John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s serpentine campaign manager and longtime bagman, appeared on “Meet the Press” on Sunday, and the result was even weirder than even the most election-scarred observers might have imagined. Podesta could have called for calm. He could have encouraged the country to unite behind Donald Trump, the democratically elected incoming president of the United States.
But the massive self-regard of the Clinton condotierre (Donna Brazile also popped up on Sunday to whine about her own victimization) is not so easily deterred. Asked twice to affirm that the contest between Clinton and Trump was “free and fair,” Podesta demurred. “I think the Russians clearly intervened in the election,” he said, which had left the outcome “distorted.” He provided no evidence for these breathtaking claims, save for the CIA, FBI, and DNI back-channel claims that Moscow intervened to benefit Trump, a jarring allegation, to be sure, but it’s another leap entirely to allege that the intervention swayed voters, and another leap beyond that to call the election tainted.
I need not reiterate the number of times Hillary Clinton assailed Trump for refusing to promise that he would certify the election result, only for her and Podesta to turn around and muddy the waters themselves. Clinton, who called TPP “the gold standard,” ditched her support for it during the campaign, and then brazenly lied about it during one of the debates, seems to think interchangeability with one’s positions is a virtue of curiosity akin to sampling different types of cuisine. Clinton’s long-established hypocrisy isn’t what interests me here. Far more intriguing is her willingness to play patsy on behalf of the Russians.
You might be wondering why Vladimir Putin, a busy man presiding over a nigh-ungovernable country, bothered to dispatch hackers and trolls into an American presidential race. The answer is that he saw the election as a broader opportunity to foster the West’s crisis of confidence in itself. The New York Times attempted to explain this earlier today:
The partisan swipes mostly ignored warnings by foreign policy experts that part of Russia’s calculation also was likely payback for years of U.S. criticism of its own elections and a desire to portray America as a flawed champion of democracy — potentially weakening U.S. power on the world stage.
That’s all correct except for the phrase “flawed champion of democracy.” Putin doesn’t believe in democracy. He views it as a fatally defective system that eventually gets consumed by the passions it unleashes, which is why he regularly rigs his own elections and regards missions to overthrow strongmen like Saddam Hussein and Bashar al-Assad with extreme skepticism. He understands that his best chance at sabotaging the West is not through a military conflict, which he would instantly lose, but by sowing chaos within. American presidencies are premised, rightly or wrongly, on the direct approval of the people. By denying Trump the legitimacy that comes from democratic will, he hopes to undermine U.S. leadership, cast doubt on our institutions, sow civic unrest, and invalidate democracy on its own terms.
So, no, it’s not Trump who’s a stooge of Putin because he dares to desire better relations with the Kremlin (and since when are the only two positions on Russia total opposition and obsequious dupery?). It’s Podesta and his ilk, audibly questioning Trump’s victory, portraying him as a Manchurian candidate, who are unwittingly advancing Putin’s cause. The official position of the losing campaign in an American presidential election is to refuse to admit that it lost. We shouldn’t understate how destructive that is.