At the Democratic convention in Philadelphia last summer, Jake Sullivan and I took to our golf carts one afternoon to make the rounds of the television networks’ tents in the parking lot of the Wells Fargo Center. It is standard for presidential campaign staffers to brief networks on what to expect during that night’s session. But on this day, we were on a mission to get the press to focus on something even we found difficult to process: the prospect that Russia had not only hacked and stolen emails from the Democratic National Committee, but that it had done so to help Donald Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton.There are three things in this gripping lead paragraph guaranteed to make the reader stop and grip the nearest bottle of antacids:
1. Rather than trudge a few hundred yards around the parking lot like mere sweating mortals, Hillary's minions drove around in golf carts.
2. The reader is needlessly reminded that the Democrats held their closed convention in a venue owned and named for one of the most corrupt, bailed-out financial institutions ever created to be too big to fail and too big to jail. Why even bring up Wells Fargo, which has such a nasty history of ripping off the very same Americans whom the Democratic Party is ostensibly trying to woo back into the tent? (Hint: they love and need Wells Fargo more than they need average voters.)
3. Palmieri oafishly admits that she was trying to dictate the news and plant a story. She makes no attempt to hide the collusion which normally exists within the media-political complex. She complains that the rightly distrusted mainstream media fell down on its job to disseminate propaganda in the corporate Clintonoid interest. It's all the media's fault that they didn't come through for Hillary back when it counted, despite lack of evidence of any actual Russian "hack."
Hillary Clinton's communications director didn't think it was in her job description to ride her golf cart around to the network booths in order to talk about such policy ideas as health care and free state college tuition. She was in such a bubble that she assumed that the anxious viewers at home would be more in tune with palace intrigue than with how her Anointed One planned to solve problems in their own everyday lives.
And thus does Jennifer Palmieri proceed to cast some of the blame for her party's loss on the millions of struggling people who were far too distracted by their own problems and not focused enough on Hillary's. Her op-ed blathers on:
Voters didn’t seem worried. Earlier that week, our campaign manager, Robby Mook, was mocked for telling CNN that the leak of stolen emails before our convention was an indication that Russia was trying to help Trump. We did not know, as FBI Director James B. Comey told Congress this past week, that the bureau had already opened an investigation into Russian interference — and into possible links between Trump’s associates and the Russian government, including whether they worked together on his behalf.Thanks a lot, Obama. Thanks a lot, Comey. Thanks a lot, Deplorables.
But it's never too late to start World War III with Russia, voters! As Palmieri admonished us earlier this year, we mustn't let the Resistance to Trump be sucked up by such mundane concerns as a living wage and universal health care. The resistance is all about defending ourselves against Russian invaders and vindicating Hillary Clinton, just lately re-emerged from her Brothers Grimm part of the forest.
Now that Trump is president, though, the stakes are higher, because the Russian plot succeeded. The lessons we campaign officials learned in trying to turn the Russia story against Trump can help other Democrats (and all Americans) figure out how to treat this interference no longer as a matter of electoral politics but as the threat to the republic that it really is.No, the normally reliable mainstream media tented up in the Wells Fargo parking lot didn't pay enough attention to Golf Cart Jen when they still could have saved the Republic. And now, as a direct result of that failure, Trump is president. But who's to say that other corporate Democrats can't cash in on the manufactured hysteria? Since identity politics and attacks against deplorable Trump voters didn't elevate Democratic fortunes, perhaps the relentless fomenting of fear and panic will do the trick.
As someone who worked in the pathologically secretive Obama administration, Palmieri purports to be pleasantly shocked at how swiftly some normally close-mouthed security state types have been willing to go public with the anti-Russia party narrative. Former Deputy CIA Director Michael Morell, for instance, actually went on TV to sound the public alarm during the campaign. Palmieri fails to mention in her op-ed that Morell was also in line to become Clinton's CIA director, and openly advocated for all-out war in Syria.
I remember my jaw dropping as I sat in our Brooklyn campaign headquarters and read the op-ed Morell submitted to the New York Times in early August, in which he shared his view that Russia had probably undertaken an effort to “recruit” Trump and that the Republican nominee had become an “unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.”Whether her jaw dropped at the evidence-free charges, or whether it dropped because the CIA normally hides its political motivations as it orchestrates coups and meddles in foreign elections, Jennifer Palmieri does not say. But it was so totally awesome that everybody else was as slack-jawed with wonder as she was.
