Posted tagged ‘Media and Democrats’

A riot with an unwelcome lesson

August 15, 2017

A riot with an unwelcome lesson, Washington TimesWesley Pruden, August 14, 2017

Benjamin Franklin. (Associated Press) ** FILE

We’ve been diced and sliced beyond unity and one day soon the Middle East, with its cultural and religious differences and a hundred reasons to fight and kill each other over arcane points of theology that outsiders cannot fathom, will have nothing on America, where the liberals and the left demand unanimous submission as the price of unity.

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ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The media mob wasted no time in descending on Charlottesville, and the first order of business was to exploit the bigotry, tragedy and evil to make it the work of the Republicans, conservatives, and above all, Donald Trump.

This has been a project years in the making. Shooting congressmen by a crazed Democratic liberal is reduced to a footnote in accounts of the shooting, and shoved down the memory hole to be forgotten in a day or so. But we can be sure the Charlottesville riot will be endlessly exploited over the next several days and weeks as the white folks’ equivalent of the radical Muslim massacres of Paris, Orlando and San Bernardino.

The counterdemonstrators to a white nationalist rally showed up spoiling for a fight, but that does not excuse the rally organizers for what happened, including the assault by a particularly thuggish assassin driving a car into the crowd. They were finally denounced by the president as the “thugs” — the president’s word — they are.

And it’s true that Mr. Trump, whose tweets are not always calibrated to a presidential standard, should have used language making it clear to the densest among us in his first reaction to the riot that he was not excluding the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis or white nationalists from his description of “evil.”

He finally said explicitly what he had made clear enough on Saturday. He “includes white supremacists, KKK, neo-Nazis and all extremist groups” in his remarks excoriating, denouncing, censuring, blaming, upbraiding, and knocking the evildoers. (Should we get a bigger thesaurus?)

But whatever this president would say, his partisan critics and the media were waiting to pick it apart and find it wanting. He could never say it strong enough. Indeed, in the revised remarks distributed by the White House on Sunday an observant critic would note that he did not spell out “Ku Klux Klan,” perhaps in the hope that many people would not know what the initials KKK actually stand for. Even his adjective “evil” has 27 synonyms in one thesaurus. Why did he not use all of them? What kind of dog could miss that missing whistle?

Martin Luther King’s dream of a day when a man will be judged not by the color of his skin but by the content of his character, has been relegated to the dustbin of discarded ideals by a modern culture that demands that identity politics dice and slice Americans by race, ethnicity, region, gender (even sex) and religious faith. “Diversity” is all in allocating jobs, college admissions, even pay. Merit and performance on the job dare not speak its name.

“A politics fixated on indelible differences will inevitably lead to resentments that extremists can exploit in ugly ways on the right and left,” observes The Wall Street Journal. “The extremists were on the right in Charlottesville, but there have been examples on the left in Berkeley, Oakland and numerous college campuses. When Democratic politicians can’t even say that ‘all lives matter’ without being denounced as bigots, American politics has a problem.”

Bernie Sanders was the Democratic politician who learned that painful lesson when he thought he was making the uncontroversial point that all lives do, indeed, matter. Who could argue with that? He soon learned, and a day later apologized with a full grovel, and would have tugged a forelock if he still had one.

That’s why this chaos threatens never to end for as long as the generations alive today survive. Calls for “unity” sound good and make those calling for “unity” feel good about themselves if not about anyone else. But extremists define “unity” to mean unity as when dissenters and naysayers are clubbed into bloody submission. We’ve been diced and sliced beyond unity and one day soon the Middle East, with its cultural and religious differences and a hundred reasons to fight and kill each other over arcane points of theology that outsiders cannot fathom, will have nothing on America, where the liberals and the left demand unanimous submission as the price of unity.

Soon all the statuary of Robert E. Lee, recognized by history and his military peers as America’s greatest soldier, will have been pulled down to become but chips and chunks of litter across a broken land, replaced by sordid icons of a sordid culture. Still the politically pious will demand satisfaction, but satisfaction always just out of reach.

The ultimate lesson of Charlottesville and all the assaults on decency from every “side” is that we are the inheritors of Lincoln’s exceptional nation who failed to preserve it. “A republic, sir,” Benjamin Franklin replied when a bystander in Philadelphia asked him what the Founding Fathers had bequeathed on that first Fourth of July. “If you can keep it.”

• Wesley Pruden is editor in chief emeritus of The Times.

