Why we can't have nice things: Trigger warning! We start today with a statement so vile that it may rock your world.
The statement in question goes like this:
Even a tribalized player like Devin Nunes will make the occasional accurate statement.
Rep. Nunes will, on occasion, make an accurate statement! He did so Thursday morning, near the start of that day's hearing, when he offered these remarks about something Fiona Hill had apparently said or suggested:
NUNES (11/21/19): I’d also like to take a quick moment on an assertion Ms. Hill made in the statement that she submitted to this committee, in which she claimed that some committee members deny that Russia meddled in the 2016 election.With an allowance for imprecise language, the accurate statement is this:
As I noted in my opening statement on Wednesday, but in March, 2018, Intelligence Committee Republicans published the results of a year-long investigation into Russian meddling. The 240 page report analyzed 2016 Russian meddling campaign, the US government reaction to it, Russian campaigns in other countries and provided specific recommendations to improve American election security. I would asked my staff to hand these reports to our two witnesses today just so I can have a recollection of their memory. As America may or may not know, Democrats refused to sign on to the Republican report. Instead, they decided to adopt minority views, filled with collusion conspiracy theories. Needless to say, it is entirely possible for two separate nations to engage in election meddling at the same time, and Republicans believe we should take meddling seriously by all foreign countries regardless of which campaign is the target. I’d like to submit for the record, a copy of our report titled Report on Russian Active Measures. I yield back.
"It is entirely possible for two separate nations to engage in election meddling at the same time.""Meddling" is an imprecise term, as is "interference." But once we've allowed for this imprecision, it's obvious that the gentleman's statement is accurate:
In theory, two different nations could monkey around in the same U.S. election!
That said, did Ukraine "meddle" or "interfere" with the 2016 election? Within our current tribal wars, this question has been bouncing around in the past two weeks, almost always being discussed in a muddled, incoherent manner.
Last night, Rachel Maddow confused the issue in record-setting fashion. She did so by taking this poorly-composed front-page report from today's New York Times and making it even more cloudy.
Because Maddow routinely plays this way, she shouldn't be on the air. In an attempt to offer some minor clarity, here are the claims in question:
Russian "interference"As far as we know, very few public officials dispute this fact. One who does is Donald J. Trump, who may be crazy enough to believe it was really the Ukrainian government which engaged in these acts.
Almost everyone agrees that the Russian government participated in the 2016 election in several illegal ways. Most dramatically, the Russian government "hacked" (stole) large quantities of DNC emails, then loosed them upon the world.
Ukrainian "interference"The distinction between these two states of affairs is quite easy to make. That said, liberal pundits and mainstream journalists have spent a lot of energy in recent weeks seeming to obscure this distinction, thereby strengthening tribal narrative.
Many Republicans claim that certain Ukrainian officials "interfered in the election" is less egregious ways, with specific examples being cited.
Inevitably, this morning's front-page report in the Times does a very poor job nailing down this distinction. Last night, Maddow set a new world record for selective presentation as she muddied the issue even further. But then again, what else is new?
Maddow strikes us as a thoroughly hapless tribalized true believer. As such, and due to her limitless self-adoration, she just shouldn't be on the air.
We've posted that statement by Nunes because it's plainly accurate. Plainly, two different nations could engage in "election meddling" at the same time and in the same election.
In a rational world, journalists would try to explain the types of charges being lodged against the two countries in question. Having explicated the claims, journalists would almost surely note that the "interference" engaged in by Russia went well beyond the level of "interference" with which Ukraine is being charged.
That's what would happen in a rational world. In a world in which Maddow is the highest-rated "corporate liberal," massive efforts will be made to keep us rubes barefoot and clueless—to create massive confusion about what's being said.
On Thursday, Fiona Hill stood accused of getting out over her skis with respect to these issues. According to Nunes, she had seemed to say that Republican members of the committee dispute the claim that Russia meddled or interfered.
Nunes and one or two others challenged this claim or suggestion. For today, we're going to show you what Hill said in reply.
Hill is being lionized for her evident brilliance. For ourselves, we don't think we've ever seen anyone so stunningly coherent in a major public forum, excluding Noam Chomsky of course.
That said, part of Hill's brilliance consists in her ability to keep more than one thought in her head at one time. This rare capacity is put on display in the remarks below.
During Thursday's hearing, Rep. Himes asked her if certain actions by Ukrainian officials struck her as "election interference." Plainly, Himes wanted her to say no. We thought it might be worth presenting what Hill said instead.
As Hill's remarks begin, she's speaking about a 2016 op-ed column by the Ukrainian ambassador to the U.S. "Mr. Castor" is Steve Castor, the committee's Republican counsel. We're working from this transcript:
HIMES (11/21/19): Does that sound like election interference to you?For ourselves, we would be less diplomatic in our assessment of the crazy claims repeatedly made by President Trump, in which he seems to claim that it was Ukraine which conducted the hacking of the DNC emails.
HILL Well, I would say that it’s probably not the most advisable thing to do for an ambassador because you never know who’s going to win. And I think that the second piece that was presented to me at great length, and I want to thank Mr. Castor for making me go back and read it again because when you asked me the questions about it, I did remember the piece.
