Government & Politics

Seeing Russia From the White House

What to make of the Left's narrative.

Michael Swartz · Feb. 17, 2017

For close to a century, America and Russia have been on opposite sides of a philosophical divide. America is the shining city on a hill, beacon of Liberty and free-market capitalistic powerhouse, while Russia has retained much of the mindset that’s made it a den of czarist and communist tyranny for centuries. The fleeting moment of detente created during the Reagan/Gorbachev era has long since departed, and, since the ascension of Vladimir Putin, the Russian bear has sought to sink its teeth into its erstwhile Soviet province of the Ukraine and surrounding regions while threatening NATO allies, including the Baltic states.

Mitt Romney was right in 2012: Russia is our greatest geopolitical opponent.

Those of us of a certain age still recall the constant Cold War threat of the Soviet Union, and how some presidents dealt more forcefully with them than others. Yet Donald Trump has spoken glowingly about Putin, even going so far as to slam America by way of dismissing concerns about Putin. When news broke about Russian hacking into the DNC computer system — with the politically embarrassing results eventually released via WikiLeaks — many presumed it was done in order to make sure Trump was elected. Since November, that’s the narrative Democrats have hung their hat on. Never mind that Hillary Clinton ran a dreadfully incompetent campaign — it was Russia’s fault!

With several close Trump associates also having Russian ties, the smoke was enough to get the Democrats — and a handful of Republicans — yelling, “fire!” Despite those allegations, which began coming out well before last November’s election, the American people chose Trump over Hillary “Reset Button” Clinton.

Since November, though, we’ve been treated to constant Leftmedia messaging about how much influence Russia has over Trump. Recent revelations of contact between his now-former National Security Advisor Gen. Michael Flynn and Russian intelligence fit right into that template. When it was learned that Flynn misled Vice President Mike Pence about those conversations, there was little choice but for Flynn to go, even though there’s been no evidence of his criminal wrongdoing.

Emboldened, the allegations have spread, The New York Times tells us, to Trump “campaign aides” who had “repeated contacts with Russian intelligence” last year. Under a different president, this would scarcely have merited mention, but not with Trump. Everything old is new again, and felonious leaks of classified information are considered whistleblowing instead of criminal activity. (Scooter Libby, call your office.) The narrative at The Washington Post is now that Trump has a “credibility gap.”

Yet if we read between the lines, we find the Times and Post are parsing words and making the largest mountain they can out of a molehill of occasional contacts by unnamed Trump associates. “It is unclear whether the conversations had anything to do with Mr. Trump himself,” the Times sheepishly admitted deep in its article, after misleading with a killer headline implying just the opposite.

To step back and take a sober look at the situation is to know the following: There are three Trump aides who have departed from the campaign or administration due to close Russian ties, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has a long relationship with Russia as well, including the receipt of one of Moscow’s highest civilian awards, the Order of Friendship. Paul Manafort, who left the Trump campaign last fall, spent five years advising former Ukraine Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich, who was ousted in 2014 and reportedly has safe haven in Russia. Manafort allegedly received over $12 million from Yanukovich’s pro-Russian political party over the period. So one could reasonably be concerned by the closeness between Russia and Trump, especially when the Russians rattle sabers as they have a couple times of late.

That is to say there’s reason to keep a watchful eye.

On the other hand, there are political hacks in the intelligence community who have a more sinister purpose in mind — discrediting Trump in service to their master, Barack Obama. Retired Col. James Waurishuk says that some “in the intelligence community are using intelligence apparatus and tools to be used politically against an administration official.” Retired CIA Clandestine Service agent Frederick Rustmann was more blunt: “I would not be surprised if Trump did not finish four years because of the vendetta [those who leaked the classified information] have out for him.”

One thing this whole Russia diversion has clearly done, though, is slow the ambitious Trump agenda of his first 100 days. His cabinet picks are being confirmed at a glacial pace, and it’s taking a Republican Senate that’s utilizing the “nuclear option” put in place by Harry Reid to get nominees through on party-line votes. Yet as this scandal-in-the-making drags on, the pressure will mount on Republicans to turn on Trump as they eventually did on Richard Nixon.

If Vladimir Putin wanted to sow the seeds of discontent in Washington to provide a distraction as he strings the old Soviet empire back together, he’s certainly found some allies among his fellow travelers in the Leftmedia, the Democrat Party and, evidently, in our own intelligence community.

None of that, unfortunately, means there isn’t something to the feeling that all isn’t quite right about Trump and Russia. It’s up to him and his administration — and maybe Congress — to clear the air.

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