IT Intrigue at the DNC

August 1, 2017

IT Intrigue at the DNC, Front Page MagazineLloyd Billingsley, August 1, 2017

Awan’s lawyer, Christopher Gowen, explains that the accusations are “the product of an anti-Muslim, right-wing smear job targeting his client and his client’s family.” 

Imagine a Russian-born IT man working for, say, House Speaker Paul Ryan. Imagine if this man smashed up computers, and purloined secret material from the Intelligence and Foreign Affairs Committees. Imagine if he was kept on the job despite financial misconduct, then attempted to flee to Russian with a wad of cash. The likely explanation would not be Russophobia, and even the old-line establishment media might think there was something to it.

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Debbie Wasserman Schultz made a name for herself last year when the Democrats booted her as Democratic National Committee boss. Now she’s back with a vengeance in a tale centering on her top information technology man, Pakistani-born Imran Awan.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, not limited to issues related to Russia, had been investigating Awan for theft and abuses related to cybersecurity. Awan had been feeling the heat and attempted to flee to Pakistan last week but the FBI arrested him at Dulles airport on a charge of bank fraud.

According to Andrew McCarthy, who prosecuted the “Blind Sheik” Omar Abdel-Rahman, there’s a bit more to the story, even though Awan and his family have indeed been involved in swindles. As McCarthy has it, “this appears to be a real conspiracy, aimed at undermining American national security.”

Awan started as an IT man for Rep. Gregory Meeks, New York Democrat, then shifted to Wasserman Schultz. The Florida Democrat empowered him to add to the payroll his wife Alfi – she attempted to flee the country in March while a criminal suspect – brother Abid, Abid’s wife Natalia Sova, and Awan’s brother Jamal. As McCarthy notes:

“Awan and his family cabal of fraudsters had access for years to the e-mails and other electronic files of members of the House’s Intelligence and Foreign Affairs Committees. It turns out they were accessing members’ computers without their knowledge, transferring files to remote servers, and stealing computer equipment — including hard drives that Awan & Co. smashed to bits of bytes before making tracks.” The smashing tactic recalls the Clinton crew during the last election cycle.

McCarthy wonders how Awan and his family achieved access to highly sensitive government information, which requires a thorough security clearance. In his judgment, the Awan cabal could not possibly have qualified for such clearance.

As the IT intrigue unfolded, Debbie Wasserman Schultz has been pushing back at investigators, and objecting strenuously to inspection of a laptop belonging to Awan. McCarthy doesn’t know what information Awan and company may have ripped off, or whether he sent it to Pakistan. But the former prosecutor is certain that “this is no run-of-the-mill bank-fraud case.”

The Daily Caller has been all over the story and according to investigative reporter Luke Rosiak Wasserman Schultz employed Awan and his wife and “refused to fire either of them even after U.S. Capitol Police said in February 2017 that they were targets of the criminal investigation.” Wasserman Schultz charged the Awans were victims of anti-Muslim profiling.

Other members of Congress had dumped Awan and Company but Wasserman kept him on board and was going to pay him, “even while he was living in Pakistan.” Rosiak also observes that Wasserman Schultz’s record on cybersecurity is shaky and the Hillary Clinton ally “was the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee when it was hacked.”

Last Thursday, President Trump reposted a Townhall tweet charging “ABC, NBC, And CBS Pretty Much Bury IT Scandal Engulfing Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s Office.” That prompted a New York Times piece by Nicholas Fandos headlined, “Trump Fuels Intrigue Surrounding a Former I.T. Worker’s Arrest.”

Fandos wonders if the ongoing intrigue is “the stuff of a spy novel, ripe for sleuthing,” but quickly shifts gears. Awan’s lawyer, Christopher Gowen, explains that the accusations are “the product of an anti-Muslim, right-wing smear job targeting his client and his client’s family.”

DNC spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa, called the security charges “laughable,” claiming that Awan was never employed by the DNC and that “the U.S. intelligence community has concluded that Russia was behind the DNC hack.” As for the attempt to flee, with bundles of cash, Gowen said Awan received threats online and traveled to Pakistan to stay with family and save money.

As Cheryl Chumley observed in the Washington Times, Awan’s first employer, Gregory Meeks, suggested the authorities are targeting Awan because he was born in Pakistan and ethnicity “is a factor” in the attention the family is receiving. And now Democrats are rushing to defend Awan, Chumley writes, “saying he’s the target of massive federal Islamophobia. What a crock.”

True to form, with smashed computers, cybersecurity lapses and such, the idea that Awan might be some kind of spy is entirely plausible. So is the concept that, as Sean Hannity has suggested, Awan was the source of Democratic National Committee emails published by WikiLeaks.

