Vladimir Putin and Russia are trying to influence the American election, according to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. “And believe me, they’re not doing it to get me elected,” the former First Lady said in the October 9 presidential debate. “They’re doing it to try to influence the election for Donald Trump.”
The Democratic candidate also said: “We have never in the history of our country been in a situation where an adversary, a foreign power, is working so hard to influence the outcome of the election.” America’s old-line establishment media has been slow to run a fact check on that proclamation but a few realities have emerged during the campaign.
“Foreign governments have regularly sought to shape our politics,” wrote Paul Musgrave, professor of government at the University of Massachusetts. The “most sustained attempt” came during the Cold War, and Musgrave turns to The Sword and the Shield, Christopher Andrew’s secret history of the KGB, for examples. The Soviets disseminated conspiracy theories about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, hoping to diminish Americans’ trust in their government. They launched smears about the private lives of official such as J. Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI. The KGB also fabricated racist pamphlets, attributed them to the Jewish Defense League, and mailed them to African American organizations.
That is all of great interest, but the attempt to influence Americans elections took a higher profile. In fact, the Russian Communists, who held no free elections of their own, had their own parties and ran their own candidates in American elections. In 1948, Stalin’s Soviet Union backed the Progressive Party, with Henry Wallace, a former vice-president and agriculture secretary, at the top of the ticket. As American Communist Bella Dodd explained in School of Darkness, the third-party idea came from the Communists, and Wallace was their selection. The USSR, a foreign power and adversary of the United States, wanted Wallace to win, not the Democrat Harry Truman or the Republican Thomas Dewey. The knock on Wallace was that he confused the common man with the Comintern. He finished last, behind even Strom Thurmond’s Dixiecrat Party.
From the beginning, the Communist Party USA (CPUSA) was a wholly-owned subsidiary of the USSR. In 1980 their candidate for president of the United States was Gus Hall (Arvo Kusta Halberg) the Party’s general secretary since 1959, the year he received the Order of Lenin. A dutiful hardliner, Hall lost presidential elections in 1972 and 1976. In 1980 his big issue was opposing new U.S. missiles in Europe. The white Stalinist’s running mate was black Communist militant Angela Davis, a University of California philosophy instructor arrested in 1970 for supplying guns used in a prisoner breakout.
The Communists’ white-black combo teamed up again in 1984. As in 1980, the USSR, a foreign adversary, wanted Hall and Davis to win but they lost. Also in 1984, the nuclear freeze movement, backed by the USSR, played a role in the election of pro-freeze senatorial candidates John Kerry of Massachusetts, Tom Harkin of Iowa, and Paul Simon of Illinois, all Democrats.
The nuclear freeze movement did not prevail, and the military buildup under Ronald Reagan, including missile defense, contributed greatly to the fall of the USSR. The Berlin Wall came tumbling down but that demolition did not bring joy to the KGB’s Vladimir Putin, who had been stationed in East Germany. Putin viewed the collapse of the USSR as the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the twentieth century.
Several years later, in the 1995 Dreams from My Father, a lawyer and community organizer calling himself Barack Obama noted the lost hopes of Communists. The author saw the need for change, particularly in the White House where “Reagan and his minions were carrying on their dirty deeds.”
The author’s mentor, and by some accounts his true biological father, was Frank Marshall Davis, an old-line Stalinist with an FBI file 600 pages long. Genuine Communists, Frank Marshall Davis believed, sought to abolish racism. In his posthumously released 1992 memoir, Livin’ the Blues, Davis wrote, “Knowing also that Russia had no colonies, and was strongly opposed to the imperialism under which my black kinsmen lived in Africa, and that those American forces which most staunchly resisted our own demands for equality were the most rabid foes of Russia, I concluded the Soviet Union held the same position internationally that blacks were in domestically. Russians were looked upon as the niggers of the globe.”
In Dreams from My Father Davis appears only as “Frank,” a poet, happy-drunk, and something of a professional ethnic. Frank disappeared entirely in the 2006 The Audacity of Hope and was not an issue in the 2008 campaign, when Barack Obama became President of the United States, the most powerful man in the world.
In September, 2009, less than a year after his election victory, the President of the United States scrapped plans for an antiballistic missile shield in Eastern Europe. The New York Times, called it “one of the biggest security reversals of his young presidency,” noting that Russia strongly opposed the missile shield.
In 2009, the new American president sought to “re-set,” U.S.-Russia relations and agreed to a deal that allows Russian inspection of U.S. nuclear facilities to count missiles and warheads, by some accounts the most intrusive weapons inspection program the United States has ever accepted. Obama’s Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, told reporters “We want to ensure that every question that the Russian military or Russian government asks is answered,” and called missile defense “another area for deep cooperation between our countries.”
Obama administration appeasement gave Russia an all-clear signal for aggression in Georgia and Ukraine. Aside from running his mouth, the President of the United States did nothing to stop it, and the same applies to Putin’s alliance with Assad in Syria.
At the G20 summit in China in early September, “President Obama gave Vladimir Putin the death stare,” as the New York Post put it. The two leaders discussed Syria, Ukraine and cybersecurity, but as the American president explained, “we haven’t yet closed the gaps.” Despite the staredown, there is much less to those “gaps” than meets the eye.
Vladimir Putin, a KGB man, knows that with the current President of the United States he can do pretty much anything he wants, and he does. The past eight years confirm that this president is tougher on proven allies than longstanding enemies, and that pattern could well continue after November 8. Before January 20, 2017, when the American president officially leaves office, Putin may grab the Baltic States, an area where he has already deployed nuclear-capable missiles.
Meanwhile, former First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is wrong that an adversary and foreign power has “never” worked so hard to influence the outcome an election. For Russia that is standard operating procedure, and the past eight years provide plenty of evidence that Russia would do better to get the former First Lady elected, not her upstart opponent.
President Obama considers Hillary Clinton the most qualified presidential candidate in history. When the president championed Clinton at the Democratic National Convention in July, the crowds were chanting “four more years!”
Lloyd Billingsley is the author of Barack ‘em Up: A Literary Investigation, and Bill of Writes: Dispatches from the Political Correctness Battlefield.