You can’t make this stuff up

Developments and utterances that would normally defy belief

If read in a novel, some of the things we are hearing about elections coming up and those past, and the comments of the president and others in the administration, would be so outrageous that the book would be abandoned quickly. A few examples:

• President Trump, appearing on Fox News (where else?) said he was withholding money from the U.S. Postal Service in order to keep it from being able to deliver mail-in ballots. While he tried to walk this one back, it reveals a distain for and lack of understanding of basic tenants of democracy.

• President Trump has stated that it is a goal of somebody or other to have “all mail-in voting in the entire country.” States each control elections in their states, so this created myth, which he then accuses of fostering “fraud” and “corruption” and a “phony election” succeeds in confusing, frightening and deterring voters from voting. There is no proof of widespread fraud or abuse in mail-in voting, and the “all-mail voting” in a few states is distinct from absentee voting in New Hampshire and most other states.

• President Trump recently mused on the possible need to “redo the election” if it takes a long time to count the votes in November, claiming somehow that extended counting time equals fraud. That won’t happen, and such talk just creates concern about election legitimacy.

• After a three-year investigation, the Senate Intelligence Committee, controlled by the Republican majority, released its final report, concluding that there was an “extensive web of contacts between Trump campaign advisers and Kremlin officials and other Russians, including at least one intelligence officer and others tied to the country’s spy services.” The panel found that the Russian government worked to disrupt American and other western nations’ elections, wanted to help Trump get elected, and that, shockingly, Trump campaign advisers had contact and seemingly welcomed the help, displaying a woeful lack of understanding of the law and propriety, to say nothing of national security.

• In his book, “The Room Where It Happened,” John Bolton, former Trump national security advisor, recounts disturbing traits of the Trump White House. Bolton, a hawkish and very conservative person, has been involved in many transitions from one administration to another. During the Trump transition, Bolton describes people sitting around, not focusing on the business at hand, since they did not know what the business at hand was. This resulted in an administration with few people in place below the top level of the departments when Jan. 20 came, keeping the administration from controlling the government. From there, the story goes downhill, describing an ill-prepared chief executive, with little knowledge of government structure, constitutional principle, history or foreign policy, making it up as he went along.

• George Will, noted conservative columnist, has left the GOP, and in stinging columns has urged voters to reject this administration, and to turn all of those he refers to as the “enablers” out of office in November.

• The Lincoln Project Republicans, including former New Hampshire GOP Chair Jennifer Horn, has aired ads on TV that would make Democratic critics of Trump blush. She also urges Republicans to back Joe Biden, and has expressed admiration for the virtual Democratic convention. That convention made a point of stressing unity, inclusiveness, reaching across the aisle and other traits missing in today’s Washington.

The point of all this? This Republican observer of elections since about 1960 has never seen things so bad in the GOP. Even the aftermath of the Goldwater defeat in 1964 or the Watergate fallout in 1974 resulted in thoughtful, principled Republicans reminding people of the party’s principles and heritage. There is precious little of that today, and talk of “principles” is not heard from the top of the GOP ticket — only division, derision and delusion.

On the brighter side, New Hampshire election officials continue to prepare for September and November. Secretary of State Bill Gardner sent a mailer to inform voters how to vote easily and safely, and local officials are planning for redesigned polling places. Local postal officials assure voters that the mail will handle their absentee ballots, and voters are urged not to wait until the last minute to get their ballots.

Those who agree with this column can do something about things when they vote. So can those who disagree with it.

Brad Cook is a Manchester attorney. The views expressed in this column are his own. He can be reached at

Categories: Cook on Concord