The Russia Thing

My first reaction to the recent Project Veritas undercover videos of Van Jones saying “The Russia thing is just a big nothingburger” and CNN supervising producer John Bonifield patiently explaining that while there is no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians, his ultimate boss Jeff Zucker was pushing back against news about changes in policy in favor of more coverage of the “bullshit” Russia story to garner higher ratings, was to laugh.  I had long since concluded that despite the frantic hopes of the Democratic left and members of the press, insofar as they are distinguishable, such collusion hadn’t happened.

As I have thought about these videos and, more broadly, the never-ending quest of the left to delegitimize if not rid themselves of our president, I have wondered less about the motives of the president’s pursuers – they are, after all, partisans, whether they admit it or not – and more about the, if you will, consumer demand for this product.


But before I go there, allow me a moment for some caveats:

It’s abundantly clear that the Russians were up to no good, seeking to sow dissension by phishing for juicy tidbits from the campaigns (and finding them among John Podesta’s emails) and probably planting misinformation about the candidates; in my view, in the ‘sowing dissension and damaging the credibility of the American electoral process’ category, the Russians hit a gold mine, mostly because they lit a match to which the American left – for reasons of its own – is busily adding kindling.

Throwing mud at us and our system is nothing new for the Russians; we might even do it to them once in a while, not that that makes me happy about the Russians’ presumed behavior. It is important to note, though, that there is no evidence either that the Trump campaign surreptitiously encouraged such behavior or, even more important, that the Russians changed any votes, electronically or otherwise. No doubt they, like everybody else, expected Hillary to win, and were just trying to muddy America’s waters. Mission accomplished, probably on a much grander scale than they ever dared hope.

I also believe that the ‘obstruction of justice’ charge, to which many on the left are now pivoting – since they have no evidence of nonexistent collusion between Trump and the Russians – is a joke.

The FBI is not an independent agency; it is part of the Executive Branch. As Alan Dershowitz has pointed out, president Trump has every legal right to order it around. Karl Rove illustrated this principal by asking,  in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, if anybody would have have thought it improper if John Kennedy had ordered J. Edgar Hoover to stop investigating the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. Keep in mind that (as Comey admitted in subsequent Senate testimony) when the president made his allegedly improper suggestion that the FBI back off of its investigation of General Flynn, Comey had just told the president that he, the president, was not under investigation.

Ironically, the braying hounds of the left have unintentionally uncovered  what are arguably much more improper efforts to affect of the electoral process by … the leaders of the Democratic party. Comey’s testimony made it clear that Attorney General Lynch tried to manipulate not only the FBI’s investigation of Hillary’s private server (perhaps as a direct result of her tarmac meeting with former president Clinton) but also how that investigation should be publicly characterized – thereby pushing the dissemination of intentionally distorted information to the public.

And it has become evident that former president Obama knew and did nothing about the Russians’ mud-throwing, most likely because he thought public knowledge of it would reflect badly on his (and, indirectly, Hillary’s) handling of foreign policy.

So if there’s nothing to the Russia thing other than the fact that they were throwing mud at us and some questions about whether the president behaved awkwardly and not a little oafishly to (in his mind) defend the supposed purity of his victory, why has the left been banging the drums as hard as they have?


Each progressive constituency has a different primary motive, although there’s a lot of overlap among them.

For Hillary, it’s an excuse for her loss.

For Democrats who hold political office, it’s a way to play to the most passionate part of their base and possibly delegitimize and weaken a president they abhor. I don’t think any of them really believes that even if they take control of the House in 2018, there’s a chance that 2/3rds of the Senate will vote for his removal on such flimsy grounds – they’re just trying to hurt him and advance their careers.

For the media, the Russia thing is a way to impugn president Trump’s character and the legitimacy of his election; the mutual contempt between the president and the established news media is very, very deep.

And for the audience – avid readers of The New York Times and The Washington Post, viewers of MSNBC and CNN, etc., and denizens of the progressive bubble generally, this story is comfort food. They were right about Trump, he’s the embodiment of evil, if not for this reason (collusion) then for that (obstruction of justice). Also, it’s High Drama – better than focusing on health care policy, Supreme Court arcana or a myriad of other policy and personnel shifts that will change our world.

The Russia thing helps the progressive faithful explain to themselves why their previously inevitable triumph has been … delayed. I guess that’s more comforting than thinking about why Hillary didn’t go to Wisconsin or why the blue collar vote is deserting them.


I am not terribly concerned about Hillary’s excuses or the calculations of Democratic office-holders – dogs gotta bark, after all. The dance between our progressive media and their disappointed audience is more worrisome: by allowing their hatred of the president show through in every article and broadcast, and peddling arrant “bullshit”, the progressive media organs are making Trump’s point about “fake news” far more effectively than he ever could.

And by focusing on – and encouraging through higher ratings – a fantasy narrative about the president’s alleged criminality, a huge portion of our public is actively participating in the kind of deepening division of the American public of which the Russians, and other enemies of our system, could previously only dream.


M. H. Johnston

One comment to The Russia Thing

  • Anonymous  says:

    Please keep writing. Always interesting to get your POV on contemporary issues. I don’t always agree but I do always engage. Cheers. D

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