The mainstream media is an accomplice in the Clinton campaign’s diversion from her e-mail scandal to Donald Trump’s alleged crude behavior. As the generally anti-Trump Wall Street Journal puts it: “It’s almost impossible to turn on the TV without hearing about Trump’s ‘lewd’ comments while coverage of Hillary uniformly ignores the flurry of bombshells inherent in the various WikiLeaks, FOIA releases and FBI interviews.” Do any questions of media bias remain after this election?
The media’s justification for ignoring bombshell leaks is that the Kremlin orchestrated the hacks as part of a campaign to elect Donald Trump; therefore, the press should ignore information, even if true, with such unsavory origins. Meanwhile the holier-than-though media rushed to publish a stolen Trump partial tax return (Another third-rate burglary by an overzealous campaign team? I guess no one cares) and to give an open mic to unvetted women lining up to accuse Trump of groping.
After categorically denying hacking U.S. politicians and organizations, Putin and his spokespersons are now claiming that nothing has been proven so far.
The Russian media also enjoy directing jabs at Hillary: One of the Kremlin’s favorite outlets reminds readers that, if anyone has expressed sympathy for Putin and the Kremlin in the past, it is Clinton not her alleged pro-Kremlin rival. An obscure Russian website (a preferred vehicle for such Kremlin messages) earlier described the Kremlin buying off the Podesta brothers (John is Hillary’s campaign manager) to avoid “having all its eggs in one basket.” Like businessman Trump says: The system is rigged. You have to pay both sides to win. Why shouldn’t the Kremlin play the same game, they ask? Russian commentators also deride prudish America for allowing the subject of potty-mouth talk to dominate a national election. They ask: And these are the people who are supposed to lead the free world?
For Putin, the Hillary Clinton e-mail scandal has been a gift that keeps on giving and will do so long into her term if she is elected. Putin has just engineered a parliamentary election that gave his party an outright majority, but the Russian economy is in its third year of recession with no growth in sight, living standards are collapsing, defense spending continues to increase while pensioners do not receive cost-of-living increases. Putin faces reelection in 2018.
As a consequence, Putin and his government are suffering at long last a visible loss of public confidence, and Putin’s claim to legitimacy has been his high political ratings. But now only 26 percent of Russians trust their government, a huge drop from 45 percent last year, and only 22 percent have faith in the Duma, Russia’s parliament. Less than 10 percent of Russians have faith in the courts. A large 74 percent of Russians trust Putin, but that’s down from 80 percent a year ago.
Putin has few tricks left up his sleeve to halt ratings declines. He cannot promise prosperity; he cannot promise costless military victories as in Crimea. Rather he must resort to the Soviet-era practice of showing that things are worse elsewhere. What a serendipity for him that the U.S. election is being fought in the gutter and that the favored candidate is called “crooked Hillary” by her opponent. The WikiLeaks revelations, so far, lend credence to this nickname.
Among the early defenses of Hillary’s homebrew server was that hackers can hack anything. No secrets are safe; therefore, Hillary was not extremely careless in insisting on a private server for conducting official State Department business. This argument appears to be false. Among the thousands of e-mails that have been dumped, as far as I can see, none originated from a .gov or .mil server. On the other hand, hackers have been able to penetrate DNC and inner-circle private servers with ease as the massive WikiLeaks dump demonstrates. According to the scandal timeline, hackers had almost two years of access to Clinton’s largely unprotected server before the 33,000 “personal” e-mails were eradicated. Surely a hostile power has them.
The massive e-mail cache that Hillary ordered destroyed almost a year ago remains one of the last great mysteries of the WikiLeaks scandal. These very documents are surely in the possession of foreign powers, and may contain harmful, embarrassing, or incriminating material that still has the potential to alter the outcome of the 2016 election or her conduct as U.S. president.So far, none of Hillary’s “personal” e-mails have been released. If they are in the possession of Russia or other hostile powers, they may be released before the election, if the hostile powers consider that could change the election result. Or the hostile power may decide to hold the 33,000 e-mails for a drip-drip release throughout a Clinton presidency. This Chinese water torture would weaken Clinton, make her the subject of congressional investigations and Freedom of Information requests. A Putin could perhaps have what he wants — a severely weakened Hillary Clinton as U.S. president. He might enjoy that more than a Trump presidency.
P.S. My advice on a cyber counter-attack: Expose Putin and his inner-circle’s hidden wealth. Do not do anything that would inflict damage on the Russian people. That would only strengthen Putin and his cronies.
— Paul Roderick Gregory is a fellow at the Hoover Institution. He is a professor of economics at the University of Houston, a research associate at the German Institute for Economic Research, and an emeritus chair of the international advisory board of the Kiev School of Economics