By DEXTER DUGGAN
PHOENIX — When the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, many U.S. conservatives were skeptical that its end had arrived. Was the sight of the apparently crumbling empire an intentional deception, to put the Western world off guard?
Had the aggressive atheist power center really fallen to its own decay? Or was this a Moscow ruse to make Washington relax its vigilance so the Soviet bear could pounce? The term “Potemkin village,” after all, came from the creation of massive fakery by 18th-century Russian military man Prince Grigory Potemkin to deceive the viewer.
But as the old 20th century was replaced by the new 21st, the situation actually appeared to be improving in Russia, the heart of the old USSR, and its former vassal states. Maybe that was a real stake driven through the heart to pinion atheist Sovietism in its coffin.
Even those conservatives who continued to entertain their doubts for decades about the Soviet demise probably felt they had the proof they needed by 2016 that the USSR had passed away.
What proof? The dominant U.S. media that adored and curtsied to snarling Communist Moscow for decades suddenly were up in arms and blaring alarms about the dangers of predatory non-Communist Russia hacking the recent presidential election.
These media sang their soothing songs for generations about the need for the U.S. to cozy up to and sign risky treaties with the torchbearers of malevolent, maniacal Lenin and Stalin.
But after churches once again freely were being built in reborn 21st-century Russia, and its citizens had the comforting consumer goods long denied to them under socialist scarcity, Russia suddenly was being portrayed by these media as a malign international meddler to fear, distrust, even hate.
Oh, Russia still was swell in newsrooms not very long ago, when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced her “Russian reset,” and Barack Obama confided that he needed some maneuvering space in 2012 from Vladimir Putin for his re-election campaign.
However, unable to accept that appalling, corrupt Democrat Hillary ran a losing 2016 presidential race, leftists desperately searched for some other explanation for her defeat. Aha, wicked Russia must have been pulling unseen levers — somehow, somehow — to influence voters against her and for Republican Donald Trump.
What influence? Unable to show that the results of any voting machines had been manipulated by Moscow, the accusers pretty much came down to asserting that Russia tried to fiddle with Americans’ thinking.
Strange, but when conservatives had warned about Soviet psychological warfare in the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, they were laughed off by the elite. But now that glittering Moscow opened all-American eateries like the Beverly Hills Diner and the Bison Steak House, the elite got political indigestion. Stale, scarce bread under Stalin was fine, but plentiful juicy hamburgers with the Putin touch were repellent.
Not surprisingly, one of the media’s favorite squishy Republicans, Arizona “Maverick” Sen. John McCain, as well as McCain’s South Carolina go-fer, “moderate” Sen. Lindsey Graham, were deeply suspicious of Russian deviltry, too. These Republicans never liked Trump’s presidential campaign, and they didn’t seem to think any good could come of Trump hoping to spadework better relations with the Kremlin.
On January 3, Trump announced that he’d have a full news conference in New York on January 11, where he’d tell how he’s distancing himself from his business empire while serving in the White House. However, the evening of January 10, two media figures, CNN and BuzzFeed, threw raw meat onto the fire that seemed to promise real sizzle against Trump the next day.
As it turned out, Trump masterfully conducted the news conference with the aplomb of the seasoned Manhattanite that he is, both an entertainment star and billionaire developer who knows his way around the nation’s toughest media.
More credit to him, then, because the raw meat alleged improprieties that might finally have achieved dominant media’s goal of driving Trump from the public scene. Except there was no substantiation whatever for them, and no excuse for CNN and BuzzFeed unwrapping them to public view.
It turned out that the accusations had been known for months within the media, but they hadn’t reported them — much as they would have loved to — because reporters couldn’t verify anything. After the baseless charges were aired on January 10, Trump’s media enemies looked worse than ever, and Trump looked better.
The liberal New York magazine’s “Daily Intelligencer” feature quickly posted that “Trump won even before he stepped before the microphone, by making the media the story. Last night, BuzzFeed published a salacious 35-page oppo-research dossier on Trump that alleged Russia possessed sexual and financial dirt on Trump that could be used to blackmail him.
“BuzzFeed justified reporting the unverified oppo-research document — which had been compiled during the presidential campaign by a political operative working for Trump’s Republican rivals — by stating that intelligence agencies had briefed Trump on a summary of the findings last week,” the magazine said, adding:
“But BuzzFeed’s article boomeranged back on the website as journalists were quick to denounce its decision to publish unconfirmed claims and errors. (CNN broke news of the intelligence briefing, but did not print the sensational details.)”
Worse yet for the anti-Trumpsters, it turned out that McCain himself was revealed to have passed on the slimy details to FBI Director James Comey. Radio talkmeister Rush Limbaugh quickly mocked McCain by saying, “Well, it’s great and it’s funny, but, you know, it’s also dangerous and it’s pathetic, and it’s embarrassing.”
And the UK Daily Mail site headlined incredulously, “Sworn Trump enemy John McCain admits HE handed smear dossier to FBI — because he had no idea if it was credible.”
Back in McCain’s adopted hometown of Phoenix, the co-hosts on the politically conservative Seth and Chris Show on KKNT radio (960 AM) said media came up the loser.
