Monday, June 26, 2017
"I know you are but what am I" is not presidential
|Has anyone noticed the picture Trump has on his twitter page is a huge crowd dressed in red with arms stretched out in Nazi salutes?|
I wrote about Trump's "I know you are but what am I" gambit for Salon this morning:
In the wake of the big Washington Post report last week chronicling the Obama administration's responses to the Russian interference in the presidential campaign, Donald Trump finally admitted that it happened. Well, sort of. He did it the only way he could that would make him feel comfortable: passing the buck. In one of his greatest acts of chutzpah yet, Trump attacked Obama for failing to stop the Russian government from helping him win the election.
Then he seemed lose himself for a moment and just tweeted out in all caps MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!
It's tempting to think this was all just Trump needing to vent on twitter (not that that is an acceptable practice for the President of the United States) but it appears to be the official White House strategy. Kelly Ann Conway echoed his line on Sunday Morning:
“It's the Obama administration that was responsible for doing absolutely nothing from August to January with the knowledge that Russia was hacking into our election. They did absolutely nothing. They're responsible for this...I have a hacking question for the Obama administration: Why did you, quote, choke, in the name of one of their senior administration officials? Why did you do nothing? Why didn't you inform candidate Trump?”
Trump himself went on Fox and said, “Well I just heard today for the first time that Obama knew about Russia a long time before the election, and he did nothing about it. The CIA gave him information on Russia a long time before the election. … If he had the information, why didn't he do something about it? He should have done something about it. But you don’t read that. It’s quite sad.”
That's crazy talk. The whole world knew about it on June 14, 2016 when the Washington Post first reported that Russian actors had hacked the DNC. And Donald Trump certainly knew about it at least as early as July 27th when he said, "They hacked—they probably have her 33,000 emails. I hope they do. Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing."
In the first presidential debate in September, Trump memorably responded to Hillary Clinton's assertion that the Russians had interfered by saying, "I don't think anybody knows it was Russia that broke into the DNC. She's saying Russia, Russia, Russia, but I don't—maybe it was. I mean, it could be Russia, but it could also be China. It could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, OK?"
And as for Conway's obnoxious question about why the Obama administration didn't inform candidate Trump, well they did. After that contentious debate exchange NBC News reported:
During Sunday’s debate, Donald Trump once again said he doesn’t know whether Russia is trying to hack the U.S. election, despite Friday’s statement by the U.S. intelligence community pointing the finger at Putin –- and despite the fact that Trump was personally briefed on Russia’s role in the hacks by U.S. officials.
A senior U.S. intelligence official assured NBC News that cybersecurity and the Russian government’s attempts to interfere in the 2016 election have been briefed to, and discussed extensively with, both parties’ candidates, surrogates and leadership, since mid-August. "To profess not to know at this point is willful misrepresentation,” said the official. “The intelligence community has walked a very thin line in not taking sides, but both candidates have all the information they need to be crystal clear."
His rejection of this information has continued for months with tweets about the Russia scandal like this:
“a lame excuse for why the Dems lost the election”
“fabricated by Dems as an excuse for losing the election”
“taxpayer funded charade”
“a total hoax”
“an excuse used by the Democrats as justification for losing the election”
“A total scam!”
These statements were all made since he became president. The only one failing to inform him is himself. And his persistent unwillingness to criticize Vladimir Putin or even admit that it's happening has created an overwhelming suspicion that he's hiding something.
None of this is to say that President Obama and his administration made the right decision by not taking action earlier. The Washington Post article is fairly damning on that count. And as Julia Ioffe observed in this article in the Atlantic, it might have made a difference in another way if the administration had done before the election what it did afterwards:
When Obama did make the attack public, the amount of panic and political dust kicked up by the release of the intelligence report in January, along with the congressional investigations it triggered, proved debilitating for Russian ambitions. The Russians lost their main ally in the White House, Michael Flynn, who was pushing President Trump to unilaterally lift Russia sanctions.
It's doubtful that alone would have altered the outcome of the race. We know that the Republican leadership was happy for the Russian government to help their team get elected and they would have dismissed any public actions as dirty partisan pool. But it is possible that it might have made the Russian government pull back from the brink and think better of making such an audacious move.
It's likely that the administration thought Clinton was a lock and that they could deal with it properly after the election. That was very bad judgment. They should have known that in a year in which the Republican Party had 17 (mostly) qualified candidates and yet they nominated Donald Trump, anything could happen.
Blaming Obama for the Russian hacking will probably convince most of Trump's voters that he's off the hook. They'll believe anything. But that won't solve his problem. Thanks to his own clumsy, self-destructive attempts get the investigation into the interference quashed he's now the subject of a criminal inquiry. Tweeting in so many words, "I know you are but what am I" isn't going to change that.
This is the worst case of "I know you are but what am I" in American political history but it's quite clever. It's leaving Democrats disoriented and the media bewildered.
Haberman claims that this is a technique Trump uses in order to make deals --- be on all sides of an issue.
He didn't do more but if he had the Trump campaign would have complained that he was meddling in the campaign.That's why they didn't do more.
Is he going to stick to the new line that the Russians did interfere? Who knows.
Talked himself into corner... did it happen or didn't it?
If it was real now they are going to have to back sanctions he's going to have to change his tune. Totally reversed himself.
digby 6/26/2017 09:00:00 AM