Smug liberals got played too

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Hey, you liberals who flocked to Bernie Sanders in the 2016 primaries, then stayed home from the polls or threw your vote to Jill Stein because you’d become convinced that Hillary Clinton wasn’t progressively pure enough for you … The Russians played you too.

Thanks to the 37-page indictment released yesterday from special counsel Robert Mueller, we know conclusively that the Russian operation to undermine Clinton and boost the chances of then-candidate Donald Trump also included pushing pro-Sanders messages in the primaries and seeking to suppress the Democratic vote or steer voters toward third parties, especially Stein, during the general election.

Read the excerpts for yourself.

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If you think these efforts didn’t affect the outcome of the race, think about this: The number of votes Stein won in Michigan was four times greater than Trump’s margin of victory over Clinton in the state. And without winning Michigan, Trump doesn’t win the White House.

As painted in the indictment, these efforts were less about Russian love for Trump (other than as a classic Chekist “useful idiot“) and more about their intense dislike for Hillary Clinton:

The Russian operations on social media were meant to communicate derogatory information about Hillary Clinton and other candidates, including Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. And they were supposed to support Sanders and Trump.

“Use any opportunity to criticize Hillary and the rest (except Sanders and Trump—we support them),” they were directed, according to the indictment.

This was because the Russians involved really didn’t like Hillary Clinton.

Around September 14 in 2016, for example, one “account specialist” of a Russian-controlled Facebook group called “Secured Borders” was reprimanded for having a “low number of posts dedicated to criticizing Hillary Clinton.”

The specialist was also told, “it is imperative to intensify criticizing Hillary Clinton.”

I could see this unfolding in real time on social media as I watched many of my very liberal friends, family, students, and former students become increasingly hostile toward Clinton and alienated from the mainstream of the Democratic Party as they first embraced Sanders and then Stein.

They had convinced themselves that there was no substantive difference between Trump and Clinton, and therefore it mattered not whether they “voted their conscience” and cast a ballot for Stein or simply stayed home in protest.

And they often justified their decisions by repeating the Russian attacks and talking points flooding social media.

In the year and half since the election, many of those same liberals have smugly pointed at the ease with which Republicans, especially the so-called white working class, were manipulated into backing a carnival barker for president.

So, liberals, how does it feel knowing that the Russians got you too?

Madam President’s foreign policy: US-Russia relations

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This is the first of what will be several posts over the next week or two speculating on what might have been different for US foreign policy and international affairs had Hillary Clinton won the presidency. This first piece focuses on US-Russia relations. 

After 188 days of the Trump presidency and counting, we have a pretty good idea of what his foreign policy is like. Simply put, it ain’t pretty

But what would foreign policy have looked like with Hillary Clinton in the White House? At least one analyst suggests it might not have been all that different. Let me suggest otherwise.

It is also true, however, that some developments would have unfolded more or less in the same way that they have under President Trump. Any American president has only limited influence on the ebb and flow of global relations, and so some problems which we might be tempted to lay at Trump’s feet likely would have happened anyway, regardless of who is in the White House. I’m looking at you, North Korea.

With that disclaimer in place, here we go:

Given the unfolding revelations of the extent of Russian efforts to tip the 2016 election to Donald Trump, US-Russia relations are at their lowest point since the Cold War. Russian Ambassador Sergy Kislyak, who was accused of coordinating secret contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence operatives, announced his retirement and immediate return to Moscow. The Clinton Administration had privately warned the Kremlin that Kislyak and other Russian diplomats would be formally expelled if Kislyak did not voluntarily step down.

Clinton has also warned that the United States will not hesitate to retaliate should Moscow attempt to undermine the 2018 midterm elections.

The Justice Department has announced the creation of a special task force targeting suspected Russian money laundering operations involving real estate transactions in New York and south Florida. The task force is headed up by New York US Attorney Preet Bharra.

Sanctions against Russia put in place by the Obama Administration immediately after the election remain in place, and President Clinton has vowed to impose even tougher sanctions, though she faces opposition from the Republican-controlled Congress which accuses her of targeting Russia and the former Trump campaign to distract attention from new congressional investigations into the Clinton Foundation’s ties to foreign interests and her handling of classified information as Secretary of State.

The Putin government has responded by expelling 30 US diplomats, closing the offices of American news agencies, expelling US journalists, and intensifying a crackdown on civil society, pro-democracy, and human rights organizations which the Kremlin accuse of serving as agents of Western provocation. It has also openly increased its support for and assistance to pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Large-scale Russian military exercises in Belarus have been scheduled for September and, given Moscow’s tendency to “train exactly as they intend to fight,” are widely understood to be a dry run for military action against NATO.

The Kremlin has also ended all cooperation with and coordination between Russian military forces supporting the Assad regime in Syria and US forces supporting anti-Assad groups fighting ISIS, warning the United States that it would not be responsible for any “mishaps” that could occur between US and Russian forces operating in the Syrian battlespace.

