Tags: russia | j edgar hoover | obama | james comey | fbi

Russian Meddling Predicted by J. Edgar Hoover, Ignored by Obama

Russian Meddling Predicted by J. Edgar Hoover, Ignored by Obama
Former FBI Director James Comey poses for photographs as he arrives to speak about his new book "A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership" at Barnes & Noble bookstore, April 18, 2018, in New York City. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

By Tuesday, 24 April 2018 01:41 PM Current | Bio | Archive

During presidential campaigns, televised debates are usually won or lost on the strength of the best delivered zingers.

Ronald Reagan’s classic “smack down” of his 1984 opponent, Walter Mondale, is the stuff of legend. The Gipper dismissed the questions about his advanced age and famously quipped, “I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.”

And with that expertly delivered one-liner, Mondale was left to salvage only his home state of Minnesota in a 49-state landslide Reagan reelection victory.

And although George H.W. Bush was able to secure presidential victory in 1988, it was the naked condescension and standup comic-like timing of Democratic vice-presidential candidate Lloyd Bentsen, running mate of Michael Dukakis, that stole the show that campaign season.

Bush 41’s youngish running mate, U.S. Senator Dan Quayle (R-IN), obliviously stumbled into a debate trap by comparing his youth and precociousness to one-time Democratic neophyte political icon John F. Kennedy. Bentsen smirked, purposely waiting a beat, and then mockingly scoffed, “Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy.”

And finally, let’s revisit the 2012 election season. It was one single, crisp, and ultimately devastating line delivered by Barack Obama, that helped cripple Mitt Romney’s chances to unseat the incumbent.

In the third prime time presidential debate with his challenger, Obama smugly taunted — "When you were asked, what's the biggest geopolitical threat facing America, you said 'Russia.' Not Al-Qaeda; you said Russia," Obama taunted. "And, the 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back, because, the Cold War's been over for 20 years."

And while some may argue that the “47 percent” comment was ultimately Romney’s undoing, the sitting president’s dismissal of Romney’s town crier Eastern European foreign policy concerns gave credence to many Americans’ suppositions that the former governor was simply out-of-touch.

Obama ultimately regretted that quip. In the waning years of his second term, the audacious annexation of land in the Crimea by the president of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, certainly posed a problem in U.S. relations with the most visible and prominent remnant of the old Soviet Union. Yes, 1980’s foreign policy — whether we wanted it or not — was back.

So what did Obama — and ultimately all of the so-called U.S. foreign policy experts — miss in the run-up to Russia’s incursion into Crimea? And more importantly, why has the Kremlin’s efforts to meddle in our elections only recently become a cause célèbre?

In former FBI director James Comey’s new book, “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership,” he details an exchange with President Obama in the run-up to the 2016 election. Obama — like many — was of the mindset that Clinton would certainly win the election. He downplayed the idea of sounding the alarm about Russia’s meddling efforts, fearing it would give Trump a strategic advantage by further indicting what he referred to as “the deep state.”

When weighing a response to Putin’s discernible efforts to sow discord in the election, Obama flippantly responded, “He backed the wrong horse.”

Tone-deaf? You bet. Obama’s hubris and dismissal of the Kremlin’s looming threat resurfaced some four years after his debate gaffe in that notorious exchange with Romney.

Special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s team and the Justice Department have uncovered glaring evidence that the Kremlin — in spite of Putin’s pathetic denials and Donald Trump’s less-than-enthusiastic acknowledgement — actively conspired to disrupt the 2016 presidential election process by pitting candidate supporters against one another.

On February 16, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced the indictment of thirteen Russians and three Russian companies by the Department of Justice for — wait for it — a scheme to interfere in the United States Political System.

DOJ’s 37 page indictment highlights just that — a 21st century “How to Manual” on the employment of fake news stories, phony political surrogacy groups, and divisive online chatter designed to pit Americans from both major political parties against one another.

But why have so many Americans just become “woke” to this issue now? The Obama administration was concerned about making a bigger deal of it before the 2016 election because pundits and pollsters had forecast Hillary Clinton’s landslide victory.

While acknowledging that the Russians did interfere in the democratic process, it’s much less clear the extent to which their efforts impacted the election. The effects remain to be determined.

But we should recognize that the warnings of Russian meddling didn’t begin in 2016.

In 1958, the FBI’s sitting director, J. Edgar Hoover, wrote a book entitled, “Masters of Deceit: The Story of Communism in America and How to Fight It.”

Hoover presciently identified and called out the threat to our election system posed by Kremlin efforts. In “Masters of Deceit,” Hoover specifically addressed the threat in chapters entitled “Infiltration” and “Espionage and Sabotage.”

Per Hoover, the Kremlin’s view of a capitalist democracy is of a system of government “limited, repressive, and [that] favors the minority.” He further defined Russian views of democracy’s dysfunction as “curtailed, wretched, and false” — thinking consistent with the teachings of Marx and Lenin.

Hoover warned us in 1958 that the Kremlin would be relentless in opposition to the notion that a free society predicated on “one man, one vote” was a viable form of government. He also warned of Russia’s unwavering efforts to impact our elections.

In defining the communists, Hoover warned Americans of becoming “innocent victims” of communist efforts to dupe the masses. DAG Rosenstein’s indictment of thirteen Russians and three Russian companies makes no mention of “willing American co-conspirators.” It does, however, refer to Russians who “communicated with unwitting individuals associated with the Trump campaign.”

What the Russians did during the 2016 election was to give a master class on how to disrupt free and fair elections by ingeniously pitting Americans against Americans. Their end state objective may not have been to elect Donald Trump, but to sow doubt in the minds of all who pulled the lever. In that, their efforts were a resounding success.

President Trump, please pay heed to the warning of the FBI’s first director. We simply cannot afford a repeat of the 2016 election cycle. Putin and his cronies are still — some 60 years later — masters of deceit.

We must identify, acknowledge, and forcefully confront the threat.

And for the informed book buyer, given the choice between a current best-seller by feckless James Comey, and a weathered and dated missive by J. Edgar Hoover that called out the Russians six decades before it was deemed uber-progressive to call out the Russians — choose wisely.

One is rooted in fact. And the other, fantasy.

James A. Gagliano is a 1987 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point. Following his service as an Infantry Officer in the U.S. Army, he entered the FBI, serving in a myriad of positions in the investigative, tactical resolution (SWAT), undercover, diplomatic and executive management realms. He was a member of the FBI’s elite Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) and has posted to assignments in Afghanistan, Mexico City, and parts of Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. He retired in December of 2015 from the FBI’s New York City Office. He currently serves as a Law Enforcement Analyst for CNN, provides Leadership consultation for corporate clients of the Thayer Leader Development Group (TLDG) at his alma mater, and instructs undergraduates at St. John’s University in Queens, New York, where he earned an M.P.S. in Homeland Security and Criminal Justice Leadership in 2016. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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During presidential campaigns, televised debates are usually won or lost on the strength of the best delivered zingers.
russia, j edgar hoover, obama, james comey, fbi
Tuesday, 24 April 2018 01:41 PM
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