Those who dismiss it all as Islamophobia, or a simple case of bank fraud, might consider this scenario.

Imagine a Russian-born IT man working for, say, House Speaker Paul Ryan. Imagine if this man smashed up computers, and purloined secret material from the Intelligence and Foreign Affairs Committees. Imagine if he was kept on the job despite financial misconduct, then attempted to flee to Russian with a wad of cash. The likely explanation would not be Russophobia, and even the old-line establishment media might think there was something to it.

In the style of Andrew McCarthy, some journalist might even flag “a real conspiracy, aimed at undermining American national security.” In the ensuing investigation, government investigators would doubtless leave no stone unturned.

Meanwhile, Awan has pleaded not guilty to one count of bank fraud, ordered to wear a GPS monitor, and surrender his passport. More details about his activities may emerge before his preliminary hearing on August 21.

The Left Won’t Let Go of the ‘Russian Collusion’ Meme

July 10, 2017

The Left Won’t Let Go of the ‘Russian Collusion’ Meme, PJ MediaMichael Walsh, July 10, 2017

Natalia Veselnitskaya (Yury Martyanov /Kommersant Photo via AP)

Having established the smear of “collusion,” the Times must now link every story with the word “Russia” to it in the hopes that the rubes and suckers won’t stop believing that Trump somehow cheated his way into the White House.

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Now the top story on the Drudge Report, the top Must-Read on Lucianne.com and listed on Real Clear Politics: my latest column for the New York Post regarding the ridiculous stories in the New York Times about “Russian collusion.”

The news was  delivered by the New York Times in the breathless tones that might announce a cure for cancer or the discovery of life on Mars: “President Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., was promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton before agreeing to meet with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer during the 2016 campaign, according to three advisers to the White House briefed on the meeting and two others with knowledge of it.”

To which a rational response is … who wouldn’t? And also: So what? A third response is unprintable.

As I said on the Dennis Prager radio show an hour ago: think David Mamet.

Just as the “Russian collusion” fantasy — a resentful smear cooked up in the immediate aftermath of Clinton’s stunning defeat last fall — was finally fading from the fever swamps of the “resistance” and its media mouthpieces, along comes the Times with a pair of journalistic nothingburgers.

They first reported that Trump Jr., along with Paul Manafort (then the campaign manager) and Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, met with Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian lawyer “linked to” the Kremlin, back in June, shortly after Trump had clinched the Republican nomination. The second claimed she’d promised dirt on Clinton and the Democrats in order to entice Trump Jr. and the others.

According to the younger Trump, the Clinton angle was just a ruse: “Her statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense. No details or supporting information was provided or even offered,” he told the Times.

The real reason, it seems, was that Veselnitskaya wanted to lobby for the repeal of the Magnitsky Act, an Obama-era law that allows the US to deny visas to Russians thought guilty of human rights violations. In retaliation, the Russians promptly ended the adoption of Russian orphans by Americans.

Honestly, where does this end? Having had their two big scoops instantly blasted back into their faces, the Left has now moved on to claiming that Donald Jr. “lied” about the meeting with a Russian lawyer nobody ever heard of. This is the baleful legacy of the Mike Flynn affair, where it was not the “crime” of meeting with Russians (is that against the law?) but the “coverup” of a non-existent transgression.

But this is where we are now: once the instruments of the state roll into action, the slightest discrepancy or memory loss can now be twisted into a felony: just ask Martha Stewart or Scooter Libby.

And that’s what all the fuss is about? No campaign in its right mind would turn down an offer of information on their opponent. That is what opposition research is all about. You can bet Hillary wouldn’t have hung up on the person who claimed to have dirt on The Donald. After all, the Clinton campaign lobbied the comedian Tom Arnold two days before the election to release potentially embarrassing footage from Trump’s TV show, “The Apprentice.” Arnold declined.

But in the end, the lawyer had nothing, gave nothing, got nothing in return, in a meeting that lasted 20 minutes. This is a scandal? Having established the smear of “collusion,” the Times must now link every story with the word “Russia” to it in the hopes that the rubes and suckers won’t stop believing that Trump somehow cheated his way into the White House.

Understand that the two Times stories arrived a) in the aftermath of Trump’s triumphant speech in Warsaw last week, a speech that drove the anti-American and anti-Western left into paroxysms of anger and b) just as the “Russians!” meme was fading. But the Times and the other Leftist house organs are by now too fully invested in the “resistance,” and must now play their hand all the way to the end.

