Get a Grip, Please

Michael Tomasky calls for "World War III: Democrats and America vs. Trump and Russia."

Republican leaders, he kindly allows, are not actually traitors. But they are a hair's breadth from traitors. Those are his exact words.
A foreign government may have determined the outcome of a presidential election. And not Canada or Costa Rica, but Russia: the United States’ chief historic adversary and an oligarchy ruled by a tyrant who has systematically taken away rights.... On top of all the above, leaders of one of our two political parties—I’ll let you hazard a guess as to which one—argued against letting the American public know about all this before the election, reportedly saying it would be too partisan. That’s not hardball politics. That’s a hair’s breath away from treason.
Not one person in the Republican leadership had any authority to block the declassification of that CIA report. Also, not one person in the Republican leadership had any authority to require it to be declassified. Their "arguing" was purely advisory. The head of the CIA could have done it. However, given the politically explosive nature of the revelations, he likely deferred to his boss, the President of the United States, whose original classification authority is broad enough to have ordered the review partially or wholly declassified before the election.

For some reason, a man well known for unilateral actions taken without any Congressional approval elected not to do it.  Barack Obama chose not to go public with this without Republicans providing him with political cover.
McConnell, according to the Post story, showed no concern about the truth of the allegations. And bear this nugget in mind: This was not Barack Obama trying to persuade him to join in this bipartisan effort. This was Lisa Monaco, the president’s counterterrorism adviser; and Jeh Johnson, the Secretary of Homeland Security secretary; and FBI Director James Comey. McConnell told Comey, in essence, to go take a jump in the lake. McConnell was interested only in party, not at all in country. That’s not treason, but it sure isn’t patriotism.
So Obama decided he didn't want to do this on his own. Again, though, that was completely his decision alone.  Barack Obama didn't need to persuade anyone to join in any bipartisan effort. He had the full power to do what he decided to do independently, and no Republican could have stopped him.

All the Republican leadership is plausibly guilty of is refusing to give the President political cover to destroy their candidate in the last days of an election. Why would they refuse this tremendous opportunity to show their patriotism? Perhaps because the FBI isn't on the same page as the CIA.
And yet, there is skepticism within the American government, particularly at the F.B.I., that this evidence adds up to proof that the Russians had the specific objective of getting Mr. Trump elected.

A senior American law enforcement official said the F.B.I. believed that the Russians probably had a combination of goals, including damaging Mrs. Clinton and undermining American democratic institutions. Whether one of those goals was to install Mr. Trump remains unclear to the F.B.I., he said.

The official played down any disagreement between the F.B.I. and the C.I.A., and suggested that the C.I.A.’s conclusions were probably more nuanced than they were being framed in the news media.

The agencies’ differences in judgment may also reflect different methods of investigating the Russian interference. The F.B.I., which has both a law enforcement and an intelligence role, is held to higher standards of proof in examining people involved in the hacking because it has an eye toward eventual criminal prosecutions. The C.I.A. has a broader mandate to develop intelligence assessments.
Having said that, I think the CIA is perfectly correct here. Of course Russia was involved in influence operations to try to sway the outcome of the election, and there's every reason to think that they wanted Trump to win. As I wrote yesterday, this preference makes sense just given Clinton's repeated devotion to a No-Fly Zone in Syria that would have put American warplanes flying against Russian warplanes, creating an extreme risk of war between these nuclear powers. The fact that Trump thinks of Russia as a great place to do business is icing on the cake. They didn't need any additional reason to prefer him: the Syria policy difference is fully sufficient to explain the Russian support. They have invested heavily in a major strategic push there, which at best would have been badly endangered by Clinton's policy; at worst, they'd have found themselves with a nuclear exchange over downed warplanes.

So, to recap:

1) Republican leaders are not only not traitors, they didn't have any power to betray you. They couldn't do anything to stop this from being declassified. Talk to Barack Obama. He's the one who made the call.

2) The FBI dispute with the CIA gives Republicans plausible reasons to question the wisdom of suffering a huge political blow, even though I think the CIA is quite right. It's not ridiculous to think the FBI is right, and given the dispute, I can see why ordinary rational people would not elect to pay a huge cost to get this out there right before an election.

3) That Russia supports Trump in no way implies that Trump has been suborned or bribed by Russia. There are perfectly rational strategic reasons for them to support Trump that are more than adequate to account for their support. Clinton represented a serious threat to Russian interests, and maybe a serious threat to the Russian mainland if things escalated into full-scale nuclear war. Indeed, Russia's reaction to our election is perhaps the most fully rational thing that the 2016 election has produced.

So let's tone down this talk of 'treason.'  It's not wise, and it's not warranted.


Cassandra said...


I don't have anything intelligent to add (surprise :p). Just wanted to say how much I enjoyed reading it. Your analysis is spot on.

Grim said...

