Stoking Russia Panic for Partisan Gain Will Have a Long-Term Price for Peace

By Adam Johnson, FAIR

Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin on MSNBC (8/20/16).

On Saturday’s episode of AM Joy with Joy Ann Reid, guest Malcolm Nance, a former Naval intelligence officer, summed up MSNBC’s Russia panic with this quote:

Joy Ann Reid: Because from what I’ve seen, the only people not with Hillary Clinton at this point…are people in the Jill Stein camp. Jill Stein was sitting at Putin’s table right with General Flynn.

Malcolm Nance: Jill Stein has a show on Russia Today.

Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein doesn’t have a show at all, let alone on RT. She once attended a function hosted by RT, which, by our current standards of liberal discourse, makes her a Kremlin agent, but the fact that such a demonstrably false statement could be made on cable news to thousands of people without anyone bothering to correct it shows how easy Russia panic is to stoke.

Earlier in the segment, Nance made the claim that “someone” in Trump’s campaign “may” be an “agent of Russia,” citing a recent report in the Financial Times (8/19/16) alleging that Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort’s former translator “may” have “links” to Russian intelligence.

The irony, of course, is that Nance himself has far more recent and better documented ties to US intelligence, but MSNBC feels no need to convince viewers he is not a CIA plant spreading disinformation.

Nance had a hot tip, offered in smarmy “insider” tones: “Here’s a bit of strategic intelligence for you. Russia is doing a military massing of forces in Crimea in what appears to be an ‘October Surprise.’” That’s correct, an MSNBCcontributor is openly speculating Russia will invade Ukraine for the express purposes of influencing the US elections.

Nance finished off his impressive run of innuendo and prognostication with this revealing statement:

And the fact that only Manafort’s money connections were enough to get him taken off the campaign–principally because they found documents. They don’t care about inference, they only care about evidence.

Yes, God forbid someone cared about evidence over vague insinuation.

Joy Ann Reid joined in on the saber-rattling:

Russia is not some friend the United States can make and partner with in the world. They are an adversarial, aggressive power that wants us to recognize their seizure of countries that are not theirs.

According to leading pro-Democratic media, the US cannot possibly work with Russia; they are fundamentally adversarial. This type of macho posturing, previously the domain of Fox News, has become increasingly commonplace as the Clinton camp drives home the talking point that Trump is a Kremlin agent.

The day before, in his segment “Does Putin Want Trump to Be President?,” Chris Matthews (8/19/16) allowed  former US ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul to assert that, without a doubt, Russian intelligence hacked the DNC and leaked the info to get Trump elected. Despite the fact that the head of US intelligence, James Clapper, has asked the media to pump the brakes on making these claims without qualification, McFaul has his “sources,” so it becomes a matter of fact.

McFaul, also referenced in the Joy Ann Reid segment, has become the go-to pundit on Putin/Trump theories. McFaul’s pro-NatSec messaging has gotten so goofy he even made the dubious claim in June that “all of America’s most enduring allies have been and remain democracies.” (Asked about, e.g., Saudi Arabia, McFaul waffled and changed the subject.)

Rachel Maddow (8/15/16) talking with former ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul.

McFaul was Rachel Maddow’s source for her August 15 segment, “Trump Chairman’s Pro-Putin Past Remains Murky.” Maddow began the interview openly speculating that Trump presently employed Russian agents, asking McFaul if such an agreement were legal, despite the lack of evidence it was actually going on. The segment finished up with more idle speculation as to why Putin is backing Trump, with McFaul insisting Clinton represented the “opposite” of what the Russian president wanted.

Asking questions about Trump’s links to overseas money is entirely fair and above board (as are questions about Clinton’s ties to foreign funders). But to give the Trump charges more moral urgency, liberal pundits are dusting off old Cold War panic and playing up the reach, scope and sinister motives of Russia.

The effects of this, if and when Clinton takes the White House, will be hard to downplay. How can the US negotiate the end of the Syrian conflict or the Ukrainian crisis if the public, even MSNBC-watching liberals, views Russia as irredeemably aggressive and incapable of ever being a US “friend”? In the interest of short-term partisan gain, pundits on America’s nominally liberal cable network are damaging the prospects of normalizing relations with Russia for years to come.



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