Tuesday, May 21, 2019

What the Council on Foreign Relations Thinks About the Mueller Report

Foreign Affairs published by the Council on Foreign Relations has an essay out, American Hustle: What Mueller Reveals About Trump and Russia
By Stephen Kotkin.

Below is the summary that the CFR is emailing. The summary nails it.

“Trump’s rise looks like a great American hustle,” writes Princeton University’s Stephen Kotkin in a pre-released article from the July/August Foreign Affairs. Describing Robert Mueller’s report “like a crime thriller” that “brims with shady characters, and true to form, some of them beat the rap,” Kotkin finds that “they’ve gotten away with it owing not to their criminal ingenuity,” but due to “a pitiful yet accurate exculpation: not guilty by reason of ineptitude.”

“Ultimately, what have we learned?” Kotkin asks. “The report might seem merely to recapitulate, albeit in more granular detail, what we already knew. But in fact, it contains an enormous surprise. A few observers, myself included, had long assumed that during the 2016 campaign, Russians who were operating at the behest of the Kremlin (or were seeking to ingratiate themselves with it) were not trying to collude with the Trump campaign. Rather, they were trying to gain unfettered access to the campaign’s internal communications in order to obtain operational secrets and compromising material (kompromat) on Trump and his people or to implicate them in illegal acts.”

“So imagine my astonishment when I read in Mueller’s report that Russians approaching the Trump campaign could not figure out whom to contact, who was in charge, or who mattered,” Kotkin writes. “The reality was that no one was in charge and no one mattered except Trump. . . . But the Russians essentially failed to gain access to him, even when the campaign and the White House flung open the doors.”

“This is the report’s great revelation: Putin supposedly could help get Trump elected but could not talk to him,” notes Kotkin. “Putin and his operatives appear to have been no more prepared for Trump’s victory than Trump and his people were,” and “Trump world may be too disorganized to manipulate. But Russian

Kotkin argues, “The American public needs to understand not only what the Russians did but also what they did not do. Russia did not choose the respective party’s presidential candidates, and it did not invent the Electoral College. Clinton ran the only possible Democratic campaign that could have lost, and Trump ran the only possible Republican campaign that could have won. Whatever the marginal impact of Russia’s actions, it was made possible only by crucial actions and inactions in which Russia was never involved.”

“The phantasm of an all-powerful, all-controlling, irredeemably evil Kremlin has diverted too much attention from Americans’ own failings, and their duties to rectify them,” writes Kotkin. “In the United States, the obsession with Russian interference and the madcap speculation that Trump is a Kremlin asset have helped occlude many of the domestic problems that made Trump’s homegrown victory possible.”

“Among the more comical fulminations has been the claim that the Russians further polarized Americans. In reality, during the 2016 campaign, U.S. citizens created and shared far more divisive material online than the Russians ever could—and American journalists lucratively disseminated even more.”

Mueller’s “chronicle of prevarication, moral turpitude, and incompetence is dispiriting, but his presentation of rigorous legal reasoning and strict adherence to statutes, case law, and procedural rules is inspiring. The text serves as an x-ray, revealing a venal politician and a corrupt political system. At the same time, it embodies many of the values that make the United States great: integrity, meticulousness, professionalism, public service, and the rule of law.”

Kotkin concludes, “notwithstanding the unmet, unrealistic expectations of the Mueller report, the Trumpian moment is an opportunity. The best of the United States is there to be rediscovered, reinvented, and repositioned for the challenges the country faces. . . . Trump’s instinctive exploitation of Washington’s recent failures offers an emphatic reminder that the country must attend to those elements of American greatness. At a high cost, Trump could nonetheless be a gift, if properly understood.”

The full article is here.

1 comment:

  1. ---"At a high cost, Trump could nonetheless be a gift, if properly understood." ---

    Oh, he's a gift all right. Like syphilis.

    ---"Trump world may be too disorganized to manipulate [...] The text serves as an x-ray, revealing a venal politician and a corrupt political system."---

    We should find comfort in the final realization that the ignorant fool in the presidential seat and the creepy, corrupt or downright incompetent minions that surround him aren't there because of anything the Russians did. It's entirely the fault of voters. MAGA!