From Russia with Love

I don’t pretend to know what is going on in the Russia/Trump imbroglio, but we ought to have a bit of discussion on this, since its all the media will cover in the headlines.  First, I will say that I think there is a lot of room for Christians to disagree on the seriousness of the issue.  And in full disclosure, that despite being generally not a fan of some of Mr. Trump’s policies and much of his personal style and actions, I am not particularly concerned about the supposed Russia subversion.

Narrative on both the right and left talks about foreign subversion of the election; a threat to democracy.  Yet I know nothing that has been alleged that suggests that even one vote was changed by collusion.  Let’s take the allegations as all fact–the Russians wanted Mr. Trump and not Mrs. Clinton as president, and Wikileaks was the result of that collusion.  All the Wikileaks released was truthful information.  Its hard for me to get wound up about the truth being released regardless of the source.  I believe that the video tape of Mr. Trump’s shameless comments about groping women was far more harmful than any of the Wikileaks, and no one had any issues with that coming out of the woodwork–because it was true. Should we care about the source of damaging material if it is true?  Or put another way, should we not want the truth to come out that may be relevant if the source has ulterior motives for releasing it?

Further, I fear that the real subversion of democracy here is the attempt to deny the vote of the American public last November. While I did not vote for Mr. Trump, those that did should not be denied their choice. If people cannot use the ballot through our current constitutional rules to place someone in power, and if the losers are allowed to drive the winners out of power, we are headed to a very troubling time. The people that voted for Mr. Trump were not unaware of his personal limitations and lack of character–and they wanted him over Mrs. Clinton anyway.  It seems to me that nothing that has been said is particularly surprising.  That Mr. Trump’s son might be interested in dirt on Mrs. Clinton, and would even listen to someone purporting to have connections to the Russian government, seems to me to be bad form and not what I would like to see, but it certainly doesn’t affect my opinion of Mr. Trump.  For the left especially, the moral outrage of a foreign power trying to influence an election is somewhat ridiculous.  Where was the concern over that issue when Mr. Obama tried to influence the Brexit vote, or the Israeli election against Mr. Netanyahu?  Or the far left’s concern over democracy? There is a reason why the far left tries to use the power of the courts continually to radically reshape our society–they don’t really believe in democracy except as a rhetorical tool.

And then there is the rhetoric.  Let’s remember that it was just a few short weeks ago that a deranged Bernie Sanders supporter tried to assassinate numerous Republicans.  Does it really help for Tim Kaine to say yesterday that Mr. Trump’s son may have committed treason?  What is the appropriate punishment for treason historically?  Do we really want to go there?

This is all-out political warfare, but I don’t see much more than that. But I suspect some of you see it differently.  So let ‘er rip in the comments.

23 thoughts on “From Russia with Love”

  1. A good analysis of the Russia debacle. A few comments/observations:

    “For the left especially, the moral outrage of a foreign power trying to influence an election is somewhat ridiculous. Where was the concern over that issue when Mr. Obama tried to influence the Brexit vote, or the Israeli election against Mr. Netanyahu?”

    Thank you for mentioning this. To me it is nothing more than hypocrisy on the part of Democrats.

    “Does it really help for Tim Kaine to say yesterday that Mr. Trump’s son may have committed treason?”

    It does not help except to demonstrate yet again the lack of Constitutional knowledge on the part of many Democrats. The treason charge is nothing more than political rhetoric. Constitutionally, treason is defined as waging war against the United States or giving aid to enemies. Presumably “enemies” means those the US is at war with, not nations we might have geopolitical disagreements with. Is Russia an enemy? My answer is “No”.

    “This is all-out political warfare, but I don’t see much more than that.”

    Quite correct. Donald Jr. acted foolishly, and he acknowledges he should have done things differently. So far, that is the extent of it. Maybe we will learn differently, but until then…

    1. Nathan, I disagree with your assessment that Russia is not an enemy of the United States. Based on your reasoning, Russia has never been an enemy of the US, not even during the Cold War, as we have never been in an active state of war with Russia.

      Maybe because I work for the Navy I have a different perspective, but nation states that are geo-politically engaged in aggressive acts (i.e. Russia’s forceful annexation of Crimea and downing of a passenger plane during that conflict, the proxy war in Syria with Russian assets, China’s artificial islands in the South China Sea, North Korea’s belligerent missile tests) are indeed enemies of the United States and pose a very real threat. Any other point of view is naive.

      I am not brandying about words like treason over this incident with Trump, Jr. but the naievity and lack of discernment involved with the current administration’s relationship with Russia is very troubling.

