I don’t generally get to enjoy many instances in which I’ve gone out on a limb and either said so-and-such will happen, or thus-and-so is what’s really going on behind the scenes, and then have subsequent events or revelations confirm my suppositions.
One such was when the whole “Ebonics” fraud first came to national prominence. I remember saying to someone at the time that just sit back and wait, the next step will be a requirement that captive customers, such as school systems and government agencies interacting with the public, will be mandated to provide “services” related to “Ebonics,” or to be “certified” or at least “trained” in “Ebonics.” Then would follow in short order shoals of the politically-connected setting up “consulting” firms or providers of “Ebonics”-related claptrap, all to line up at the government-contract trough. Sure enough, about three or so years later (forgive my inexactitude in dates; I’ve slept since then), out of California — but of course — came news of pretty much precisely what I’d predicted.
But again, I don’t get to enjoy many of those moments. My vision seems to have lost its ability to penetrate, and I don’t see what is on the other side of the hill (to borrow an expression from His Grace F.M. the Duke of Wellington).
At the moment, however, I may be enjoying such a moment. Gentle Reader will recall, perhaps, my statements about what I thought to be Russian motivations and objectives in that country’s penetrating the Democrat National Committee, Her Herness’ illegal e-mail system, and the e-mail systems of their various collaborators (I won’t say “co-conspirators,” although certainly some of Her communications while secretary of state reveal deeply criminal designs and actions). I wrote about it, here. Short version of my suggestion:
“Which is why I am convinced that Wikileaks has not come anywhere close to releasing the most damaging materials in its possession, and will very carefully not do so before the election. It is in Vladimir Putin’s interest to have in office a crippled president. It is in his interest to have a president across the table from whom one of his operatives can sit and read from materials so incriminating that not even the American “news” media will be able to avoid the compulsion to publish. Material so damning in its lay-it-out-in-black-and-white-on-Her-own-keyboard terms that only the Al Frankens, Nancy Pelosis, Alcee Hastingses, and Chuck Shumers of the House or Senate will be unwilling to vote for her removal from office.”
We now have a brief report, consisting mostly of conclusions, without it seems much in the way of evidence, that Putin’s thinking may well have been running on precisely that line. Byron York over at The Washington Examiner asks “Six questions about the Russian hacking report.” Here’s his Question No. 2, in full:
“2) Was the Russian campaign intended more to help candidate Donald Trump or to undermine President Hillary Clinton? The report says Putin ordered the 2016 campaign ‘to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency.’ The report goes on to say that at some point Putin ‘developed a clear preference’ for Trump. But it also says that, ‘Moscow’s approach evolved over the course of the campaign based on Russia’s understanding of the electoral prospects of the two main candidates. When it appeared to Moscow that Secretary Clinton was likely to win the election, the Russian influence campaign then focused on undermining her expected presidency.’ That suggests some sort of shift in the Russian campaign. But when? What does it mean when the report says, ‘When it appeared to Moscow that Secretary Clinton was likely to win…’? Because if the Russians were following U.S. coverage and commentary, it always appeared that Clinton was likely to win — from the primaries through the Democratic convention through the general election. In other words, during the entire campaign, the consensus of the American commentariat was that Clinton was likely to win. Did the Russians disagree, or did they have a degree of insight into the polls, or simple clairvoyance, that Nate Silver didn’t? Or was the Russian campaign overwhelmingly devoted to ‘undermining [Clinton’s] expected presidency’?”
Allow me to point out something that all too often gets overlooked when thinking about Soviet incursions into American society and politics. Low-level functionaries were — and likely remain — fundamentally unable to comprehend basic elements in the psychological landscape of ordinary Americans. I think of the scene in Alexander Dolgun’s book when his interrogator is drilling down on Alex’s habit of “borrowing” U.S. embassy cars to go joy-riding (not infrequently with a girlfriend). The interrogator is absolutely, genuinely convinced that Alex is not essentially boosting cars but rather is among the very few higher officials (at 20 years old, no less!!) who is entitled to use embassy vehicles, and that this is therefore evidence that his protestations of being nothing more than a lowly file clerk are bogus. Alex tries to explain to him that sneaking Dad’s car is just what American kids do. The interrogator just cannot understand it; growing up in Russian and then Soviet society he didn’t have the wiring to process that idea.
That inability to tune in to the workings of the individual American’s mind is not at all to suggest that the Soviets either do not understand how Americans (or Westerners in general) behave in the mass, or that they did not and do not understand precisely the legal and political structures around which Western societies are built. When you think about it, that makes perfect sense. Russia always was a class-based society, even more so than in Western Europe — whether you were serf, free peasant, boyar, provincial noble, military officer, streltsy, oprichnik, or townsman — who you were was socially and legally very much a function of what you were. Self-definition and mold-breaking are things you seldom find mentioned in descriptions of the Russia that was. Marxism and its Soviet practitioners of course whole-heartedly embraced that notion. “Hereditary class enemies” was a categorization that condemned hundreds of thousands, if not millions, to death by shooting, starvation, or labor. So it should come as no surprise that Soviet contemplation of masses of Westerners was always much more in touch with actuality than their ability to grasp — beyond the usual motivations of money and sex — what made individual Westerners tick.
For the American intelligence communities to come up with the statement that Soviet operations ever for a moment thought anything other than that She was going to cruise to victory is to confess to a glaring blind spot about the people you’re trying to analyze. Either our people are fools (which I doubt) or alternatively they are desperately trying to preserve the narrative that Putin was trying to put Trump over the top. Barring the ol’ boy getting on FoxNews and stating as much in plain English I will never accept that as being true. Accepting that as true requires me to believe either (i) Putin had insights into the election which were shared by exactly no one at all in all of American (or for that matter, Western: no one outside America thought Trump had a snowball’s chance either) professional political life, or (ii) Putin was pissing up a rope on purpose, spending a great deal of effort on something he believed to be a fool’s errand.
