State of the Union (& “The Plot to Hack America”)

“The bigger issue here is why Trump and people around him take such a radically different view of Russia than has been the case for decades.” (New York Times, 2/16/2017)

No doubt. But when it comes to Trump’s philo-Tsarist turn (and the Republican Party’s “surprise surrender”), the time-scale cited above (“decades”) fails to take in the full weight of the past: “Hostility to Russia is the oldest continuous foreign-policy tradition in the United States…”

Tocqueville identified the phenomenon on the last page of Democracy in America, Vol. I, from 1835. America, he explains, conquers with the plowshare of the laborer; Russia conquers with the sword of the soldier. America relies on personal interest and allows the individual to act on the basis of his own strength and reason. Russia concentrates the entire power of society in a single man. One country relies on liberty as its principal means of action. The other relies on servitude.

In our own era, we sometimes imagine America’s conflict with Russia was a phenomenon of the Cold War. It has been eternal, though. It is the struggle of democracy versus czarism, even if for a few years czarism called itself Communism.[1]

If that angle on the gulf between Russia and America seems chauvinistic, perhaps a voice from the other side will speak to you. Vasily Grossman (whose great World War II novel, Life and Fate, may be the definitive protest against 20th Century fascism and communism) reflected on the “abyss” separating Russia from the West in his final testament, Everything Flows: “The evolution of the West was fertilized by the growth of freedom; Russia’s evolution was fertilized by the growth of slavery.”

Russia has had chances to get its change. The Wall came down, after all, but Grossman (who didn’t make it out of the 60s or live to see his irrefragable works published in Russia) probably wouldn’t have been shocked by Russia’s progress toward Reaction in the Putin era. In Everything Flows, he looks back to Tsars who laid the foundations for Russian scientific and industrial progress and notes their work “involved an equally remarkable progress in the severity of serfdom.” Then he flashes forward to fateful moments in the 19th and 20th Centuries:

The emancipation of the serfs [in 1861] – as we can see from the history of the following century was more truly revolutionary than the October Revolution. The emancipation of the serfs shook Russia’s thousand year-old foundation, a foundation that neither Peter the Great nor Lenin had so much as touched…In February 1917, the path of freedom lay open for Russia. Russia chose Lenin.

Grossman tells exactly how that choice shook the world: “What the Russian Revolution would liberate was Russian slavery itself.” 20th Century Russia no longer looked to the Enlightened West, but offered rulers (and toadies) a new path: “of modernization through non-freedom.”

Lately, that path has led to imperial irredentism in Crimea, regime maintenance in Syria, creeping war in Eastern Ukraine, a permanent campaign to undermine the E.U.’s liberal democratic order, and …Trumpery.

II

Despite Trump’s insistence on endorsing Putin’s (“smart”) leadership, there are pundits on the right who propose the new President will be tougher on Russia than “feckless” Obama. Earlier this month, Col. Austin Bay posted a column warning that Russia was prepping for an assault on the Ukrainian town of Avdiivka. Yet Col. Bay didn’t entertain the possibility Trump’s (& Flynn’s) groove for Putin might have emboldened Russia. Bay has earned a rep for being alive to the reality of the world’s rougher neighborhoods[2]—he’s got a bronze star—so it’s remarkable to read his beamish take on Ukraine and Trump whom he images as a “master of perception.”  (Would that be another phrase for demagogue?)  Strategic analysis reduces to wishful projections:  “If Trump can smile at Putin—and avoid direct confrontation—while making certain Russian aggression exacts stiff economic and political penalties, he will demonstrate he can handle the art of diplomacy as well as the art of the deal.”

It’s not only minds on the right who’ve been bamboozled by Trump. His bromance with Putin softened up leftists too. In an agit-prop video filmed in Red Square a few seasons back Jill Stein proposed “Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy is much scarier than Donald Trump’s, who does not want to go to war with Russia.” She held forth after attending the now famous RT gala, where she sat at the same table as Putin and Michael Flynn. Stein, true believer in the need to (in her words) “reign in American exceptionalism,” must have felt the frisson again when Trump refused (in his pre-Superbowl Interview) to condemn Putin and Russia: “You think our country’s so innocent?”

