I find my blog partner Keith to be reliable conduit for his Party's ideas. For me, this is helpful right now because I feel I've wandered into an absurdist carnival trying to unravel the burning threads of the political tapestry now unfolding before us. Keith at least tries to put a semblance of order to it, and even though Party loyalty has him off on what looks to me to be a fool's errand at this point, his thoughts give me something to respond to. So let's see what we can make of his latest piece (American Counterpoint 2/15/18). It was a re-post of a letter he submitted to the New York Times in response to an editorial about Trump and Russia.
This Russia thing has been percolating now for what seems like an awfully long time. As soon as the Democrats recovered from the cognitive dissonance that paralyzed them in the immediate aftermath of the 2016 election, they started casting around for a quick path that might somehow restore the natural order of things for them. Their first gambit was through recount petitions, but when these quickly fizzled, other more fraught strategies started making their way onto the table.
Search For A Fix
The extreme left, of course, having few inhibitions, talked openly about assassination. Kathy Griffins' notorious severed-head stunt was at one level nothing more than an intemperate comedienne's attempt to lash out. At a deeper level, however, it served as a trial balloon for gauging America's tolerance for tactical violence at this juncture. To the Democrats' credit, almost no one at any level of their party came to Ms. Griffins' defense when she was pilloried for what she did. So, with recall and assassination out, the only fast remedy left available to impatient Democrats was impeachment.
Party strategists have been toying with groundwork for this dangerous option since the very beginning of the Trump presidency. Even before he took the oath of office, dark murmurings began leaking into the press about Trump's international business dealings. Everyone knows that any businessman who routinely swims in enough treacherous waters has a history that, even if not strictly illegal, can be made to smell pretty fishy if exposed to the open air. The Democrats were confident stuff could be found, and sure enough once they started looking, stuff indeed appeared almost immediately.
And this was all the Democrats, able to count on help from a scandal-hungry media, would need to begin the long, tortured process of spinning innuendo into narrative, and narrative into an apparent fact pattern that offered hope of getting them to their goal of unseating Trump. The plan was always likely to gain a boost after the mid-term elections, if as seemed likely, they could pick up a few Congressional seats.
What they have been able to seize upon, however, is something much better than a run-of-the-mill financial scandal. Trump did business in many places, and one of them was Russia, the land where Dr. Evil himself, Vladimir Putin, reigned supreme. Now it seemed that Putin's agents, including a small army of Internet trolls, had been at work during the 2016 election doing the bidding of the former KGB operative and lending their dirty hands in support of Trump's candidacy.
This was explosive stuff since, if they could suggest collusion, it could be spun out into something that looked a lot like treason, which would be political gold for them. Not only could they count on unanimous support from their own Party colleagues in going after Trump, they could gain ground even among Republicans, who have always been suspicious of him anyway and might be expected to have an atavistic Pavlovian response to any storyline involving Russians and treason.
Maybe even best of all for the Democrats, whose self-confidence has been pretty much shattered since the election, they at last had an answer to the question of why America didn't seem to love them anymore. America did, in fact, still love them, but this love had come to naught because a nefarious foreign power had intervened.
Barak And Hillary's Reset
It is not my intention here to disparage the notion that the Russians are meddling in our democracy. As someone who has followed Russian behavior for decades now I fully accept the diagnosis that they are anti-democratic actors out to manipulate our system to their advantage. What I find hard to swallow is that the Democrats seem to be just now waking up to this reality.
It wasn't that long ago - the early years of Barak Obama's Presidency, in fact - when they were telling us that bad relations between our two nations was entirely the fault of that bumbling warmonger George Bush, and that our new president would usher in an era of competent diplomacy and friendship. Who can forget the 2009 news clip of Obama's newly-anointed Secretary of State - none other than Hillary Clinton - holding hands with the Russian Foreign Minister as they laughingly fondled together the big toy "RESET" button she had just presented to him as a gift?
