Thursday, July 28, 2016

Did Putin Try to Steal an American Election? - Nicholas Kristof

Did Putin Try to Steal an American Election? 

The reason Moscow favors Trump isn’t some conspiracy. It’s simply that Putin dislikes Clinton, while Trump’s combination of international ignorance and catastrophic policies would benefit Putin. In particular, Trump’s public doubts about NATO renounce more than half a century of bipartisan orthodoxy on how to deal with Russia, and undermine the Western alliance that checks Putin.
One nightmare of security specialists is Russia provoking unrest among ethnic Russians in Estonia, Latvia or Lithuania and then using rioting as an excuse to intervene. NATO members would be obliged to respond, but frankly it’s not clear that they would — and Trump’s loose rhetoric increases the risk of paralysis and a collapse of the alliance.
In that sense, Trump poses a national security risk to the West, and that’s reason enough Putin would be thrilled to see him elected president.

What Was Mr. Trump Thinking?

And Then There Was Trump

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How do you deal with an opponent immune to the truth, whose appeal is atavistic rather than rational? How do you pick off enough of his constituents and prevent him from making inroads into yours?
In Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and her Democratic allies face a candidate for whom there is no precedent in presidential politics.
It remains unclear whether Trump can be brought to his knees the way Mitt Romney was by ads like “Coffin” and “Firms,” which alleged that Romney’s investment firm, Bain Capital, closed factories and shipped jobs abroad.
In April, during the primary campaign, Politico reported that
So far this campaign season, anti-Donald Trump forces have spent close to $70 million on ads attacking the G.O.P. front-runner — more than triple what Trump has spent on his entire campaign. Even more shocking than the whopping amount of cash deployed against the mogul, though, is that the ads haven’t been working. In fact, they might even be helping Trump.
Geoff Garin, a Democratic pollster currently working for the pro-Clinton “super PAC” Priorities USA Action, contended in a phone interview that Trump’s immunity to criticism worked only in the primaries among Republican voters: “Trump is not Teflon.”
Among all voters, Garin argued, “a majority has come to the conclusion that Trump is unfit for the job and that he would represent a significant risk as president.” Polling and focus group testing, Garin said, have shown that one ad produced by Priorities, “Grace,” has been highly effective. It shows Grace, who was born with spina bifida, her parents, Chris and Lauren Glaros, and a clip of Trump ridiculing a disabled New York Times reporter.
The ad concludes with the father on camera:
When I saw Donald Trump mock someone with a disability, it showed me his soul. It showed me his heart. And I didn’t like what I saw.
I asked Garin, along with other strategists and political observers, how they would respond to a long list of Trump’s rambling, theatrical promises, which he would, in fact, be unable to keep. Just a partial list of these includes refusing to defend America’s NATO allies, returning 11 million undocumented immigrants to their home countries, saving $300 billion annually on a prescription drug program that spends only $78 billion a year, nationalizing concealed weapons permits and vowing that “If I become president, we’re gonna be saying Merry Christmas at every store ... You can leave Happy Holidays at the corner.”
Should Democrats, I inquired, point to the infeasibility of Trump’s proposals and the damaging results of any attempts on his part to follow through? That approach would not work, Garin said, because voters, including many of Trump’s supporters, don’t really “believe he will build a wall, or get Mexico to pay for a wall” — they have already discounted many of Trump’s over-the-top assertions as hyperbole.
“The real case has more to do with his character and temperament,” Garin said. “The biggest concern is that he is temperamentally unsuited to lead the country.”
Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster unaffiliated with the Clinton campaign, argued in an email that there were risks in attacking specific Trump proposals as unrealistic:
To argue you can’t do it just makes you part of the status quo and the problem in Washington. Voters will feel if you say you can’t do some of these things or something in these arenas, we will hire someone who can.
In an interesting warning to Democrats, Arthur Lupia, a professor of political science at the University of Michigan, wrote me:
Responding directly to Trump’s claims often requires repeating them, which gives them extra oxygen. There is a growing literature on attempts to correct “misinformation.” A common theme in this literature is that if a person repeats misinformation or otherwise draws attention to it in an attempt to counter the misinformation, the original claim can be reinforced, rather than diminished, in people’s memories.
