Like millions of Americans I have followed with interest over the past few months the steady WikiLeaks release of Hillary Clinton related emails.
First came the embarrassing batch of twenty thousand messages last July just days before the Democratic National Convention. A number of them exposed what many had already suspected: that the Democratic National Committee (DNC)’s claims of neutrality were lies as evidenced by internal discussions of ways to undermine the candidacy of Senator Bernie Sanders. What followed was the humiliating ouster of DNC chair, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, further tarnishing Clinton’s already damaged reputation on the eve of her historic triumph.
The latest collection of more than fifteen thousand hacked emails from long time Clinton confidant and advisor, John Podesta, are equally revealing. For a presidential candidate who rails against the financial industry the world can now read embarrassing summaries of her remarks to Goldman Sachs moguls suggesting a cozy relationship with Wall Street at odds with her public pronouncements. Not to mention her own demands ($225,000 per speech) coupled with a refusal to make transcripts of her remarks public.
Nor is it just Hillary. Podesta’s aides also voiced concerns about the bad “optics” for the campaign of her husband’s acceptance of another huge speaker fee just days before the convention. And then there is the hypocrisy of her “spontaneous” responses to so-called Town Hall questions which candidate Clinton had received in advance.
So why is Julian Assange, the mastermind behind the WikiLeaks, concentrating only Hillary? In his quest for truth and honesty through exposure of government and corporate misconduct why has Donald Trump escaped scrutiny? Are we to believe that Assange, a fugitive safely ensconced in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, has been unable to breech Trump’s firewalls?
Of course not. We now know a few facts because the Obama Administration finally acknowledged what every thinking American already suspected – Vladimir Putin had ordered his intelligence services to destroy Hillary Clinton by ending her chances of becoming president.
So then we have to address his motives for such a risky move. One fraught with potentially grave consequences for Russia’s relations with the United States. Is it merely “transactional?” That is to say does his calculus suggest better deals for Russia down the road from President Trump rather than President Clinton? Or is it something far deeper.
In fact, it’s now personal. Vladimir Putin loathes Hillary Clinton! I concede that this is a harsh statement and I take no pleasure in making it. But I believe it’s true. The evidence, in my view, is found in Alter Ego, a recently published book by veteran journalist, Mark Landler, which examines the complex and often troubled relationship between President Obama and Hillary Clinton during her four years as secretary of state. As the White House correspondent for the New York Times since 2011 Landler has detailed, in part, Obama’s failed efforts to “reset’ the US relationship with Putin’s government. Obama assessed Putin as “tough, smart, shrewd, very unsentimental, very pragmatic.” As for Putin’s take on the president – over breakfast one morning with Obama the Russian president called him an “educated man” while describing himself as “just an old security guy.” (PP. 278-279)
Secretary of State Clinton’s relationship with Putin was equally doomed. Landler writes that in the heyday of the reset Clinton “never hesitated” to speak out about civil liberties in Russia. In a 2009 speech before thousands of students at Moscow State University she delivered a stern lecture to Putin saying that Russia could best fulfill its potential by protecting basic freedoms. “After Clinton all but accused Putin of rigging the parliamentary elections,” Landler wrote, “their relationship was beyond repair (Italics added).” And then the klinker. In an unconscionable breech of diplomatic etiquette Secretary of State Clinton, the most senior foreign policy official in the Obama Administration and ranking member of the president’s cabinet, publicly likened President Putin to Adolf Hitler. (Italics Added) (Ibid.)
Words matter. And they matter most when America’s top diplomat with presidential aspirations insults a foreign leader in such a catastrophic way. Think for a moment how President Obama would react if Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, likened him to virulent white racists like Alabama governor George Wallace, Lester Maddox of Georgia or the notorious Birmingham, Alabama police chief, Bull Connor.
Consider also what “Hitler” means for Russia. I doubt there is any Russian alive today who has been unaffected by the Second World War. Of the estimated seventy million deaths during the war approximately thirty million, many of them civilian, occurred on the Eastern Front. And then there were the seven million Russian soldiers who perished – 3.7 million in German POW camps.
Putin himself did not escape these consequence. His father was severely wounded in 1942 fighting Hitler’s forces on the Eastern Front. His mother, Maria, miraculously survived the Nazi siege of Leningrad which killed one million residents most due to freezing and starvation. But not before helplessly watching her son (Vladimir’s older brother), Viktor, die of diphtheria, an easily treatable disease under normal circumstances, characterized by a barking cough, difficulty swallowing, rapid breathing and heart rate.
As I write this article in the third week of October with Election Day rapidly approaching I feel increasingly certain that Mrs. Clinton will be our next president. And as an American I do wish her well.
But as a word of warning to her and all Americans I end where I began. Alter Egos author Landler recounts an interview that President Putin gave to French television journalists in 2014. When asked about her critical comments on Russia’s annexation of the Crimea Putin replied coyly that “Mrs. Clinton has never been too graceful in her statements.” And in the end, he noted, “its better not argue (read deal with) with women.”