In 1968, it appeared like the war in Vietnam was on the brink of resolution. After a laborious diplomatic effort the United States and their partner in the conflict, South Vietnam, sent an envoy to Paris to finalize a peace deal with the Communist-backed North Vietnamese (and Viet Cong).
Just three days before the deal was supposed to come to fruition, the South Vietnamese — without any real leverage to speak of — inexplicably backed out, stunning everyone involved. This reflected poorly on the Lyndon Johnson administration, who hoped the peace deal would help propel his Vice President and successor-to-be in the White House — Hubert Humphrey — during the final days of his campaign against Republican nominee Richard Nixon.
Alas, the deal fell through and the war waged on. It wouldn’t be until 1972 that America’s role in Vietnam finally came to a close, a regrettable and avoidable five-year window that would cost the lives of an additional 30,000-plus U.S. soldiers, as well as innumerable Vietnamese, Cambodians and Laotians.
Many years later, the mystery of why South Vietnam pulled out came to surface. Richard Nixon, who indeed went on to defeat Hubert Humphrey in November, 1968, was “at least since July [of the same year]” in secret talks with the autocratic regime of South Vietnam, and promised that if they backed out the Republicans would get them a better deal than the one the Democrats had in place.
This was explained in detail in Christopher Hitchens’ The Trial of Henry Kissinger, but what follows can serve as a small snippet:
A more wised-up age of investigative reporting has brought us several insights into this appalling episode. And so has the very guarded memoir of Richard Nixon himself. More than one “back channel” was required for the Republican destabilization of the Paris peace talks. There had to be secret communications between Nixon and the South Vietnamese, as we have seen. But there also had to be an informant inside the incumbent administration’s camp — a source of hints and tips and early warnings of official intentions. That informant was Henry Kissinger.
After Nixon was elected President, his first cabinet appointee was Kissinger to National Security Advisor. The rest is history.
In the business, this act is called “treason.” Nixon and Kissinger’s actions presented a legitimate case of colluding with a foreign power to undermine the United States. For what it’s worth, President Johnson was at the time aware of the secret operation. As Hitchens wrote, “In a conference call to the three [Presidential] candidates, Nixon, Humphrey and Wallace, [LBJ] had strongly implied that he knew about the covert efforts to stymie his Vietnam diplomacy.”
But Johnson decided not to bring those revelations to light. He feared, which in retrospect can either be viewed as magnanimous or cowardly, the public’s reaction to learning about the means by which he came upon the information. That is, LBJ had Nixon’s phone tapped. In 2018 the idea of the government bugging someone’s phone, or keeping records of someone’s Internet history, is accepted as second nature. (Thanks, Patriot Act!) But back in 1968, the United States government was not nearly as in-your-face about its spying capabilities, which is ultimately why Johnson chose the path of least resistance.
The humanitarian results that ensued were catastrophic. Under Nixon and Kissinger, the United States would continue their bombing and occupation of Southeast Asia, resulting in the needless deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians. They supported coups of democratically elected governments in Central and South America, Pakistan and Bangladesh, which included state-sponsored death squads that murdered and black-bagged countless political opponents and journalists. The disastrous effects of their foreign policy live on to this day, leaving an unalterable stain that America will frankly never recover from.
This is admittedly a bare bones description of what actually took place, but it happened nonetheless. A candidate for President from the opposition party deliberately, and in clandestine fashion, colluded with a foreign government to undermine the United States. Subsequently, South Vietnam removed itself from the bargaining table, the American electorate lost confidence in the Johnson administration (and by extension Hubert Humphrey) for failing to broker a peace treaty, and just like that Richard Nixon’s plan succeeded. A few days later he would be elected President of the United States.
I mention Nixon, and Kissinger, for they offer a clear example of treason. It’s important to keep in mind. Especially considering that, present day, much of the corporate media apparatus is trying to convince people that Donald Trump is guilty of the same type of thing — for his communications with Russia during his 2016 presidential campaign. Since the night of the election results, places like CNN and MSNBC have been pushing the narrative at high volume that the only reason Trump won was because of the Russians dipping their hands in America’s democracy.
I argue against this claim on multiple fronts, but I won’t deny that things are happening seemingly every day of the Mueller investigation. My main contention to the media coverage is the way it’s being presented, as if it is undeniable fact, which has led many people into believing like religion in a story that doesn’t come close to validating the claim that Trump only won because of collusion with the Russians. A small group of Russians obviously led some sort of propaganda campaign; Trump is obviously a rich and corrupt asshole who has no business being President; I can admit both of those truths, but that isn’t evidence for anything.
Part of the reason Russia Gate comes across as so flimsy is due to the receding potency of the words used to describe what actually took place. (To this point, “what actually took place” is unknown.) Right after the election people fatuously misused “treason” as to what Trump was guilty of, without any evidence beyond partisan gossip. Over the last 18 months, however, “treason” turned into “Russian collusion,” then “Russian collusion” morphed into “Russian meddling,” then “Russian meddling” dissolved into “Russian interference,” then “Russian interference” has apparently now become “Russian intrusion.” I’m not saying Trump isn’t guilty of something, somewhere within that wide range. I’m just asking why I should care, or what difference it makes in the struggle for the soul of the Democratic Party.
