The Enemy Within
Back in the late 1940s and 1950s, America endured its Second Red Scare, focused on the threat of subversion of the US government and society by current and former communists. The poster boy for the prosecution of those suspected communists was Joe McCarthy, assisted by his truly despicable sidekick and later mentor of Donald Trump, Roy Cohn. Whether or not you believe that the obsession with Soviet spying and subversion, some of which occurred while the US and USSR were allies in the war against fascism, was overblown or not, that fact is that the Republican party used it to bludgeon the Democrats as “soft on communism” for the next half century.
Today, more than sixty years on, we already know that Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan chose party over country when confronted with evidence that the Russians were hacking the election in early October, 2016. We already know that one Republican candidate requested hacked DNC information about his opponent from Wikileaks. We already know that other down-ballot Republicans also used the information about Democratic candidates hacked from the DNC. We already know that various voting systems were compromised in a number of states, including some important swing states. We also know that Russian oligarchs or dual-nationals were pouring money into Republican and conservative PACs as early as 2015.
But that was 2016. The Trump administration and the Republican Congress have had nearly two years now to prepare for the expected Russian attacks in the upcoming 2018 election. And Trump and the Republicans have basically done nothing to prepare for that. In fact, Paul Ryan actually tried to weaken the Election Assistance Commission, the agency tasked with helping states protect their electoral systems. Last week, Trump finally convened a National Security Council meeting that focused on protecting our electoral systems from outside interference. But there is no overarching plan, no overall strategy, no single agency tasked to coordinate protecting our electoral systems. Combine that with the Trump administration’s, or at least Trump’s, fondness for Putin and it appears that it is open season for any foreign power, not just Russia, to try to interfere with our electoral processes.
Now the attacks have begun. Claire McCaskill’s campaign has announced it was the target of an unsuccessful Russian hacking attempt. And Microsoft has reported attacks against two other candidates. In addition, the company is reported to provide details this afternoon on a coordinated attempt to influence the 2018 election.
The other day Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA and Moscow) declared “There’s not a person in this town who would not take a meeting to get material [i.e. dirt on your opponent] like that”. That statement has been proven wrong over the years by both Democratic and Republican campaigns who have refused to take those kind of meetings with foreign interests and reported them to the FBI. In fact the only confirmed historical cases of a campaign actively working with a foreign power to undermine a US election was Republican Richard Nixon’s campaign in 1968 that derailed peace talks with the North Vietnamese and Republican Ronald Reagan’s campaign in 1980 that worked to delay the release of the hostages in Iran. In fact, the most distinctive thing about the Trump campaign is the fact that the number of illicit contacts with Russia were orders of magnitude higher than any other campaign’s contacts with a foreign power in modern political history.
Yesterday, Rudy Giuliani laid out the latest defense from the Trump team which basically boils down to yes, we colluded with the Russians, but that is not a crime. Beyond the obvious fact that it is a crime, a conspiracy that also violates numerous campaign laws, it is, along with Rohrabacher’s statement, a description of the attitude of the current Republican party, namely that the party will be glad to work with any foreign adversaries as long as they advance the GOP’s partisan political prospects. That applies from the presidential election on down.
Back in the immediate post-9/11 environment when Bush was creating the drumbeat for war in Afghanistan, there were those who questioned the approach of declaring a war on terrorism. Those questions have been validated by the disasters of the endless war in Afghanistan that we are still fighting a decade and half later as well as the wasteful, destructive war in Iraq whose repercussions we are still dealing with today. But back then, Andrew Sullivan described those prescient souls as “the enemy within the West itself — a paralyzing, pseudo-clever, morally nihilist fifth column.” In fact, that is a far more apt description for President Trump and the current Republican party.
Originally published at tidalsoundings.blogspot.com on July 31, 2018.