Turnabout and Foreign Elections

The NY Observer reminds us of this leaked audio of Hillary Clinton claiming that we should have rigged a foreign election. (H/t: Outlaw Morgan)

I take her comments to be proof that we didn't rig that election, though also proof that she thought rigging foreign elections was a fine thing to do. Clinton's friends described her efforts in Putin's last election as "calling out his rigged election," but Putin saw them as efforts to rig it. The Wikileaks demonstration of how the DNC was rigging the Democratic Primary was nothing except an inversion of Clinton's own tactics against Putin: set up an allegedly independent NGO, and have it convey true information about your party's attempts to corrupt and control the outcome of what was allegedly a democratic process.

Wikileaks reminds us, in the wake of information that Russian intelligence targeted the Trump campaign, that the CIA performed the same maneuver with the French presidential campaign. "... the current ruling party, is not assured of winning the presidential election and, as a result, analysts are interested in the electoral strategy of the non-ruling parties listed below. Additional information on these topics will help analysts assess, and prepare key US policymakers for, the post-election French political landscape and the potential impact on US-France relations."

That's a perfectly fair assessment and a completely reasonable thing for the CIA to do. You can imagine the FSB, though, writing exactly the same memo to justify a move to get more visibility on what the Trump campaign was thinking. "The current ruling party is not assured of winning the presidential election... additional information on these topics will help analysts assess, and prepare key Russian policymakers for, the post-election American landscape etc."

The CIA also has a history of rigging the occasional foreign election. "The Christian Democrats eventually won the 1948 election with 48% of the vote, and the FDP received 31%. The CIA's practice of influencing the political situation was repeated in every Italian election for at least the next 24 years.[13]"

There's a long article on the history of the practice here. It's in the Washington Post, one of the same papers that has been worrying out loud that all this Russian influence means we don't have a real democracy.

I'm sure we all stand resolutely against foreign meddling in our elections. Noticing that turnabout is fair play doesn't mean that we shouldn't want our elections to represent only the will of the American people.

It does suggest that a more thoughtful dialogue should be engaged by our press here. Is the clandestine activity conducted by the CIA to improve its analysis and predictive capacity reasonable (as I argue)? If so, why shouldn't the Russians do the same thing? Is tampering in elections wrong? If so, why shouldn't other countries resent that we have done it to them -- and respond in kind?

1 comment:

jaed said...

I ask myself whether these same people would have been upset if it were learned that Russia had, say, arranged for the release of the tape wherein Trump is talking about where groupies let you grab them once you become a celebrity.

Would they consider it a challenge to democracy? Be calling for the Clinton administration to step down? Demanding impeachment?

Or would they consider it a good, neighborly* sort of thing for Putin to have done—revealing the Evil of Trump and his campaign in time for Americans to make the right choice to vote Hillary into office?

*Maybe not neighborly, but I can easily see editorials and think-pieces with phrases like "Even Putin realized the danger..." and "We have fortunately dodged a bullet due to..."