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Monday, April 3, 2017


I am genuinely puzzled by something.  Let me explain.  I have a number times written about Trump’s links to Russia, as well as the links to Russia of many in his campaign.  Just yesterday I described the FBI investigation as dealing with treason, no less.  In response to my remarks, a number of commentators on this blog have written long rebuttals emphasizing the lack of the sort of hard, irrefutable evidence one would need in order to get a conviction in court.  At least one commentator has described me as having been taken in by anti-Russia hysteria being pushed by centrist Clintonite Democrats.  I was counseled to recall that one must be presumed innocent until proven guilty. Okay.  I freely acknowledge that I have no direct knowledge of the sort one could present in court.  All of my opinions are based on circumstantial evidence and hearsay twice removed, as it were.

But these same people seem not to have adopted this evidentiary stance when discussing the alleged corruptions and other evils of the Clintons.  Why not?  I don’t know.

Now, let me be clear.  I hold the Clintons to the same standard to which I hold Trump.  Do I think it is significant that Hillary Clinton gave richly compensated speeches to Wall Street firms?  You bet.  Do I believe she was in the tank, as they say, for Wall Street?  Yup.  Do I also think Trump is in the tank for Putin?  I do, on the basis of roughly the same sort of public information.  Do I hope that Trump is revealed to have been literally paid off by Putin?  I certainly do.  Is there a difference?  I think so.  The Clintons are, as it were, ideologically aligned with Wall Street.  They were not simply bought off.  Absent those fat honoraria, they still would have parroted Wall Street’s line.  But Trump, I believe, has no ideological alignment at all.  He really is just bought and paid for.  Is one worse than the other?  Not necessarily. 

So maybe someone will explain to me why the difference.  How come the exquisite jurisprudential nicety when talking about Trump and the easy rush to judgment when talking about Clinton?


Jerry Fresia said...

Given that I'm one of the people troubled by Russia-gate, I will respond, at least for myself.

For me the issue has nothing to do with jurisprudential nicety; the issue is about the Democratic Party and it's failure to address the needs of the growing impoverishment of Americans. Bill Clinton, Obama, and Hillary Clinton along with their co-horts failed miserably in attending to basic needs of low-income American people (even with regard to LGBT issues and I know Tobias disagrees, they were not leaders). HRC lost the election largely because she, much like Obama and Bill, campaigned in the neo-liberal vain. Don't believe me; just look at the near collapse of the Democratic Party over the last 8 years. Or read Thomas Frank, who's no radical.

So might the leading Dems engage in some soul-searching and a course correction? Nope. The Russians did it. And what is so annoying about this trope is 1) there's no evidence YET, 2) there was zero concern among leading Dems over the integrity of our elections (think interstate cross-checking, exit polls and all the rest), and 3) now our BFF are the CIA and the security state. Huh?

Over at MS-DNC, Rachel, just about every night, talks about the "Russian attack on our elections." (They pay her $7 million BTW). Don't change a thing; just blame the Russians is the liberal elite mantra. And because the evidence is so paltry at this point, one has to really scratch one's head. What is going on? Is all of this a distraction from an appreciation of what the Democratic has become? I do not hear the liberal elite, once again, talking economic insecurity, white working class suicide, people who are retiring with only $50 in the bank and so on. The growing immiseration of America (and this includes the growing poverty among women and children and the militarization of the inner city) is the number one issue confronting progressives who wish to transform the Trump situation into a new era of human decency. And instead all we hear nightly, daily, and nightly again is how the Russians attacked our elections.

Maybe they did but I don't trust the CIA or all the frauds running the surveillance state so do you think corporate journalists could exhibit a modicum of independence and say, "Enough already. Where's the evidence. Really?!"

I will skip the hypocrisy issue. My issues with Hillary were not about her emails or the corruption of their foundation. As with Obama, the EU, the IMF, and finance capital, it is about neoliberalism and having no major political party that speaks for me.

And if I could frame Trump to get him out of there I would. No legal niceties from this quarter.

Anonymous said...

Dear Prof. Wolff

Let's suppose he is bought. What do you think is Mr. Putin's request from Mr. Trump? To have a more reasonable foreign policy?

GWF Hegel said...