Thank you, Cass.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I thought you stepped back and thought this out well. My inclination with such things is to simply decide they are nuts and think no more about it.

I assume all foreign governments are trying to influence our elections. The issue is what steps they are using and the fairness of them.

Cassandra said...

And their effectiveness!

Isn't it bizarre how little talk there is in all this of Julian Assange? He's the one who actually released the emails, and yet all we hear about is Russians.

E Hines said...

Clinton represented a serious threat to Russian interests, and maybe a serious threat to the Russian mainland if things escalated into full-scale nuclear war.

Or Putin favored Clinton over Trump, having lots of material for influence following his leisurely stroll through her State Department emails and her Clinton Foundation's dealings, so she would have been far more malleable than even the most ardent I-can-do-business-with-Russia businessman, and all the rest really is just part of the Left's excuse-making for their loss of the election.

The CIA's evidence, after all, isn't that sound, and the NLMSM's hysterical claims to the contrary, the CIA has never said the Russians did it--only that it looks like the Russians did it, which is a far different thing.

Which contradictions serve to point up the incoherence of the Left's attitude.

Eric Hines

raven said...

"Isn't it bizarre how little talk there is in all this of Julian Assange"

No. Not if the goal is to de-legitimize the election.

People are "used" to wikileaks, and give them neutral status. Just hackers, releasing whatever they find. Ho hum.

"Russia", now there is a boogieman. The implication is, they are not just releasing embarrassing info, but actually interfering with the election process itself.

The left is searching desperately for any way they can to disallow the election results. And they have executive authority for another month.

Christopher B said...

Cassandra .. the supposed effectiveness makes me cringe at what the Left is insinuating here.

Obama had eight years to prepare the country to elect his Democrat successor. Hillary took two years and spent over 2+ billion dollars, along with in-kind contributions from numerous media, political, and civic organizations, working to get elected.

And now you want me to believe that in the sixteen months between Trump announcing his candidacy and his election a group of Russian operatives planned and executed a psy-op (or hack) that targeted exactly the people (or exactly the voting machines) in exactly the right areas needed to give Trump an electoral college victory while keeping Hillary feeling like she was comfortably cruising into the Oval Office on a wave of popular support?

Quit pi**ing on my shoe and telling me it's rain.

Cassandra said...

"Russia", now there is a boogieman.

Not as recently as 2012, when it was just plain silly and out of touch for Mitt Romney to say the Russians were our #1 enemy. Or more recently, when Joe Dunford said the same thing in response to a frankly moronic plan to engage in "intelligence sharing" with Russia (and got trashed for doing so).

Remember this Obama gem from after the 2012 presidential debates?

“The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because…the Cold War’s been over for 20 years.”

Mein Gott im Himmel - I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried. No one would believe it :p

Now that they've hacked the DNC, though... well, *THAT's* a serious geopolitical threat, there. *cough*


The point of my "effectiveness" comment was that we don't actually know that these hacked emails had any effect on voters (IOW, that they were, in fact, "effective"). Hillary's email server scandal initially came to light in 2013, because - after several FOIA requests for her Benghazi emails from Judicial Watch and CBS (which she stonewalled), a hacker released emails showing she was getting emails on a private server.

This is the kind of thing, had it happened to Bush, that the Left would have viewed as a vibrant and durned-near-sacred act of extreme transparency in the public interest. And *that* hack probably DID affect the outcome of the election somewhat, because without that the inquiry into her emails/server would probably have been strangled in its infancy.

The Russians hacked the White House *and* DoS in 2014 - two years before the election. Heck, they've been hacking our government systems for YEARS, but suddenly we've determined they were only hacking us to throw the election to Donald Trump (not get into the President's, the State Department's, and the Pentagon's unclass emails?).

Selective outrage and attention.

Cassandra said...

One more amusing aside. I ran into this note in a 2015 article about the White House hack by the Russians:

George W. Bush gave up emailing for the course of his presidency and did not carry a smart phone.

Not bad, for a guy who was supposedly so dumb he couldn't eat a pretzel w/out choking on it :p

Grim said...

And their effectiveness!

If we judge the tactic by the number of top-level Democratic officials who are now claiming that our electoral system is totally unreliable and illegitimate, I'd say it was extremely effective.

If we judge the tactic by the distension sewn among Americans -- traitors! -- it was unbelievably effective.

If we judge it by tipping the election to Trump, well, we really don't know how effective it was. Marginally, perhaps; perhaps not even marginally. But since Trump won anyway, the Russians certainly don't have to feel bad about that issue.

Cass said...

And yet it's that third thing that they're claiming occurred :p

Ymar Sakar said...

Russians are known for their human intelligence and subversion efforts, not their cyber supremacy.

In the world of fb and internet propaganda posters by the cheap, Russian subversion ops from Yuri Bezmenov's days would have far more effect than cyber cracks.