By Robert Mann
“Most politicians would have gone to a meeting like the one Don jr attended in order to get info on an opponent. That’s politics!” –President Donald Trump tweet, July 17
In the spring of 2005, I betrayed a close friend and destroyed our friendship. It was a panicked, spur-of-the-moment choice I made for political reasons. It was wrong, needless and the decision I most regret in my 58 years.
I was communications director to then-Gov. Kathleen Blanco. I had asked my friend to create a website to defend Blanco and criticize her political opponents. When a reporter discovered the memo he wrote me, outlining the specifics of the ill-considered plan, I threw him under the bus. “I get lots of emails,” I said, hoping to leave the impression I was the passive recipient of the plan, not one of its originators. I immediately regretted my cowardice and tried to correct the record, but the damage to our friendship was done.
I thought about all this the other day when President Trump’s son Don Jr. released an email chain from 2016, which revealed his willingness to collude with Russian officials to get dirt on Hillary Clinton. “I love it,” Trump Jr. replied to the nefarious message.
Trump Jr. lied about his subsequent meeting with the Russians and later explained he couldn’t help what people sent him. Later, he and his father settled on the justification, summarized in the tweet above, that everyone does this kind of thing. No big deal.
Yes, very big deal.
The emails and Trump Jr.’s meeting demonstrate how much Trump’s campaign wanted to collude with Russian agents working to undermine our elections. And they showed us how far Trump and his campaign would go to win.
So much for draining the swamp and ending politics as usual. Politics, as usual, is now their actual defense.
I’ve never served on a presidential campaign staff, but I worked in politics for 20 years, including on a half-dozen statewide campaigns. I can tell you that winning is not just an important part of politics; to many, it’s the only thing. No one wants to lose. And it’s no secret politicians and their aides go to extraordinary — sometimes illegal — lengths to win.
By the time I turned 45, I was weary of this feature of politics. I did not like the person I became in the midst of a tough election. I hated how the competitive juices turned me into a person I did not recognize. I was happy to abandon that aspect of the political arena in 2006.
I never broke the law, but I sometimes did and said things in the heat of battle that cause me shame today. Some of what I said in print about former Gov. Buddy Roemer during the 1995 governor’s race bothered me so much that I invited him to speak to one of my classes at LSU in 2008 and apologized to him in front of my students.
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