Of course, we don’t know the Russians DIDN’T win it for Trump, either — and that’s the genius in what they did

As serious people do everything they can to persuade Donald Trump and his followers that they must take the Russian attack on the bedrock of our democracy seriously, they keep stressing, in the most soothing tones they can muster:

We’re not saying the Russians threw the election to Trump. We’re saying they tried to, and that’s something that must be taken seriously, however you voted…

I’ve done the same thing here, repeatedly, although with no discernible effect.

And I and others will keep on saying it, because it’s true: We don’t know, we can’t know, whether Russian meddling actually threw the election to Trump.

Of course, there’s an unstated second side to that coin. If we don’t know Putin decided the election, we don’t know that he didn’t, either.

And that’s the side of the coin that I think everyone sort of instinctively understands, and which therefore makes this conversation so difficult.

Here’s the problem: It was a close election, so close that Hillary Clinton lost the Electoral College while winning the popular vote. That means any one of a number of factors could, by itself, account for the losing margin.

In other words, it’s not only possible but perhaps likely that all of the following elements had to be present to get Trump to an Electoral College win:

  • Let’s start with the biggie: The fact that the Democrats nominated the most hated major-party nominee in modern history, except for Donald Trump himself. This is the major factor that, while it couldn’t give him the win (since he was despised even more), it kept him in the game from the start. All other factors after this are minor, but remember: the whole thing was so close that it’s possible that every minor factor had to be present as well.
  • Clinton’s private server. Assuming this had to be present, she doomed herself years ago.
  • Her fainting spell. Here the Russians were, working like crazy to spread rumors about her health, and a moment of human weakness hands them this beautifully wrapped gift.
  • Comey’s on-again, off-again investigations. I’m not saying he was trying to sabotage the election, but if he had been, his timing couldn’t have been better.
  • The anti-qualifications madness sweeping through the electorate across the political spectrum. This populist surge produced both Trump and Bernie. In this election, solid credentials were a handicap. And poor Hillary had a great resume, as resumes have historically been judged.
  • The Russian operation, which gave us a drip-drip-drip of embarrassments (none of which would have amounted to anything alone) with the hacked emails, and a really masterful disinformation campaign as Russians blended into the crowd of alt-right rumormongers.

Could Trump still have won if you took away the Russian efforts — or the FBI investigations, or Hillary’s pneumonia, or any other factor? Well, we don’t know. We can’t know — an individual decision to vote a certain way is composed of all sorts of factors. I can’t give you a breakdown, with percentages, weighting every factor that goes into my own voting decisions — even though I’ve had all that practice over the years explaining endorsements. So I certainly couldn’t do it in assessing the decisions of millions of voters out there. And there’s no way to correlate the effect of any single factor meaningfully with the actual vote totals in the states Trump won.

So we don’t know, do we? The Russians think they know, which is why our intelligence establishment detected them high-fiving each other over Trump’s victory. But they can’t know, either. They certainly didn’t know they’d accomplished their goal before the vote, because they were geared up to sow doubts about the legitimacy of what they expected to be a Clinton victory.

It’s safe to say Trump wouldn’t have won if those other factors hadn’t been present. But I don’t see how we will ever know whether Russian meddling put him over the top.

And as much as anything, that is the most brilliant stroke by the Russians. The effect of what they did can’t be measured. Consequently, they have us doubting ourselves, flinging accusations about motives and completely divided in our perception of reality. We’ll probably be fighting over this for as long as this election is remembered.

I’ve mentioned this before, but I will again, for Bryan’s sake if no one else’s: In the Patrick O’Brian novels he and I enjoy so much, a favorite toast for Royal Navy officers in the early 19th century was “Confusion to Bonaparte,” or just, “Confusion to Boney.”

The ideal codename for the Russian operation messing with our election would be “Confusion to America.” Because there’s no doubt that they have achieved that

"Confusion to Boney!"

“Confusion to Boney!”

67 thoughts on “Of course, we don’t know the Russians DIDN’T win it for Trump, either — and that’s the genius in what they did

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    While we’re on the subject, let’s deconstruct this NPR tweet from Friday:

    I’m reminded of all the protestations by characters in “The Godfather,” saying “It’s not personal; it’s strictly business.” In fact, the wording of the Tweet reads like an intentional play on Sonny’s line about Michael: “Tom, this is business and this man is taking it very, very personal.”

