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The video still you see above is from the Ronald Reagan’s 1984 re-election campaign against Walter Mondale. Of the two main commercial of the campaign, it is literally and figuratively the darker one. The lighter, warmer commercial was “Morning in America,” about how much Reagan claimed that he had improved the country in his first three years of office (largely, some of us argued, by deferring its problems a couple of generations, to … well, right about now.) The darker one, it is sort of weird to recall these days, proclaimed “there’s a bear in the woods” and asked which candidate would be best able to protect you from it. (The bear, if you don’t get it, was Russia, which dominated the Soviet Union.)
Now, of course, Russia — having doffed the mask of communism and gotten back down to its dictatorial roots — is being awfully friendly towards Reagan’s political progeny. It’s “interfering in American elections” — like it’s the CIA and we’re some sort of foreign country! — in a way that we like to see restricted to American (and, yeah, multinational) corporations. The gravamen of the actual beef that we have with Russia — that it allegedly offered and paid Trump bribes through his associates in exchange for enactment of favorable policies — is tending to get a little lost in all of the political skullduggery and (this is, I promise, the actual term of art used) “ratfucking” in which it allegedly engaged.
That is a bad thing, because it’s just special pleading to condemn Russia for what we do to other countries, what other countries (including our allies like Israel) do to us, and corporations do with abandon. Yes, we should be attentive to the prospect that Russia would like to see American politicians who favor pro-Russian elected and that it will seek to obtain and release damaging information through our media in order to achieve that objective — just like many other interest groups routinely do! But we should be attentive to a lot of things that we aren’t — and that we aren’t likely to become — attentive.
It’s nice that Americans are getting a history lesson in what Watergate was like — and, seriously, this is a lot what it was like, with the “drip-drip-drip” of that scandal seemingly likely to be replace by pulsing bursts from a water cannon, because we’re more efficient these days. And let’s face something else: Republicans, like Democrats, will be happy to get rid of Trump once he leaves office for medical reasons under a cloud of prospective impeachment and removal, and the real impediment to this happening is that so many armed citizens in the country will be pissed when it happens and we have to get them into the right mood. (The further ramifications of the events in the news of the day as, essentially, a kind of foreplay will not be explored here. Ideally, ever; more likely, just not today.) But one problem we’re facing right now is that, if most Americans were asked what the scandal is about, they would probably misidentify its root.
It’s not really about hacking and ratfucking by release of the emails. That, like it or not, is pretty much fair game under constitutional law unless you can show that an entity in question actually directed the theft, which remains doubtful. You can take a leak and publish it with impunity, and people can attend to whatever lurid information they wish. That’s a weakness in our political system — and darned if the Russians didn’t find it! (To be honest, it was not well-hidden.) So just put that aside. It’s one of dozens of decisive reasons that Hillary lost the election, and it gets talked about a lot because it’s the least traumatic one for Hillary voters to discuss.
This is a bribery scandal. Do you want to understand it in American political terms? This is the real-life counterpart of the Clinton’s allegedly “selling access to the Lincoln Bedroom,” which was simple (if misleading) enough for people to follow it. Except here, instead of people getting to spend an overnight in the White House (in what one must imagine to be one of the most overused hotel beds of all time) in exchange for campaign contributions, a foreign country got to get the U.S. government to commit to easing off on its allies in the anti-Ukrainian movement and the Syrian government in exchange for mounting a viciously effective political campaign against a candidate’s appointment.
There’s a bear in the Lincoln Bedroom, and it’s Morning for Investigative Journalism, and the coverup is what kills you (technically). Most of everything else is noise.
This is your Weekend Open Thread. Talk about the Trump Administration taking on water or whatever else you’d like, comrades and tovariches, within reasonable bounds of decency and discretion.