Hasn’t the Times learned its lesson from  its disastrous Feb. 14 story, also anonymously sourced, about the Trump campaign’s “repeated contacts with Russian intelligence”? In his congressional testimony last month,  former FBI Director James Comey said: “In the main, it was not true.”

But then, so are the other “collusion” stories the left is trying to peddle as proof of some sinister plot to subvert democracy. And all because they refuse to accept the results of the 2016 election. As the president might say: Sad!

This won’t end well for them.

Fake News From the Washington Post

July 10, 2017

Fake News From the Washington Post, Power Line,  Paul Mirengoff, July 10, 2017

Note the slippery way in which Rucker claims that Trump calls the election interference a hoax. He takes two separate issues — collusion and interference — lumps them together, and then tries to make it seem as if what is true of Trump’s stance on one of the issues — collusion — is true of his stance on the other — interference.

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In the Washington Post’s lead story today, another screed about how Trump allegedly is selling out to the Russians, Philip Rucker writes:

After Putin denied in his meeting with Trump any such election interference, the U.S. president tried to turn the page altogether on the issue of Russian hacking. As special counsel Robert S. Mueller III investigates Russian interference and possible collusion with Trump campaign officials, Trump has repeatedly labeled the issue a hoax and has portrayed it as a dark cloud unfairly hanging over his first six months as president.

(Emphasis added)

This is low, dishonest journalism.

President Trump has labelled the issue of Russian collusion a hoax which, so far, it seems to be. However, he has not said that this issue of Russian interference is a hoax. To the contrary, he has said a number of times that the Russians probably did interfere.

The Post and many others would like him to go further and say, without qualification, that the Russians did interfere. If the evidence he’s been presented with supports such certainty, then Trump should say so.

But it’s simply not true that Trump has labelled the Russian interference issue a hoax. Indeed, Rucker grudgingly acknowledges later in his article that Trump has said Russia probably interfered, but muddies the waters by also saying that Trump has expressed doubt as to whether such interference occurred. Since reviewing the evidence presented to him on the question, Trump has consistently said that Russia probably interfered.

In any event, Rucker’s acknowledgement comes late in the article. Someone who read only the portion of the article that appears on the front page would not see it. (Nor would he see it in the headline that appears in the paper edition.)

Note the slippery way in which Rucker claims that Trump calls the election interference a hoax. He takes two separate issues — collusion and interference — lumps them together, and then tries to make it seem as if what is true of Trump’s stance on one of the issues — collusion — is true of his stance on the other — interference.

A reporter for a decent high school newspaper couldn’t get away with this sleight of hand. A lawyer who tried it in a brief would likely incur the wrath of a judge.

Why, then, does it fly at the Washington Post? I think it’s because this is the kind of journalism the Post, an organ of the Resistance, desires.

Why James O’Keefe Is a More Honest Journalist than the MSM

June 29, 2017

Why James O’Keefe Is a More Honest Journalist than the MSM, PJ MediaRoger L. Simon, June 28, 2017

The rap on James O’Keefe — whose latest bombshell caught CNN’s quasi-Marxist star pundit Van Jones with his well-tailored pants down — is that his Project Veritas videos are “unfairly edited.”

I have news for O’Keefe’s critics. All videos (and films) are basically unfairly edited, as Sergei Eisenstein and the early Soviet directors demonstrated a hundred years ago. It’s the nature of the medium. Some things get left out and others put in.

Nevertheless, the video or movie camera is a recording device. On close examination, looked at specifically, the actual photographs and recordings finally don’t lie, juxtapose them how you will. Van Jones did say “Russia is a nothingburger!” The network’s John Bonifield did call CNN’s Russia narrative “bullsh$t” concocted for the money. The repellent lady from Planned Parenthood did offer to sell fetal parts. The equally repellent Democratic Party operatives did instigate violent demonstrations at Trump rallies to make the candidate’s supporters look like thugs. O’Keefe himself did walk back and forth undeterred across the Rio Grande from Mexico to the USA dressed as Osama bin Laden to show the pathetic level of our border security.

I could go on. There are many more, including examples unmasking the shibboleths of voter registration, but the point is obvious. Despite some selective editing (but not any that materially alters the facts) and sometimes overly portentous music (why bother when you have the goods?), what James O’Keefe reports is true. It happened.

Because they so often rely on leaks — no photographs, videos or anything like them, often nothing concrete at all — what the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN and so many others (even the front pages of the Wall Street Journal, alas) report is very often, one is tempted to say most often, either a distortion or an outright lie. This is particularly true when what they are reporting has political relevance — and so much does.