    The film never made this clear, but the novel did: There’s a passage in which Michael Corleone reveals his central insight as he morphs into the next godfather: that to his father the Don, EVERYTHING was personal — and that, to Michael, was the secret of his father’s greatness. And as soon as Michael says it, Tom Hagen chides him for speaking such secrets aloud.

    Well, this strike at our national security was profoundly political. The weapon itself was political, meant to achieve a profoundly political end. The confusion, the harm, done by the Russians (whether it decided the election or not, is as political as it gets. It is the damage to our political system that achieves the Russians goal of damaging our national security.

    This could be said about almost any covert operation. Clausewitz famously said that “War is the continuation of politics by other means.” Well, that goes for cyberwar as well. And it i particularly, especially true in this case…

  2. Claus

    Have you ever considered working as a news anchor for CNN? I say that because they also love to take a topic and beat it to death by saying the same thing over and over just with different words.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Did you READ this?

      It’s saying something VERY different. Before, I kept stressing that this is about the Russian meddling, not the election result.

      Here, for the first time, I’m saying, well, we can’t KNOW it didn’t effect the election result.

      It’s probably the same to you because you and other Trump supporters think that was what was being said all along. Except, of course, that it wasn’t.

      Bottom line, of course, is that this has to be treated very seriously whether it affected the election or not. Now THAT I’ve said multiple times. Has it sunk in yet?

      1. Claus

        I started to but soon realized it was just another article of you going off the deep end so I stopped reading.

        Do you think the Russians spying/hacking is something new? I’d be surprised if there isn’t a country in the world trying to spy or hack into systems in the US. The same goes with us spying and hacking into systems in other countries. Didn’t we recently get caught hacking into Germany’s network… or some other European country?

  3. Dave

    Jeff Sessions, who almost certainly will be the next Attorney General, just refused to state that the Russians hacked our election under questioning by Lindsey Graham. The man who wants to be the chief law enforcement officer of our country just refused to admit that a foreign adversary hacked into our election. That should send shivers down the spines of every American. And confirms the serious question of whether the Trump administration will be an independent actor for our country or instead the puppet of an authoritarian foreign leader. Never before have we been here as a country.

    1. Doug Ross

      Because they didn’t. An email account was hacked and actual emails were released. The election wasn’t hacked. Bad behavior by the DNC that was revealed hurt Hillary. Hacking an election would require changing votes in voting machines.

      1. bud

        Not just the machines but the electronic transfer after the individual machines are tabulated. Certainly plausible that that occurred. This dismissive attitude is even more alarming than the Russian hacking. Let’s take this seriously.

    2. Bryan Caskey

      I don’t understand the phrasing of “hacked the election”. An “election” is not “hacked” unless you’re talking about altering vote tallies or something. One could argue that this improper construction is being used in an attempt to mislead.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Yep, it’s a bad phrase. But there’s no simple way to explain what was done, or the effect that it had.

        Which is why we should call it “Operation Confusion to America”…

        1. Doug Ross

          “But there’s no simple way to explain what was done, or the effect that it had.”

          Let me help. Nothing and none.

            1. Dave

              Yes, and when people say that the Russians “hacked the election” that’s simple short-hand for the fact that the Russians hacked into the DNC’s emails and Podesta’s emails in order to influence this election to hurt Clinton and help Trump. Yes, you can hack an election in ways other than hacking into voting machines because elections are more than vote tallies. They’re year-long (increasingly multi-year-long) campaigns, not simply vote tallies on election day. Anyone who knows anything at all about politics or political science knows this.

              Apologies if other posters are upset that folks don’t write that all out instead of the simple shorthand of “hacked the election.” But that they’re more upset about the phrase “hacked the election” than the Russians interfering in our election to try to influence it speaks volumes about them.

              1. Bryan Caskey

                “But that they’re more upset about the phrase “hacked the election” than the Russians interfering in our election to try to influence it speaks volumes about them.”

                I hope that shot wasn’t aimed across my bow.

