The degree to which the Democrats have changed their tune on Vladimir Putin almost on a proverbial dime is either black comic or nauseating or both, depending on how you want to look at it. Whatever it is, it is a extremely obvious example of how party politics is conducted in our era (possibly always).
If your side does it, it’s diplomatic genius bound to yield peace in our time. If the other side does the exact same thing, it’s a horrendous mistake bordering on treason likely to cause a national calamity, if not global Armageddon.
If there were any decent, even semi-even-handed political science departments left in our country (okay, maybe there are one or two), what we might call the Democrats’ “Great Putin Flip Flop” would be a textbook case for classroom discussion.
Let’s start at the beginning, March 2009, but a few weeks after the first inauguration of Barack Obama, when a smiling Hillary Clinton presented Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov the red “reset” button, signaling the arrival of a supposed era of peace between the two countries. The new administration was greeted with hosannas for their great symbolism from their loyal claque at the New York Times, Washington Post, NBC, et al., who were oblivious, needless to say, that the word “peregruzka” printed in Cyrillic on the button, thought to mean “reset” in Russian by the linguistic geniuses in our State Department, was actually the word for “overload.”
No wonder Lavrov has such a quizzical look on his face in the all the photos. (Imagine what the reaction of the press would have been had Trump’s putative secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, done something similar. Media lynch mob?) Much more important, however, was the extreme ignorance of the Russian character, from the Czars through Lenin and Stalin and on into the present, evinced by such a naive, almost childish, “reset.” Throughout the East, of which Russia has always been a signal part despite intermittent yearnings for the West, a powerful leader has always been the center of national and tribal life. Silly, symbolic gestures like “reset” buttons are seen as weakness, not compromises or attempts at global comity. They are something to exploit.
Barack Obama, however, went on undeterred. The U.S. president, in South Korea in March 2012 for a nuclear security summit, was caught on open mic with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev confidentially informing the Russian president, as if Medvedev would be so stupid as not to know, that “after my election, I will have more flexibility.” Obama wanted that news conveyed to Medvedev’s boss Putin so the true Russian president would give Obama some “space.” Only Barack clearly didn’t realize Vladmir was a capo di tutti capi and would behave like one — not, say, a Republican senator from a swing state who could be swayed with a “chummy presidential phone call.”
We all know how it turned out. Putin read Obama well. Within a couple of years Russia had retaken the Crimea, destabilized Ukraine, and, making matters so bad that even the namby-pamby John Kerry has admitted it was a mistake, Obama’s red line on Assad’s use of chemical weapons had been crossed with our president doing absolutely nothing about it, allegedly in order not to offend dear Vlad, who was making him “promises.” The Russian air force was reputedly going to help us extinguish ISIS — or what Obama for reasons unknown insists on calling ISIL — but ended up somehow misfiring and hitting our quasi-allies in the field, helping rend them at this point virtually non-existent, while Assad is now marching into Aleppo and has Syria, forever a Russian client, practically all to his despotic self again.
And then there’s the little matter of Iran, also a client of Russia when Putin wants it to be, financing as much mayhem as it can from Iraq to Yemen and beyond (they are believed to have camps in Venezuela), arming the terrorist thugs of Hezbollah, all with unbelievable sums of money donated by Obama for an inexplicable and unwelcome nuclear deal hardly a single American understands and about which Vladimir Putin knows far more than any member of the U.S. Congress (which never had a chance to vote on it anyway).
Has any American president done more for Russia for less reason? (At least FDR united with Stalin to defeat Hitler.)
Obviously not, although the same media claque (aka court eunuchs) aren’t even mentioning this as they all go into a full-tilt attempt, with CIA help, to malign Donald Trump as the next American president selected (but not apparently elected) by the hackers of the Russian Republic.
Do I believe Trump actually was the Russians’ preference? That would be mighty optimistic on their part. How could they do better than Obama, considering the last eight years? And why not just as well elect a weakened Hillary? My guess is, if (big if) they were the instigators of the hacking of the embarrassingly cyber-incompetent DNC (what is wrong with these people — it’s 2016), they were equal-opportunity hackers, anxious to create confusion and finger-pointing (they succeed with that), rather than specific results that would be hard to control.
This would be consistent with Russian/Soviet behavior over generations. For those who have not read it, one of the best places to understand this is Disinformation, a remarkable book by sometime PJ Media contributor Ion Pacepa, one of the highest-ranking defectors from the East. (He once ran Romanian intelligence under Ceausescu.) Mandatory reading on a similar topic is Whittaker Chambers’ extraordinary memoir Witness, with its stories of the Soviet infiltration of our government way back to the 1920s.
The question we should all be asking about the CIA’s sudden revelation of online tampering with our election by the Russians is how come it took our intelligence agencies so long to figure this out? That’s assuming it’s all not a “false flag” operation, as John Bolton is alleging. (I wouldn’t bet against him.) Nevertheless, why are we so permeable to anyone and everyone? Why did John Podesta fall for a phishing scheme most fourteen-year olds would have avoided? What’s wrong with our cyber-defenses? Didn’t we invent the Internet? Al Gore, where are you?
Well, we know.
But let me ask one last question whose answer should be evident to any sentient being not a member of the editorial board of The New York Times. Who do you think would better understand and deal with Vladimir Putin — Barack Obama or Donald Trump?
Yes, the KGB and its successors know the difference between a community organizer and a CEO. Don’t we all?
Roger L. Simon is an award-winning novelist, Academy Award-nominated screenwriter and co-founder of PJ Media. His latest book is I Know Best: How Moral Narcissism Is Destroying Our Republic, If It Hasn’t Already.