Stein, of course, is fringy but there’s a more mainline faction on the American Left that reflexively spits at critics of Russia. Last summer, The Nation magazine published an editorial ripping “liberal-media elites” who “joined with the Clinton campaign in promoting the narrative of a devious Russian cyber-attack.” In retrospect, that editorial’s line chimes with Mitch McConnell’s near treasonous refusal to let American voters hear a bipartisan set of legislators confirm (per government intelligence agencies) Putin had intervened in our electoral process to boost Trump. It’s easy to grasp McConnell’s partisan motivations. By contrast, The Nation’s denial that cyber bears and Trump’s campaign had established a de facto alliance seems more mysterious. Maybe it was a matter of punctiliousness or principle. I suspect, though, the editorial was typed almost automatically.

The impulse to give the finger to “Kremlin-baiters” must seem a little off to younger readers untouched by the dead hand of The Nation‘s past. Yet I doubt the editorialists would take back their warning against a “revival of McCarthyist rhetoric.” Stuck on what they view as the magazine’s glory days of resistance to Red scares, their own rhetoric amounts to sentimental hygiene. The Nation‘s purified identity rests on martyrology (Hiss! Boom! Bah!) and evasiveness about the collective failure of anti-anti-communists to stand up to Stalinists, cop to the Gulag, and fight Soviet imperialism. Can’t pretend I was shocked when The Nation’s next gen of fellow travelers found “Kremlin-baiters” under every bed last summer. OTOH, when I got to the end of their riff on “neo-McCarthyism,” it was a trip to realize Roy Cohn hadn’t made the cut. Of course McCarthy’s bully-boy lawyer wasn’t an obvious fit for faith-based Nationists in this instance since he was also a monstrous mentor to Donald Trump. I trust some contributors to the magazine had second thoughts about the editorial’s failure to name that name…

III

It’s not hard to guess at one motive behind self-styled gadfly Glenn Greenwald’s repeated attempts to diminish, if not deny, the significance of Russia’s hacks. He’s intent on defending his colleague Julian Assange against charges Wikileaks has become a vector for Russian spies.  (Assange hasn’t done much to help with his own defense–he’s hosted a show on Russian state TV and avoided exposing Russian government secrets, though he once claimed Wikileaks would do just that right before becoming one of Putin’s favored victims).[3] But Greenwald’s gambits are political as well as personal. He’s an ideologue who shares Jill Stein’s disdain for American exceptionalism.

I came across Stein’s post-gala video in one of Greenwald’s many posts hammering on the dangers of a “new McCarthyism”: “Democrats’ Tactics of Accusing Critics of Kremlin Allegiance Has Long, Ugly History in U.S.” He argued Stein hadn’t “gushed” over Russia in her video (as someone had tweeted), claiming “she criticized Russia for diverting scarce resources into military spending while its people suffered.” Greenwald was putting his spin on the following line from one of a series of print statements appended to the Red Square video: “Stein noted the United States, and to a lesser degree, Russia are wasting enormous sums of money on military spending that is not increasing the security of either nation.” Even there, the U.S., not Russia, was the focus of Stein’s plaint. Viewers of that video may decide for themselves if Stein gushed over her “wonderful” and “inspiring” and “incredible” encounters with Putin allies who blessed her sweet nothings about the need to “sit down in respect and replace the U.S. policy of domination with a way forward based on respect…”

Greenwald’s argufying on behalf of Stein was typical of his approach during the season of the Switch. He looked for any detail that might offer a chance for a petty contrarian to deflect from the quandary implicit in what was genuinely new in the news—i.e. why had the Republican candidate for president broken with this country’s oldest continuous foreign policy tradition, aligning himself with a Russian autocrat locked on the expansion of non-freedom?