      1. I think you are misunderstanding what I meant when I said Russia is not an enemy. If you will reread the paragraph, the subject I was discussing was treason. What I was saying is they are not an enemy in the way required for the definition of treason to apply.

        I am not naive on Russia. I know their transgressions. They are certainly not friends. However, I do not think that does not mean, under the right circumstances, they can never be.

  2. No doubt there’s a partisan stink to both sides of this kerfuffle. It’s human nature to normalize and minimize the transgressions of those on “our team,” even as we dramatize and elevate those of the “other side.” I count this post and much of what I read on this blog as evidence of that. I imagine many of my comments suffer from the same in their turn.

    But seriously. Does the pervasive flood of misinformation and shifting stories from Trump and his surrogates trouble you at all? It’s become a painfully familiar refrain: distract, deny, and minimize until the last possible moment. Then express a vague, oblique regret before a quick pivot to why the other team is just as bad or worse. Why are you so comfortable participating in this toxic, disingenuous cycle? What’s that doing for democracy, much less the Kingdom?

    1. Ben
      Thanks for your comment. Re your first paragraph, you should also be aware that it goes one step further: my failure to condemn the same things you condemn (and vice versa) can lead each of us to conclude that the other is “on the other side,” even if not. Especially in a blog environment where we are talking about one issue at at time (or trying to!). I am decidedly not on Mr. Trump’s “team,” even if I would be supportive of his claim on this issue.

      Re your 2nd, does Trump’s pervasive misinformation trouble me, of course it does. I could wish that we had a President of character–we do not. That has been clear long before the election or even his entry into the race–Mr. Trump is who he is, and we have to live with his–let’s be generous–hyperbole on virtually anything he says. So I care less about what he says and more about what he does. And in this particular issue, I am convinced the whole Russia thing is a fraud in the sense that somehow we have Donald Trump because of Russian involvement. We have Donald Trump because Mrs. Clinton was the worst candidate the D’s have nominated ever. The Russians didn’t stop Mrs. Clinton from campaigning in rural areas of Wisconsin–she took it for granted and made the mistake. So I don’t expect Mr. Trump to be forthcoming to feed their narrative. In fact, I don’t want him to. I would prefer he just keep quiet, but alas, he is Mr. Trump.

      So here is a turning question for you. I think FAR FAR more influential in terms of manipulating the American people to drive electoral outcomes is the press’s unabashed hatred for Republicans generally and Mr. Trump specifically. Do you disagree? What does this do for democracy?

      1. Well certainly. If your threshold for judgement is whether Trump’s (now demonstrable) willingness to collude with Russia was the verifiable cause of his electoral victory, we’re not there yet (if ever).

        It just strikes me as peculiar and sad that this is where your threshold is. And that you continue to parse some sort of magic line between the impact of what Trump “says” and what he “does.” I struggle to imagine you applying this standard for anyone in your everyday life (“Well of course I don’t trust anything they say, but let’s consider their performance?”) And that’s assuming those folks aren’t the commander-in-chief with millions worldwide hanging on their every tweet. So I’m glad this administration’s lack of character troubles you, but I keep waiting for this to extend to you *not* furthering the precise rationale that Trump uses to excuse his complete absence of character and toxic rhetoric. Being an enabler doesn’t necessitate approval or agreement, but the appearance/effects are largely the same.

        And of course, it’s good to remember that everyone’s position (political and every other way) is more complicated than their stance on a particular issue. We’re all of us beautifully and wonderfully complicated creatures. But the form and content of your argument here are pretty telling. In your narrative about Trump being the result of Hilary’s flawed candidacy, where’s the place for a conservative base that was willing to nominate/elect the worst Republican candidate ever? What’s a fair-minded progressive to make of a conservative establishment that’s been circling the wagons for him ever since? Where can I find this unilateral “press” that critiques only Republicans and cleverly manipulates voters in spite of their broad mistrust? When in Trump’s public life has he not been locked in a narcissistic, symbiotic, death-spiral with that same press?

        Forgive me, Dr. Haymond, but this all seems very much like partisan argument focused on critiques of people/institutions you mistrust, to the exclusion of similar scrutiny on those who (better) align with your political preferences. Again, it’s normative human behavior; we’re all too many of us doing it. And my heart always lifts a bit when I do find conservative voices whose takes on Trump diverge from the “all out political warfare” that besets us on every side: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/11/opinion/trump-russia-collusion.html. I just can;t find very much to convince me that’s what you’re up to here.

