Everything is a distraction from something much, much worse
WASHINGTON -- Americans, you need to start paying attention. Like, really paying attention -- to the issues that actually matter.
Stop getting distracted!
Take this Russian collusion nonsense. Lots of Americans are obsessed with it, but it's just a shiny distraction.
Yeah, sure, it looks as though members of the Trump campaign lied repeatedly, including on live TV and in Senate testimony and on security clearance forms, about their contacts with Russians. It looks as though they may have been eager to get their hands on possibly illegally obtained information from a hostile nation. "I love it," Donald Trump Jr. wrote when offered dirt on Hillary Clinton explicitly offered as "part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump."
But that's merely what the nine-dimensional-chess players in the White House want you to be obsessing over.
Focusing on the terrible things Team Trump did during the campaign and transition conveniently distracts you from all the terrible things Team Trump is doing during the presidency.
The administration is repealing consumer and environmental protections left and right. The Education Department is making it easier for for-profit colleges to defraud students. The Environmental Protection Agency has delayed an air pollution rule that the agency had determined would likely prevent the poisoning of children.
The Trump deregulatory team is rife with former lobbyists and others who have conflicts of interest. President Trump and his family members likewise appear to be financially benefiting from his role in the White House.
Yet fussing over regulatory decisions and vaguely sleazy behavior is itself a distraction from an even more important issue: the fact that Republicans are trying to remake one-sixth of the U.S. economy, largely in secret, while ripping health insurance away from 22 million Americans.
They're laying out changes opposed by insurers, providers and patient advocacy groups. They are doing so with no hearings and no expert input, and reportedly with a scheme to sideline the one neutral referee of the law's potential impact, the Congressional Budget Office. Attention must be paid!
However, all the noise over "health care reform" is itself a ruse intended to distract voters from Republicans' real policy agenda: tax cuts for the rich.
The entire point of the Obamacare repeal, at least for House Speaker Paul Ryan, is to pave the way for tax cuts. Slashing Medicaid and tax subsidies for people on the individual insurance market would help offset the costs of repealing taxes on rich people imposed by the Affordable Care Act.
The latest Senate health care bill has complicated that plan somewhat, but plans for major tax cuts for rich people and corporations are still advancing behind the scenes and garnering precious little news coverage.
What scant awareness is being given to tax cuts, however, is diverting the public's deficient attention from a far more insidious scheme: efforts to systematically undermine democratic values and institutions.
There's the Election Integrity Commission's fishing expedition for state voter data -- which may have been deliberately bungled in an attempt to distract voters from Republicans' real, secret goal of dismantling the National Voter Registration Act, or "Motor Voter" law.
There are also the unending attacks on freedom of the press and other First Amendment rights. This includes a fight picked with MSNBC hosts, which White House aides lamented as a distraction from the far more important fight with CNN.
But wait. All of this silliness is really a form of misdirection so that Americans will forget North Korea recently fired an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of hitting Alaska. And that no one is even nominated for critical diplomatic and national security posts, such as ambassador to South Korea and assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation.
But worry about such personnel vacancies is of course a distraction from the fact that the man at the top of the food chain is impulsively tweeting out provocations to both enemies and allies.
And Trump's tasteless Twitter feed is also cleverly designed to distract you from noticing that an iceberg nearly the size of Delaware just broke off Antarctica.
Getting drawn into a debate about whether climate change is to blame, and whether American global leadership could make a difference either way, would surely sidetrack us from the vital question of whether our president is in hock to Russia.
And second verse, same as the first.
Welcome to 2017, the ouroboros of distractions, where every terrible thing is a head-fake for a ruse for a diversion for a misdirection from something else much, much worse.
Catherine Rampell's email address is email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter, @crampell.
(c) 2017, Washington Post Writers Group