If not the root cause — that’s uncontrolled and unacknowledged bias — this excessive reliance on leaks has seriously exacerbated the precipitous decline of the mainstream media. For much of our media, leaks are an opium-like drug that clouds their thinking and to which they are literally addicted. They are waiting for the phone to ring like the junkie is waiting for his next fix. That the leakers all have motivations of their own, known and/or unknown, yet are able to remain anonymous to the public, makes what they leak almost de facto dubious and unreliable, in fact dangerous (as well as illegal, obviously).

Yet the MSM reporters gobble them up, eager to scoop their competitors and at the same time — much like overweight, self-satisfied picadors — weaken Trump and his administration for the final kill, doing, in their own eyes anyway, good works while advancing their careers.

O’Keefe has revealed them to be fools, remarkably unsophisticated in their response to his revelations. (Jeff Zucker, et al., looked like dimwits walking into the most obvious trap by dismissing Bonifield as a mere “medical” producer with the famous Van Jones already queued up for humiliation.)  At this point, only the most naive believe what the MSM says. CNN is already a joke, but the NYT, WaPo, etc. are not far behind. We are all reading Pravda now.

Ironically, Woodward and Bernstein are responsible for a lot of this. They made a giant success off leaks, turning journalists into culture heroes (really false gods) to be portrayed by Redford and Hoffman in the movies. Generations of aspiring journalists sought to follow in their footsteps — to be these false gods. Only there was no there there. No Nixon to upend. So they turned Trump into the New Nixon and manufactured a crime to go along with it.

W & B also inadvertently encouraged a new kind of leaker that is endemic today. Call him or her the “score settler,” a loathsome character lurking in the bowels of the Deep State or intelligence agencies, a remnant of the previous administration, who thinks his or her reasons for telling a partial, misleading truth are justified, are for the public good, when they are almost invariably only for their own good or some supposed ideological good they wish to impose regardless of the wishes of the voters in a democracy. (These are both often enmeshed.)

This created an extreme, almost pathological, will-to-believe the leakers on the part of the MSM as illustrated by the recent firings (sorry, “resignations”) of three CNN employees in the face of a $100M lawsuit. One of these credulous employees, Eric Lichtblau, was once a Pulitzer Prize winner at the New York Times.

Woodward, to his credit, seems to have recognized how extreme the situation has become. He chided the NYT today, saying, “Fair-mindedness is essential.” His own paper, under Bezos, has become even worse. But never mind. Give him credit for a half-truth. (By the way, CNN’s Jeff Zucker is a working stiff compared to Jeff Bezos. What’s Bezos’ excuse?)

But more importantly — it’s over. Well, if not over, a new, positive rung has been reached. The MSM, as we knew it, is, if not destroyed, seriously wounded.  They are — channeling a phrase from the Vietnam Era — a “pitiful, helpless giant.”  The work begun in 2004 when many of us spoke out against Dan Rather’s deceitful promulgation of the forged Bush National Guard papers on “Sixty Minutes” has, thanks to O’Keefe and others, not to mention the irrationality of the MSM itself, finally reached a critical mass. If only Andrew Breitbart were here to see it.

Celebrate for ten seconds. But as another of the original group, Glenn Reynolds, keeps reminding us — don’t get cocky.

Some accountability at CNN at last?

June 27, 2017

Some accountability at CNN at last? American ThinkerMonica Showalter, June 27, 2017

(Confession may be good for the soul, but does it mean that the confessor will sin no more? — DM)

It’s good to see accountability showing up, whatever the reason.  News agencies seem to know that their credibility is on the line and are taking steps to preserve it.  After years of playing lapdog media to President Obama, this could not be more welcome as a development.

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Thumbing their noses at standard practices from Reporting 101, three CNN journalists are out on their ears, with CNN saying they handed in their resignations.  Willingly, we bet.

Three CNN journalists, including the executive editor in charge of a new investigative unit, have resigned after the publication of a Russia-related article that was retracted.

Thomas Frank, who wrote the story in question; Eric Lichtblau, an editor in the unit; and Lex Haris, who oversaw the unit, have all left CNN.

“In the aftermath of the retraction of a story published on CNN.com, CNN has accepted the resignations of the employees involved in the story’s publication,” a spokesman said Monday evening.