Greenwald is sticking with his shtick. In December he hung tight with Tucker Carlson on Fox News, attacking the Washington Post for reporting the CIA and FBI believed Russia’s hacking was intended to help Trump win. Jon Chait has provided a close reading of the encounter between Carlson and Greenwald (which I’ll lean on here). Chait notes: “the Fox segment was devoted to their purportedly strange agreement over the Russian hacking story (which is not actually strange at all, given their mutual antipathy for the center-left).” Carlson’s and Greenwald’s exercise in comity began with a Q&A:

“Should we believe that assessment?” asked Carlson. “We should be extremely skeptical of it for multiple reasons,” replied Greenwald. “These are assertions that are being made unaccompanied by any evidence whatsoever.”

But, as Chait points out, “an enormous amount of public evidence supports the conclusion that Russia conducted the email hacks.” He cites (and links to) detailed accounts provided “by the government and the news media.” He then notes how Greenwald and Carlson, having established to their mutual satisfaction that reports of Russian interference in the election should be viewed with extreme suspicion, moved on to the question of why (as Carlson mused) “Russia is the focus.” In the exchanges that followed Carlson played the woke citizen—“ …all of a sudden, Russia seems to be villain number one. Why is that? It seems strange.”—to whom Greenwald offered lucid dreams about how Dems “ginned up hostility to Russia entirely for political reasons…”

One of the really interesting things is, in 2012, when Mitt Romney ran against Barack Obama, the Democrats mocked Romney mercilessly for depicting Russia as the number one geopolitical threat … And throughout the Obama presidency, he tried accommodating Putin, he didn’t arm anti-Russian factions in Ukraine, he tried cooperating with him in Syria, it was really an election-year political theme that the Democrats manufactured out of whole cloth, that the Russian, that Putin posed some existential threat to the United States, that they’re our enemy.”

Chait sees through Greenwald’s b.s. revisionism:

It is true that, in 2012, the Republican Party had staked out a more hawkish stance on Russia than the Democrats. But the Democrats were hardly praising Putin’s regime. The dispute between Obama and Romney was a relatively narrow one centering on whether Russia was literally America’s number-one enemy, or whether that distinction belonged to Al Qaeda…

Greenwald presents Obama’s chilly relationship with Russia as nothing but an election-year ploy. He omits any mention of the event that changed the tenor of U.S.-Russia relations: the Russian attack on Ukraine. Obama responded to the invasion by imposing sanctions on Russia in 2014. That event, not some election-year need to gin up a foreign bogeyman, is what generated tension between Obama and Putin…

Carlson and Greenwald agreed to agree there was “only a political motivation” to explain Democrats’ aversion to Russia. Then Greenwald went beyond his initial press crit, equating the Washington Post’s journalism with conspiracy theories:

“To sit here and sort of suggest that Vladimir Putin lurks behind every American problem, to concoct these wild, elaborate conspiracy theories…”[4]

“That’s the way it seems to me!” agreed Carlson. “So, it’s great to hear you say that, it makes me feel less crazy.” And the creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already, it was impossible to say which was which.

IV

Voices from the historical record talk back to those mannish pigs. Take the following exchange between Hillary Clinton and Putin from 2014 which blows away Greenwald’s assertion the Russian threat was “an election year theme Democrats manufactured out of whole cloth.”

In March 2014, former Secretary of State Clinton gave a speech at the Boys and Girls Club annual fundraiser where she compared Putin’s actions seizing Crimea to the actions of Hitler and the Nazi Party:

“Now if this sounds familiar, it’s what Hitler did in the ‘30s…All the Germans that were…the ethnic Germans, the Germans by ancestry who were in places like Czechoslovakia and Romania and other places. Hitler kept saying they’re not being treated right. I must go and protect my people and that’s what’s gotten everybody so nervous.”

Putin responded to these comments on French TV on March 4th, 2014:

“It’s better not to argue with women…But Ms. Clinton has never been too graceful in her statements.  Still, we always met afterward and had cordial conversations at various international events. I think even in this case we could reach an agreement. When people push boundaries too far, it’s not because they are strong but because they are weak. But maybe weakness is not the worst quality for a woman.”