At the NATO summit in May, President Clinton reiterated America’s commitment to the alliance and the principle of collective security expressed in Article 5 of the NATO Charter. She was responding both to criticism that the Obama Administration had been insufficiently forceful in standing for the defense of Europe, and seeking to calm fears raised in Europe by a presidential campaign in which NATO often served as Donald Trump’s punching bag.

In a tough speech at the dedication of the 9/11 and Article 5 Memorials at NATO headquarters, Clinton warned Putin against engaging in “dangerous military adventurism” in the Baltic States or Central Europe, proclaiming: “There will be no more Crimeas on my watch.”

Clinton also announced what she called “Cyber Article 5,” declaring that the principle of collective security must extend to the cyber arena. She called on NATO to expand the capabilities and scope of responsibilities of NATO’s Cooperative Cyber Defense Centre of Excellence, stating that cyber intrusion or interference in the electoral systems or democratic process in any NATO member must be met with combined cyber countermeasures from the rest of the alliance.

At the G-20 summit meeting earlier this month in Hamburg, Clinton joined 18 other heads of state, dubbed the G-19 by the news media, in issuing a joint declaration denouncing interference in the domestic politics of any democratic state. Russian President Putin conspicuously declined to attach his name to the statement.

To summarize, under President Clinton relations between the United States and Russia are at their lowest point in decades. Putin’s longstanding hatred of Clinton, coupled with her administration’s forceful response to Russian efforts to elect Donald Trump, have set in motion a 21st century Cold War.

¹The hyperlink will take you to a special issue of Foreign Affairs with links to a series of articles by highly regarded foreign policy analysts and scholars. The title of the project, “Present at the Destruction,” gives you some advance idea of what you’ll read there.

The militias are ready for Nov. 9

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Michigan’s militias are ready for Election Day, and what comes after.

Whether Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump wins next Tuesday, the militia movement isn’t waiting to prepare for what comes next. They’re ready now.

The Reuters news agency today reported on a Georgia group called the Three Percent Security Force* which was conducting training operations in the woods near Jackson, a small town southeast of Atlanta near the Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge.

As the most divisive presidential election in recent memory nears its conclusion, some armed militia groups are preparing for the possibility of a stolen election on Nov. 8 and civil unrest in the days following a victory by Democrat Hillary Clinton.

They say they won’t fire the first shot, but they’re not planning to leave their guns at home, either.

In a video that accompanies the Reuters report (unfortunately I cannot embed it here) the leader of this particular group, a paralegal named Chris Hill who goes by the codename “Bloodagent,” said his group expects violence whatever happens on Election Day.

Back in Georgia, the Three Percent Security Force wrapped up rifle practice in the midday sun. They then headed further into the trees to tackle an obstacle course with loaded pistols at their sides, ready for whatever may come.

“We’ve building up for this, just like the Marines,” he said. “We are going to really train harder and try to increase our operational capabilities in the event that this is the day that we hoped would never come.”

Meanwhile, closer to home, at least two Michigan militia groups — the Michigan Militia Corps Wolverines and the Southeast Michigan Volunteer Militia — have scheduled a training day for this coming Saturday in Lapeer, about an hour’s drive from where I live.

The second group, SMVM, has scheduled a meeting for Nov. 9 to “discuss the next 90 days after the election and the future of this nation.” Or, as their promotional material puts it, “The 9th of November: A Perfect Storm Arrives in 2016.”

I’ve been writing about these groups a lot lately. Like here. And here. And here. And again here. There’s good reason for it. They are an increasingly visible part of this deeply disturbing election season.

But most importantly, while few in number, they are more than enough to cause a lot of mayhem. And some of them are itching for the opportunity.

*Some militia groups include the phrase “Three Percent” in their name, or describe themselves as “Three Percenter” militias in reference to their claim that during the American Revolution only three percent of colonists took up arms against the tyranny of British rule. They see themselves as the equivalent today. They maintain a robust online presence which you can look up for yourself. The Anti-Defamation League first wrote about them in 2009, about a year after the first Three Percenter groups emerged on the militia scene.

The end is near …

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And by that I mean the end of this year’s tragedy/horror show/circus/train wreck/national disgrace series of presidential debates.

Trump and Clinton square off for the final time on stage in Las Vegas (fitting somehow) tonight, and since throughout this process I’ve strongly urged my students to do their civic duty and tune in, I’ll be watching it too.

As a viewer, there are all kinds of ways to prep. I’m going to follow the lead suggested by the brilliant Wiley above. You might want to as well.

Or you could follow some of the links below:

NPR gives us four things to look for in tonight’s debate. And during the debate they’ll be producing live transcripts and real-time fact checking.

The New York Times also has a preview and summary of the themes they will be watching for in tonight’s debate, from Clinton’s struggle to sound human to the possibility that Trump will take his time at the podium to burn the GOP to the ground.

Finally, if you’re not sure where to find the debate on TV or radio, or if you’re one of those youngsters who consumes all media via streaming the Internet across the screen of your smartphone, Vox has your complete guide to how to watch. You can also read their preview take on the role of tonight’s moderator, Chris Wallace of Fox News, here.

So buckle in folks. See you on the other side.