Streetwise Professor

December 16, 2016

Who is the Biggest Winner From the Blame It on Vlad Frenzy? Vlad.

Filed under: Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 8:47 pm

Hillary Clinton is busy crafting a narrative to explain her crushing defeat. Not surprisingly, it is a narrative in which she bears no personal responsibility. Instead, blame attaches to bad men, namely the FBI’s James Comey and Vladimir Putin:

There were some unprecedented factors that I don’t think we can ignore, because to do so is at our peril. Now, don’t take it from me. Take it from independent analysts. Take it from the Trump campaign. Take it from Nate Silver, who’s pointed out that swing-state voters made their decisions in the final days, breaking against me, because of the FBI letter from Director Comey. And Nate Silver believes — I happen to believe this — that that letter most likely made the difference in the outcome. But we’re also learning something more every day about the unprecedented Russian plot to swing this election. And this is something every American should be worried about. You know, we have to recognize that, as the latest reports made clear, Vladimir Putin himself directed the covert cyber attacks against our electoral system, against our democracy, apparently because he has a personal beef against me.

Poor, poor victim Hillary. She had been such an amazingly successful and strong Secretary of State that Putin was going to stop at nothing to thwart her.

Sure. Whatever gets you through the night, Hillary.

The CIA is doing its best to bolster the narrative, by outrageously leaking the content of letters alleging that it knows that Putin personally directed hacks against the Democrats for the express purpose of electing Trump and defeating Hillary. Just how the CIA knows what went on in the inner sanctum of the Kremlin (and between Putin’s ears) must remain left to the imagination. The FBI and the DNI were not willing to agree with the CIA’s first claim about Putin’s intent. So the CIA leaked another letter, in which CIA Director Brennan allegedly told agency staff that the FBI and DNI now agreed with the CIA. However, neither Comey nor Clapper have stated this publicly. Instead, the WaPo and other mainstream outlets are treating Brennan’s unsubstantiated assertion (which contradicts the FBI’s and DNI’s previous denials) as fact.

This is beyond outrageous. First, the CIA should make its statements on matters of such gravity publicly and provide evidence. Ex cathedra statements released anonymously and devoid of any supporting evidence are clearly inadequate given the gravity of this situation, and the political ramifications of Brennan’s actions. Second, if the FBI and DNI agree, then Brennan, Clapper, and Comey should release a joint statement signed by all. Third, the forum for such disclosures is not leaks to the WaPo (apparently the designated mouthpiece for the agency) but in formal statements, and in testimony before the relevant Congressional committees.

But the CIA pointedly declined to make anyone available to meet with the intelligence committees, despite the fact that they had been asked specifically to do so. This is just appalling.

So why is Brennan doing this? The only plausible explanation is that it is an attack on Trump intended to de-legitimize the election and undermine his presidency before he even raises his right hand to take the oath of office. The CIA has much practice doing this abroad. It is a very siloviki, Chekist thing to do. Ironic, isn’t it?

Trump must act forcefully to submit this agency to presidential control. Given all the gnashing of teeth over the threat posed by Mattis to civilian control over the military, the silence from these quarters over the CIA is stunning–and telling.

There is still no definitive evidence that Wikileaks obtained the offending documents from the Russians: Assange claims that it was not a nation state. One of Assange’s friends, a former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan, claims that he knows who provided the information, and that it was an insider: as I noted from the outset, this is totally plausible. (Assange is apparently irritated at this claim.)

As for the claim (endorsed by Hillary) that the DNC and Podesta documents were released by the Russians specifically to harm her, then why were none of her missing emails leaked? Or are we supposed to believe the fairy tale that hers was the one computer in the entire US that was immune from cyberattack?

Further, this is all a sideshow. What harmed Hillary was the substance of the leaked documents, which showed her and the Democratic Party apparatus to be manipulative and corrupt. Comey’s letters were damaging because they drew attention to Hillary’s palpable dishonesty and high-handedness about her private server. It was the substance was fatal, but Hillary has not-and I warrant will not-addressed the issue of the substance in a serious way.

It is also amazing to watch the schizo behavior of the Democrats and anti-Trump fellow travelers (e.g., Tom Nichols). They are reacting with fury to criticism of the CIA’s behavior. How dare we question these patriots? They are consummate government professionals, working hard to protect us! Yet at the same time they want us to believe that the FBI are partisan hacks, and that the Bureau is a virtual Trumpland that wanted to see Hillary go down in flames.

So let’s see. CIA=non-partisan professionals and patriots. FBI=unprofessional partisan hacks. How does that work, exactly? How do two agencies of the US government develop alpha and omega cultures? The intellectual incoherence here is beyond belief. But those pushing these utterly incompatible stories apparently see no contradiction.

It is also beyond bizarre to see the Democratic Party unabashedly defend the CIA and treat any criticism of it as near treason. Frank Church must be rolling in his grave.

Although there is an element of absurdity to all this, it is a very dangerous set of developments. Hillary and the Democratic Party are crafting something analogous to the Stab in the Back narrative that the German militarists pushed in the aftermath of WWI. Just like Erich von Ludendorff et al, Hillary et al are denying any responsibility for their defeat. Instead they blame it on malign forces that deprived them of the victory that they deserved. Such denial prevents an honest reckoning with the past, and feeds bitterness and resentment. It poisons politics, divides Americans, undermines respect for existing institutions, and will feed extremism. Moreover, Hillary’s narrative basically insults tens of millions of Americans because she insinuates that they were either unwitting dupes of a malign plot hatched abroad, or enthusiastic supporters thereof. This will make any rapprochement in the US impossible, leaving both sides daggers drawn for the foreseeable future. Call it The Deplorables vs. The Better Thans. This will not end well.

