Presidential Campaign Raises Questions Of Détente With Russia And McCarthyism From Clinton Supporters

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It is a shame that Donald Trump is rather incoherent on policy as he actually has two ideas which a more intelligent candidate might pursue further–improving relations with Russia (as opposed to Clinton and the neocons taking us into a new Cold War), and questioning whether we can afford to be the world’s policeman. Hillary Clinton has a long history of both belligerence towards Russia, including trying to taper in their own politics against Putin, and it has been a neocon goal to bring regime change to Russia as they did in Iraq.

AP has reported on how Trump’s comments on Russia have disturbed many in the establishment. Buried in the article there is even an alternate viewpoint:

But Steven Cohen, professor emeritus of Russian studies at Princeton and New York University, credits Trump for focusing on issues ripe for discussion. He said that while Trump talks “elliptically” and “just can’t wonk,” the GOP nominee “in his own way seems to be advocating detente,” which Cohen sees as an admirable goal.

Cohen said it’s time for critics to stop using “McCarthyite” language to demonize Trump and have a serious discussion about the issues he’s raising.

“It’s called a debate,” said Cohen. “You’re supposed to have them in a presidential campaign.”

Cohen has also criticized the McCarthyite tactics of  some Clinton supporters in The Nation:

Many liberals (and their publications) have recently branded Donald Trump as Putin’s “puppet” (Franklin Foer), “de facto agent” (Jeffrey Goldberg), “Kremlin client” (Timothy Snyder), and would-be “man in the White House.” New York Times columnist Paul Krugman spells out the implication that Trump “would, in office, actually follow a pro-Putin foreign policy, at the expense of America’s allies and her own self-interest.” These disgraceful allegations are based on little more, Cohen argues, than a mistranslation of a casual Putin remark about Trump, Trump’s elliptical suggestions that he may favor détente with Moscow and tacit endorsement of Obama’s refusal to escalate the military conflict in Ukraine, and Russian business relations of Trump’s “associates” of the kind eagerly sought since the late 1980s by many American corporations, including Exxon Mobil and MacDonald’s

This is, of course, an ominous recapitulation of McCarthy’s accusations, which seriously damaged American democracy and ruined many lives. Still worse, this Putin-baiting of Trump is coming from the Clinton campaign, which most of the liberals involved evidently support, as reflected in a page-one New York Times story headlined “A Trump-Putin Alliance.” Clinton, it seems, intends to run against Trump-Putin. If so, the new Cold War can only become more dangerous, especially if she wins and if this McCarthyite tactic reflects her hawkish views on Russia, and the wildly demonized Putin in particular.

Nathan Robinson made the same argument in Current Affairs which warns that Democrats Are Redbaiting Like It’s 1956:

The suspect list was quickly reduced to one: the Russian government. The evidence for that was murky to begin with but has grown more solid over time. (“Anything’s possible” replied Barack Obama, when asked about possible Russian involvement.) Harvard law professor and cybersecurity expert Jack Goldsmith has cautioned that “there is no public evidence whatsoever tying Russia to the hack,” and that “attribution for cyberoperations of this sort is very tricky and tends to take some time.”

But even before the precise origins and motives for the hack have been sorted out, media figures have been conjuring progressively larger and larger conspiracy theories. U.S. intelligence officials are uncertain whether the hack “was intended as fairly routine cyberespionage… or as part of an effort to manipulate the 2016 presidential election.” Yet the hack is being treated by many as a Russian plot to elect Donald Trump, as part of a Trump-Putin alliance serving Vladimir Putin’s “plan for destroying the West.”

The theory is not confined to a small, deranged political fringe. It is being voiced by respected members of the media establishment. Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo has said there is “a substantial amount of evidence suggesting Putin-backed financial support for Trump or a non-tacit alliance between the two men.” Former Enron adviser Paul Krugman has enthusiastically embraced the theories and has even implied that Trump may be a Manchurian Candidate. Anne Applebaum of the Washington Post has seconded the idea…

