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Barr-bed Wire: A Framing Puzzle

2 May

Barr-bed Wire: A Puzzle


In the tidal waves of mainstream coverage of the Barr Performance(stonewalling; no show; legalistic hairsplitting; evasion and lies), there is a huge elephant in the room that as far as I can tell has been ignored:




This seems to have been Russia’s sole motive in trying to steer as many votes as possible to Trump. This made sense from the Kremlin’s point of view. After all, Hillary Clinton was supported by the American national security establishment, including self-described lifelong

Republicans, principally because she favored confrontation with Moscow over

a range of issues, including Crimea and Ukraine. Many of us feared her political

leadership was likely to produce a new cold war, or worse, especially as coupled

with her consistent support for regime-changing interventions in the Arab World

(Iraq, Libya). Despite my fears about Clinton’s foreign policy I voted for her in the end as the lesser evil, given Trump’s mean-spirited xenophobia masquerading as patriotism and his demagogic political style with its pre-fascist overtones.


I can understand why Republicans want to ignore such a framing of inquiry so as to invert the drama by calling for an investigation of Clinton’s wrongful use of a private computer to transmit classified material or to scrutinize the employment of a retired British intelligence agent to compile anti-Trump material. Obviously, the Clinton concern was prompted by this realization that the Russians were doing whatever they could to help Trump. It was hardly credible that she would have taken such a step had Russia been on her side, or that her level of indignation about meddling would have been active given her own support for U.S. efforts to influence the outcome of elections in more than one hundred countries. Indeed, indirectly, the Republicans are shrewd to attempt to shift the focus away from this underlying reality as at some point journalists are almost bound to contextualize the whole Barr/Mueller melodrama in relation to Russian support for Trump. Underneath such a question is a host of questions lying beneath a rock too volcanic to move. Among the most sensitive are questions bearing on the legitimacy of the 2016 elections. Remember that Clinton won the popular vote by almost three million, and that the electoral college outcome favorable to Trump depended on exceedingly close votes in several large mid-Western states. Is it too great a stretch to conjecture that without Russian meddling, Clinton would today be the American president This seems to me to be the unasked question no self-respecting democracy can indefinitely ignore, however much Republicans prevaricate and Democrats lie low.


Yet while Republican tactics are reprehensible from perspective of constitutionalism and the rule of law, they make sense from the perspective of partisan politics in a winner-take-most in a highly polarized society. But why have not the Republicans framed their concerns around the report of the Special Counsel as presented by Barr in light of this contaminating feature. Surely, Clinton’s efforts were motivated by the knowledge that Moscow wanted Trump to win, and was doing its best to make this happen. By collecting information that showed Trump to be vulnerable to Russian pressures, or in league somehow with Putin, was both a rather natural defensive move but it was also an effort parallel to that of the FBI to investigate whether this kind of convergence could be viewed as a criminal conspiracy. Even if the elements of a conspiracy could not be established to the satisfaction of Mueller, that is, beyond a reasonable doubt, surely investigating whether there was such illicit cooperation was quite appropriate. The FBI, at its highest levels, even wondered whether Trump was a Russian agent. That such an outlandish possibility was even plausible, suggests the extremity of the situation.


Perhaps, the Democratic leadership regards it as too unpredictably disruptive to raise questions at this time about the 2016 election, especially as its 20+ candidates are jostling for right to challenge Trump in 2020. But why not back Barr into a corner by so framing their concern about misrepresenting the Special Counsel investigation of collusion and obstruction? This reality of Russia acting on its support of Trump is something beyond the abstract allegation of messing with the American electoral process. Such meddling should be resisted and prohibited as part of protecting the political integrity of sovereign states, but like espionage, it is both a crime and a practice ingrained in the habitual behavior of geopolitics. In most instances, the motivations for such covert intervention are to promote electoral results compatible with strategic goals, including economic advantages and geopolitical alignment. In a few instances, such interference is motivated by a genuine interest in preventing dangerous demagogues from gaining power, both for the sake of stable international relations and to uphold human rights. In this Russian instance, the principal goal seems to have been to defeat a hostile political figure from mounting the throne, but at the cost of promoting a menacing demagogue.


Of course, it is not too late to illuminate the national debate on Trump and Russia around this defining issue. With the totalizing mainstream media coverage, erasing all else that is going on in this country and around the world, such an oversight, if this is what it is, should be as alarming as an Attorney General that surrounds uncomfortable truths with Barr-bed wire!