Wikipedia sums up Occam’s razor thus: “The principle can be interpreted as stating Among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected.” I will suggest what I humbly call Countrylawyer’s Corollary to Occam’s Razor: Among competing hypotheses, the one which requires assumptions demonstrably false is not the correct selection. Whatever else Vladimir Putin does, he has never been known to piss up a rope on purpose; any hypothesis which asks me to assume that Putin has done or is doing so I therefore discount.
A possible competing explanation for Putin’s motivation is suggested by the same (leaked) report. NBC News reports: “But the intelligence analysts who prepared the report also concluded that the hacks were payback for the Obama administration’s questioning of Vladimir Putin’s legitimacy as president.”
<sound of buzzer>
Bullshit. In just what manner would Soviet leaking of e-mails, very few if any of which could be traced back to Dear Leader, have been “payback” as to him? He’s leaving office. He’s sown so much chaos and discord that it’s highly unlikely the damage can be reparable in our lifetimes (the article to read, by the way, is Cloward and Piven, “The Weight of the Poor,” from 1966). Based upon his personal and political up-bringing as well as his known affiliations (Ayers and Dorhn, Jeremiah Wright, the Alinskyites in Chicago) there is every reason to entertain very strong suspicion that it’s just that chaos and division that has been a principal objective of his eight years in office. Remember that for the committed revolutionary (which Dear Leader is) the present is nothing more than a waystation on the path to the Revolution. Dissolution and destruction must necessarily precede the achievement of the socialist fantasy. Lenin captured the notion exactly in his comment on late-Tsarist Russia: The worse, the better. [The book to read is Fire in the Minds of Men: Origins of the Revolutionary Faith.] Casting the legitimacy of the 2016 presidential election into doubt would fit perfectly into Dear Leader’s portfolio. Talk about Brer Rabbit and the briarpatch. For Putin to believe that by further subverting Americans’ dwindling confidence in their electoral process, he was frustrating, rather than furthering, a personal political objective of Dear Leader is to suppose Putin was unable to recognize in Dear Leader a fellow Soviet Person (as they used to be called). I refer you to Countrylawyer’s Corollary.
Bolstering me in my doubt of the “payback” thesis is that, beyond Dear Leader’s party loyalty and some in all honesty fairly perfunctory mouthing of platitudes, he did as little as possible to assist Her to victory. Maybe that was because he thought, just as everyone else did, that Her victory was inevitable (but wait: wasn’t She “inevitable” back in 2008? how’d that work out, again?). But that also ignores the pretty widely known and very deeply nourished personal animosity between the Clintons and Dear Leader. If Dear Leader has time and again demonstrated one trait as a specifically party politician, it’s that he’s entirely comfortable letting the Democrat Party in general and specific Democrat politicians in particular sink or swim as best they can. I suggest that if Putin was thinking to get “payback” against Dear Leader by beating Her up, then that would demonstrate a fairly comprehensive failure by Putin to understand the dynamics of the most significant single political relationship in the United States . . . or at least, what was that, until November 8, 2016.
Finally, Putin was — and from all report, still considers himself to be — KGB. To this day they refer to themselves, among themselves, as “chekisty,” by the way, in homage to the original Soviet secret political police, the Cheka of “Iron Feliks” Dzerzhinsky. Whatever its other moral failings as an organization, and however abhorrent their agents’ practices may be, I have never read, heard, or otherwise come into any information that would suggest that chekisty get petulant or plan their acts in petulance. To attempt to personalize this operation and tie it back to Dear Leader, as a parting shot by Putin, would require assuming that Putin really gives a damn one way or another about someone who’s going to be irrelevant in just over two weeks from today.
You know how your own thoughts or statements about Person X or Circumstance Y often say more about you than about X or Y? I’m picking up the same vibe off this so-called intelligence “analysis.” More specifically, his entire life long Dear Leader has made his entire world about him, personally. Hired to write a book about — I forget what it was, now — he instead come up with an autobiography. Every utterance of his and his acolytes (including his wife) has emphasized the messianic theme of his life. Don’t want to destroy the private healthcare provision system in the U.S? You’re racist. Suggest that perhaps the tax enforcement system in America should not be weaponized to persecute specific political beliefs and movements? It’s because you hate the First Black President. And so forth.
Dear Leader works in petulance like other artists work in oils, or watercolor, or clay. In fact, if petulism is not a word, then it needs to be. By it I mean the conscious practice of personal affront and personal vengeance as an organizing principle of one’s life. Petulism, like messianism, has been a constant theme in Dear Leader’s public life. In this he is a direct contrast to the chekisty, who have deeply internalized the old Sicilian maxim that revenge is a dish best served cold, and even better yet, by hands which cannot be traced back to you.
I of course have no direct knowledge to back up my hunch. I will however refer Gentle Reader to the dozens of intelligence analysts who formally and in writing protested that they were being commanded to write much more rosy analyses, reports, and projections about the Middle East in general, and the status and progress of the struggle against al Qaeda and ISIS and their affiliates in particular, than was warranted by the facts or consistent with their actual opinions. This report was prepared at the same levels that produced those directives, and one may in good faith ask whether the same officials were involved.
So in my supposition, from before the election, that Putin was not so much trying to get Trump elected as to cripple Her as president, I think I’m entitled to some portion of a quiet victory lap.
[Update: 28 Feb 17]: Looks as though I’m not the only one who has been thinking along the above lines. The editor of The New Yorker? Scarcely a Trump stooge, he.