A Red Herring Twist in the Russia Story

One of the recent revelations about the “Russia” thing is that the Democratic National Committee helped pay for the now famous dossier compiled by a former British intelligence agent that alleged President Donald Trump had fishy financial dealings with the Russian government and even fishier dealings with certain other Russians. All the top-rated conservative talk radio shows and other Trump-friendly media were giddy about the story, first reported by the oh-so liberal establishment Washington Post, and Trump also claimed vindication, but it doesn’t strike us as much of big deal.
Any thoughtful observer assumed there was some Democratic involvement in the dossier when it first became known, the hippy-dippy but reliably factual Mother Jones magazine first confirmed it a full year ago, and all those top-rated conservative talk radio shows and other Trump-friendly media have been telling their audience about it all along. The knowledge hasn’t yet made the “Russia” thing go away, nor the dossier’s numerous allegations about it, and probably won’t now. Recent attempts to turn “Russia” into a Democratic scandal also seem destined for failure.
The highly ethical sensibilities of all those talk radio shows and other Trump-friendly media are deeply offended that the Democrats would stoop so low as to pay for opposition research on a Republican opponent, but this is hypocrisy too obvious for the public at large not to notice. Way back when Donald Trump Jr. was was forced by The New York Times to release an e-mail chain that showed a Russian lawyer explicitly offering the Trump campaign dirt on the Democratic nominee straight from the Russian government, and Trump Jr. agreeing to a meeting with an exclamatory “I love it,” the party line was that politics ain’t bean bag and of course everyone does opposition research.
The president’s defense of his son was that “most people would have taken that meeting,” even if it was a representative of a hostile foreign power offering something of value that campaign laws clearly prohibit campaigns from accepting, so its hard to share his current indignation that the Democrats paid for a British private investigator to snoop around his Russian connections. None of the Trump-hating liberal media seem have to mentioned it yet, but even such old-fashioned Republicans as ourselves recall when Trump claimed he had hired a team of private investigators to look into President Barack Obama’s birthplace, and “tweeted” that “they can’t believe what they’re finding.” Trump later declared that “Obama was born in Hawaii, period,” and took credit for at long last putting any scurrilous rumors otherwise to rest, and in his defense we have to admit he probably never did hire any private investigators, but his suddenly puritan views about opposition research still look ridiculous.
The dossier is still largely unsubstantiated, as all the establishment media routinely admit, but by no means discredited, as the Trump-friendly media always describe it, and the fact that the Democrats helped pay for doesn’t change that. Every sort of conservative  has always insisted that just because a study skeptical of climate change was paid for by an energy company or some analysis of tax policy was paid for by rich people doesn’t mean the findings are necessarily valid, and that the data and methodology should be judged on their merits, so we’ll judge the dossier accordingly. So far a few niggling errors have been found, other parts have been corroborated by the media and the intelligence, the more salacious details have largely been ignored except by the gleeful Trump-hating late night comics, who have a collectively far larger audience than all those top-rated conservative talk radio shows, and for now we’re keeping an open mind about all of it.
The year-old Mother Jones scoop and the more ballyhooed report of the past week by The Washington Post both say that the dossier first started with funding from a Republican donor backing one of the many non-Trump candidates in the party primaries, who cut off the money after Trump won the nomination, and the Democrats then pitched in for a while, and after that the British private investigator continued the work on his own because he thought the entire world needed to know what he was finding out. No one on the left or right is disputing any of this, and on the right they’re speculating about which Republican from the hated Republican establishment would do such a thing, with Trump telling reporters that he has his own guesses he might reveal later, and it any case it doesn’t really matter.
Meanwhile the congressional and special counsel investigations into “Russia” continue, the unfriendly-to-Trump media keep coming up with incriminating and convincing stories about something fishy with the “Russia” thing, and we’ll try to continue looking with a open mind at the data and methodology as it all unfolds.

— Bud Norman

The 47 Percent Problem

Mitt Romney has been caught red-handed saying something unpleasantly true that very much needed to be said, so of course we’re all supposed to be appalled and write off his chances of winning the upcoming presidential election.
Mother Jones Magazine, the hippie journal of record, has released a surreptitiously recorded tape of ,Romney telling a group of well-heeled potential donors that 47 percent of Americans will be inclined to vote for Barack Obama “no matter what.” He goes on to explain that these Americans aren’t likely to support a campaign based on tax cuts and personal responsibility because they don’t pay income taxes, are dependent to some degree on government largesse, and consider themselves “victims” who are “entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.”

None of Romney’s numerous critics can truthfully state that this any of this isn’t plainly true — and they’re unwilling to note that he actually understated the percentage of Americans who don’t pay income taxes, which is closer to 49 — so they settled for accusing him of being insensitive, out of touch, mean, merciless, plutocratic, cannibalistic, and generally having all the other moral failings they routinely attribute to Republicans. They also chortled that Romney had “disdainfully written off half the nation,” as the Obama campaign put it, and savored the possibility of winning a landslide based on the dependent-American vote.

Romney refused to back away from the comments during a Tuesday news conference, except to concede the “inelegant” phrasing, and we can hope that the argument he advanced in the remarks will now take its rightful place at the very forefront of the campaign. Having such a large segment of the country dependent on the labor of others is a recipe for economic decline, social disintegration, and is a bloody shame, no matter how much it flatters the moral vanity of the modern liberal. If giving a man a job is somehow less compassionate than giving him a handout, then compassion is much overrated.

We suspect that much of the slight majority paying for it all will be inclined to agree, and if the Democrats want to cast themselves as the party of welfare dependency, high taxes, and income redistribution they might also be writing off half the nation, and they should note that it’s the half that’s far more likely to actually get to the polls and vote. There are many in the income tax-paying class who work for the government, or feel guilty about their relative affluence, or have some other reason to vote for the ever-expanding welfare state, but one must hope that there are at least a similar number of people taking government assistance who would much prefer a job.

Romney should continue to press the argument before the number gets to 51 percent, which is a point of no return.

— Bud Norman