Comment of the Day: “Update On The Jeff Sessions-Russian Ambassador Fiasco: A Confederacy Of Ethics Dunces”

1984, Washington State, USA --- A fierce bear growls and bares its teeth. | Location: Washington, USA.  --- Image by © Michael T. Sedam/CORBIS

Glenn Logan undertook the herculean task of reading and critiquing one of the New Yorker’s endless partisan essays, this one by Ryan Lizza, who has foun himself in the Ethics Alarms bomb-sights before. It’s a masterful job by Glenn, and nicely dissects a persistent and contrived Democratic excuse for Hillary Clinton blowing the election, thus triggering one of the most amazing instances of self impeachment—by her party and supporters–in world political history.

Here is Glenn’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Update On The Jeff Sessions-Russian Ambassador Fiasco: A Confederacy Of Ethics Dunces”:

I read the article, which confirmed my suspicions of almost everything coming from The New Yorker and similar left-leaning news sources — that they accept the idea, as yet still both unproven and highly suspicious, that the Russians were working to get Trump elected.

This is exactly where bias always leads; once you have evidence of a conclusion you want to reach, you stop looking for other possible explanations.

There is no real information in this article worth knowing. It tells us Democratic senators are all wound up about possible Russian interference in the election, but we knew that. It mentions every Democrat’s favorite Republican — John McCain — and tries very hard to lead us to believe that all the Democrats’ worst fears about Russia and Trump are not just true, but being hidden, apparently by both the Obama and Trump administration, although for different reasons.

In other words, this article is a conspiracy theory. It offers nothing new, no penetrating analysis or new revelations. It describes, in very long and unnecessarily complex style meant to appeal to “intellectuals,” Putin and Russia as using a hacking strategy as a prong in geopolitical disinformation campaigns, and using Obama’s own feckless foreign policy to annex Crimea and generate a plebiscite so fast that American leadership’s heads were still spinning in the opposite direction.

But this is exactly what I would be doing in Russia’s place if I were a despot like Putin. They are opponents, and are trying to weaken our country just as we tried for years under Reagan to weaken them. If you want to shape the world, and Putin clearly does, you use information to shape perception so that when you do use force, it won’t be universally condemned.

Russia has always interfered in elections, and not just ours — no doubt they are working on the French and Germans, as the article suggests, and others. Let me also point out that the USA has interfered in elections for years, and I get the impression we consider that our exclusive right because we’re, you know, so good and everyone else is so bad.

But I don’t think the Russians are necessarily trying to get people elected who are favorable to them, contra the suggestion in the article. This is the conclusion to which bias inevitably leads. Rather, Putin is trying to cast doubt on our election, and others, in order to fracture the country and force political strife. It’s so much better if a country’s government disintegrates by itself, don’t you think?

It didn’t matter who won the election — if it had been Clinton, the narrative from the right would’ve been that the Russians wanted her in office, assurance of a continuation of Obama’s prostrate foreign policy. Either way, the Russians got what they wanted; a divided, rancorous electorate. They wanted to be blamed.

The article offers strong evidence of this without intending to. Consider:

By March, 2016, the threat was unmistakable. Cybersecurity experts detected a second group of Russian hackers, known as Fancy Bear, who used “spear-phishing” messages to break into accounts belonging to John Podesta and other Democratic officials. Like Cozy Bear, Fancy Bear had left a trail around the globe, with its technical signature visible in cyberattacks against the German parliament, Ukrainian artillery systems, and the World Anti-Doping Agency. “I’ve never seen a group that doesn’t change its style of work after it has been detected,” Ilya Sachkov, who runs a leading cybersecurity firm in Moscow, said. “What logic led them to not adjust their methods?”

The answer is obvious to me — they wanted to be detected, and blamed. It was a deliberate strategy. How can you blame the Russians for your candidate losing if, you know, they managed to evade detection? But it’s so much easier for American cybersecurity people to think they are way smarter than everyone else, and that the people doing the phishing attacks had to be dumb to leave tracks. Dumb like a fox.

Putin probably wanted to weaken Clinton and strengthen Trump, but only because Clinton was thought to be leading by a wide margin. What they really wanted was a constitutional crisis — and they were very nearly successful — but what they got was good enough. But Putin would’ve tried to weaken Trump if he were leading, I suspect.

None of this, however, is new or particularly frightening, except to those who spend their lives in their blissful cocoon of imagined Utopian ideals. The American republic is always under threat from without and even within. The article does reveal that Obama’s administration wasn’t completely filled with incompetent people, as this paragraph indicates:

“To me, the question might finally come down to this,” Celeste Wallander, President Obama’s senior adviser on Russia, said. “Will Putin expose the failings of American democracy or will he inadvertently expose the strength of American democracy?”

This is exactly the right question, and this is exactly what it comes down to. It always does.

The rest of this piece is overwrought hand-wringing couched in the typical style of New Yorker articles —self-absorbed, heavy on acceptance of facts not in evidence, and speculation. I suppose it’s useful as a summary if one is a left-leaning person who doesn’t pay attention to the news, and doesn’t care about credible analysis.

