The New York Times posted an article on Donald Trump to its website today, Saturday, Dec. 10, about 1 p.m. It’s headlined “Trump, Mocking Claim That Russia Hacked Election, at Odds with GOP” and is written by David Sanger accompanied with a photo of Trump at a Grand Rapids, Michigan, rally yesterday by Doug Mills.
Below lies the link to the version curated by MSN:
Several problems raise their ugly heads in the headline and the article. First, let me deal with a few points of what I think is reasonable agreement.
I do not want any country to be able to hack our public or private computers or to affect our lives, including our electoral lives. Don’t want anybody messing with my vote!
I doubt President-Elect Trump wants Russian President Vladimir Putin or his intelligence/cyberwarfare agencies to be able to hack the U.S. That would be inconsistent with his message of America First and his desire to win at everything.
Thirdly, at least at this point, the intelligence assessment seems to be, if we can rely on The Times article, that despite the alleged Russian hacks, the electoral process itself, and thus the election, was not tampered with.
The principal claim appears to be that a hack or hacks of the Democratic National Committee emails occurred, the hacker(s) sent many of them to Wikileaks, who in turn released them to the public.
The emails from the DNC that Wikileaks released contained material that cast several Democrats, including their candidate, Hillary Clinton, in a dark light by showing their true, but negative, opinions of several groups, including blacks, Muslims, and Catholics, showing collusion with the press that was cheating, and revealing Clinton’s self-described “private” and “public” selves, as she showed Wall Street high rollers her “private” self in confidence. Think of “private” and “public” selves as two faces.
We don’t know whether the revelations that sprang from the hack(s) changed any votes, and if so, how many. It is reasonable to assume that at least some people changed their votes. Whether the revelations changed the outcome of the election may never be known. Again, if I read The Times correctly, the groups of officials mentioned seem to think not, but they do take the Russian threat seriously.
The flip side to that is the concern I have as a voter about the ability of candidates and their campaigns to utterly lie and deceive us about who they are and what they stand for, and the ability of the press to aid and abet the side of its choosing, as it did raucously for Hillary in this 2016 presidential campaign, chief among them The New York Times.
That conjunction of candidate deception backed by press partiality also destroys the electoral process and our republican democracy. In that light, release of material from the hack(s), while illegal, did help voters. The help was incomplete because no hack(s) of the other party’s computers with subsequent revelations happened.
Reasonably, we must say that with the election over we are facing more imminent dangers to our cybersecurity and national security than the hack of the DNC. As a body of citizens and as freedom-loving individuals, we must improve our cybersecurity all around. However, our country’s defense and intelligence agencies need to focus on the hydra-headed national security threats from despotic nuclear powers, like Russia and Red China, nuclear power aspirants under autocratic or theocratic tyranny, like Iran and North Korea, and maniacal Muslim terrorist organizations, like ISIS, that seek to arm themselves with the deadliest weapons possible to murder civilians and destroy everyday life in the Middle East and in the West.
Trump reflects the desire to make our intelligence agencies the best and to give them the most effective and technologically advanced tools to be the best. He challenges them to be better than they have been.
Most Americans want to win the economic and political wars we fight to sustain our own liberty and to offer it around the world to those who want the same.
With all that said, let’s analyze The Times article. First we have the headline, “Trump, Mocking Claim That Russia Hacked Election, at Odds with GOP”. The first thing to correct The Times on is that no one hacked the “election”. You can’t hack elections. You can hack computers. No election computers were hacked, at least no reports have stated such that I’ve heard. A DNC server or computer was hacked, or perhaps more than one. By Sanger’s own reporting, intelligence agencies did not and still do not think the outcome was affected. So no “election” has been hacked and no one was saying it was for the story.
Second, The Times declares in the headline that Trump is “at odds” with the GOP. Really? Is Trump at odds with the entire GOP, all registered GOP voters, all party and elected officials? If not, do we know what percentage of the GOP with which he is at odds? The Times article mentions two important House Republicans and Senator John McCain, who’s had an acrimonious relationship with Mr. Trump. The two House Republicans want deep investigations and a detailed report into what happened.
The problem for us as voters is that we can only get a sense of the disagreement among Trump, the intelligence agencies, and two members of the House GOP. Getting a grip on what the facts are is more difficult. With cybersecurity, answers may not always be clear. Does the CIA, for example, know that the DNC was hacked (one must keep an open mind – a renegade Dem may have provided the emails or copies thereof to Wikileaks)? If so, does it know who did it? What is the answer to “how” in both cases? Does the CIA offer levels of certainty or probability? If the hackers were Russian, can we tell whether they were government hackers or private hackers?