Making a related argument, a Democratic strategist who sought anonymity in order to protect his relationship with the Clinton campaign, wrote me:
The problem for Democrats is that in quarreling with the Trump program, they are getting tangled up with specifics, and as a result, they may be seen to be oblivious or insensitive to the underlying message: about illegal immigration or crime or terrorism or loss of local control or American responsibility for world affairs that seems endless and pursued at the expense of concentration on domestic concerns.
This strategist cited the futility of accusing Trump of hyping crime:
This seems counterproductive: Voters are not judging a 10-year performance on crime if they are worried about an experienced or feared increase now. The effect of a defense of this nature may be perceived as belittling or minimizing the concern.
Democrats have to negotiate a tricky path in communicating their candidate’s “identification with the main concerns of many of Trump’s voters” on such issues as immigration, the strategist argued. This empathy has to be
thematic and not programmatic identification: we plainly cannot agree with regressive changes in the tax code, or canceling the Paris agreement, or deporting 11 million people.
Robert Borosage, co-director of the Campaign for America’s Future, a liberal advocacy group, described the problem of attempting to refute Trump point-by-point:
Democratic think tanks and surrogates and experts will dissect his proposals and show how they fail, but that won’t mean much. He’s an attitude, a direction, not a policy agenda.
Clinton’s task, in Borosage’s view, is not an easy one for a politician who has been in the national spotlight for more than a quarter of a century: “H.R.C.’s challenge is to claim the future — one that is different than the past,” Borosage wrote.
In his speech in Philadelphia on Tuesday, Bill Clinton sought to address the issue Borosage raises of how Hillary Clinton can plausibly “claim the future.” The former president referred to his wife’s record of making “positive changes in people’s lives” and noted that his wife is a “woman who has never been satisfied with the status quo in anything.”
Notes and provocations from Philadelphia.
Borosage brought up a second point, that Hillary Clinton, who has campaigned on the theme that she will protect and enhance the Obama legacy, needs to jump an additional hurdle: “Her biggest challenge is to be different than Obama — bolder, challenging Wall Street, corporate trade and tax deals.”
Borosage’s argument — that the Trump campaign is based on attitudes and ingrained belief systems, not on a set of policies — points to the difficulty of addressing Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric.
Douglas Massey, a professor of sociology at Princeton and the author of “Beyond Smoke and Mirrors: Mexican Immigration in an Age of Economic Integration” pointed out in an email, for example, that
net illegal migration has been zero or negative for eight years, so building walls and increasing border enforcement is addressing a problem that no longer exists.
Similarly, The Wall Street Journal reported in July 2015 that numerous studies
have shown that immigrants — regardless of nationality or legal status — are less likely than the native population to commit violent crimes or to be incarcerated.
These facts are unlikely to dissuade voters convinced that immigrants are taking jobs, committing crimes and undermining American values. From their point of view, any crime by an illegal immigrant is one crime too many.
There are many Democrats who believe that taking on Trump does not require nuance or calculation. “When 60 percent of voters say they’ll never consider voting for you and you have a 29 percent approval rating, you’ve got a serious image problem,” Jim Jordan, who managed John Kerry’s presidential campaign and served as executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, wrote me in an email. “Trump is already gushing blood. This is just blocking and tackling for the Clinton folks.”
Jordan argues that “the two real imperatives” for Democrats are 1) “to deny Trump the ‘I’m-on-your-side’ space,” and 2) “to keep hammering on how bizarre and dangerous he is to America and our interests around the world. His weird man-crush on Putin and his invitation this week to Russia to invade the Baltics seem like good places to start.”
Despite Jordan’s confidence in Democratic presidential prospects, at the moment Trump has moved ahead of Clinton by 1.1 percent in the RealClearPolitics aggregation of recent polling.
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Hillary Clinton’s Convention: Day 4 - The New York Times

