns being illegally funneled to the Contras, and Richard Nixon was a wire-tapping, tax-dodging, justice-obstructing, treaty-scuttling, genocide-permitting crook. In 2020, members of the Republican Party still want to have it both ways – they want to be seen as tough on crime while endlessly excusing, pardoning or covering up criminal wrongdoing perpetrated by other Republicans.
The newest example of this hypocrisy comes in the form of Roger Stone, a longtime GOP operative, successful lobbyist and adviser to President Donald Trump. In November of 2019, Stone was found guilty of lying to Congress, obstruction of justice and witness tampering. Even though Stone’s efforts to open up a backchannel between WikiLeaks and Trump’s presidential campaign never really materialized, he nonetheless lied to the House Intelligence Committee about the nature and extent of those efforts. Stone then asked his WikiLeaks intermediaries to, in his words, “stonewall” the House investigation by doubling down on the lie that Stone never asked them to contact Julian Assange. When one of those WikiLeaks intermediaries did not play along, Stone sent him various threats, including “Prepare to die,” “I’m going to take [your] dog away from you,” “my lawyers are dying [to rip] you to shreds” and “I will piss on your grave.”
Though he claims that he wants to “drain the swamp,” President Trump is outraged that his pet swamp creature, Roger Stone, is being punished for crimes of political corruption. On Twitter, he said that Roger Stone’s conviction was “horrible and very unfair.” In defiance of his own federal prosecutors, Attorney General Bill Barr reduced the recommended sentence for Stone by several years. Time and time again, President Trump and Attorney General Barr have put their thumbs on the scales to ensure that the Department of Justice uses kid gloves to deal with those who once worked for the White House. Pres. Trump will inevitably pardon Paul Manafort, Roger Stone and Mike Flynn – he clearly feels that they did nothing wrong and that he and his employees are above the law.
In truth, they are above the law. The president knows that no act of political corruption is grievous enough to deter Republicans from voting for him. Tucker Carlson is one such incorrigible sycophant. Carlson, a popular Fox News anchor, regularly uses his show to demand that the president pardon Roger Stone. Carlson says that America’s “ruling class” is “trying to kill” Roger Stone for being a harmless, Trump-supporting provocateur.
Carlson’s outrage stems not from a belief in Stone’s innocence, but from a belief that no one who works for President Trump ought to be put in prison. When he was interviewed for the Netflix documentary “Get Me Roger Stone” a few years ago, Tucker Carlson described Stone as “an outlaw” partly responsible for a “massive expansion of the lobbying sector in Washington.” These days, Carlson spends much of his airtime excoriating America’s “elites,” who are so rich and self-interested that they do not “even bother to understand our problems.” Carlson knows that Stone is an elitist criminal, and Carlson knows that Stone never cared a whit about the problems of everyday Americans when he was working as a lobbyist and GOP operative. But, on Fox News, fraudsters and influence peddlers only deserve jail time if they play for the wrong side. That is why Carlson demands a pardon for Roger Stone while he simultaneously celebrates the conviction of Democratic operative Michael Avenatti, whom he calls a “sleazy chancer,” “an undoubted criminal” and “the most reprehensible kind of guy.”
One of Carlson’s recent headlines encapsulated the Republican Party’s hypocrisy when it comes to being tough on crime. The article’s headline was, “Roger Stone case is about the left wanting to send political enemies to jail.” Do not be fooled. Tucker Carlson does not clutch his pearls while defending Roger Stone, an undoubted criminal, because he believes it is wrong to throw one’s political enemies in jail. If Carlson disapproved of using the justice system for political retribution, he would not support a president who wants Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Robert Mueller convicted of treason. Republican hypocrisy on the issue of punishing criminals reflects the absurdity of our post-truth world. The people pumping their fists to chants of “Drain the swamp!” and “Lock her up!” are the same people who demand unaccountability for a gangster president and the felons who work for him.
Alex Klein is a correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.