          1. bud

            Doug your confidence that you are right is astonishing. Isn’t there some doubt that maybe this is important? Shouldn’t the extremely unlikely result of a Trump presidency raise some degree of skepticism? Nothing is as black and white as you portray this. It is very likely the Russians made a difference. It. Just. Is.

            1. Doug Ross

              I’m not the portraying it as black and white. I’m waiting to see what happens. It’s the chicken littles who are positive there will be disaster who are dealing in absolutes.

  4. Doug Ross

    Ok, let’s assume Russia wanted Trump to win. How important was that to them? With all the vast resources at their hands, how would you characterize the effort they put into helping Trump win? Minimal? Significant? And I still am waiting to hear what their end game is. What is their objective with Trump in the White House. Be specific.

    If you think the Russians somehow were responsible for the primary narratives about Hillary’s health, then we’re reaching the “Obama Birth Certificate” level of derangement. Because her first inclination with faced with difficult questions is to lie (probably can thank Bill for that training), she compounded her troubles time and time again by not being forthcoming and honest.

    She lost. She ran an awful campaign. It wasn’t taken from her.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      “What is their objective with Trump in the White House. Be specific.”

      You’re kidding, right? What do you mean by “specific?” Something like, “Putin hopes that, on July 10, 2017, at 05:30 Zulu time, as he sends in Spetsnaz commandos to soften up the Baltics prior to the invasion, Donald J, Trump will do nothing?”

      I mean, really — what are you looking for? It’s pretty simple. Putin, who wants America to be weak and Russia to be strong, wanted an idiot to be president of the United States — an idiot who understands nothing about international affairs and who thinks he, Vladimir Putin, hung the moon. It’s like a dictator’s ultimate dream. What’s so complicated about that? What part are you not understanding? What “specifics” do you need to persuade you of the obvious?

      1. Claus

        I believe the Russians would have preferred to have Hillary in office. They knew if they wanted something all they had to do was make a large donation to the Clinton Foundation and it’d be delivered to them FedEx Next Day Air.

      2. Claus

        I believe Trump is a lot smarter than you give him credit for. How does a man get to his level without brains? How many billionaires do you know, who weren’t handed that fortune, who are complete idiots? Would you call Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, etc… ignorant? Yes Trump was given a million dollar loan by his father, he did a little more than double that money.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          And of course, there’s your communication breakdown. The reason Trump supporters can’t wrap their heads around why Putin would do this, or why it’s a serious problem, is because they don’t think Trump is an idiot.

          That leads to the Trump camp not taking what the Russians did seriously, and turns a threat to national security into a political football.

          Which is a large part of the beauty of this from the Russian perspective: Confusion to America.

          Not that America wasn’t deeply confused already. We knew that by the fact that Trump was in striking distance of the White House to begin with — something that never, ever would have happened at any previous point in our history. Obviously, something was deeply, deeply wrong with America.

          Putin just took the situation as it was, and did everything he could to exacerbate it — to add complications to the sickness of our body politic.

          It worked beautifully…

          1. Doug Ross

            Trump is an idiot. There I said it. Hillary is unethical and weak. She would have no more ability to prevent Putin from doing whatever he wants than Obama has. Two lousy choices, buy lousy in different ways.

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              Now we’re finding some common ground, and not just on the point of Trump being an idiot.

              We also agree that we’d be in a lousy situation, in terms of realistic chances of changing Putin’s behavior, had Hillary won.

              But we’d have one advantage — at least our incoming POTUS would WANT to do something about it. That would be a start…

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              Well, sure, I could use other words. For instance, on Oct. 10 I put it this way:

              This is an election to decide whether an out-of-control, deeply narcissistic, crude, avaricious, vindictive, unbalanced man with fascist tendencies and no concept of what a liberal democracy is about will hold the most powerful position in the world.

              That is all this election is about. It could have been about other things, had the Republicans seen their way clear to nominating a normal person. But it isn’t, because they didn’t…

              But I think for the purposes of this discussion, it’s fair to say that Putin wanted an idiot…

      3. Doug Ross

        So you can’t even tell me what’s in it for Russia besides “we:strong, them:weak” That’s always their (and our) objective.