Clinton was having none of it…:

“He is very difficult to read personally…He is always looking for advantage. So he will try to put you ill at ease. He will even throw an insult your way. He will look bored and dismissive. He’ll do all of that.

I have a lot of experience with people acting like that…Go back to elementary school. I’ve seen all of that, so I’m not impressed by it.”[5]

V

Malcolm Nance zeroed in on the back and forth between Putin and Clinton in his quickie book The Plot to Hack America: How Putin’s Cyberspies and Wikileaks Tried to Steal the 2016 Election (published in September 2016). Nance is an intelligence, counterterrorism, and national security lifer who aimed to sort out facts about the Russian hacks before the election. His book wasn’t definitive, but, months before mainline media told the story of Cozy Bear and Fancy Bear, he laid out how they put their digital thumbs on the scale of the U.S. election and why. While Nance was sure Putin had intervened through the cyber bears to help the Republican nominee (who just happened to be the first pro-Russian candidate in G.O.P. history), The Plot to Hack America doesn’t have answers to today’s burning questions: “What did Trump know and when did he know it?”  Not that it’s entirely out of time. Nance allowed for the possibility Trump may have been compromised. (Given Nance’s contacts, I’m guessing he’d heard about the Steele dossier.) But he also realized Trump might’ve started out as an ‘unwitting asset.” In the absence of Trump’s tax returns, it may be impossible to determine if Trump has dicey business relationships with Russians (who might, in turn, owe Putin) but Nance’s digging into Trump’s ties to oligarchs and mafiya types underscored the need for more investigative reporting on this front. (Paging Mr. Greenwald?)  One of the most eye-opening chapters in his book detailed Russian connections of figures in Trump’s circle. Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort, for example, had been the chief P.R. man for ex-Ukrainian president—and Putin crony—Viktor Yanukovych. (Manafort eased out of the Trump campaign after The Times reported on a ledger that indicated Manafort had been paid up to 12.7 million dollars over a five year period by a Kremlin-loving faction in Ukraine during the Yanukovych years. The Times could not establish Manafort had received those payments, only that they’d been issued. Reporters also noted Manafort had never registered as a “foreign agent” with the Justice Dept. as he would be required to do if he’d taken any money from Ukrainian clients.)  One of Manafort’s gigs was to gin up anti-NATO protests in Crimea during the run-up to Russia’s invasion.  (Nance’s account of Manafort’s scheming brings home the irredentism that amped up tensions between Putin and the Obama Administration—tensions that Glenn Greenwald claims were irreal.)

If you kept up with The Times this summer, Nance’s file on Manafort’s sketchy moves might seem like yesterday’s papers, but there were facts in his compendium that picked up resonance in their relatedness. I was struck when I learned Roger Stone—Nixon-lover, rat-fucker, counselor to Trump and Assange contact—was a former principal at Manafort’s D.C. firm. (The “torturer’s lobby” once known as Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly.)

VI

I should acknowledge Nance’s take on one Russo-phile in Trump’s nimbus, Carter Page, now seems smattery, thanks to Julia Ioffe’s deeply reported Politico piece, “The Mystery of Trump’s Man in Moscow.” Page is chiefly known for his short stint as a foreign policy advisor to the Trump campaign. In that capacity (though he apparently never had a one-on-one meeting with the candidate), he managed to get the Republican platform committee to remove a plank supporting military aid to the Ukraine (which was, according to an RNC official, “the only major platform revision the campaign demanded”). Page, who’s in the habit of affixing Ph.D to his name, has styled himself lately as an expert on Russia and energy policy. He has a record of writing wacky, subliterate articles in obscure academic journals. His fifteen minutes with the Trump campaign have enabled him to sell himself as a talking head on Russian tv where he puffs Putin and bashes the West. But his original aim was to get over as a middleman/investor. To Nance, Page’s resume implied heavy connections in Russia through Merrill Lynch and Gazprom—the Russian State Oil company. It turns out, though, per Ioffe’s reporting, Page knew no one at Gazprom and was a non-entity at Merrill Lynch, according to a Russian money-man who met him when Merrill was providing “fancy Western window-dressing” for a corporate merger:

“His nickname was stranichkin,” from the Russian word stranichka, or “little page.”… “He made no impression whatsoever. Whether he was there or not, it made no difference,” Torchinsky says. “When you’re dealing with a pro, you see it. Page, unfortunately, did not leave that impression.”

