Dog Ate My Homework
“I have here in my hand a list of 205 [State Department employees] that were known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping the policy of the State Department.”
(Sen. Joseph McCarthy, 1950 speech to the Ohio County Women’s Republican Club)
Cold War Fallout: War-Time Alliances Crumble
Back to the future. It’s 1950, a previously unremarkable senate republican backbencher achieves national prominence when he charges that the government is awash with Communists (aka Russians) who are attempting to destroy “our” democracy. Although his inconsistencies are mindboggling (was it 57, 81 or 10 Communists in the State Department), his refusal to name any of these “known communists” suspect, and his inability to provide evidence to support his allegations revealing, a media storm erupts and the American public quickly jumps on the “blame the commies” bandwagon. A national panic attack ensues. Schools run “duck and cover” drills —teachers yelling, “Drop!” and students kneeling down under their desks with their hands clutched around their heads and necks. Paranoia becomes the national pastime leading many public schools to distribute metal “dog tags,” like those worn by World War II soldiers, so that the bodies of students can be identified after an attack.
What in the world was going on? In the months leading up to McCarthy’s February speech Americans had been rudely awaked from the delusion that American exceptionalism would protect them from the superpower delusions of other nations, specifically Russia and China. After all the US, almost singlehandedly won the war. Conveniently forgotten in this sanitized civics lesson was the major role Russia played in stonewalling the Germans on the eastern front until the1944 allied invasion at Normandy Then came 1949, two years after Bernard Baruch, multimillionaire advisor to democratic Presidents from Wilson to Truman, coined the phrase Cold War to describe the increasingly chilly relations between the US and the USSR. In that tumultuous year, the rhetoric of US politicians identifying the US as “the greatest nation the sun ever shone upon” (President Truman) and the “leader of the free world” took a serious hit when the Russians detonated an atomic bomb and Chiang Kai-shek’s US-supported Chinese Nationalist government was unceremoniously booted out of the Chinese mainland and forced onto the island of Taiwan. Americans were unnerved. Whatever happened to that cosy Nirvana they had created? McCarthy’s unsubstantiated charges reassured Americans that there was a ready explanation for the world turning against them —the Communist “menace” complete with a cadre of American traitors lurking around every corner, hiding under every bed, infiltrating every government office.
The end result? Unprecedented damage to the lives and careers of mostly innocent Americans, stifling domestic debate on foreign policy issues, and a national climate of fear and loathing which caused millions of Americans to adopt anti-immigrant views.
Today we face the same skulduggery
“The intelligence community believes Russia’s goals “were to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary [Hillary] Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency.” [Office of the Director of National Intelligence, 1/6/2017]
“Reports of the CIA’s conclusion that Russia actively sought to help elect Donald Trump are simultaneously stunning and not surprising, given Russia’s disdain for democracy and admiration for autocracy… This is serious stuff. When a foreign power tries to influence our election or damage our economy for that matter, this is serious.” [Senator Charles Schumer aka “Wall Street’s Man on Capitol Hill”]
History repeating itself?
Almost seven decades later and we’re in the same church, same pew, singing from the same hymnal. The difference? This time it’s the democrats promoting Russian-bashing 2.0. As a comprehensive strategy to wreck the Trump presidency and pave the way for impeachment, the specter of Russian interference in the election leading to a Trump victory and a Hillary defeat contains two, maybe three major fallacies: 1) Democrats’ must take the lion’s share of the blame for picking a terrible candidate whose CV includes third way center right triangulation domestic policy positions (e.g.1996 Welfare “Deform” bill and the 1994 draconian crime bill, jewels in the crown of the Clinton presidency receiving the full support of Hillary Clinton) neo-liberal foreign policy moves as state department chief honcho leading to the Libyan catastrophe, the US incursion into Africa, and growing US complicity in the destruction of another country, i.e. Syria. On the domestic front, she was the BFF of the corporate elite during her senatorial career. By choosing Hillary Clinton as the democratic presidential nominee, democrats abandoned their decades long traditional base – the American working class – and paid for it, particularly in the desecrated manufacturing centers in the rust belt; 2) leading congressional democrats in their perpetual search for new stashes of campaign funds invested heavily in the new cold war with its promise of lavish bounties for the military industrial complex particularly as NATO crept closer to eastern Europe (think Russia’s borders) and the accompanying hope that grateful corporations would refill depleted campaign treasuries; 3) Russian fear-mongering had the peripheral benefit of keeping the Bernie self-styled progressives and single payer advocates terrified of departing the democratic party.
Self-serving reasons to lead the dump Trump parade, but the prospects for successful execution look dubious when stacked up against a republican-controlled congress and a serious lack of evidence.
Beyond impeachment, the Russian bogeyman takes the heat off the unwillingness of do-nothing democrats to come to grips with real issues of race, class, and ecology plaguing America. Rising Russophobia, helped along by a solidly partisan media elite, has become the “cause celebre” of post-election news. Like the 1950s, when newspapers were leading the parade and an infant television media running to catch up, today, the drumbeat of a Communist witch hunt has overtaken all forms of the media from the “alternate” to the “mainstream,” and the public has followed. “Majority of Americans say Congress should probe contact between Trump, Russia: Poll –About half of Americans believe that Congress should investigate whether Donald Trump had contact with the Russian government in 2016…” [CNBC.com 2/24/2017]
Russia-bashing aside, have democrats learned anything from their 2016 electoral drubbing? Their rhetoric says yes– “We must convince Americans that government can be on their side and is not just a tool of special interests… we will make government the people’s champion, not captive to the powerful…the era of big corporate influence over government is over.” The facts tell a different story. This from Senator Schumer who is clearly more comfortable reassuring a collegial bunch of his bros than pacifying the “rabble.” Right after Wall Street tanked the economy forcing more than eleven million homeowners out in the street, the incredibly pompous Mr. Schumer reassured a bunch of Wall Street billionaires, including Henry Kravis, buyout billionaire extraordinaire: “We are not going to be a bunch of crazy, anti-business liberals… We are going to be effective, moderate advocates for sound economic policies, good responsible stewards you can trust.” What we got was not “sound economic policies” but Dodd-Frank, a bill written by corporate lobbyists for their clients.
To believe that “Russia’s disdain for democracy,” imperils America, one has to indulge in a willing suspension of disbelief that American democracy is not just another name for plutocracy. Even Thomas Jefferson, himself a card-carrying member of the plutocracy, couldn’t help but notice: (Y)ounger recruits, who having nothing in them of the feelings or principles of ’76 now look to a single and splendid government of an Aristocracy, founded on banking institutions and monied in corporations under the guise and cloak of their favored branches of manufactures commerce and navigation, riding and ruling over the plundered ploughman and beggared yeomanry.”
Sometimes a smoking gun is only smoke and mirrors.
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