        How does America’s weakness help Russia. Seriously. What do they get out of it? We’re not fighting a war. Can you state one specific benefit that goes beyond vague words like “weak”? Will their economy be better as a result of Trump being in office? If so, how? I’m willing to be educated but not pontificated.

        Too many people grew up being brainwashed about the “Commie” threat. The general Russian public doesn’t care about what we do. Just as we shouldn’t care what they do. They aren’t going to drop bombs on us.

        1. Bob Amundson

          “Can you state one specific benefit …” The Baltics (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania); Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan); East-Central Europe (Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine); Southern Caucasus (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia); i.e., THE SOVIET UNION.

              1. bud

                I actually agree wit Trump on NATO. Time to disband that wortless relic of the Cold War. All it does is increase our likelihood of involvement in war.

                1. Brad Warthen Post author

                  Yeah, I almost added, “Of course, Doug and Bud don’t care about NATO. They want to pretend the world doesn’t exist and that we have no interests or obligations beyond our borders, move all troops and diplomats back to the continental U.S., then cut the military down to an Army corps to deploy on our southern border (in Doug’s case), and maybe keep the Coast Guard.”

                  Which is me being facetious, but I’m half expecting them to say, “Hell, yeah!”

            1. Bob Amundson

              I wasn’t trying to be all inclusive but will add the Czech Republic, Slovenia (Melania’s nation of birth), and Poland. There are more …

            2. Doug Ross

              Trump has threatened to make the countries in NATO pay their fair share (that they agreed to). What’s the point of having treaties and alliances if the parties don’t comply?

              You haven’t given a REASON yet. You’ve listed a bunch of names of countries like that means anything. It’s such a simplistic view.
              Can you predict what they will do and how we will respond? Why not wait until something actually happens before making these doom and gloom predictions? Just as you looked foolish with all the Trump predictions, you have the potential of losing all credibility if four years from now the country isn’t drastically worse off. You may as well pull the plug on the blog or stick to just genealogy posts if your dire predictions don’t come true.

          1. Doug Ross

            Yawn. Not our rodeo. What are we prepared to do to stop them? Are we willing to go to war to prevent Russia from doing what it wants to do? Let them have ’em all.

            Anyway, we have the U.N. to deal with them, right?

            1. Bob Amundson

              I believe NATO and the U.S. would go to war “to prevent Russia from doing what it wants to do.” That’s why both are escalating troops and equipment in the region.

              YAWN. Tired of wasting my time …

              1. Doug Ross

                Ok, so do you think Russia is aware of our presence? Do you think they are prepared to start World War 3? They know they can’t win.

                1. Bob Amundson

                  And so, without war, the US and NATO “prevent Russia from doing what it wants to do.” I’m all in on that.

        2. Bryan Caskey

          “How does America’s weakness help Russia?”

          Putin’s entire goal is overcoming the Western dominated world order. He’s looking at a very long game – a very big picture. He’s looking back at history, and seeing Russian leaders like Boris Yeltsin and Gorbechaev as examples of what not to do.

          Think about what Russia is doing in Syria. They don’t really have much more at stake in Syria than we do (the warm water port aside). What they do have to gain by being the hegemon in Syria is making sure the US (or any other Western power) isn’t.

          We Americans are extremely inclined to believe that the US is always going to be the world’s dominant power. We think history started in 1950, or 1990, depending on which generation you’re in. We’re babies in the grand scheme of the rise and fall of empires. Putin’s view of Russia and his desire to overcome Western dominance means he wants America weak.

          To the “hacking”: His goal was to create (or exacerbate) our distrust of our political institutions. He wants Americans to lose faith in their institutions, weakening us from within.

          He wants to undermine our republic. Sewing his seeds by exposing scheming and lies by our leaders, he’s hoping we lose faith in our institutions.

          I don’t think he really cares who the POTUS is. In one way, he might be a bit more worried that Trump is probably more unpredictable than Hillary would be in regard to foreign policy. No one likes an unpredictable adversary. But that’s about the only good spot Trump has. Unfortunately, he’s also vain, thin-skinned, and not necessarily a guy who plans things several moves in advance.