Democrats who don’t want to think critically about the direction of their Party, or its ineffectiveness at every level of government, want to project all their animus at Trump and Russia. They want to pretend that all of America’s problems are due to Donald Trump being President, and that the only reason he got there was because a foreign power paved the way.
There are questions, however, that the Russia Gate theory don’t explain. Among them are:
- Why didn’t Hillary Clinton visit Pennsylvania, Wisconsin or Michigan — three historically blue states that went Trump in ’16 — during her campaign?
- Clinton spent over a billion dollars on her campaign, out-raising Trump 2-to-1. Are Americans supposed to believe some Russian ads on Facebook were enough to make up the $500 million advertising advantage that the Democrats had?
- How is it that the United States, who meddles in foreign elections all the time, and supports coups of democratically elected foreign governments, can possibly cry foul at another country for doing the same thing to the U.S.?
- What do the Russian hacks actually tell us? They show Hillary Clinton basically owning and operating the DNC while she was in the middle of a supposedly “impartial” primary against Bernie Sanders. They show collusion between the DNC and various media members, such as MSNBC’s Chuck Todd and CNN’s Jake Tapper, about their coverage of Clinton and Sanders. Clinton says those revelations are “a Russian plot to help Trump,” but the reality is this: the Democratic National Committee is saying if he hadn’t been caught lying, and cheating, it would right now be running the country.
People can claim that Russia is the reason Clinton lost and Trump won, but to get someone like me on board they have to address the questions I just laid out. To this point, there haven’t been valid explanations to any of those challenges. It’s just been more of the same excuses for what’s to blame for the Democrats’ embarrassing failure to defeat the most unpopular candidate to ever run for President.
Further, even if Russia Gate is true to the maximum extent — where it can be proved that they hacked electronic voting booths, where dozens of people end up going to prison — what does it change about the direction of the Democratic Party? Is it not in the same position, with the same party division, that it’s already in?
Russia Gate is beltway tabloid gossip, something for Washington journalists and pundits to talk about, a story for old people to clutch their pearls to while they watch the evening news. But away from establishment insiders, the voices of everyday people have been drowned out. It’s hard to imagine a worker making $30,000 a year (the average American income), who is worried about feeding his or her kids and paying the rent every month, giving a shit about Trump and Russia. At just about every level Russia is a losing issue for the Democrats, because it doesn’t solve anything and doesn’t give disenfranchised voters the motivation to mobilize.
It’s fishy the lengths that Democratic leadership have gone to focus on Russia, all the while ignoring the everyday problems of ordinary people. It would be one thing if they were opposing Trump on multiple fronts, on the one hand caring about the Mueller investigation, on the other trying to better the lives of poor people. As it stands, though, they have put all their eggs into Russia. And the thing they happen to oppose even more than Donald Trump are the Progressive challengers — who support policies that raise the floor of the working class — who are threatening to unseat them in the Democratic primaries.
So yeah, none of their story checks out. And, as I’ve mentioned, even if it were true, it doesn’t change that the business model of the Democratic Party has proven to be a top-down failure, and that party leadership seems totally disinterested in rectifying the matter. Given all of that, the most logical conclusion to draw is that Democrats are merely trying to run out the clock on the Trump Presidency. That he will do such a bad job that voters will be forced to come out and put a Democrat in office in 2020.
I’m not a political genius, but I think that’s a recipe to repeat what happened in 2016. I don’t have the spine to say that Trump will win again. I’m just relaying the message that Democrats are seriously playing with fire if they back another run of the mill corporate candidate and expect a different result. The momentum of the party is, at the moment, on the side of Progressives. The Progressives are the ones with the new ideas, the ideas that can attract people to get out and vote. Democratic leadership doesn’t appear interested in unifying behind those ideas, and as a result they are going to wonder why the American public isn’t all that enthused about what they stand for.
Russia is a real topic of conversation, but I have my doubts that the inevitable punishments will ever warrant the relentless coverage the story has received. The journalists and anchors who have made it their life’s mission to bring down Donald Trump, in any conceivable way, are consciously neglecting the real issues that affect people. And in the grand scheme, where Democrats are trying to win elections, the politics of being anti-Trump and pushing the Russia saga pale in popularity to offering people Medicare For All, or increasing the minimum wage.
I’m going to die on this hill, the one that is screaming out to the Democrats to take advantage of this once in a lifetime opportunity. Trump is an easy guy to beat in an election, and an even easier guy to hate while he’s in office. But rather than attacking him vis à vis Russia, people should be uniting being ideas.
Being against someone doesn’t take any guts. It’s what you are for that people will rally behind.