  3. “pervasive flood of misinformation and shifting stories”

    This is a precise description of the liberal media. It’s all about power for them and their Democrat friends. Donald Trump, the Republicans, and conservatism (not always together but all a common foe to the liberals) are an affront to them and their quest for power. They are willing to lie, misinform, misconstrue, threaten, belittle, denigrate, etc, etc. anyone who stands in their way no matter who. Public or private figures. Political opponents or ordinary citizens. Many of their “beliefs” are not for the “little guy” like they want you to believe. All they do is to garner votes to keep their power. No more. Because they want THEMSELVES to be in control of our lives not us. Then they forget said “little guy” once the votes are in. In reality, we are just a means to their end. Many of them could care less about you and me. Until the next election cycle anyway. What really infuriates them is someone with Donald Trump’s demeanor (which I will be the first to admit is much less than stellar), but also someone who doesn’t play by their rules, beat them. They still can’t fathom how it legitimately happened, so they start making excuses and coming up with crackpot theories to explain what they think was an impossible outcome.

    Don’t get me wrong Republicans crave power as well and it has hurt them many times. But the mainstream media support the Democrat agenda in step, no holds barred. They would use any means necessary to attempt to destroy any opposition to them. And they don’t care about collateral damage to the country or its citizens.

    Just a note, there are some more honorable members of the Democrat Party that want to do good, but have the wrong ideas. My analysis is an overall one of the majority of the party, its leadership, and its media allies.

  4. Dr. Haymond,

    You mentioned Obama’s meddling in the Israeli election and his campaigning against the Brexit vote. I would like to add one more… Obama caught on a hot mic with then Russian President Dmitri Medvedev during the 2012 reelection campaign: “This is my last election … After my election I have more flexibility,”.

  5. ” I believe that the video tape of Mr. Trump’s shameless comments about groping women was far more harmful than any of the Wikileaks.”

    “Grope” is a euphemism for what he really did to women: “sexually assault” them.

  6. “There is a reason why the far left tries to use the power of the courts continually to radically reshape our society–they don’t really believe in democracy except as a rhetorical tool.”

    Government-sponsored bigotry in the form of Jim Crow laws against blacks, native Americans, and others was removed in much the same way–through the courts.

    So are we to assume that you think it was wrong for the courts to be used to overturn such anti-American laws? That oppressed Americans should have waited until a majority of white voters supported them having civil rights too?

    I would appreciate an explanation either way. Thank you.

    1. Jeff–
      Good point–but I think it confirms my broader point. “Democracy” is often held up as the supreme ideal, yet it is jettisoned when it conflicts with ideals. I think majoritarian policies and the courts get things right and get things wrong. But will you agree with me that the left has pushed every social agenda item through the courts precisely because they could not command a majority in the legislative process? What does that suggest about their commitment to democracy as the supreme ideal?

      1. You ducked the question. Considering that the some of the roots of modern conservatism come from the movement’s firm opposition to desegregation, my question is relevant.

        An answer, please.

      2. I thought my answer was sufficient, but we’ll try again. I think the courts should overturn any unconstitutional laws. What I am in favor of, however, is not inventing constitutional issues out of whole cloth–we have a process for changing the constitution and its not what we can get five people to say.

        Since you are so against government supported bigotry, perhaps you’ll agree with me that government power ought to be constrained?

  7. Jeff Haymond

    Why are you not directly answering my question? You are ducking, still. I can tell when someone is giving me a clear answer and when someone is trying not to give me a clear answer.

    The issue I asked about was not about “inventing constitutional issues out of whole cloth.” Obviously.

    Let me try again:
    1. You criticized liberals who “use…the power of the courts continually to radically reshape our society,” claiming that “they don’t really believe in democracy except as a rhetorical tool.”
    2. It is a fact that liberals used the power of the courts to overturn Jim Crow, long before Brown v Board of Education in 1954. Back in 1917 they used the courts to overturn certain forms of land segregation. Southern voters were not going to overturn Jim Crow, of course. Since democracy was not a viable option, oppressed minorities had to use the courts, which they did with great success.
    3. In light of what you said in point 1, was it right or wrong for liberals to use the power of the courts to overturn Jim Crow, point 2, in light of the fact that when it came to racial discrimination, democracy could NOT get the job done.

    Was it right or wrong? Was it right in 1954 (and 1917, and other times) but NOT now, or was it wrong both times, now and then?

    Now, please give me your answer. Thank you.

    1. He is not ducking Mr. Adams. If you are unable (or unwilling?) to see that he did, in fact, answer you, the problem is yours either way and you clearly can’t tell when someone has given you a clear answer.