          My hope is that Mattis and some other guys who’ve made their bones have a sit down with Trump and let him know that Barzini isn’t going to be our friends. Or, that Putin overplays his hand and Trump realizes it on his own.

          After writing that down and reading it, I’m not optimistic. Sorry for being a downer.

          1. Doug Ross

            “To the “hacking”: His goal was to create (or exacerbate) our distrust of our political institutions. He wants Americans to lose faith in their institutions, weakening us from within.”

            Public opinion polls of Congress PRIOR to the release of the emails ranked them somewhere around 10% approval. Whatever distrust exists today was there six months ago, twelve months ago, two years ago. If Putin did anything, it was the equivalent of throwing a matchstick on a bonfire.

    2. bud

      Wow. Just wow. Doug you may be right. As I said there is always doubt about the future. But Trumps election has soooo much potential for trouble. Wow!!!!

      1. Doug Ross

        As did Hillary’s. Obama hasn’t stood up to Putin. Hillary would have even less support from the military (who overwhelmingly voted for Trump).

        I’ll wait til something happens before I worry about all the possible things that might happen — especially those I have no power to control. You guys keep wasting your time… that’s your business.

        1. Doug Ross

          “Donald Trump leads Hillary Clinton by 19 points — 55 percent to 36 percent — among voters who are currently serving or have previously served in the U.S. military, according to the latest NBC News|SurveyMonkey Weekly Election Tracking Poll.”

          That was a month before the election. What do those deplorables in the military know that Brad doesn’t?

          And more from the Washington Post:

          “Swing-state counties with especially high numbers of veterans helped propel Donald Trump to the White House, suggesting that his attacks this summer on a Gold Star family did not dampen support for him in military communities.

          In a number of counties in Ohio, North Carolina and Florida, Trump beat Hillary Clinton by wider margins than his Republican predecessors performed against Obama in the last two presidential races. All three swing states have rich military traditions and numerous counties in which thousands or tens of thousands of veterans live.

          Exit polls suggest veterans voted for Trump by about a 2 to 1 margin, reflecting the typical Republican bent of this group of voters. But the numbers also mean that a number of Trump’s controversial remarks on veterans and foreign policy did not significantly damage his support among military families. ”

          I guess those veterans got duped by Putin. How embarrassing!

        2. Brad Warthen Post author

          “Hillary would have even less support from the military…”

          Yeah, here’s the good thing about that. We do not live in a banana republic. (Something that would be surprising to Trump.) We don’t have to line up key generals and admirals in order to make a decision. Our military has this deeply ingrained culture of following orders from the commander-in-chief.

          In Ecuador, you have to make sure you’ve got the political support of your military (I know, because I lived there during a military coup, and under a junta for the rest of my time there).

          We have a depoliticized military, thank God.

          But even if we didn’t, I would challenge you on your statement. Hillary is much more hawkish than Obama has ever been or ever would be. Of course, that means some military people would be with her, and some would not. But she’s worked pretty hard to build cred in the national security arena, reaching out to work with McCain and Graham when she was in the Senate….

          1. Doug Ross

            How would you classify the majority of veterans who voted for Trump? Uninformed? Unpatriotic?

            Why would they overwhelmingly support Trump unless they thought he would be tougher on Russia, ISIS, etc.? It doesnt add up.

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              I don’t know how to characterize that phenomenon. I can’t explain it.

              And I would not assume, as you’re doing, that they did so because “they thought he would be tougher on Russia, ISIS.”

              While our military folks are more likely to believe in the value of military action than, say, you and Bud do — after all, this is the vocation they have chosen — they have borne the entire burden of the deployments we’ve had in recent years. Maybe some of them would like us to be a little LESS tough with our adversaries for awhile, to allow them some R&R.

              I remember hearing rumblings to that effect when those polls first came out, but I don’t know whether that was an accurate assessment of some troops’ attitudes or not. I’m just saying that I don’t know the opposite was true, either. Also, I think a lot of civilians think military people are all hyperagressive types like what Arlo Guthrie lampooned in Alice’s Restaurant: “Shrink, I want to kill. I mean, I wanna, I wanna kill. Kill. I wanna, I wanna see, I wanna see blood and gore and guts and veins in my teeth. Eat dead burnt bodies. I mean kill, Kill, KILL, KILL.”