Were it not for the spectacle of Hillary dredging up an old insult that Trump had aimed at a former Miss Universe, we the people would have paid more attention to RussiaGate. Besides, everybody thought Hillary would win.
So poor Jennifer Palmieri says she was stuck in a Catch-22 situation. How on earth to make the stupid voters take a paranoid and contrived narrative like RussiaGate as seriously as she did? Like Milo Minderbinder in the Joseph Heller novel, perhaps she "could see more things than most people, but could see none of them too distinctly."
We didn’t want her to talk too much about Russia because it wasn’t what voters were telling us they cared about — and, frankly, it sounded kind of wacky. At the same time, we understood the issue would never rise to the front of voters’ minds if we weren’t driving attention to it. It was already pretty clear they weren’t going to hear much about it in the press.Thanks a lot, Comey. Thanks a lot, Obama. Thanks a lot, press. You left Hillary and Golf Cart Jen twisting slowly, slowly in the wind.
And even now, millions and millions of dumb Americans are not paying sufficient attention to the Russian takeover of their government. Trump's mundane outrages -- like the attempted destruction of the Environmental Protection Agency and the stuffing of the White House with some of the same financial institutions as Clinton and Obama -- are taking valuable attention away from what really matters: starting a war with Russia. Therefore, Jennifer Palmieri is going to work her heart out to convince dumb Americans to develop the acceptable and preferred kind of fear and dread that not only has always made our nation exceptional, but also has the potential to sweep more Democrats in to office in the midterms and beyond.
In another era, Americans would have been able to count on both Democrats and Republicans in Congress to stand up to this kind of threat. A lot of Democrats like to play the “If we were Republicans” game. I usually hate it; I don’t want to behave like the Republicans do. But it’s useful here. If Clinton had won with the help of the Russians, the Republicans would have impeachment proceedings underway for treason. No doubt. Instead, dealing with Russia falls nearly solely on Democrats’ shoulders.It is very painful to be a liberal who has to come clean on one's own greed and bloodthirstiness and brutality. But that is what sometimes has to happen in the topsy-turvy world of the Duopoly. Even communications experts like Jennifer Palmieri occasionally have to communicate the distasteful truth that her prime allegiance is to the oligarchic war machine. Donald Trump simply cannot be allowed to grab more than his fair share of the booty.
What more can a liberal communications guru do but morph into Joseph Goebbels and tell a major major major lie often enough so that eventually, every last one of those dumb Americans will come to believe it?
But Democrats can break out of the Catch-22 of the campaign: If we make plain that what Russia has done is nothing less than an attack on our republic, the public will be with us. And the more we talk about it, the more they’ll be with us.That was actually a pretty stupid thing for such a savvy PR flack to admit. This op-ed could be a case study in how not to subtly manufacture public consent. She very publicly discloses the neoliberal strategy designed to literally hound us into a state of abject submission. She very liberally promises that Democratic Party functionaries will talk about nothing but Russia in every one of their TV appearances. Russia is more important than a living wage, Medicare for All, restoration of Glass-Steagall and a tax on high speed trades, stopping the obscene control wielded by a few billionaires over both major political parties, and most of all, the amelioration of man-made pollution and climate change.
The detritus of a dwindling middle class, extreme wealth inequality, outsourced jobs, plummeting wages, rising homelessness and the worst drug catastrophe in American history is not the fault of the bipartisan, privatization-happy Neoliberal Thought Collective. Golf Cart Jen would lose her ride if she ever admitted such a thing.
Her manufactured message is this: If you think that your life sucks and you feel too helpless and apathetic and unpatriotic to vote for the self-dealing corporate Democrats, then it is obviously all Russia's fault. Must.Resist.Putin.
The worst part about our lackluster collective response to Russia’s interference is that it represents exactly what the Russians were hoping to produce: apathy. Their goal, in addition to installing a president sympathetic to their views, was to undermine Americans’ belief in our democracy. For Americans to think that none of this really matters, that it’s all a game. That’s how they truly erode U.S. moral authority and strength over the long term. It’s what they have sought to do to European adversaries for many years, and now they have brought this seed of destruction here.And thus does Golf Cart Jen end her screed, with all the inspirational garbage at her disposal.
"The government paid him well for every bushel of alfalfa he did not grow. The more alfalfa he did not grow, the more money the government gave him, and he spent every penny he didn’t earn on new land to increase the amount of alfalfa he did not produce. Major Major’s father worked without rest at not growing alfalfa.” -- Joseph Heller, Catch-22.