That didn’t take long.  The case reminds me of the firing last week of The Wall Street Journal’s chief foreign correspondent, Jay Solomon, who was canned after getting overly involved with a source in a case that involved arms deals.  Solomon, Lichtblau, and probably Frank were all much decorated mostly print journalists, so it must be a hard blow.  Lichtblau had actually won a Pulitzer Prize.  But they all had this propensity to break basic rules of journalism, using their positions at their news agencies for competitive advantage and to advance other aims – in Solomon’s case, a quest for money and probably bigger scoops.  In Lichtblau’s, Frank’s, and Haris’s case, it was likely leftwing activism and television ratings.

So, Lichtblau and company ran a story with one miserable anonymous source as straight news, violating a usual practice that a good story have at least a corroborating source, even if anonymous.  Solomon was busy playing 007 in exchange for money or scoops.  In both cases, readers were not told of these conflicts of interest.

It might be telling that at all the players were print journalists.  In many newsrooms, there’s one teacher’s pet who gets coddled by the editors for being “a star” and then runs roughshod over the editorial process – all the non-glamorous editors who are there to edit, fact-check, copyedit, and put the story out – and gets away with it.

But this time, the transgressors were called to account for such behavior.  It rather signals a turning point, and perhaps that turning point is the Trump era.  Under President Trump, people get fired for not being straight (Michael Flynn), not performing optimally (such was the claim with K.T. McFarland), or not following rules (James Comey).  Under President Obama, no one was ever called to account, no matter how insane his transgressions – from targeting dissidents at the IRS (Lois Lerner) to running a homebrew private server that endangered national security (Hillary Clinton).  It might be spillover from the new tone in Washington.

It also might be the shifting nature of media and the competition media work brings.  Each of these newsroom exits was facilitated through the courtesy of other agents – in Solomon’s case, the rival Associated Press exposed his dealings, and in Lichtblau and company’s case, what looked like a lawsuit threat from wealthy Trump transition team Anthony Scaramucci seems to have shut the joint down.  A news agency may correct errors, but it does not apologize for errors unless it really, really has to – which CNN did.

With another CNN supervising producer, John Bonifield, now probably in the hot seat for pointing out that the Russia narrative has been fake, it’s worth noting that he too may be done in by Project Veritas, an activist journalism group.  It goes to show that competition tends to make news agencies honest, and the advance of the internet has created lots of new news outlets and rivals.

It’s good to see accountability showing up, whatever the reason.  News agencies seem to know that their credibility is on the line and are taking steps to preserve it.  After years of playing lapdog media to President Obama, this could not be more welcome as a development.

Putin Wins Big

June 23, 2017

Putin Wins Big, Jewish Media Resources, Jonathan Rosenblum, June 23, 2017

(Putin is winning because the national focus is on non-events. Hence, our faith in the electoral system has been damaged and the ability of the Trump administration to focus on the agenda Trump was elected to pursue has been limited. The Congress, rather than focus on legislating, is preoccupied with investigations of non-events. That’s good for America’s enemies and bad for America. President Trump’s successes in focusing on his agenda despite the many distractions speak well of him. — DM)

Smith makes an insightful distinction between “consolations, vicious self-sung lullabies” and “conspiracy theories.” Examples of the former would be: Hillary lost because the Russians hacked the election; our children died because the Jews poisoned the wells.

But such “consolations,” as vicious as they may be, only become full-blown conspiracy theories when weaponized through the mass media for political use. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion would be the classic example of such a conspiracy theory. And, Smith points out, Hillary Clinton’s “deplorables” do not have the platforms “to proliferate weaponized narratives capable of doing real damage to our polity – the elites do.” And those elites — the press, the intelligence community, political parties – have been used to legitimize a conspiracy theory.

James Kirchik, another anti-Trump pundit (as well as a brilliant analyst on many issues) laments the way the “confirmation bias” has resulted in well-meaning, liberal anti-Trump journalists reporting stories that they want to be true and are emotionally true for them – e.g., stories of threatened or actual violence against minorities – but are factually false.

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It is certain that Russia launched a massive hacking campaign to undermine the U.S. electoral process in 2016. That is a major issue that needs to be thoroughly investigated, and steps taken so that it does not recur.

Though the Russian involvement in the 2016 election targeted both presidential candidates at various times, it likely damaged Hillary Clinton’s campaign more. Confirmation in the emails hacked from the Democratic National Committee that the DNC had actively favored Clinton over her chief rival for the Democratic nomination, Senator Bernie Sanders, infuriated Sanders supporters. Conceivably enough of those supporters could have decided not to vote for Clinton based on those emails to have made a difference in the three crucial battleground states – Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

Thus far, however, the primary focus on the Russian hacking has been with respect to the far-fetched claim that the Russians colluded with the Trump campaign fashion in some fashion The obsessive focus on that issue has turned the hacking into a major victory for Vladimir Putin by introducing an unparalleled degree of rancor and paralysis into the American political system.