Dear Prof. Wolff

Let's suppose he is bought. What do you think is Mr. Putin's request from Mr. Trump? To have a more reasonable foreign policy?

Robert Paul Wolff said...

More reasonable? That is not a category that applies to foreign relations. No, Putin wants a free hand in re-incorporating as much of Eastern Europe as he can into Russia, he wants the collapse of the European Union, he would dearly love a rise in the price of oil, etc etc. What does reasonableness have to do with anything? Lord knows, reasonableness does not determine American foriegn policy, why should it determine Russian foreign policy? This is noit a high school civics class.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Jerry, I agree with everything you say. I just don't see what it has to do with my pleasure at the prospect of Trump's downfall. Maybe it is just that in this world, I am a Tigger and you are an Eeyore.

Chris said...

You're literally making me depressed. This is a complete straw man of my position (and other posters) on the Clintons. When I and others lambasted her, it wasn't due to presumed guilt in the middle of an investigation, about said investigation. It was due to things we could DIRECTLY point to contained in her e-mails (thanks to wikileaks), and policies. Clinton meeting with super PACs, rigging the election, cheering closed primary voting, fornicating with bankers, laughing off progressives, appointing big donors to state level positions, etc etc etc., are all OUT IN THE OPEN EMPIRICAL FACTS NOT UNDER INVESTIGATION.

Whereas, the guilt right now placed on Trump is not an empirical fact and it is contingent upon him being found guilty.

Do you really not see the difference? Could you please, please, please, stop painting your critics into a straw man position?

What's even more jarring is the inversion of your own view. When Clinton was under investigation you were SILENT. When Trump is under investigation you're vocal. That's hypocritical. But to lambast Clinton for facts we can point to, not under investigation, is not.

Always fraternal (but depressed),

Chris said...

You're the best, and I would like to subscribe to your newsletter :)

GWF Hegel said...

Do you agree to these two proposititons:

Better relations, that is more peaceful, cooperative, etc., with Russia are possible?
Current US foreign policy is not in the interest of the citizens of the US?

I would call a change from this reasonable.

The new cold warriors say: Putin wants this Putin wants that... Are these facts or is this what they want us to believe?

GWF Hegel said...

Are better relations, that is more peaceful, cooperative, etc., with Russia and other nations impossible?
Is the current US foreign policy in the interest of the citizens of the US?
I think improvement is possible.

Putin wants this, Putin wants that... Are these facts, or is this what the new cold warriors want us to believe?

LFC said...

I have never held the Clintons to a different evidentiary standard than Trump. You will not find, I believe, a single comment where I have done that.

For the record, I voted for H.R.C., and in a solidly 'blue' state where she didn't even need my vote.

Jerry Fresia said...


Misunderstanding. It has nothing to do with your's (and my) pleasure at the prospect of Trump's downfall and as I implied previously, even if what the Dems have a sneaky plan to remove him - I'm in favor their efforts.

What troubles me is that the Clinton-Obama-Pelosi-Schumer leadership fear (according to Thomas Frank) that the Dem Party might be taken over by "New" New Dealers.

Meanwhile, a huge segment of essentially exploited non-citizens who are probably waiting for a hand from DC get nothing but lip service from both wings of the one party. THEREFORE, I'm afraid that the Dem leadership is using Russia-gate to avoid talking about how and why the Dem party is thoroughly wedded to neo-liberalsim and doesn't want what you and I would think is a victory. The fact that the Correspondence Dinner-media has lost their minds, demands no evidence, makes friends with the surveillance state, helps to intensify the Cold War/expansion of NATO makes it look as though Lockheed and Raytheon are running the show.

In any case, I would love to enjoy Trump's down fall along with you. My money is on the sex tape. Good luck with the 2nd lecture; looking forward to it; looks like Freud made be essential to understanding Marcuse.

Guy Tennenbaum said...

Jerry writes that Tobias Barrington Wolff disagrees with him on the record of Obama and the Clintons vis-a-vis LGBT issues. Yet yesterday on his Facebook page, T.B. Wolff wrote: "Lots of gay, lesbian and bisexual voters stuck with President Clinton because of some symbolic gestures, a few modest advances and the promise that he was in their corner even as he screwed them over big stuff, and many still love him." Now I'm sure T.B. Wolff's estimation of Obama is higher, which is only right because Obama really was better than Clinton in that regard, even if he wasn't exactly a "leader" on gay marriage.

