In 1898 that word shook France. It was the headline of an open letter to a Paris newspaper by the French author Emile Zola, accusing the French military of framing Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish captain in the French army, as a traitor. Zola accused the military of using anti-Semitism to gain the conviction.
At the time of Zola’s letter, Dreyfus had already begun serving a five-year sentence on Devil’s Island. But thanks in no small measure to Zola’s letter, new evidence was uncovered which revealed that another officer was the culprit. Dreyfus was retried in 1899, and in a strange legal decision, he was re-sentenced to 10 years, then pardoned!
Dreyfus resumed his military career. He was promoted to major, fought in World War I and died in 1935.
Such is the power of accusation. But unlike Zola’s use of it on the side of justice, today it is the common currency for nefarious purposes in politics — especially in the campaign of Donald Trump.
Not a day has gone by when Trump or his surrogates have not accused Hillary Clinton of every evil imaginable — including suspicions that she may have had something to do with the death of Vince Foster, deputy White House counsel during the first few months of Bill Clinton’s first term.
Trump called Foster’s suicide “very fishy.” (Well, that’s not exactly an accusation; let’s call it an innuendo — accusation’s slippery cousin.)
Remember his debating delicacies: “Little Marco,” “Lying Ted,” “Low Energy Jeb”? His favorite these days is “Crooked Hillary.” And the other day he added “bigot” to his list of epithets for her. But the most egregious accusation that Trump's warped mind cooked up was that President Obama and Hillary Clinton “founded ISIS.”
Proof? You don’t need any for the unquestioning supporters of Mr. Trump. And where did he call her a bigot? At a rally in almost all-white West Bend, Wisconsin, about 40 miles away from Milwaukee, which is 40 percent African-American.
My voice is not as powerful as that of Emile Zola, but let me make an accusation. Donald Trump is a bigot, a misogynist, a sleazy human being — and, oh yes, a crooked businessman. Where’s my proof? It’s in every report of his numerous business dealings and in every one of his campaign speeches. As they say in court, I rest my case.