The Strange Case of John Brennan — and Mr. Hide
By Robert B. Charles
What is up with former Obama CIA Director John Brennan? In one of the oddest displays in modern American history, Brennan lashed out after the 2016 election with unbridled animus for President Donald Trump. He did so in strangely caustic terms. Now, suddenly, he is contrite. Perhaps this onetime Communist sympathizer is afraid of something or perhaps his colors never changed.
Last week, Republican Kentucky Senator Rand Paul fingered Brennan, saying a “high level source” reports Brennan is the operative who “insisted that the unverified and fake Steele dossier” — paid for by Hillary Clinton’s campaign and used to justify FISA warrants for spying on Trump’s campaign — be included in a classified intelligence report on the 2016 elections.
For two years, Brennan’s tirade on Trump has left listeners questioning his motivations, balance and default to high emotion. Overly emotional “news’ anchors have become the norm. But former CIA Directors were expected to exercise more self-control. Not in Brennan’s case. Why?
In one piece, Brennan attacked Trump thus: "When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history… America will triumph over you.” Strong words, over the top. Why?
Note, this is the same John Brennan who, talking of jihadists, lectured journalists: “We’re trying to be very careful and precise in our use of language, because I think the language we use and the images we project really do have resonance.” Indeed.
Fear often motivates shrill language, but fear of what? Fear of being outed for violations of law, for constitutional disloyalty? Some suggest Brennan was part of a “soft coup,” aiming to prevent Donald Trump from taking office. The idea is fanciful, but not impossible.
Brennan was head of the CIA when a variety of odd events occurred, ranging from the still-unexplained “unmasking” of hundreds of Americans through phone records to distribution of that Clinton-funded, anti-Trump propaganda that secured FISA warrants against Team Trump.
Brennan is centrally mentioned in two other events. The first is a rumor that someone in US intelligence asked a third-country to set up counter-intelligence operations against the Trump Campaign, allowing highly classified data to flow back to the NSA, CIA and FBI — mid-campaign. The second rumor is that Brennan attended a White House meeting in December 2016, at which discussions occurred surrounding initiating legal action to block Trump’s Inauguration. If not treasonous, that would have been highly anomalous, arguably criminal. And who else was at that meeting, if it happened?
So, fear of being caught in this tangled web might be Brennan’s motivation for visceral antipathy for Trump. If the best defense is a good offense, this explanation seems incomplete. What would cause a high ranking official, even one wishing for Clinton victory, to vehemently attack a sitting President as “traitor” and “treasonous,” seeking removal — when he knew these allegations untrue?
The answer is hard to assess, but it may lie in psychology, and Brennan’s surprise admission of a past affinity for Communism. Psychology texts define ascribing to others what one hates in himself as “projection.” Specifically, “psychological projection” is a “defense mechanism” in which a person “defends …against unconscious impulses or qualities …by denying their existence in themselves while attributing them to others.” Accordingly, “a person who is habitually rude may constantly accuse other people of being rude,” or “blame shifting.”
Applying the standard might work with Brennan. He admitted in 2016 that he “froze” when first subject to a polygraph, before working at CIA. Why? In the 1976 presidential election, he “voted for the Communist Party candidate,” namely Gus Hall. Brennan says: “It was my way of signaling my unhappiness with the system, and the need for change.” So, he voted for the anti-American candidate. Makes perfect sense right? Not to most Americans, not even in historical context.
Brennan’s revelation is fascinating, and peculiar. First, neither of the two major party candidates in 1976 — Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter — were divisive. They were more “milk toast” than “spit and vinegar,” hardly the sort Americans despised — especially to support a candidate who despised America. Ford authored “A Time for Healing,” while Carter touted faith and unity.
In all, eleven candidates ran. Only one, Gus Hall, was overtly anti-American. Others included Eugene McCarthy an Independent, Roger MacBride a Libertarian, Lester Maddox an American Independent, Thomas Anderson an American, Peter Camejo for Socialist Workers, Margaret Wright for People’s, Lyndon LaRouche, Jr. for US Labor, Benjamin Bubar for Prohibition, and then — Gus Hall — atheist anti-American Communist. Brennan voted for the atheist anti-American Communist.
Years later, when asked, Brennan said: “I’m neither Republican nor Democrat,” arguably a shrewd answer to a pointed question. Elsewhere he proclaimed: “I think we do have to take off the gloves in some areas, but within balance, and at the right time and the right way, and for the right reason and with full understanding of what the consequences of that might be.” Was 2016 such a time?
Brennan is quoted saying: “How you define a problem shapes how you address it,” surely true. But in politics, the outcome of a national election is not a “problem” to be “addressed” — not even “shaped” — by a CIA Director. Did Brennan forget, turning discontent and past proclivities on Trump?
Hard to say, but anyone who voted for the atheist anti-American Communist Gus Hall, forsaking 10 others, deserves a second look, especially when they become obsessed with bringing down a duly-elected president.
So, who was Gus Hall — Brennan’s choice for president? Communist Hall’s life was marked by anti-American activism, atheism and agitation. Two quotes: “Socialism in America will come through the ballot box” and — "Christians are always singing about the blood. Let us give them enough of it!“ He laid out a graphic, violent, hate-filled, anti-Christian rant. That was Brennan’s choice — odd, isn’t it?
In 1976, Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev observed, "The trouble with free elections is, you never know who is going to win.” True, unless upended. Brezhnev quipped: “I am not a writer but a Party functionary … like every Communist … it my duty to participate actively in the work of our press.”
Nikita Khrushchev similarly said: “We do not have to invade the United States, we will destroy you from within,” adding: “Americans are so gullible … you won’t accept communism outright, but we’ll keep feeding you small doses of socialism until you’ll finally wake up and find you already have communism.” Their weapon of choice? “The press is our chief ideological weapon.”
Is John Brennan still a sympathizer? Senator Rand Paul probably won’t find out. Clearly, Brennan is overwrought by an America focused on individual liberty, unmaking the over-centralized government. Did Brennan push the false dossier to unseat an elected president? Try to prevent the inauguration, unmask Americans illegally, or enlist a third country to spy on a political rival?
We may never know. If so, Brennan lost his bid to unseat this president, and is now — rather suddenly — contrite. I am reminded of Khrushchev’s goal: “Comrades, we must abolish the cult of the individual decisively, once and for all.” Anyone trying in 2016, missed the boat. I am reminded of Brennan’s response to a direct question: “I am neither Democratic or Republican.” Maybe he is more truthful than many of us give him credit for. Either way, his behavior has been odd.
Robert B. Charles is an attorney, former Assistant Secretary of State under George W. Bush, former senior oversight counsel for Congress, ten-year Naval Intelligence Officer (USNR), and served in the Reagan and Bush 41 White Houses. He taught Government Oversight at Harvard University’s Extension School, wrote Narcotics and Terrorism (2003), and Eagles and Evergreens (2018), and is a regular Fox News commentator.