Monday, November 19, 2018

MSNBC "Betrayal" Documentary

Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, MSNBC ran a program called, “Betrayal: The Plot that Won the White House" a documentary by Rachel Maddow.

Betrayal framed its story (subtitle, The Plot That Won The White House) with the idea that Trump’s campaign benefitted from Russian interference.

On that issue, I think the evidence so far is that, per Don Jr.’s email, Jared & Don, Jr. were way over their heads but others in or around the campaign were conversant with the Russian players.  Maybe Trump is beholden to the Russians and other foreign regimes.  But I think the Russian misinformation/Facebook campaign was more effective for Putin (we still do not know the extent of it nor does Congress or Facebook have the will to expose and control it).

What Nixon did was illegal.  His acts are blamed for the continuation of the war and the resultant deaths of more than 20,000 in the US military.  It is a political decision (or absence of decision) that leads to war and a political decision to end a war.  The War in Vietnam, the decision to go in, and the vacillating in getting out were shameful. Nixon’s acts influencing a foreign government with his promises were treason.

What Betrayal didn’t do was to compare Johnson’s restraint in going after Nixon on the eve of the election with Obama’s similar restraint.  What have we learned from history?  The analysis of Johnson’s not going public rests on (1) that he did not have a smoking gun tying Nixon to South Vietnam’s withdrawal from the peace talks and (2) not wanting to reveal that the FBI and NSA were used to spy on the South Vietnam ambassador and Mrs. Chennault (a US citizen). 

As Lawrence O’Donnell, in Playing with Fire: The 1968 Election and the Transformation of American Politics, p. 404, said:

“Richard Nixon knew he had committed the worst crime in American political history . . . .  And he also knew it was the perfect crime.”

In Obama’s case, post Edward Snowden’s revelations, the fact that Clinton was expected to win was probably the most important factor in Obama’s not making more of a public effort to expose the Russian/Facebook interference.  Secondly, what exactly could Obama do, at the last minute, without appearing to be supporting Clinton?  It’s like the attorney at a trial who gets to tell the jury something that the judge then rules out of order and instructs the jury to disregard.  Finally, the full extent of Russian/Facebook interference was not known before the election and is still not known.