Roots Of The Story
This pre-Trump affinity between liberal Americans and Russia, of course, goes back way before Obama's time and in fact began taking hold in the years following the Russian Revolution. The Comintern was established in 1919 with the express purpose of destabilizing foreign governments. While the Internet was not available in those days, these early agitprop specialists accomplished quite a lot through agents of influence they garnered for themselves in the press, universities, and other sectors Soviet strategists believed could help mold the public opinion in target nations into a shape consistent with early Soviet notions about the world's inevitable communist future. The young Soviet Union became the Cuba of its day among the leftish in-crowd.
Joseph Stalin dissolved the Comintern in 1943 because he needed to reassure his WWII allies that he was for the time being a friend to capitalist democracies and no longer laboring to subvert them. After the war, however, he quickly returned to his old ways, and without re-establishing the Comintern, he in fact double-downed on its mission. He brought it under his direct control in the form of the intelligence service that evolved into the KGB and that years later would become Vladimir Putin's alma mater. Disinformation, bribery, subornation of journalists, and other subversive techniques had been around for as long as adversarial diplomacy existed in the world, but the Soviet KGB refined them to new levels of artistry. They were really good at this stuff and referred to the various techniques collectively as "active measures".
The Soviet Union ceased being a sexy role model for the international Left as soon as Stalin died and the Russians themselves came clean about the realities of his rule. However, they no longer cared about positioning their own system as a role model. Instead, they devoted their foreign resources during the 1960's and 1970's towards supporting "wars of national liberation" in third-world nations, and boosting the peace and anti-nuclear movements in the United States and Western Europe. Few activists participating in those mobilizations saw themselves as having any affinity with the Soviet Union, yet many of them came to view the Russians as the lesser of two evils relative to their own governments. Inspired by Cuba, the so-called "New Left" had an impact on liberal opinion in the U.S. that was disproportionate to its numbers.
Trainee Becomes The Boss
Vladimir Putin joined the KGB around 1975 when the agency was near the apogee of its power. He was too young at the time to have been a player yet, but he had sharp eyes and sharp elbows. Distaining ideology and enjoying power for its own sake, he internalized the techniques his agency used to manipulate it. The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 created exactly the kind of vacuum a man like Putin seemed destined for, and he quickly emerged out of nowhere to find his way to the top of the new non-Communist Russian government. The old Soviet KGB infrastructure hardly missed a beat as it morphed yet again, this time into the Russian FSB. Now, however, its one-time trainee was its boss, and he was ready to employ all the tricks of the destabilization game as he looked abroad.
Conscious of this history, I was not at all skeptical when stories appeared about how Putin had put agents to work in a campaign to influence the 2016 election in the United States. As is their wont, however, the Democrats have twisted the narrative to suit their political agenda and made themselves out to be the victims. Far from having any affinity with Trump, the Russians have simply weaponized him as a wrecking ball for taking down what remains of America's political establishment. Having humiliated both the Bush and Cruz wings of the Republican Party during the 2016 primaries, he did the same to the Clinton wing of the Democratic Party during the general election. To both parties' discredit, they looked on happily while the other was being savaged. Both are now without coherent ideologies, and both are drifting into the hands of people who make up in hateful energy what they lack in serious purpose. Most of the current leaders will soon be gone to make way for this hostile rabble.
The impeachment drive that is slowly gaining momentum will be the final act in the campaign to humiliate America. Thus have the Democrats become Putin's witless collaborators every bit as much as the President they so despise.
In an era of endlessly compounding ironies, perhaps the most telling of all is the fact that we would be in much the same boat right now had the 2016 election broken the other way. Like the Democrats, the Republicans too were laying the groundwork for impeachment in the event, actually expected in their case, that the other side won. There is certainly plenty of material for tactical planners in both camps to work from. Scandals and conspiracy theories abound, fed by a reckless media and, so it now appears, disinformation agents from abroad.
The hallmark of democracy is the capacity for a peaceful transfer of power between bitterly opposing factions. And while America hasn't quite lost this yet, the lack of grace now apparent everywhere seems a bad omen.