Kenneth Vogel is a very well-known and, as you’ve pointed out, extremely good journalist, and I’d remembered reading this back in the day in January of 2017 but it’d been a long time between then and October. And you gave me a copy and I went back and read it again. Because I think it actually is extraordinarily important, it gets to this issue here.
Mr. Vogel points out that the Ukrainian government—again, they wouldn’t have done very well at the [INAUDIBLE], I’m picking up the issue I pointed out at the beginning of today—they bet on the wrong horse.
They bet on Hillary Clinton winning the election. And so they were trying to curry favor with the Clinton campaign, it’s quite evident here. And he relates to some extent, individuals and some Ukrainian officials like Mr. Avakov, the Interior Minister and a number of other people that he names here and that have been named at various points. And talks about how they were trying to collect information as ranking member Nunes said on Mr. Manafort and on other people as well.
However, I do want to point out that the crux of the article here by Mr. Vogel, as he said, there was little evidence of a top-down effort by Ukraine. And he makes a distinction between the Russian effort that was personally directed by Russian President Putin and involve the country’s military—personally directed by Russian President Putin and involve the country’s military and foreign intelligence services.
Now, I don’t think that those two things are exactly the same. I also mentioned in my deposition of October 14th that in fact many officials for many countries, including Ukraine, bet on the wrong horse. They believed that Secretary Clinton, former Senator Clinton, former First Lady Clinton was going to win. Many said some pretty disparaging and hurtful things about President Trump, and I can’t blame him for feeling aggrieved about them. And when we were setting up head of state visits—and remember, I have a portfolio of 50-plus countries plus NATO and the European Union—we thought it prudent to collect as much as possible about comments that people might’ve said about the president during the campaign, when he was either one of the candidates to be the nominee for the Republican party or when he was actually the candidate running against Hillary Clinton.
I’m sorry to say that an awful lot, and perhaps I shouldn’t name them here because it will have consequences, an awful lot of senior officials in many governments, including our allied governments, said some pretty hurtful things about the president. I would also personally take offense at some of the things that were said if I were the president. Now, the difference here, however, is that that hasn’t had any major impact on his feelings towards those countries. Not that I have seen. But I’ve also heard the president say—and he said it in public, so I’m not revealing any kind of executive privilege here—that Ukraine tried to take me down.
What I have seen [INAUDIBLE] ill-advised Ukrainian officials—Ambassador Chaly’s been removed as being the ambassador from here—made some pretty, you know, unpleasant statements or ill-advised op-eds. But I could list a whole host of ambassadors from allied countries who tweeted out, who had public comments about the president as well, and it did not affect security assistance, having meetings with them. If it would, there’d been a lot of people he wouldn’t have met with.
HIMES: Thank you, Dr. Hill. Mr. Chairman, I seek unanimous consent to add to the record a political article of December 1st, 2016, entitled, "Russia accuses Ukraine of sabotaging Trump." It outlines Russian senior officials making allegations that there was Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election.
That said, the press corps, in a typical maneuver, has agreed that we mustn't discuss the possibility that Trump is cognitively impaired. This makes it difficult to stage a serious discussion of his endless crazy statements, which he may even believe.
Donald J. Trump keeps making crazy statements about CrowdStrike and Ukraine. That said, and as far as we know, no Republican members of the committee have been making such claims.
Himes suggested that committee members have been creating confusion through their claims about the "Russia hoax." That too calls out for clarification, and has done so for a very long time. But on a show like the Maddow Show, you'll get nothing but selective information, and in a paper like the Times, the performance won't be much better.
(The standard pundits on MSNBC have failed to offer this type of clarification. Mainly, they sit around repeating whatever Nicolle just said. Nicolle was last seen helping George W. Bush waterboard people while placing anti-gay marriage propositions on various state ballots. Today, she's a rather unreliable star on our own tribal side.)
Hill said that various Ukrainian officials engaged in "ill-advised" conduct during the 2016 campaign. We don't know if we agree with that assessment, but that's what she said. She also said she understands why Trump resents this past conduct.
You will never see such clips when you watch Maddow mug and clown and cavort while seeking to make you love her more fully. Instead, you'll see segments like last night's closing segment, an insult to the public intelligence which ought to get its disordered author taken off the air.
Are we humans capable of dispassionate analysis? Are we capable of holding more than one tiny thought, or one sole narrative, in our tiny heads at the same time?
Fiona Hill plainly is. The fruits of that ability will be disappeared on corporate liberal cable. They'll be aggressively pimped on Fox.
Are we humans capable of competent analysis? Especially at times of tribal war, the answer has always been no. For ourselves, we don't see a good way out of the current mess, but we'd recommend a lot more Russia Expert Hill and a lot less Circus Clown Maddow.
This was Maddow's cloaing segment last night. If you aren't insulted by this of stone-cold clowning and self-adoration, one more obvious statement can be made:
You yourself are part of The Problem! Is there any way out of this mess?
Starting Monday: The nature of The Problem
Full disclosure: We'd hoped to be able to discuss this New York Times book review on this weekend morning. As is the norm at this very strange newspaper, it's completely and totally incoherent, on the highest "academic" levels.
Unfortunately, Maddow's clowning superseded. On the brighter side, her clowning helps answer an age-old question:
Why can't we have nice things?