Chris Buskirk said, “The whole thing has been debunked in less than a 24-hour news cycle,” and added that CNN and BuzzFeed were an example of, if you give them enough rope, they’ll hang themselves.
Co-host Seth Leibsohn said the supposed dirt on Trump “is oppo research, and not good oppo research at that….(Trump) won the day” at his New York news conference.
The Wanderer asked two Phoenix conservative GOP activists to comment. One of them, Rob Haney, retired chairman of Phoenix’s Maricopa County Republican Party, actually had asked voters in 2016’s general election to cast their ballot for McCain’s liberal Democrat opponent on the theory that this freshman Democrat in the Senate would do less damage to Arizona and the nation than a re-elected McCain.
Regarding the CNN-BuzzFeed story, Haney said: “It is no surprise to Arizona conservatives that McCain was heavily involved in circulating the latest fake news story about Trump. We are fully aware of McCain’s unethical and despicable political actions. He, Obama, and (former Nevada) Sen. (Harry) Reid live by the same perverse moral code. That is why a conservative activist published a series of ‘Never McCain’ videos on YouTube to expose McCain’s unsavory character during his re-election campaign in 2016.”
On January 14, two days after this hardcopy issue of The Wanderer went to press, Maricopa County Republican precinct committeemen were to have their regular meeting to elect their officers. In light of some online chatter that McCain should be removed from his Senate seat because he handed along the smear dossier, The Wanderer asked Haney if he thought signatures would be collected for that purpose at the meeting.
Haney said he didn’t think so because effort already was being concentrated on another task, to fight back against McCain’s attempt to take over the county party.
McCain traditionally has been at war with grassroots Republicans here as well as elsewhere.
“There is too much going on fighting the McCain precinct committeemen operatives, who have greatly increased their numbers. I am sure the effort will be to defeat McCain’s slate for county officers,” Haney said.
Another Arizona conservative activist who’s not pals with McCain told The Wanderer that in this case, McCain didn’t have much choice but to pass on the unverified information.
That activist, campaign consultant Constantin Querard, said on January 11: “Based on what little we know right now, passing it to the FBI was probably the best of the bad choices that he had. Not sure the public has much faith in the FBI director these days, but that would be the agency you’d likely turn to. And going straight to the director protects the info as best as possible.”
Shortly before the “smear dossier” news broke, The Wanderer had asked Haney and Querard what they thought of McCain’s continuing attacks on Putin and Russia, despite Trump’s professed desire to improve relations.
The morning of January 10, Haney replied: “For nearly two decades John McCain has colluded with Democrats and other RINO Republicans to make the United States less secure through the lack of enforcement of our borders and of our immigration laws. He has also worked closely with Obama in support of ISIS forces in Syria. He has been a complete failure when it comes to taking actions to provide security for the United States.
“So it is no surprise that McCain has sided with the liberal establishment elites to denigrate Trump’s presidency via the fake news story that Russia intervened with our election by hacking into Democrat Party emails,” Haney continued.
“This is a media frenzy about a security lapse that Obama and McCain had the power to fix for the last eight years but are now trying to pin the blame on Trump. Conservatives warned Arizona voters that McCain would cause more damage to Trump’s presidency than any Democrat could.
“Look for McCain to vote against some of Trump’s cabinet nominees and wreak as much carnage as he can to the conservative cause. Siding with the Democrats and causing havoc and carnage are what John McCain does best. That is why the mainstream media fondly named him the ‘maverick’ for his audacious hypocrisy,” Haney said.
On the other hand, Querard said on the morning of January 7: “I think John McCain would be holding his current position/attitude towards Russia no matter who was president, so I don’t think it has anything to do with Trump per se. It is also worth noting that Moscow being the Communist capital of the world is not some historical thing, but a very current thing as well.
“Russia is our adversary, they are expansionist, they are invading their neighbors militarily, and Putin is anxious to reconstruct as much of the old Soviet Union as possible. They are not our friends and we will get no respect from them if we remain passive, weak, or coddling,” Querard said.
“If we were having this conversation a year ago, the Democrats would be loving Putin and the Republicans would be hawkish. Now, with the possibility that Russia/Putin somehow helped Trump or hurt Hillary occupying much of the media’s time, a disappointing number on both sides have flipped their positions/viewpoints. That’s partisan, silly, and only helps Putin, to the long-term detriment of the U.S.A. and free people everywhere,” Querard said.
Build That Wall
Among other interesting items from Trump’s January 11 presser:
— Trump probably will reveal his choice of a new conservative Supreme Court justice within two weeks of his January 20 inauguration. He said voters wanting to change the Supreme Court’s direction were a big reason he was elected;
— He remains firm on building a border wall. “I want to get the wall started. I don’t want to wait a year and a half.”
— Politicized intelligence agencies are leaking information instead of maintaining the required silence. Trump said he performed a test by telling no one on his staff he was having an intelligence meeting, but the word soon leaked anyway;
— Continuing to bring a religious tone to his stewardship, Trump said there will be “a big church service” on January 21, the day after his Friday inauguration.