The overarching thesis of Russia-gate critics seems to be that the Left has been so traumatized by the election that they've suffered a psychic break with reality, rather like Blanche DuBois at the end of A Streetcar Named Desire. Time will tell if they're right. However, I think the available evidence is compelling. Yesterday Jerry wrote that all we've seen so far is evidence of billionaires cozying up to Russian oligarchs -- nothing out of the ordinary. But taking into account the the record of someone like Paul Manafort, there does seems to be a good deal more than just the ordinary machinations of international finance.

Another popular claims is that corporate Dems are eager for a Russia scandal to be their dues ex machina, whisking T***p away and allowing them to reinstate their normal operations. They haven't learned a thing.

I'm more hopeful. I think the events of the past year do portend a positive change for the Democratic party. Having come of age in the 90s and 00s, I honestly never thought that I'd live to see a Sanders-style critique of neoliberalism become part of mainstream political discourse. And yet it has. Let's pause to appreciate this: Someone whose domestic policies are basically in line with Noam Chomsky is now invited to preside at hour-long town halls broadcast on CNN. How is this not progress?

I suppose all this means that I'm sanguine about the power of the wicked Clinton-Schumer-Pelosi axis to quash the incipient progressive movement. The tectonic plates area already in motion; the ruling class will have to adjust somehow. (And "tectonic plates" is just a metaphor, of course -- the struggle for change must be an act of collective willing.)

Take healthcare.

A few days ago Sanders was on Anderson Cooper saying that single-payer healthcare "ain't gonna happen right now" simply because we don't have the support in Congress. And so, he said, while we continue "long-term struggle" for universal healthcare, we should work toward the near-term goal of a public option, which is politically feasible.

Sanders seems to me exactly right on this score. And keep in mind that in 2009 the public option was decried as socialism by many Democrats. By 2016 even Hillary Clinton was loudly supporting it. And as the recent debacle over T***pcare shows, the public has moved toward acceptance of something like universal access to affordable healthcare. Again, this seems to me like progress.

Guy Tennenbaum said...

With regard to the behavior of MSNBC, there was a long stretch of time when that network wasn't giving much coverage at all to the Russia story. Nor was any other network for that matter. Then came the Flynn and Sessions revelations, plus a slew of other clues falling into place (like confirmation of aspects of the Steele dossier.) This story seems well worth pursuing.

If anyone thought that after the election MSBC would suddenly become the Poverty in America Network, devoting twenty-minute segments to white working class suicides, they were fooling themselves. No one would watch, and in any case that's just not how corporate media works.

However, the Obamacare repeal effort did get an enormous amount of coverage, and by and large journalists seem to do an adequate job of explaining how disastrous the Republican plan would be. In particular, Rachel Maddox did a nice segment at the top of her show linking the popular opposition to T***pcare to the resistance movements we've seen on the streets and in town halls.

Also, why have people settled on this narrative that the so-called president won because of his economic message?

In fact, exit polls from almost all the Rust Belt states showed that Clinton won handily among voters who cited the economy as their top concern. (The exception was Iowa, where she and T***p tied). In Wisconsin, she won by 11 points! Now guess which candidate won overwhelmingly among voters who cited terrorism and immigration as their number one issue. Go on, guess.

But perhaps it isn't surprising that these facts have been suppressed, given that denialism is as common with racism as with sexual abuse.

Guy Tennenbaum said...

Finally, I can't help pointing out the delicious irony in Chris gushingly saying he wants to subscribe to Jerry's newsletter.

Jerry just said that he would be willing to frame T***p (illegal) in order to remove him, a democratically elected official, from office.

Yet a few weeks ago, when I said that I would have swept the DNC/Podesta emails under the rug if given the chance (not illegal), he screamed that I was a FACIST!


Chris said...

Nothing delicious about it. Every newsletter I do subscribe to isn't 100% in agreement with me. Yeah, you're still an anti-democratic heathen. Jerry seems closer to a leninist. Prefer his newsletter.

Guy Tennenbaum said...

I much prefer "heathen" to "facist" -- in fact I relish it. As for "anti-democratic," well, if you ever decide to read Lieter's paper, you'll see he addresses that charge.