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John Brennan may not know it, but he is acting in a drama scripted and produced by Donald J. Trump.

As Eli Lake of Bloomberg perceptively observed, President Trump isn’t trying to silence Brennan by revoking his security clearance, as the former CIA director’s defenders insist, but elevate him as a foil.

Trump couldn’t hope for a better poster boy for the so-called deep state than a former CIA director who immediately began to sound like a commentator for MSNBC upon leaving government — and, indeed, signed up as a commentator for MSNBC.

It has been the usual practice of former top intelligence professionals to keep their political opinions, and especially their wild-eyed rants, to themselves. They understand that, having been entrusted with some of the most sensitive powers of the United States government, they should show forbearance and restraint lest they undermine the reputations of their institutions.

Brennan has had no such compunction. Granted, he’s acted under provocation. Trump has goaded him on Twitter and launched extraordinary broadsides against the work of U.S. intelligence agencies.

Trump often sounds like the guy popping off down at the end of the bar; he’s transformed Brennan, who is supposed to be the consummate career intelligence official, into the guy down at the other end of the bar.

Advantage: Trump. The president always benefits from the fact that his brand depends on violating norms, whereas if his opponents are baited into violating norms in return, they diminish themselves and their cause.

So it is that a former CIA director is combating a president who maintains the top echelons of the intelligence establishment hated him by demonstrating his hatred for him. Once Brennan made the decision to begin letting loose, he inevitably got sucked into the vortex of the #Resistance — that’s where the Twitter followers, the cable hits and the adulation of half the political spectrum are.

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This element of our politics rewards the most sweeping and thoughtless condemnations of Trump, which Brennan readily provides, despite recently occupying a post that depended on discrimination and care in expression and thought.

In a notorious tweet, he accused the president of “nothing short of treason” for his craven performance at a joint press conference with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.

This was the first time on record that a prominent elected official ever committed treason — which usually involves giving away the nation’s secrets or compromising intelligence assets — at a public event extensively covered by the international media.

What did Brennan mean by his charge? He apparently doesn’t know. Pressed by Rachel Maddow of MSNBC, Brennan explained, incoherently, that “I said it was nothing short of treasonous. I didn’t mean that he committed treason.” Oh. Asked point-blank if he thinks that the president is serving the Russian government, he said that “I scratch my head a lot,” not the usual standard for alleging that someone committed a capital offense.

Brennan’s conceit is that there aren’t enough people already saying stupid and inflammatory things on Twitter and TV — the nation needs his voice, too.

This has made him the ideal target for Trump, since even some of the former intelligence officials who oppose the revocation of his security clearance are uncomfortable with how he has conducted himself.

The president’s adversaries may consider this unfair, but the institutions Trump targets are best-served by not responding in kind. If the president says that the press can’t be trusted because it’s so biased, the press should react by being less biased rather than more. If he says that he’s being undone by a deep state conspiracy, former intelligence officials should more restrained rather than less.

Brennan either doesn’t understand this dynamic or doesn’t care. He has threatened a lawsuit, and Trump has welcomed one. The president is happy for a war with the most unhinged representative of the intelligence community at hand, and John O. Brennan is playing his role flawlessly.

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Rich Lowry can be reached via e-mail: comments.lowry@nationalreview.com.

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(18) comments

ou812

another great thought from our resident short bus rider sassie cassie

ou812

Cassie, speaking of low IQS, look in the mirror.

Cassandra2

More brilliant political commentary from our resident 5th grader, ou812.

Cassandra2

There's been no sign of Chippy lately and his profile page comes up as "Profile not found." Did the Tribune finally delete him after his creepy comments about Jourdan Vian?

Rick Czeczok

You’re making a fool of yourself with your Russian paranoia and theory’s. You are the only believer you idiot. Your socialist ideas are DOA. Now, you were all against the wall, I hope you write and apologize to the parents and family of the young Iowa girl who was just murdered. Her blood is on your kind’s hands. You have to be so proud of your obstructionist party again. Crawl back under the rock you came out of Mr. Casey....

oldhomey

This is indeed rich. Ricky is warning others that they are making fools of themselves.

Cassandra2

The Russian bot still seems to have trouble with English word choice and punctuation. One would think the bot would figure out how to use Google or some on-line grammar engine, but, alas, no.

Cassandra2

Lowry falls right into the Low IQ-Anon trap, spreading this nonsense about the "deep state." He may as well just start publishing talking points directly from the KGB.

HolmenPackerFan

This columnist’s description of Trump and Brennan as guys popping off at each other from opposite ends of a bar seems an apt description of most of the political discourse in this country.

HolmenPackerFan

...with the bitter man-hating drunk woman sitting at a table near the video poker machine screaming obscenities at everyone. LOL

oldhomey

Where is Ricky? He needs to give Holmen some backing for this amazing show of humor with a big laugh track.

Jobaba

"They understand that, having been entrusted with some of the most sensitive powers of the United States government, they should show forbearance and restraint lest they undermine the reputations of their institutions." - Precisely the problem with trump.

oldhomey

amen, Jo

Rick Czeczok

Now, you're down to praying. Such a pitiful soul you are. Get a dog, it will help with your bitterness attributes. Surviving on Social Security because of poor planning in your life has to be wearing on you. That's what you get when you depend on the government to take care of you, and let them lead you by the nose. Your socialist ways are now hard at work for you. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA, fool.

Cassandra2

The Russian bot is always deriding socialism, now that it is owned and operated by the Russian oligarchs. Yet actual people who follow this illogical reasoning will continue to use our "socialist" roads, schools, police and fire departments and a whole host of other "socialist" programs. And it also claims that Social Security is depending "on the government to take care of you," even though it is money that we've all earned and put into a common retirement account. It would understand these things if it actually lived in the US, but we can't expect Russian agents to fully understand American society and governance.

oldhomey

Gosh, you really got me nailed, Ricky. I didn't plan a thing for retirement, expecting to live off my social security. I DID get a pension paid through to 1998, so that just about matches my SS payments. And I DID do okay on the 20 years or so my company gave out profit sharing, plus the 401K that started in 1983. So I got SOME money coming in, plus the matching savings the company offered. It wasn't until my last three years of working they started clipping these things back, so I did all right. I worry now about the people who are left, getting very little, because that is how the bandits who took over the company want it. And both you and I better worry if there is another recession like the 50 percent drop we saw in 2008. We could weather it, because we were still working. Now we are retired, and a hit like that would really hurt our operating budgets. At least mine, but I am not a far-seeing genius like Ricky, who is so rich he laughs at the plight of the rest of us plebian morons who worry about what Trump is doing to undermine the well-being of the nation.

Rick Czeczok

Homly you are such a loser. Miserable poor poor man. Good thing you e so smart and only had to work until 72 before they had to kick you out . Now tell us that you were to valuable to let go....HAHAHAHAHA FOOL......

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oldhomey

Well, Ricky, once again you got all the facts wrong. But I am extremely proud of you. This time you managed to spell "loser" correctly. Do you feel a little looser for having one thing right today?

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