James Kirchik writing in the May 3 American Interest (“Who Killed the Liberal World Order”), describes how at last September’s G-20 summit in Hangzhou, China, then President Obama confronted Russian President Vladimir Putin about the Russian hacking of the DNC, and told him to “cut it out” or “face serious consequences.” In October, according to Bloomberg News, the White House used a cyber version of the “red phone” to convey to the Kremlin detailed evidence of Russian hacking of voter data banks in numerous states. On both occasions, Putin, who had long since taken Obama’s measure, did nothing in response.

WHATEVER THE REASON Putin decided to interfere with the 2016 election, it was not because he feared Obama or Obama’s legacy-bearer, former Secretary of State Clinton. Starting with Clinton’s declared “reset” of relations with Russia, shortly after the Obama administration entered office in 2009, until Obama issued his warning at Hangzhou, the United States had repeatedly stood down in every possible confrontation with Russia.

The 2009 reset itself took place in the wake of the assassinations by Russian intelligence agents of Alexander Livinenko in London, where the former Russian intelligence operative he had been granted political asylum, and of Russia’s leading investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya. Russia was also busy hardening control of areas of Georgia occupied by Russian troops. As part of the reset, the Obama administration abandoned plans to provide Poland and Czechoslovakia with anti-missile defenses.

During the 2012 presidential debates, Obama mocked his Republican opponent Mitt Romney for listing Russia as the United States’ primary international foe. “The 80s called. They want their foreign policy back,” teased Obama. And even prior to the 2012 campaign, Obama told Putin’s sidekick Dmitry Medvedev that he’d be able to be “more flexible” after the campaign, and asked for a little breathing room from Russia.

All Obama’s shows of good will, however, went unreciprocated by Putin. In 2013, Putin granted asylum to Edward Snowden, the former CIA employee who had exposed the U.S. National Security Agency’s surveillance methods. The same year Putin cracked down on foreign-funded NGO’s, and invaded the Ukraine. Obama refused to supply the Ukrainians with defensive weapons, as the United States had committed to do in the Budapest Memorandum, drafted when the former Soviet republics gave up their nuclear stockpiles.

In 2015, Soviet forces entered Syria in force to shore up the Assad regime, fairly daring the United States to challenge them. Previously, Putin had humiliated Obama by offering him a lifeline, when the latter refused to enforce his own redline against Assad’s deployment of chemical weapons.

PUTIN HAD reasons to prefer Trump to Clinton. He harbors a paranoid belief that Hillary orchestrated protests against him in 2011. And, writes Kirchik in the Los Angeles Times, he appreciated that Trump’s ignorant outbursts made “American politics – and by extension America – look like a foolish country.”

Putin may also have thought that Trump’s neo-Jacksonian, quasi-isolationist campaign talk would serve Russia’s interest in carving out a sphere of interest in its near abroad. But, as Kirchik notes in his American Interest piece, Obama’s “interconnected world,” without American power to back it up, had already resulted in a reduction of American influence and allowed Putin free rein in Russia’s near abroad.

The Russians were as shocked as everyone else, however, by Trump’s victory. Their goal was not so much to defeat Clinton, as to render it difficult for her (or Trump) to govern and to thereby “weaken the world’s last superpower,” writes Professor Mark Galeotti of the Institute of International Relations Prague in Tablet. And their means for doing so was to reduce America’s democratic legitimacy by calling the election results into question and reducing the scope for compromise and consensus in the American political system.

Or as veteran Moscow correspondent David Satter argued in the June 12 Wall Street Journal, Putin did not so much support Donald Trump, as he sought American political paralysis. The differences between Trump and Clinton were simply not that significant in his view.

Putin’s method is to sow chaos, to light a hundred brushfires and see which ones turn into full-fledged forest fires. “Putin is not a chess player,” writes Galeotti. “He and his people are improvisers and opportunists. They try to create multiple potential points of leverage, never knowing which will prove useful or not.”

One of those prongs was the so-called “Trump dossier, compiled by former British intelligence official Christopher Steele based on information “sold” to him by Russian intelligence officials. The document bears all the marks of a classic Russian disinformation campaign. “The kind of gossip that fills the Trump Dossier, writes Galeotti, is common currency in Moscow, “even if very little of it has any authority behind it aside from the speaker’s own imagination.”