      Let me take a crack at explaining his answer (and if I have it wrong, Dr. Haymond can, of course, correct me). When he used the phrase “I think the courts should overturn any unconstitutional laws.” in his answer to you, the implication was obvious to me. The cases you cite (Jim Crow, etc) he believes were unconstitutional and deserved to be overturned by the courts. I agree. Those laws had very obvious constitutional problems with them (aka 14th and 15th amendments). Many of the policies enacted by liberal courts in recent years simply do not have near the clear constitutional cases as the ones you cite.

      So MY answer, and I assume Dr. Haymond’s, would be: It was right in 1917 and 1954 but in many cases is wrong now, largely because the cases are not similar.

      1. You were much clearer in answering my question than Jeff H. was. Considering that the question was directed at him and not you, your clarity is much more impressive.

        Please note that Southerners as well as some from other areas considered court decisions in 1954 (and before and after) regarding desegregration as unconstitutional, as overstepping the boundaries (see William Rehnquist on this). Indeed, the modern conservative movement’s benefactors laid the foundations of the movement on their anger with desegregation.

        Since Jeff H went to George Mason, he should know this. I assume he does and is too embarrassed to talk about it. If I went to GM, I would be, at least.

    2. Mr. Adams
      You are a demanding fellow! We of course, are at your beckon call to answer any question you wish to ask….not. Nevertheless, I am happy to examine any particular case you wish to ask about. Name the case, I’ll take a look and get back to you.

      Of course we understand your agenda here. You well know I was referring to things like Roe vs. Wade, Griswold, Obergfell, and yet you want to twist this to civil rights. Do you deny that you understood this to be my intent? Were you really confused thinking I was talking about race? This is the classic liberal attack–because America was wrong on race (btw, which political party was it that did that?), that ANY other thing we can attach the civil rights label to must be acceptable. To resist means you’re a racist.

      So, give me a specific court case that you’d like my opinion on, and IF you tell me your complete opinion on it, then I’ll be happy to share mine.

      1. All that to say nothing.

        Instead of answering my question, you impugn my motives and play mind-reading games. That is not proper behavior of a truth-seeker.

        I was NOT thinking Roe v Wade or any other those decisions. Those did not even cross my mind. As I have said before here, I oppose abortion; I am probably the most consistent pro-life person who posts here.

        I mentioned Brown v Board. And yet I have to get back to you with a specific court case? I already did!

        You keep ducking. Perhaps that kind of slippery behavior is acceptable on your campus, but it is shameful in most other places.

        I know that modern conservatives, even Dr. Thomas Sowell, consider court-mandated desegregation as an overstepping of the boundaries of states by the federal government, as the abuse of the courts by liberals trying to ram through what democracy couldn’t get passed. What do YOU think?

  8. Mr. Adams,
    You are not unfamiliar with conservative Christianity. You have to know that our primary concern over the courts is the social agenda and the type cases I mentioned. Therefore, yes, I believe you have an ulterior agenda. This is especially since you, par for the course, ignore the main part of any post to poke at what you perceive to be a weakness. I notice you are silent on the main topic of Russia…

    Re Brown vs Board of Education. I support that conclusion, although as you know there is quite of bit of scholarly debate on how that decision should be arrived at, even within those in the originalist camp. That is, there is debate as to how the result should have been arrived at, not as to the result.

    1. So you oppose the decision the Supreme Court made, even though you are against segregation. Ok, thanks.

      You cannot just answer a question without questioning the motives of the questioner.

      What is my ulterior motive? And how do you know it?

      I’d love to know what that ulterior motive is.

      1. Please, then, explain how state-sanctioned segregation of public schools is consistent with the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution.

        Of course you won’t bite.

      2. Maybe he decides not to bite because you will only twist his words again to make him, and by extension, Christians, conservatives, etc. look bad. This of course is your “ulterior motive” that many of us, I believe, see.

        It is also interesting that you waited a full week after the last comments by Dr. Haymond to respond. Why? Expecting that no one would notice and his lack of response would make him look bad?

        Another case in point, what you just said. You concluded, and apparently expect everyone to accept your conclusion, that Dr. Haymond somehow opposed Brown when his own words say “I support that conclusion”. So obviously, to everybody but you it seems, Dr. Haymond DOES support the decision the Supreme Court made.

        But no, you feel the need to declare he somehow said the opposite and then ask him to explain a position he has not stated he holds and then close with a “of course you won’t bite”.

        So maybe Dr. Haymond, myself, etc. might stop questioning your motives if you stopped giving us reason to.

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