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Vladimir Putin Is Donald Trump’s Leadership Role Model
By Andrew Rosenthal
PHILADELPHIA — Here is what Donald Trump considers great leadership:
Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine and seized Crimea. He threatens the freedom of the Baltic States, which the West struggled to obtain for decades. He rigged elections. He kept Bashar al-Assad in power in Syria while he used chemical weapons against his own people.
Putin took over Russia’s fledgling independent media and has been suspected in the murder of journalists. He stole billions for himself and his pals while ordinary Russians struggle to put food on their tables.
And what is the assessment of the man who wants to build a wall to keep out impoverished Mexicans but offers open arms to the Russians?
Trump said Thursday that Putin is “a better leader than Obama, because Obama’s not a leader, so he’s certainly doing a better job than Obama is, and that’s all.”
Speaking on “Fox and Friends,” Trump said he was being “sarcastic” when he said on Wednesdaythat he hoped the Russians had hacked Hillary Clinton’s email when she was secretary of state — and suggested he might actually recognize the seizure of Crimea if he becomes president.
(By the way, not even Mike Pence, his newly anointed running mate, agreed with Trump on Russia and the emails. “If it is Russia and they are interfering in our elections, I can assure you both parties and the United States government will ensure there are serious consequences,” Pence said on Wednesday.)
Was Trump also being sarcastic last week when he said he would not necessarily come to the aid of countries threatened by Russia, making a mockery of the North Atlantic alliance that has kept the peace in Europe for some 70 years?
And was he being sarcastic last December when Joe Scarborough asked him about all the journalists who have been killed in Putin’s Russia — scores, at least, according to reliable accounts, of reporters who were critical of Putin, including the courageous Anna Politkovskaya?
Trump offered the same mindless response then that he made Thursday. “He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader, unlike what we have in this country,” Trump said.
Trump added, “I think our country does plenty of killing also, Joe, so you know.” (That, by the way, is an old Kremlin propaganda line that was intended to create a false moral equivalency between the Soviet Union and the United States.)
“I’m confused,” Scarborough said with admirable understatement. “You obviously condemn Vladimir Putin killing journalists and political opponents, right?”
“Oh, sure, absolutely,” Trump said.
Well, that’s a relief — unless, of course, he was being “sarcastic.”
If Trump becomes president, will we constantly have to parse his words to figure out if he’s being sarcastic? I can’t imagine Putin will make the effort.
Andrew Rosenthal is an Op-Ed columnist for The Times.
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What Was Mr. Trump Thinking?

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From the beginning, Donald Trump has styled his presidential campaign as an insurgency that upended rules and challenged conventions. In the process, he has exposed himself repeatedly as a purveyor of views that are not only outside the political mainstream, but decidedly un-American.
On Wednesday, Mr. Trump crossed a new line by practically inviting Russia, an increasingly aggressive American adversary, to interfere in the presidential election by cyberspying on Hillary Clinton’s email correspondence when she was secretary of state. “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Mr. Trump told a news conference. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.” And this came just days after fingers started pointing at Russia as the possible culprit in the hacking of Democratic National Committee computers holding emails that became public.
Some Trump supporters dismissed the comments as the master reality-television showman once again doing and saying outrageous things for entertainment value. Mr. Trump has proved to be crafty at dominating news cycles; on Wednesday, his headline-grabbing news conference was all the more strategic coming hours before President Obama’s speech on Mrs. Clinton’s behalf at the Democratic convention.
Given that many voters are uneasy about Mrs. Clinton’s email issue, Mr. Trump is not about to let it fade. Mrs. Clinton was investigated by the Justice Department for her use of private servers, and no charges were brought. Whatever Mr. Trump may think of that outcome, it in no way justifies his call for a foreign power to spy electronically on his opponent, a proposition so shocking it immediately triggered a debate on social media and elsewhere about whether it was treason.
Notes and provocations from Philadelphia.
It is not treason. It is constitutionally protected free speech. Nonetheless, the remarks further call into question Mr. Trump’s commitment to democracy, his understanding of what it means to be commander in chief and his fitness to lead. He was, in effect, urging Russia to commit a crime that would damage national security.
Mr. Trump’s friendly come-on to the Russians came the morning after American intelligence agenciestold the White House they had “high confidence” that Russian intelligence was behind the hacked D.N.C. computers, leading to the release of nearly 20,000 emails that showed favoritism toward Mrs. Clinton over Senator Bernie Sanders. The United States is actively trying to discourage hacking, which is a criminal act, and get countries like China to adhere to norms for operating in cyberspace.
What Mr. Trump should have done was to warn President Vladimir Putin of Russia that if he interfered in the election, American political leaders would be united in imposing consequences of some kind on his nation, as the Republican candidate’s vice-presidential running mate, Gov. MikePence of Indiana, has suggested.
That Mr. Trump has not done so reinforces the growing perception that he is ready and willing to pursue policies favored by Mr. Putin, who has made clear his preference for Mr. Trump over Mrs. Clinton. News reports have questioned Mr. Trump’s financial dealings with Russian companies, providing another reason he should release his tax returns, like all recent major party presidential candidates.
The bizarre affinity for Mr. Putin is just one reason to question Mr. Trump’s judgment. He has endorsed waterboarding, even though it is illegal; he has argued for retaliating against political enemies and journalists; and he has proposed excluding people from America based on their religion. It grows ever harder to imagine that he could honor the high office to which he aspires.
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Did Putin Try to Steal an American Election?

