The Democrats' Desperate Russian Gambit Against Trump Will Backfire
Election 2016

The Democrats' Desperate Russian Gambit Against Trump Will Backfire

REUTERS/Anton Golubev

The Democrats have regularly played the “Russia card,” implicating Donald Trump in supposedly nefarious ties to Putin and others, ever since the Democratic National Committee’s mail hack exposed how the then party chair, Debbie Wasserman-Shultz favored Clinton over Bernie Sanders. However, the Clinton camp has just taken this tactic a trick too far.

Ever since FBI Director James Comey announced the bureau would be reviewing additional emails found on a laptop shared by Huma Abedin and Anthony Weiner, some Democrats are implying Comey, a Republican appointed by President Obama, is covering up Trump’s alleged Russian connections. This is preposterous even by the craven standards of this degraded political season.

Related: WikiLeaks Emails Reveal Millions Raised Through Clinton Foundation for Bill Clinton Inc.

Lost in all the political sauce is a significant policy point. These two presidential contenders hold radically different positions on U.S.–Russian relations, and one of them brings a dangerous hostility to the question. In a weird reversal of all the old Cold War logic, Democrat Hillary Clinton is the superhawk this time.

It’s debatable whether Comey was wise or mistaken to have sent that letter to congressional committee leaders regarding the new emails, knowing that someone would leak the review to press. If he didn’t alert Congress, it was clear someone in the Department of Justice would leak the fact 650,000 additional emails related to Hillary Clinton were found on the laptop. If he did not send the letter, he’d likely be accused of a cover-up favoring Clinton to give her a clear ramp for winning the election.  

But Comey’s judgment isn’t the point. Even if we assume he acted unwisely, it’s no excuse for the Democrats to attempt a political score by reviving an antique Russophobia dating to the McCarthyist 1950s.

Related: Did a Mutiny at the FBI Impel Comey to Send That Letter?

The worst of this flimsy trickery came first when Senator Harry Reid, the about-to-retire Democrat from Nevada, accused Comey of covering up “explosive evidence” of “coordination” between Trump and Russia. And Reid’s not talking now about Trump’s old business dealings—which are damning enough, as Democrats would have it: Reid alleges ties between the GOP candidate and the Russian government—possibly including its intelligence services.

Then came allegations that political bias led Comey to refuse to sign off on the Obama administration’s conclusions that the Putin government was behind the original hack of the DNC’s mail. In essence, this makes Comey a law-breaking conspirator.

Trump’s allegedly close ties to Vladimir Putin are back on the table. Trump’s faint, off-hand admiration for the Russian president’s decisiveness now makes him “a threat to national security.”

In reality, there’s very little to any of the allegations leveled at Trump as if attacking him is our new national sport. We have no clear evidence of Russia’s involvement in the DNC’s hack—which is one logical reason Comey refused to certify the administration’s findings.

Related: Stream of Anonymous Leaks From FBI Intensifies

Trump’s business dealings in Russia date to Boris Yeltsin’s reform period, when hundreds of American corporations, businesses, and banks were active in the Russian market. So what?

All the noise drowns out a couple of things far more deserving of voters’ attention.

One, Democrats have all along played the Russia card to deflect attention from the DNC’s corruption and Hillary Clinton’s gross mismanagement of her communications and professional relationships while serving as secretary of state. As Paul Ryan said when this latest mess broke open, “Hillary Clinton has nobody but herself to blame.”

Two, and of far greater consequence, we shouldn’t miss Clinton’s agenda for the U.S.–Russia relationship. As The New York Times’ David Sanger wrote a couple of weeks ago, “Clinton will enter the White House with the most contentious relationship with Russia of any president in more than three decades, and with a visceral, personal animus toward Vladimir V. Putin, its leader.”

Related: The Failed Ceasefire in Syria Now Leave Russia in Charge

I can’t think of a single reason this is anything American voters ought to look forward to. Trump’s position on Russia, while in no way well-developed, stands in sharp contrast to Clinton’s worrisome views. While some may find this hard to admit, it’s a sounder strategy.

Trump eschews confrontation in favor of businesslike negotiation. He also recognizes that there are numerous questions—not least Syria—on which cooperation between Washington and Moscow is a realistic alternative to our mounting contention.

The same pattern carries over into the China relationship—something else we shouldn’t let go unnoticed. Trump breathes fire on questions such as trade and exchange rates, but it’s a dealmaker’s ripping and snorting.

Now consider Clinton’s thinking. One of the thousands of emails WikiLeaks has made public lately reveals her apparent proposal if Beijing fails to “control” North Korea—never mind that its ability to do so is plainly limited.

Related: Why Clinton’s China Policy Puts More at Risk than Trump’s

“We’re going to ring China with missile defense, Clinton said in a 2013 speech delivered privately. “We're going to put more of our fleet in the area.”  

For good measure, she also asserted that the U.S. has a perfect right to call the Pacific “the American Sea.”

With a few days remaining before voters choose our 45th president, it’s time to call the Democrats on this sleazy gambit: It amounts to little more than an opportunistic smear made of innuendo slathered atop Trump with trowels.

Conventional wisdom has it that a Trump presidency would work only if he appointed sound minds in his cabinet and in various government departments. No less is true of a President HRC.