That Russian’s view was echoed by an American who spoke to Ioffe:

“He’s a nice guy, but of the people that I know that have Russian foreign policy experience or access and contacts, he wouldn’t be in the last decile, but he’d be in the second-to-last decile,” says one American executive with experience in Russia and its energy sector. “You’d have to dip really far and wide to find a guy like Carter Page.”

Ioffe notes she’s run into rumor-mongers who imagine Page might be a “shadowy messenger between the Kremlin and Trump Tower.” (And he’s reportedly one of the targets of the counter-intelligence investigation currently being conducted by the F.B.I.) But she ends up leaning toward the view of a Trump policy staffer who told her: “Carter is a red herring, not a Rasputin.”

Page recently submitted a bizarre letter, along with other documents, to the Justice Dept. which prove he’s no Rasputin (and no Einstein). His submission is worth a glance because it hints at the human extremes that have defined Trump’s confederacy, where world class cynics like Manafort (or Steve Bannon) align with born chumps like Carter Page (or Sean Spicer).

In his letter to the Justice Dept. Page levels accusations of “severe election fraud in the form of disinformation, suppression of dissent, hate crimes and other extensive abuses led by members of Mrs. Hillary Clinton’s campaign and their political allies last year.” His letter came with three annexes. One of those docs—his response to the Director of National Intelligence’s summary of the evidence against Russian hackers—included Page’s testimonial to newsmagazine host Dimitriy Kiselev whom the D.N.I. report had identified as “Putin’s chief propagandist.”

Journalist Jon Schwartz quoted Page before nailing his cluelessness about Kiselev:

Page writes that “Both as a world-class journalist and as a human being, [Kiselev] is an exceptionally competent, kind and fair individual with the highest level of personal integrity,” whose broadcast views “closely align with the perspectives held by tens of millions of hard-working, patriotic Americans.”

In addition to being a television host, Kiselev is head of the Russian government news agency Rossia Segodnya. He is notorious for saying on air in 2012: “I think banning gays from distributing propaganda to children is not enough. … I think they should be banned from donating blood or sperm, and if they die in a car crash, their hearts should be burnt or buried in the ground as unsuitable for the continuation of life.”

VII

Kiselev’s commentary brings home why, contrary to echt dupes like Page or Jill Stein, America shouldn’t be itching to sit down “in respect” with Putin’s kind hacks. It’s also symptomatic of a convergence between Russian reactionaries and faith-based conservatives in America.

This trend has been analyzed in another important Politico piece on “How Russia Became a Leader of the Worldwide Christian Right.” Journalist Casey Michel explains how Putin has become “the lion of Christianity” in the eyes of many American evangelicals. Franklin Graham, for example, has lauded Putin as someone “protecting traditional Christianity.” Michel’s piece helps clarify how so many evangelicals came to ride the Trump train. If they could roll with Putin…

Michel notes Russia began to supplant America as “the clarion” for fundamentalists when Putin steered his country hard right during his third term (around the time Russia dissed liberal visions of world order by annexing Crimea). But Putin isn’t the only driver here. Michel cites the influence of a once obscure organization, The World Council on Families (WCF), which is based in America but is “a product of joint Russian-American homophobic ingenuity.” The WCF has helped nurture ties between “family values” votaries in the two countries. As America made progress on gay rights culminating in the Obergefell decision upholding gay marriage, Russia began to seem like a beacon of Reaction to many religious rightists in this country. Under Putin’s aegis, Russia has “grabbed the rudder” of the global anti-gay movement, trashed abortion rights and partially decriminalized domestic violence. (A Russian newspaper columnist told women this month they “should be proud of their bruises”—a line that seems like an echo of that 2014 exchange between Putin and Clinton.)