              And that’s not the case, in my experience. To say the least.

              But if we have people in uniform who’d like to see the pace of deployments slowed, who could blame them? We have too few people serving, which means we have an unfairly distributed burden. However much you might believe in your mission, sometimes you get tired.

              I’d really like to see those numbers broken down. I seem to recall that Hillary had more senior officers (retired ones, which freed them to take political stands) backing her. Did any of those polls break the response down into subsets, to see if there was a divide between officers and enlisted (which would roughly correlate to education levels)? Did it make a difference whether they were combat or support troops? Or how many times they’d been deployed to a war zone?

              Finally, I’d like to see those polls compared to exit polls — the numbers on how people actually voted. And I’d like to see follow-up questions that actually dug into the WHY?

              Because I don’t have enough info to know why at this point…

  5. Doug Ross

    When will the U.S. government hold hearings on how the President of Mexico interfered with the U.S. election? On numerous occasions, he cast aspersions on candidate Trump, thus impacting Trump’s votes with the Latino community. This extreme attack on America’s democracy cannot be tolerated.

      1. Doug Ross

        Why? Did his remarks cause some voters to switch from Trump to Hillary? As Brad says “We’ll never know”. Why should a foreign leader have any influence on our election. No mas!

  6. bud

    Brad you missed the single biggest reason Hillary lost the artificial state border vote. She failed to appeal to enough Bernie voters in certain “states”. Reminding the voters of her war vote with all those appeals to the neocons was the worst single mistake she made during the campaign.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        I think she would have helped herself by letting her hawkishness out a bit, and maybe touting her Third Way credentials, instead of spending as much time as she did kowtowing to the left wing of her party.

        I’m the opposite, you see, of a Jim DeMint type. Republicans lose an election, and says that’s because they weren’t right-wing enough. I tend to say it’s because of a failure to appeal to the center…

        1. bud

          There is no longer much of a center. That’s a relic of the past. You win by energizing your base. There just weren’t that many national security voters to appeal to. Appeasing the Lindsey Graham voters subtracted 5 votes for every vote that strategy attracted. If that hawk approach didn’t work in the GOP primaries why on earth would that strategy work in a party that abhors war? It would have been the equivalent of Trump going after the global warming voter. Clearly you can see how that would have cost Trump voters in coal country.

  7. Phillip

    I highly recommend for your reading on this subject Masha Gessen’s latest article in the NYRB on the intelligence agencies’ report.

    Ms. Gessen, whose whole history has been one of opposition (including while still living in Russia until 2013) to Putin and who is no fan of Trump’s either, is pretty skeptical about the substance and significance of the whole report. She makes some convincing points a number of which echo some of Doug’s points. If you don’t want to read the whole thing, here’s the crux of her argument:

    ” ‘How is it possible, if these intelligence reports are true, to count the 2016 Presidential election as unsullied?’ asked New Yorker editor David Remnick in a piece published Friday. But since when has ‘unsullied’ been a criterion on which a democratic process is judged? Standard measures include transparency, fairness, openness, accessibility to all voters and to different candidates. Anything that compromises these standards, whether because of domestic or external causes, may throw a result into doubt. But Remnick’s rhetorical question seems to reach for an entirely different standard: that of a process that is demonstrably free of any outside influence….

    …the intelligence report does nothing to clarify the abnormalities of Trump’s campaign and election. Instead, it risks perpetuating the fallacy that Trump is some sort of a foreign agent rather than a home-grown demagogue…”

    But read the whole thing if you have a moment.

    1. bud

      What if Trump was/is some sort of quasi foreign agent? Given all his rhetoric about Putin and the Russians is it really all that hard to imagine that he wants to transform the USA into the USSR?

      1. Claus

        What if Hillary was paid by Russia to lose the election??? What if Lindsey Graham is really an ISIS recruiter??? What if John McCain really defected in Vietnam???