That is, Hillary’s indulgence of her amour propre will prevent any political reconciliation in the United States. This is an act of incredible selfishness and destructiveness. But considering who she is, this comes as no surprise.

For his part, Obama spoke on the alleged Russian interference in the election in a press conference today. He said that he told Putin to “cut it [hacking] out.” That’s telling him. Did Obama draw a red line? That’s always a sure winner. Obama also channeled his inner Dean Wormer, and put Putin on Double Secret Probation. That is only a slight exaggeration: Obama said that the US would retaliate, but won’t say how:

President Obama said the U.S. must retaliate against Russia for the election-season hack into Democrats’ emails and that his administration will do so on its own time frame — perhaps in secret.

“Some of it may be explicit and publicized, some of it may not be,” Obama said during an interview that aired on National Public Radio on Friday morning.

“I think there is no doubt that when any foreign government tries to impact the integrity of our elections … we need to take action,” Obama told NPR host Steve Inskeep. “And we will, at a time and place of our own choosing.”

Dude. You are only going to be in office for 35 more days. You don’t have a lot of time to choose from.

Proving that he has learned nothing and forgotten nothing, Obama continued his old habit of belittling Putin and Russia:

After unleashing a string of putdowns about Russia, describing America’s Cold War adversary as “a weaker country” that “doesn’t produce anything anyone wants to buy except oil and gas and arms,” Obama conceded the country could exploit political divisions in the United States.

“They can impact us if we lose track of who we are. They can impact us if we abandon our values,” Obama said.

Yes. Because the putdown strategy has worked so, so great in the past several years. (What, no comments about Putin’s posture?) Talk about the antithesis of speak softly and carry the big stick. This approach will only encourage Putin, and earn his disdain.

In the years after 911, the phrase “if we do X the terrorists will have won” became common and the subject of ridicule–and justly so. Well, in the present case by obsessing over Putin, he does win. Exaggerating his influence in order to absolve oneself of responsibility, and to avoid coming to grips with the repudiation of large numbers of Americans–as Hillary and most Democrats and NeverTrumpers are doing–will sow strife in American politics and bolster Putin’s standing both in Russia and abroad. And as a result, the biggest winner from this 21st century counterpart to waving the bloody shirt will be one Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.

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  1. Am I really supposed to assume that the Dems care about the integrity of elections? Old Joe Kennedy must be rolling in his grave.

    Comment by dearieme — December 17, 2016 @ 4:10 am

  2. […] gotta be quick around here.  Before I had a chance to write a post on this story, I saw Streetwise Professor had already said everything I was going to.  Never mind I thought, I can emphasise the main point. […]

    Pingback by Putin and the Russian Hackers | White Sun of the Desert — December 17, 2016 @ 5:21 am

  3. There’s an old saying in Texas politics that goes: “There’s nothing in the middle of the road but yellow lines and dead armadillos.” That appears increasingly true of national politics as well.

    Many years ago I had a British friend tell me that we Americans were fortunate — the two major political parties (and the vast, vast majority of Americans) held similar fundamental beliefs. The belief in our system of government, in free elections, and that capitalism was the best economic system. He added that not many places in the world — let alone Europe — could say the same. It appears that we are witnessing those days of relative harmony in national politics come to a close.

    Comment by WeNeedThomasJefferson — December 17, 2016 @ 11:15 am

  4. I don’t get it. What am I missing, because this whole imbroglio seems like a complete non-story? It was relatively clear when the hacks originally happened that Russian actors were responsible. The entire debate is now different because Putin may have been involved? Ok, so before it was “unknown Russians trying to impact the election”, now it’s “maybe known Russians trying to impact the election”. No meaningful change – did anyone seriously think unknown Russian hackers were acting counter to the Kremlin’s position? No, ok. What new information is there on the subject?

    Comment by FTR — December 17, 2016 @ 1:20 pm

  5. @FTR-The difference is that when the leaks originally occurred, Hillary hadn’t lost. Now that she has, even though there hasn’t been any meaningful change in the facts, they have assumed massively greater importance because of her (and the Democrats’ and the NeverTrumpers) desperate need to explain away the defeat.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — December 17, 2016 @ 4:25 pm

  6. It’s hard to believe that Putin would ever consider Clinton and her clowns
    to be a material threat to his regime. However, it would be prudent for Trump
    and his “clowns” to recognize that “make America great again” and “make Russia
    great again” aren’t truly compatible

    Comment by eric — December 17, 2016 @ 8:52 pm

  7. Well, Putin apparently believes Hillary was responsible for the series of protests in Russia after 2012 elections. I tend to think he does many things out of pure spite, because he can and there is no one in the whole world to restrain him.

    Comment by LL — December 18, 2016 @ 8:51 am

  8. “That is, Hillary’s indulgence of her amour propre will prevent any political reconciliation in the United States.”

    There’s no disputing the life-force-draining, black-hole-like gravity of Hillary’s narcissism but do you seriously believe there is a snowball’s chance in hell that the nation could unite behind Trump – with or without Democrat whingeing?

    The chickens have elected a fox to guard the henhouse. Everything follows from that basic proposition. And it is a lot easier to prey on the hapless, the credulous and the suckers of U.S.A. than contend with serious leaders like Xi and Putin. Look at the Cabinet and, apart from Mattis, there’s not a soul in command of his appetites. Rapacious greed and avarice will rule so it is only a matter of time before a Teapot Dome scale scandal.Or bigger! The good ol’ boys simply don’t have the backbone to restrain themselves. And the Gov’ment’s sure got a whole bunch of goodies ripe for the pickin’

    Comment by Simple Simon — December 18, 2016 @ 9:04 am

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