Michel links Putin’s patriarchal plays to Russia’s effort to coalesce support from far-right forces across the West, ranging from white nationalists who would buoy Trump’s campaign to political groups bent on fracturing NATO and the European Union. It’s all about a return to “Tsar Nicholas I’s triumvirate of ‘Orthodoxy, Autocracy, and Nationality.’”

Trump’s Alt Right brain, Steve Bannon, has famously called himself a Leninist, but he’s got another Russian avatar as well. Bannon believes (like the Don) Putin is “very, very, very intelligent.” He told a conference of Catholic dogmatists:

The Judeo-Christian West really have to look at what [Putin’s] talking about as far as traditionalism goes — particularly the sense of where it supports the underpinnings of nationalism — and I happen to think that the individual sovereignty of a country is a good thing and a strong thing. I think strong countries and strong nationalist movements in countries make strong neighbors, and that is really the building blocks that built Western Europe and the United States, and I think it’s what can see us forward.

VIII

Like Putin (and Lenin), Bannon rejects the notion a free press is one of the foundations of strong countries. Bannon’s edict to the New York Times that the media ought “to keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while” amounted to a declaration of culture war that Trump and his soldiers are now doubling down on every day.[6]

In response to Trump’s tweet that the “media is the enemy of the American people,” Gary Kasparov posted a passage from Thomas Jefferson’s 1787 letter to Edward Carrington:

The basis of our government being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate for a moment to prefer the latter.

I’m reminded just now a friend proposed to become a Jeffersonian in the wake of Trump’s election–state’s rights had a new appeal to this Massachusetts man. The example of Malcolm Nance, though, points to a usable past that’s close to an antithesis of slave-master Jefferson’s ideal of The Democracy. As a black and proud volunteer of America, Nance’s presence–he’s been a regular on cable news–hints at why a millennial Jeffersonianism seems anachronistic.

A sparky detail in The Plot to Hack America has me recurring to another stretch in American history–a period that might be understood as post-Jeffersonian–as I look for inspiration in this moment of danger. The United States Cyber Command whose personnel investigated the Russian hacks is located at Fort George O. Meade in Maryland. When I came upon that fact in September, it jumped out at me because I’d been reading Bruce Catton’s Glory Road, the first volume in his trilogy on the Army of Potomac. Meade was in command at Gettysburg when that army came into its own. Their “crabbed and dyspeptic” general wasn’t the One, though he beat the hell out of the Army’s previous maximum leaders. (“At Gettysburg, for the first time, the Army of the Potomac had not been crippled by mistakes of its commanding general.”)

The story of that Army, in Catton’s telling, has picked up new resonances for me. I’m going to take a break from the news for a quick (refreshing?) side-trip down Glory Road. Perhaps you’ll see why Catton’s history seems especially relevant to the state of our nation now.

IX

Catton’s account of the Army of the Potomac takes in the destruction of the older hierarchy that defined American life in the pre-Civil War era. The army had originally been a creature of states where its troops had come from, but over time assumptions about “state sovereignty” faded along with “the old idea that the government of the United States could not reach out and tap the shoulder of the ordinary man.” For Catton, the turning point in the Civil War had everything to do with the emergence of a new relation between a powerful federal government and citizens who conceived of themselves not as natives of states but as Americans. Catton doesn’t pretend to be able to locate the precise moment when state sovereignty died…

It may have been the adoption of a national draft, or the decision to recruit Negro troops, or even—so strange are the ways a people show how their spirit is moving—the decision in the middle of a desperate war to build a railroad to the Pacific Coast and to create a million small farms in the Western wilderness by means of a national homestead act.