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Some foreign leaders settle for stealing billions of dollars. Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, may have wanted to steal something even more valuable: an American presidential election.
As our election takes a turn that could be drawn from a Cold War spy novel (except it would be too implausible), Putin has an obvious favorite in the race: Donald Trump. “It’s crystal clear to me” that Putin favors Trump, says Michael McFaul, a Stanford professor who was ambassador to Russia until 2014. “If I were Putin, I would rather deal with Trump, too, given the things he has said about foreign policy.”
Look, Democratic Party leaders exchanged inappropriate emails showing bias for Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders, and a hacker’s disclosure has properly triggered a ruckus. But that scandal pales beside an effort apparently by a foreign dictatorship to disrupt an American presidential election.
It also seems scandalous to me that Trump on Wednesday effectively invited Russia to hack into Clinton’s computers for deleted emails from when she was secretary of state, saying at a press conference, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.”
Yes, Trump is entertaining. But increasingly, the antonym of “gravitas” is “Trump.” Clinton could have responded by inviting Russia to hack into Trump’s computers and release his tax returns; she didn’t because the hack would be illegal and her plea would be unpresidential.
In his press conference, Trump also cast doubt on the idea that Russia hacked the Democratic National Committee’s computers. “It’s probably not Russia,” he said, suggesting it might be China, or “some guy with a 200 I.Q.”
So let’s go through the evidence.
America’s intelligence agencies have assessed with “high confidence” that Russia’s government was behind the hack, and private security companies have identified two Russian teams of hackers that were inside D.N.C. computers. One team is called Cozy Bear and is linked to the F.S.B., the successor to the K.G.B., and another is called Fancy Bear and is linked to the G.R.U., or Russian military intelligence. Cyber experts are very familiar with both Cozy Bear and Fancy Bear.
Notes and provocations from Philadelphia.
The next question is whether Russia was also behind the release of the stolen emails to WikiLeaks. Someone using the name Guccifer 2.0 claimed to be behind the hack, denied Russian involvement and claimed to be Romanian — but wrote Romanian badly. ThreatConnect, a private security firm, issued a meticulous report showing that Guccifer used a Russia-based VPN (virtual private network) service and displayed other “heavy traces of Russian activity.”
“Guccifer 2.0 is a Russian propaganda effort,” ThreatConnect concluded.
After talking to experts, I have the sense that there’s considerable confidence that Russia is the culprit, but more doubt about whether Putin gave the order and about whether the aim was to benefit Trump or simply to create havoc.
“I think the most likely explanation is that someone in Russian intelligence, probably very high up, decided to help Donald Trump,” said Benjamin Wittes, a security expert at the Brookings Institution, but he added that there’s no solid evidence for this.
One reason for caution is that history shows that “intelligence community” is sometimes an oxymoron. In the 1980s, the United States accused Russia of conducting chemical warfare in Southeast Asia, citing “yellow rain” in jungles there. Years later, it turned out that this “yellow rain” may have actually been bee excrement.
Democrats should be particularly wary of hinting that Trump is some sort of conscious pawn of the Russians, or is controlled by Moscow through financial investments. It’s true that his son Donald Trump Jr. said in 2008 that “we see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.” But do you really think that if Trump were an agent he would have exaggerated his ties, as he did last year, saying of Putin, “I got to know him very well”? In fact, Trump acknowledged Wednesday, he has never even met Putin.
The reason Moscow favors Trump isn’t some conspiracy. It’s simply that Putin dislikes Clinton, while Trump’s combination of international ignorance and catastrophic policies would benefit Putin. In particular, Trump’s public doubts about NATO renounce more than half a century of bipartisan orthodoxy on how to deal with Russia, and undermine the Western alliance that checks Putin.
One nightmare of security specialists is Russia provoking unrest among ethnic Russians in Estonia, Latvia or Lithuania and then using rioting as an excuse to intervene. NATO members would be obliged to respond, but frankly it’s not clear that they would — and Trump’s loose rhetoric increases the risk of paralysis and a collapse of the alliance.
In that sense, Trump poses a national security risk to the West, and that’s reason enough Putin would be thrilled to see him elected president.
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Escalation of Media Crackdown in Turkey Heightens Concerns


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