Vote 2016

The anti-anti-Russians

With the carefully timed leak of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee, there are two separate issues to consider:

1) The disturbing content of the emails sent about Bernie Sanders, for which Debbie Wasserman Schultz is rightly resigning as DNC chair.

2) The immensely more disturbing (and sinister) role of the Putin regime in hacking and publicizing the emails in an effort to help elect Donald Trump the next president of the United States.

To focus entirely on the first and to ignore the second is to play into Putin’s (and Trump’s) hands.

There have already been signs of a bizarre confluence between the Trump campaign, Vladimir Putin and elements of the “anti-imperialist” American Left.

Jonathan Chait of New York magazine writes perceptively about it, and compares it to the hostility of leftists to Democratic President Harry Truman:

The American far left during Truman’s era, just like today, was not pro-Russia so much as it was anti-anti-Russia, and follows identical themes: Criticism of Russia’s domestic repression or aggressive foreign policy is merely a ploy to distract from and excuse America’s own failings, and provides dangerous support for American aggression, which could lead to war. So, just as the left of the ’40s and ’50s saw anti-Stalinism as an excuse for Jim Crow, a Glenn Greenwald today casts Russia’s human-rights record in an implausibly favorable light, and reflexively dismisses any contrary view as simple hypocrisy. When Russia menaces Ukraine, The Nation informs its audience that this is perfectly justifiable because Ukraine is not really a country at all.

Trump’s pro-Russia tilt has reenergized these Cold War tropes. The left-wing writer Corey Robin heartily endorses the Republican nominee’s statement that “When the world sees how bad the United States is and we start talking about civil liberties, I don’t think we are a very good messenger.” And in response to liberals aghast at Trump’s renunciation of upholding America’s commitment to NATO, Robin sneers at “the prospect of sending the US military off to fight Putin or whomever it is we’re now supposed to be willing to fight over NATO.” To clear up Robin’s apparent confusion, “whomever it is we’re now supposed to be willing to fight over NATO” is in fact the members of NATO, all of whom are pledged to defend each other in the event of an attack. And “now” is in fact since NATO was formed in 1949.

One of the most powerful moments during Senator Tim Kaine’s appearance with Hillary Clinton in Miami on Saturday came when he spoke proudly about how his oldest son, a United States Marine, is being deployed to Europe to “uphold America’s commitment to our NATO allies.”

Perhaps this election should be between those who think this is a good thing and those who don’t.

Update: Even Trump doesn’t pretend to be fooled.