For Catton, the Civil War marked the beginning of a New American order founded on democratic imperatives that distanced the North country from the leader-mongering South’s romance with Lee-and-his-Lieutenants. He evokes those imperatives in his account of the terminal moment at Gettysburg when union forces rushed to repel the last confederate attack:

They were not “moving by the right flank” or “changing front forward” or executing any other recognized tactical maneuver, and they were not obeying the commands of any officer. Although their officers were in their midst, yelling hoarsely and gesturing wildly with their swords. No formal tactical move was possible in that jammed smoky confusion, and no shouted command could be heard in that everlasting din. One soldier wrote afterward that the only order he could remember, from first to last, was “Up boys—they’re coming!” right at the start. This was not a controlled movement at all. It was simply a crowd of men running over spontaneously to get into the middle of an enormous fight. Yankee soldiers swarming in to get at their enemies, all regimental formations lost, every man going in on his own.

After Gettysburg, Catton suggests the Army of the Potomac, which had once looked for saviors from above, had “matured”: “from then on it would display no enthusiasm for generals.”

I flashed on that matter-of-fact regular army attitude (and Catton’s account of one regiment’s flat response to a colonel’s call for three cheers for Meade—“the cheers were not forthcoming… ‘these soldiers, with their lights and experiences, could not see the wisdom or the occasion for any such manifestations of enthusiasm…’”) when I heard Nance’s version of Trump’s visit to the C.I.A. Nance pointed out his old crew wasn’t there to cheer Trump, who had to import outsiders to make a MAGA noise. It occurs to me that patriots in the Deep State who seem to have brought down Flynn may be heirs of those federals who stopped giving it up to Civil War generals.

Military men and their kind are often traduced as authoritarian personalities. But Malcolm Nance and his brothers in arms are likely to be crucial to the Resistance.  Their readiness to get into the middle of an enormous fight makes them a national resource.

Last word to Nance. Here’s his cable tv exchange from last Friday with Milo Yiannapolous—bad boy Brit and Alt Right trumpet:

Nance: “You’ll take Russian spies over Saudis?”

Milo: “I probably would.”

Nance: “Are you American?”

Milo: “No.”

Nance: “Oh. Fuck off.”

 

Notes

1 http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/221507/why-we-fight-russia

2 Unlike another Trump apologist, former White House press secretary, Ari Fleischer, who was once pegged with perfect skepticism (by Jimmy Breslin) as the first ever hard guy from Westchester.

3 The Plot to Hack America by Malcolm Nance. p. 118.

4 Greenwald’s accusation the Washington Post was cultivating conspiracy theories seemed especially appalling given that his main man Assange had tried to float a rumor on Dutch tv (which was picked up by Fox) that a D.N.C staffer named Seth Rich might have been murdered because Rich might have been an actual or potential whistleblower. See Assange go wild here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kp7FkLBRpKg

5 The Plot to Hack America by Malcolm Nance. p. 69.

6 WSJ columnist Brett Stevens has warned against the temptation to downplay Trump’s attacks on the media. Stevens’ “Danny Pearl” lecture on the “risks of conservative capitulation” in dark times is bracing. Here’s a passage:

Consider this recent exchange he had with Bill O’Reilly.

O’Reilly asks:

Is there any validity to the criticism of you that you say things that you can’t back up factually, and as the President you say there are three million illegal aliens who voted and you don’t have the data to back that up, some people are going to say that it’s irresponsible for the President to say that.

To which the president replies:

Many people have come out and said I’m right.

Now many people also say Jim Morrison faked his own death. Many people say Barack Obama was born in Kenya. “Many people say” is what’s known as an argumentum ad populum. If we were a nation of logicians, we would dismiss the argument as dumb.

We are not a nation of logicians.

I think it’s important not to dismiss the president’s reply simply as dumb. We ought to assume that it’s darkly brilliant — if not in intention than certainly in effect. The president is responding to a claim of fact not by denying the fact, but by denying the claim that facts are supposed to have on an argument.

He isn’t telling O’Reilly that he’s got his facts wrong. He’s saying that, as far as he is concerned, facts, as most people understand the term, don’t matter: That they are indistinguishable from, and interchangeable with, opinion; and that statements of fact needn’t have any purchase against a man who is either sufficiently powerful to ignore them or sufficiently shameless to deny them — or, in his case, both.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Tumblr