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Sunday, December 18, 2016

Today's Must-Read: The Russian Factor

Josh Marshall has what I think is a pretty good summary of why the Russian hacking of Democrats' e-mails had the result it did, although I think he understates it a little:

The administration did a huge amount over the course of the fall to alert the public, alert the world was happening. They finally went so far as to issue a public consensus judgment of the entire US intelligence community about Russian tampering in the election.

This was loud. Everybody heard about it. It was widely reported. It certainly didn't get the same volume or intensity of attention as Hillary Clinton's emails. But the President can't control press coverage. The key issue was that political partisanship by and large kept Republicans from caring. The dynamics of the presidential contest were more important than foreign meddling or sabotage.

It's not, in my opinion, that the Republicans didn't care. It's that they welcomed it. The conservative focus has been narrowed down to "will it help us gain/maintain power"? That's the only question of any importance to them. If you doubt that, take a look at what's happening in North Carolina, now that a Democrat has won the governor's office. Oh, and let's not forget God's chosen and all their bullshit about "traditional values." It's all about power.

On the whole, though, Marshall's got it pinned down, although there is one more notion on which I think he's once again understated the issue:

The vast majority, I would say basically all of what the Russians found, was pedestrian and inconsequential. I would say that it had a small to marginal effect on the outcome. But it was an extremely close election that can be enough to make the difference. Can you imagine the emails within the RNC as Trump went from being the scourge and mortal enemy to man of destiny? But having close to all of one side's private communication dribbled out into the public realm and fluffed up by a credulous press was obviously damaging.
(Emphasis added.)

It's not that the leaks were "fluffed up" -- they were eagerly sought after and trumpeted from the rooftops by a press that was on an anti-Clinton feeding frenzy. My own take is that the American press did at least as much as the Russians to tilt the election in Trump's favor. Putin just provided the ammunition.

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