Democrats have clearly staked out the position that a suddenly "Low T" Putin feared the steely competence of a historic lady-bits driven Hillary Clinton presidency, and so he campaigned vigorously to get Trump elected--and a bare majority of Democrats appear to believe that Putin actually altered voting results to achieve that win for Trump.
But this explanation makes no sense to me. Even aside from the fake news of vote tampering.
If Putin truly feared Clinton, why did he settle on Trump as Russia's savior when all the polling and experts concluded there was no possible way Trump could win even the primary let alone the election? Why didn't Putin attempt to get Comrade Bernie the Democratic nomination when Sanders was surging by using email leaks that showed that corrupt and biased Democrat Party operatives were tilting the field to Clinton with super delegates and all the rest of their machinations? Anyone remember the oddly one-way tie-breakers during the primaries that gave Clinton Iowa? Putin wouldn't have thought that the appeal of Sanders could have made Hillary feel the Bern?
This article is interesting because it points out some things I have (duh, it must be brilliant).
But I don't buy this:
As noted by none other than Henry Kissinger, Putin, like everyone else, would have expected a Clinton victory, perhaps even a landslide, based on the polls. For Putin “to antagonize the president-to-be by getting into an open support of the opponent doesn’t make any sense to me. They were hacking, but the use they allegedly made of this hacking eludes me.” The answer to Kissinger’s question: The hacking was meant for a domestic audience.
Yes, as the article notes, Russia made heavy use of the Wikileaks revelations to hammer Clinton to show how awful the American political system is. Putin needs to discredit free democracy to keep him in power and keep reliable autocrats on his borders who can be bought and bullied.
But Russia didn't need Wikileaks to do that. Russia lies. A lot. Before they have coffee in the morning. They do it easily and with a straight face. They do it without even the Clintonian pretense of technically telling the truth with careful usage of words.
Why would Putin bother with stealing Democratic secrets if the Russians only wanted this propaganda for domestic consumption? Doesn't that risk American anger? I mean it didn't, drawing only a private presidential "cut it out"--right up until Trump won the election, and then it was the Russians getting the "evil Republicans" treatment by Democrats and their media allies.
But now we're talking things I can get behind, as that author writes:
Would Putin have preferred a Clinton or a Trump? A victorious Clinton would offer Putin hostile predictability, but her base would restrain her from an aggressive military and foreign policy. Trump would be unpredictable, would build up US armed forces, and have to make strong deals to meet his electoral promises. Even worse for Putin, Trump would promote US energy development and drive down the energy prices on which Putin’s Petrostate rests.
Bingo. I've said much the same. And more, if Putin has the Clinton private server emails from when she was Secretary of State. In that case we'd know why Clinton apparently deleted so many emails supposedly about her yoga classes--she was gearing up for providing maximum flexibility as Putin blackmailed her.
And the idea that Russia was trying to help Trump follows naturally from the obvious conclusion that Russia was trying to harm Clinton.
But it is another leap to say that Russia was trying to get Trump elected. Why would Russia believe they could succeed when all indications were that Trump would lose. Are Russia's RT pollsters really better than ours and did they provide private data to Putin?
Come on. Putin was with her, and wanted a crippled Clinton, and fully expected to get her.
And there is this:
Russian propagandists, fully expecting a Clinton victory, played up Trump as the Don Quixote candidate – a shining knight fighting against all odds -- about to be rolled over by the crooked American political establishment. The unanticipated consequence of his surprise victory, therefore, is an unwelcome affirmation of American democracy for the Russian people. ...
The 2016 election shows Russians that, in America, a candidate can come out of nowhere – a David to slay the Goliath of crooked American politics. This is contrary to Putin’s narrative of a decadent, greedy, and aggressive US establishment that uses its political monopoly to cut down a Trump-like candidacy. This is the last message Putin wants delivered to the Russian people with his own carefully-orchestrated election scheduled for 2018.
Exactly. I said the same thing:
Russia expected to get a crippled but predictable (made even more "predictable" by the Kremlin's possession of Clinton's secret emails that would have provided blackmail material) President Hillary Clinton.
And now the Russians have to deal with a President Trump who apparently can't be damaged by any revelation. That's gotta suck from the Kremlin's point of view.
And worse for Russia, rather than showing American-style democracy to be too difficult to carry out (and thus have less appeal to Russians should Putin's aura of success crack), we got a clear result with no constitutional crisis.
And even worse, our people elected the candidate that the national media waged war against. And our people voted even though the national elites and media tried to bully them through shame into passivity.
For Putin who relies on state media to prop him up and the power of the state to bully any opposition into passivity, our election must be profoundly disturbing.
Add in the new collateral damage that the Democrats--they who roll over for any threat with a good anti-American routine--are suddenly roaring anti-Russian New Cold Warriors, and you have an FSB debacle of monumental proportions. The Soviets would have dealt very harshly indeed with such a failure.
The only bright spot for the Russians is the months-long Democratic base tantrum over the election, capped by the leadership joining in (tip to Instapundit), that makes our system look bad, and Democratic interpretation of the Russian actions. But even that latter "benefit" tends to constrict any Trump "reset" notions by painting Trump as too friendly to Russia for our own good. So again, debacle-like given that the Democrats would have painted Trump as a literal Nazi with his Deplorable Troopers without any Russian involvement at all.
So not much of a bright spot, really.
For all our efforts to stop Russian future shenanigans--which is a good thing, I hasten to add--I suspect that the Russians may have burned themselves so badly that they'll stick to interfering in Upper Whositstan elections where failure is less career ending.
UPDATE: The intelligence report is in and backs my view (tip to Instapundit):
"Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump," the report stated. "When it appeared to Moscow that Secretary Clinton was likely to win the election, the Russian influence campaign then focused on undermining her expected presidency."
The Russians expected Clinton to win and wanted to damage her.
And duh, any effort that damaged her would be pro-Trump--by definition. Unless there was a backlash on Trump for being the beneficiary of such help. Given Putin's standing in the American public, that had to be considered. Clinton certainly tried to create that backlash. And this factor makes it seem to me that Russia really didn't try to get Trump elected.
I'd still like to know why, if the Russians feared Clinton so much, they didn't try to engineer Comrade Bernie's victory over her during the primaries when she seemed vulnerable. Just when did the smart lads in the Kremlin believe Trump had a shot at winning?
UPDATE: Here's the report, which is mostly a discussion of sources and methods, definitions, and general information about Russian information war efforts. So call it a "memo" on the election effort with supporting information for context.
Also, will liberals like the discussion of how Russian propaganda backed Occupy Wall Street and anti-fracking activists?
UPDATE: Russia isn't our friend but the Russians didn't engineer a Trump victory. The latter has reached "fake news" status, no?
Russian TV channels spent months championing Donald Trump ahead of the U.S. election as an ally of Russia and possibly even part of a Kremlin plot—all on the basis that he would lose. Now that he has won the election, this strategy looks set to backfire on the Kremlin, as the future president is unlikely to make good on the promises of Russian propagandists, leaving Russians disenchanted with their government’s foreign policy. ...
Russian coverage of the U.S. campaign followed a simple but effective strategy. Trump’s persona was at its heart: here was an unsophisticated but streetwise guy taking on deceitful establishment politicians and greedy corporations; a man of the people (the fact that he is a billionaire and the son of a billionaire was glossed over) up against Clinton, who exemplified all the flaws and faults of the elites.
And then that "man of the people" won. As I've written, that's an inconvenient story for Putin. The so-called corrupt and rigged system did not stomp Trump down. The system allowed Trump the "underdog" to win.
That's not a good story for a Russian autocrat to have fed his people, now is it?