It should be noted, first, that all of these figures are supporters of the Democratic nominee for president, Hillary Clinton, and that the hack of the DNC emails proved deeply embarrassing for the Clinton campaign. The shift from discussing the emails themselves to discussing who leaked them is tremendously helpful in taking negative attention away from the DNC and Clinton. As one BuzzFeed writer put it, “Now Russia is the story.” Neera Tanden, the president of the Center for American Progress, declared: “Wasserman Schultz resigned. So now maybe we can focus on who was behind the leak.” By attempting to turn the email hack into a bigger scandal than Watergate, Democrats serve the twin goals of (1) not having to talk about internal problems with the DNC and (2) further pushing the unsubstantiated Trump-Putin alliance theory. (In fact, we know this was an explicit strategy and not just a stroke of good fortune. When the hacks occurred, Bloomberg reported that “If the Democrats can show the hidden hand of Russian intelligence agencies, they believe that voter outrage will probably outweigh any embarrassing revelations.”)

But liberals in the press have gone beyond simply questioning the source of the email leak. Firmly convinced that Trump’s candidacy is being advanced by the Kremlin, they have also turned against leftists, claiming that they are doing Putin’s bidding. A fellow at the Center for American Progress, for example, accusedIntercept journalist Glenn Greenwald of being a “Russia troll.” Josh Marshall pondered how many online “Sanders supporters” and “Trump supporters” were actually being run out of a Russian operation, while a writer at The Atlantic confronted a Bernie fan on Twitter about their suspicious interest in Ukraine. And the Democratic Blue Nation Review, run by longtime Clinton operative David Brock, warned that online “Bernie or Bust” supporters could instead be “sophisticated agitators” in the pay of the Russian government.

Jonathan Chait, a liberal writer for New York magazine, suggested that leftists are reflexive defenders and enablers of the Russian state…

Just as the movement against the Vietnam War was once accused of being run out of Moscow, and just as the Civil Rights movement was supposedly filled with Communist agitators, liberals have once again revived one of the nastiest traditions in the history of American political smear tactics: the McCarthyist innuendo…

This kind of thinking is disturbing, because of where it leads. First, it takes you further and further away from the land of sober-minded assessment and careful reasoning. Most of the Trump-Putin theories follow the precise same patterns of logic deployed by JFK conspirators and the 9/11 Truth movement. They don’t prove their assertions with direct evidence, but offer all sorts of “suspicious” facts that supposedly imply the conclusion. So we get a lot of “isn’t it interesting that Trump has business interests in Russia?” and “isn’t it convenient that the leaks helped Trump and Trump likes Putin?” Of course, the former is (slightly) interesting and the latter is convenient. But building theories this way turns you into a madman. Look at Foer’s own conclusion:

In the end, we only have circumstantial evidence about the Russian efforts to shape this election—a series of disparate data points and a history of past interference in similar contests. But the pattern is troubling, and so is the premise.

Troubling patterns and premises, rather than troubling facts, are what substantiate stories about black helicopters and chemtrails. When disparate data points will do, one becomes paranoid. But some of the conspiracy-minded liberals seem to embrace that. “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you,” a BuzzFeed writer reminds us. Of course, it doesn’t mean they aren’t after you. But it does mean your judgment on the question is going to be irreparably compromised.

At this point, the accusations of a Trump/Putin alliance against Clinton sounds disturbingly like what we heard during the run up to the Iraq war, including Hillary Clinton’s false claims of ties between Saddam and al Qaeda.

Earlier in the year the Clinton campaign also used red-baiting against Bernie Sanders and tried to paint him as a communist sympathizer.

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4 Comments

  1. 1
    KP says:

    "Fins to the left, fins to the right and she's the only girl in town".

  2. 2
    The Dark Avenger says:

    Cohen is a long-time Russian apologist. That he tries to make sense of Trump's attempt to turn the NATO Alliance into a protection racket is pitiful, as is your attempt to call the call-out of his request to Russia to hack Hillary's e-mails McCarthyism.

  3. 3
    Ron Chusid says:

    Sure signs of someone not worth listening to: Calling those who oppose a new Cold War with Russia, as Clinton seeks, a “Russian apologist.” Distorting the argument and then relying on ad hominems like “pitiful” without presenting a single fact or coherent argument in return.

    It is because of people like this, who blindly listen to the calls from warmongers like Clinton, that we have wound up in so many foolish wars.

  4. 4
    Ron Chusid says:

    Kevin, yes Clinton v. Trump is like having a shark on both sides. Fortunately Hillary isn't the only girl in town–there is Jill Stein.

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