Sanger writes about the “national security establishment”, but what is that and who belongs to it? How many agencies have examined the hack of the DNC? Is it just the CIA, or did the FBI’s cybersecurity division look at it, or the DIA’s, or the NSA, etc. The Trump transition team members and the many advisors to them have tons of national security experience. Why do they disagree with the vaguely termed “national security establishment”. The Times tried to paint General Mattis as biased because he appeared on Russian television, but that’s flimsy. Mattis wants America and her capabilities to be better than Russia’s. He’s not going to tolerate cybersecurity weakness.
Leaders pick their fights, too, and it may be useless to pick the DNC hack for lengthy and arduous investigation by members of a feckless Congress who have much, much, much work to start and finish. Moreover, better to do it quietly than noisily like The Times and others seem to want. Lots of noise usually means its PR and a tool to achieve something else.
The Times wrote the article to highlight what it claimed was “an extraordinary breach” between Trump and the GOP and between Trump and the “national security establishment”. I’m not sure what’s extraordinary about it. Yet Sanger wrote the article that way, and he wrote it to downplay the obvious “breaches” that have occurred over and over in the past. Sanger’s article mentioned the case of Tunisia and Egypt and the bad estimate the intelligence community gave to Obama. It did not but could have mentioned the shaping of intelligence reports to suit the Obama administration’s tastes. It did not but could have mentioned Benghazi, in which the Obama/Clinton State Department ignored intelligence assessments about the growing danger in that Libyan city. Sanger’s article did mention the situation which gave rise to Trump’s described mockery: the Bush Administration’s contention that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction that compelled the U.S. to invade it in 2003.
It’s particularly galling of The Times to write about that botched assessment because the newspaper has lashed former President Bush and his national security team for it.
Consider, too, that The Times downplayed the botched assessment by Bush’s national security team in Sanger’s article (only when Trump played that card, not itself) by stating the existence of a running debate about whether the intel itself was bad or whether it was read “selectively”, whatever that means, to reach a desired conclusion.
Funny, but I remember General Colin Powell going to the United Nations and submitting several photos detailed with lines and with arrows from caption boxes pointing to trucks and buildings, etc. Search for them online. You’ll find one of “Chemical Munitions Stored at Taji”, another titled “Terrorist Poison and Explosives Factory, Khumai”, and another depicting a chemical munitions bunker with a decontamination vehicle alongside it, etc.
It would seem either someone from Bush’s national security team created those exhibits or someone from one of the intelligence agencies did. Either way, would they not be members of “the national security establishment”? Breaches are in the eye of the beholder.
If The Times calls Trump’s statement against the claim of Russian interference mockery, what does it call its own statement about the Bush administration’s conclusions, which the article’s author, Sanger, labeled “the disastrously mistaken assessments of Iraq”.
Further, The Times lets Michael Hayden take a shot at Trump in Sanger’s article, the same Michael Hayden who directed the National Security Agency (NSA) under Bush during the Iraq assessments and who oversaw that agency’s warrantless collection of Americans’ electronic communications. Is he part of our “national security establishment”. If so, I’m fearful of him, not Trump.
What we have to understand as citizens is that the purpose of this New York Times article, as with many of its articles and the articles and reports from other media, is not to provide news or information that voters can use intelligently; rather, it is to hold and continue to emit an unrelenting laser beam of criticism at Trump to foster discord and strife among all voters, to shape the way we perceive and think about events so that we will reach the same conclusion that The Times wants everyone to reach about Trump and his administration.
Sometimes The Times articles will feature truth and sometimes they won’t. It doesn’t make much difference. In the end, the articles are calculated to have an effect on you, the effect The Times wants. The only way to avoid that, if you read them, is to be discerning and discriminating. Ask questions about every statement The Times makes. Compare what it writes internally to itself and externally to previously established facts. Do not assume anything, such as the significance of “the national security establishment”.
Keep in mind, too, that other motivations may be in play. The grandstanding by House Republicans sounds, uh, grand. I sure want my democracy and my electoral process to be left untampered. But is that really on the minds of some House Republicans, or are they jockeying for position and leverage against their party’s president, Trump, so they can limit the enactment of his policy proposals while promoting and enabling their own?
How cute of The Times and Mr. Sanger to use Republicans against themselves. Clever and sophisticated.
Bear in mind, House and Senate Republicans, that many, perhaps a majority, of us, voted you in not because of you, but because we needed you to support Mr. Trump. Fail to do that? Get in his way? Watch how we pull the voting lever down against you. You are a constitutional necessity, but in poll after poll we have judged you virtually worthless and shockingly ineffective compared to even the current president.
You got used to being establishment bootlickers, so don’t puff your chests out because a Republican won the presidency. He didn’t run on your ideology or mandate. He ran on the people’s mandate. So make Mr. Trump’s path smooth, then get the hell out of the way!