One thing is almost certain: The Trump campaign did not collude with the Russians. Both Senator Diane Feinstein and Congressman Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrats on the Senate and House intelligence committees investigating Russia’s electoral involvement, respectively, have confirmed that they have seen nothing to implicate Trump or his aides in collusion with Russia.

The absence of collusion is, moreover, logically demonstrable. If there were collusion, the Russians would undoubtedly possess evidence of it. Since coming to office, the Trump administration has taken a much more aggressive anti-Russian stance than Obama ever did – targeting with cruise missiles an airfield and planes of Russian ally Bashir Assad and just this week shooting down a Syrian plane in a dogfight; allowing Montenegro’s entry into the NATO alliance; denying Exxon-Mobil a waiver for energy exploration in Russia; and sharply criticizing Russian support for the Taliban in Afghanistan. If Putin possessed incriminating evidence on Trump, he would have already revealed it in order to destroy President Trump. Elementary, my dear Watson.

DESPITE THE LACK OF ANY PLAUSIBLE EVIDENCE OF COLLUSION, Russian interference in the 2016 election has set in motion a “self-sustaining process,” in Galeotti’s words, in which “America is tearing itself apart with little need for Russian help.”

It is hard to know for sure whether those most actively promoting the Trump-Russian collusion narrative really believe it themselves or just see it as the best way of bringing down the president. About the latter they might be right. Already the anti-Trump forces have succeeded in gaining the appointment of a special prosecutor, and the scope of the special prosecutor’s investigation has expanded to legally flimsy charges of obstruction of justice against Trump. Once a special prosecutor is in the saddle there is no way of knowing where things will go. The longer the investigation continues the greater the chance of a prosecution for something entirely tangential to the original investigation.

Patrick Fitzgerald, for instance, was appointed special prosecutor to investigate the outing of CIA employee Valerie Flame. From the very outset of the investigation, he knew the source of that information; Undersecretary of State Richard Armitage was the one who told it to columnist Robert Novak. Armitage, however, was never prosecuted. But Fitzgerald carried on for years, until he claimed the scalp of Vice-President Richard Cheney’s top aide, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, on perjury charges, over statements given to investigators about which there were conflicting memories.

Putin has succeeded in driving a wedge between President and the intelligence agencies upon which he must rely for crucial decisions. Every week, a new leak emerges from some anonymous intelligence official – leaks which, if true, would subject the leaker to up to ten years in prison. Yet the source of these leaks has received little attention from the FBI or other investigative bodies.

Lee Smith bemoans in Tablet that the president’s very real flaws, which are “plain to every sentient being on the planet,” have been supplanted as a topic of discussion by a “toxic fabulism typical of Third World and Muslim societies.” “A vulgar conspiratorial mind-set [has become] the norm among the country’s educated elite . . . and is being legitimized daily by a truth-telling bureaucrats who make evidence-free and even deliberately false accusations behind a cloak of anonymity.”

Smith makes an insightful distinction between “consolations, vicious self-sung lullabies” and “conspiracy theories.” Examples of the former would be: Hillary lost because the Russians hacked the election; our children died because the Jews poisoned the wells.

But such “consolations,” as vicious as they may be, only become full-blown conspiracy theories when weaponized through the mass media for political use. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion would be the classic example of such a conspiracy theory. And, Smith points out, Hillary Clinton’s “deplorables” do not have the platforms “to proliferate weaponized narratives capable of doing real damage to our polity – the elites do.” And those elites — the press, the intelligence community, political parties – have been used to legitimize a conspiracy theory.

James Kirchik, another anti-Trump pundit (as well as a brilliant analyst on many issues) laments the way the “confirmation bias” has resulted in well-meaning, liberal anti-Trump journalists reporting stories that they want to be true and are emotionally true for them – e.g., stories of threatened or actual violence against minorities – but are factually false.

He points to the non-stop anti-Trump vitriol from the Twitter feed of the New York Times assistant Washington D.C. editor, Jonathan Weissmann – anti-Trump vitriol that matches his own – as an example of the mainstream press having lost any claim to the public’s trust about the news stories it publishes.

In the short-run the beneficiary of the mainstream media’s reporting of baseless stories, such as that the Russians successfully hacked voting machines in key states, is Donald Trump. By refuting the wilder accusations, he can evade the more substantive ones and, at the same time, stoke the anger that brought him to the presidency in the first place.

But in the long-run, the current state of political toxicity, manifested last week in an assassination attempt against GOP congressman, and the loss of credibility of our major media organizations weakens America and its place in the world. And the big winner from that is Vladimir Putin.