    2. Bill

      Gessen’s article raises some questions that deserve consideration. But part of her characterization of the intelligence report – that it emphasizes a Russian interest in advancing Trump’s electoral chances – seems a bit off the mark. The wording of the report in that regard is more careful than she gives it credit for. It doesn’t say that Russian actors sought to ease Trump’s chances of getting elected. It only says that they sought to damage Clinton – which only by default may have worked to Trump’s favor. That may seem like a difference without a distinction. But it’s not. It points to a campaign aimed primarily at discrediting Clinton rather than directly benefiting Trump – which means it could’ve had an effect no matter the outcome of the election.

    3. Bart

      Thank you Phillip for providing the link. I did read the entire article and based on the article, my conclusion is the uproar is “much ado about nothing” in the final analysis. Russia is not our friend but at the same time, not our sworn enemy ready to launch ICBMs at us at any given moment. Even Putin is not that damn crazy because he knows the minute his missiles are launched, ours will be launched within seconds and who the hell wants to live in a world that resembles the science fiction movies of a holocaust environment? Remember that an all out nuclear war between Russia and the US would result in the entire planet being affected to the point of near extinction.

      Yes, Russia is interested in who represents the US because they will have to deal with them for the next four years. If I were in Putin’s place, I would be and given Putin’s penchant for looking ahead, wouldn’t it be wise to want to work with the known than with the unknown? Using simple logic, again, if I were Putin or any other head of state, I would be very concerned about Trump and how he would react to a real 3:00 am red phone crisis. I would rather deal with Clinton because we know in her heart, she is to a larger degree than she portrays a war hawk and would react so if the situation called for it in her opinion.

      And no, Donald Trump is no agent for Russian intelligence, he is not smart enough and cannot keep his mouth shut. If he was, by now, he would have Tweeted it at 3:00 in the morning to someone, somewhere. He has no sense of reality and is so self-absorbed, he couldn’t resist the temptation to boast about it. That is who he is.

      No, Putin is not a fool and his comments about Trump are not glowing, unfettered endorsements for him either. The CIA and other agencies put together a poor excuse for a report and it contained nothing that has not been in the news and anyone with half a damn brain already knows it if they follow the news and the election beginning with the primaries. All of the speculation about Trump and Putin is just that, speculation and most if not all is strictly identity politics. The CIA is a shell of what it once was and now, it is just another politically oriented agency bent on maintaining as much power and relevance as they can muster. If they had been competent prior to the invasion of Iraq, I am confident GWB wouldn’t have ordered the invasion.

      This is nothing but political game playing and maneuvering by our intelligence agencies and this report shows just how far down the black hole of incompetence they have fallen.

      I throw the red challenge flag on the report with all confidence that it would be overturned unless they are holding back some actual, serious information that can be proven beyond any doubt. Otherwise, like Obama’s birth certificate, it is Democrats and some Republicans engaging in the same behavior the birther’s did and some still do.

      Donald Trump will implode eventually, he cannot resist, it is in his nature and DNA. When he does, all we can do is hope and pray he doesn’t take the country down with him. But, a narcissist with an ego that could fill 100 Yankee Stadiums wouldn’t hesitate for a moment to take the entire country down just to prove to himself in his own delusional belief that he is right all of the time.

      Hold onto your seat, tighten your seatbelts, and grab your behind, it is going to be a very bumpy ride.

      Pardon my rant. Sometimes one must let it out and where better than among friends on this blog.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        As always you make a lot of sense, Bart, but I have to say this…

        It’s not about ICBMs, not about a nuclear exchange. That’s always a remote possibility, but that’s not what worries me.

        Neither Putin nor Trump (nor, certainly, Clinton) has the slightest interest in triggering doomsday. It’s bad for business.

        There is a universe of possibilities that exist between where we stand and Armageddon, though. And the world can get to be a much worse place for the United States, our allies and for freedom-loving peoples everywhere (and even those not so crazy about freedom) without us ever getting anywhere near a nuclear exchange.

        That’s what worries me. We’ve already lost a great deal of respect in the world by electing Donald Trump. Respect is not a thing we can really afford to lose.

        Putin is going to be playing chess, and against a guy who I doubt is all that great at checkers. I expect to see Putin outplay the home team repeatedly, across the globe, in the coming years.

        And that is very, very bad…

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