As to Trump, he is president. He is my president, although I didn’t and wouldn’t vote for him. I am no more concerned about the Russians with Trump at the helm than I would’ve been with Clinton there. This article does nothing to change my mind about that. It does much more to confirm my perceptions about the New Yorker.

There is nothing new here. Russia, like the USA and other countries, tries to interfere in elections in other countries to further their own geopolitical ambitions, and to weaken their opponents and lessen their influence. There is no evidence electing Trump was an actual objective of Putin or Russia, or that his campaign to interfere in the election, inasmuch as we believe there was, had a significant impact on it, contra the conspiracy theory of this article.

_____________________

( I really wanted to caption the photo, “Look! A Bullmastiff!” in honer of the previous post, but thought it might confuse some readers.)

17 Comments

Filed under Around the World, Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media

17 responses to “Comment of the Day: “Update On The Jeff Sessions-Russian Ambassador Fiasco: A Confederacy Of Ethics Dunces”

  1. Wayne

    Most of the news magazines look like Pravda in the bad old day, the possible exceptions being the National Review and the Spectator. I’m getting tired of the ceaseless attacks on Trump and his cabinet members along with their endless conspiracy theories. What to do?Cancel your subscriptions!

  2. E2 (nee Elizabeth I)

    “Let me also point out that the USA has interfered in elections for years, and I get the impression we consider that our exclusive right because we’re, you know, so good and everyone else is so bad.”

    It has astonished me for some time that, with all the furor about Russia ‘interfering” in US elections, it is a matter of fact (but never reported) that the US under Obama spent hundreds of millions of dollars trying to unseat Netanyahu in Israel’s election. Is this the American way? Apparently it is, but it is also extremely interesting that the press minimized or ignored this teensy, weensy bit of news because it was Obama — their hero — who dd it Free press? Who says so, except the press itself?

    This, aside from an excellent analysis of the article, is the crux of the matter — again. The press loves Obama and protected him from whatever he did that may not have resonated well with the American people. Now the press — the losers, since they had so much invested in the Hillary machine — turns from a pro-POTUS lunacy to an anti-POTUS dementia.

    So by all means let’s take them seriously. We;re in big trouble here.

  3. Chris Marschner

    Jack ,

    I am very appreciative of this work by Glen. It sopports a thesis I postulated on my facebook page on Saturday. Glen comes to the same conclusion as I but he used more technical details than I. I focused on the unvetted yet widely accepted assumption that Russia wanted Trump to win.

  4. Pennagain

    Yeah, but they’ve got the best cartoons.

    • Other Bill

      But PA, even the cartoons have been infected by the magazine’s snarky bias. This summer, an entire issue’s entire cartoon content was nothing but snarky ones mocking The Donald. Just not funny. And very disappointing.

      Do you suppose Ryan Lizza is a nom de guerre for the Washington Post’s Chris Cilizza?

      • Pennagain

        True about the anti-Trump cartoons, Other Bill. I was thinking more of the ones here:
        http://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/new-yorker-ninetieth-cartoons-1925-1935
        They deal pretty well with all the issues of their times, and you have to admit that Trump, favored or not, IS the issue of the day. Less than a decade ago, there was this cover (many of their covers are cartoons in themselves) which some lefties never recovered from. I can’t find a copyable print of it but it went like this as the Guardian described it: “In a satirical swipe at the crazy rumours about the presidential candidate and his wife, Michelle, [the New Yorker magazine depicts them as terrorists in the oval office. Obama is in Muslim clothing; Michelle, in an Afro and military garb, has an AK-47 slung over her shoulder.” … As I recall, they were fist-bumping.

        And when you’re in the mood for a laugh (or another mood), try this: http://www.newyorker.com/cartoons/random/

  5. dragin_dragon

    Glenn, I have to admit that it never even occurred to me that Cozy Bear and Fancy Bear would WANT to be identified. Yet, as you have postulated, this is the only explanation that makes sense. Great analysis.

  6. Michael Ejercito

    The interference in question is not alleged to be changing the vote totals or stuffing the ballot boxes with fraudulent ballots or destroying legitimate ballots.

    It was merely releasing information unfavorable to one candidate.

    How then, is this different from the way Dan Rather interfered in the 2004 election?

    • Chris

      1) The information was illegally obtained.
      2) Dan Rather is not a foreign government
      3) The opposing candidate did not ask Dan Rather, in public, to release illegally obtained information about his opponent

      Shall I go on? These are just off the top of my head.

  7. fattymoon

    For what it’s worth, I notice that Glenn Greenwald’s recent pieces poo poo claims of Russian hacking. I’m not convinced due to the Greenwald/Snowden/Russia connection. But, there it is, if you care to read these two pieces.

    Leading Putin Critic Warns of Xenophobic Conspiracy Theories Drowning U.S. Discourse and Helping Trump https://theintercept.com/2017/03/07/leading-putin-critic-warns-of-xenophobic-conspiracy-theories-drowning-u-s-discourse-and-helping-trump/

    The Increasingly Unhinged Russia Rhetoric Comes From a Long-Standing U.S. Playbook https://theintercept.com/2017/02/23/the-increasingly-unhinged-russia-rhetoric-comes-from-a-long-standing-u-s-playbook/

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