Thursday, December 15, 2016
Six Guns or Fountain Pens, Mr. Floyd?
It is understandable that in the concern about Russian meddling in our election process almost all conversation has ranged between the overly defensive denials of Mr. Trump and his spokesmen (the guy on PBS's News Hour last night, interviewed by Judy Woodruff, was particularly aggressive in his denials, tossing in all the old kitchen sinks like "the leftist press" when ever he could)and the reassurances by even the CIA spokesmen and the Obama Administration that no one suspects or has evidence of actual Russian hacking of actual voting machines, particularly in the critical so-called swing states formerly thought by all the pundits to be "safe" for Clinton. To suggest that the actual voting process was hacked is pure nitroglycerin. Such a fact would immediately imply that Mr. Trump's apparent election is, indeed, illegitimate. No one really wants to go there. If Trump's election were proven illegitimate, what then would happen? Would another Supreme Court judgement do the trick this time? Oh, wait, the court is now tied 4/4, because the Republican Senate refused to even consider an obviously qualified and very moderate nominee offered by Mr. Obama back in the Spring, after Mr. Scalia had died.
So everyone is simply not looking at the possibility that actual machines were meddled with. Or maybe--one would hope--the intelligence services are looking, but quietly, and do not want to raise even the possibility unless they have real proof. I'd put my money on that idea, actually, as long as the agencies are being run by competent people without an agenda. Hopefully Mr. Obama's directive, to give him a full report as quickly as possible and while he is in office, is being followed with due speed. Obviously if there is a worst-case situation--namely, that Mr. Trump sits on the soft pillows of actual Russian direct interference in the vote, and knows it--we can expect an end to all inquiries on January 20. Trump's first order of the day will be not "Mexico, Build That Wall," but "Gentlemen, Move Along."
There is something to the old Shakespearean caution, "He doth protest too much." The Trump camp is out in the internet as well. Yesterday Marcy Wheeler had a piece up which generated more snarky troll comments than anything I've ever seen on her site. Most of the articles there are so technical and dry that a troll would dry up and blow away before he got to the end. As Robert Gates said last night on the Charlie Rose show, the Trump camp is extremely concerned that their election be somehow devalued. (Possibly they're quite aware of how that works, since Mr. Trump build his brand during the Obama years by working towards that precise goal via the birther malarkey.) Still and all, there are a variety of ways Russia "wins" in this election situation. The most obvious way to achieve victory would be to fool with the actual machines. And it is possible, and it has been known to be possible ever since 2000, when electronic voting machines with internet capability became the machine of choice in many voting districts around the country. It's still possible. But being obvious is not the mark of a good chess player.
You will note that in this brief acknowledgement of the possibility that the machines were directly hacked (a possibility I've not seen acknowledged on any news program), there are evidences to be found after the fact, such as unusual phone traffic from unusual places around the world. No doubt there's a lot of detail, if you're working this beat on the inside, and one of Mr. Trump's worst gaffs in the whole matter is his false assertion that if you don't catch hackers "in the act" you can't catch them at all. I hope we'll see. This would, as Michael Morell, former acting head of the CIA said last night, be the cyber equivalent of 9/11.
But as Morell said as well--actual proof of direct voting machine hacking is by no means required to constitute a Russian victory in this espionage. In all of Mr. Trump's appointments Russia is gaining leverage, because as Trump betrays huge swaths of the American citizenship, he creates more and more disillusionment and worse in the electorate-in the American public. The police already seem to believe that Black Lives Matter is an organization aimed at undercutting their authority, an authority they apparently believe must be absolute. For the Attorney General to take this view is folly, and Jefferson Sessions will take this view, because he already has. Just go down the list. As someone wrote, "Carson at HUD? Sure, he knows how to use a doorknob." Robert Gates brief for Mr. Tillerson as Secretary of State was proof that Gates has always been a remarkable diplomat. He never even mentioned the enormous financial conflict of interest Tillerson will have as Secretary of State, and Charlie Rose didn't really bring it up in their conversation last night. That is major league diplomacy in action. And indeed, I was at least convinced by Gates that Tillerson was probably the best appointment Trump has made. But of course this is like the whole "we need change" argument, isn't it.
The Russians will have a friend in the Trump Administration. There is no doubt of that. And if America and the world thinks that Trump is somehow a product of a faulty election process, Russia wins again, because Russia wants the world to distrust democracy. Indeed, most of all Russia probably wants Russians to distrust democracy, and to appreciate the strong, manly, authoritarian leader they most certainly now possess, a man who can brush aside the various legal details whenever important matters are at stake.
Here's Woody Guthrie's monument, the trunk of a dead tree carved by an unknown hand that stands on the lot where his house used to be. Libby and I stopped there in 2003, about the time the Iraq invasion was producing it's first American casualties, which happened to be a Mexican American from Pecos, TX, and a Native American from Tuba City, AZ. For a while they renamed the hill outside of Phoenix that had been called Squaw Peak Piestewa Mountain after her, but I noticed they're back to calling it Squaw Peak at least over on the NASCAR coverage of the Phoenix race a few weeks back. Easier to say no doubt. The counter-revolution is incremental.
For other reasons Trump might be seen as Putin's man:
Update: Radio talker Andy Dean appeared last night (12/15) on CNN with Don Lemmon. He was a 7-year employee of Donald Trump, and opined that since Trump spent $70 M on his campaign there was no possibility that Trump could have a financial conflict of interest as President; he's down, so what's a few hotel bookings by foreign persons of Presidential note. Dean also argued that since ISIS is the world's biggest concern, and since Putin is a stone cold killer of radical Islamists, it was obvious and natural for our President to be and Mr. Putin to be allies. Dean also noted that Putin's security agency has changed its initials; it's no longer the KGB. I didn't get what position Dean held in his days in Trump Tower. Possibly food taster?