Bountygate: Putin Kicks the Dog
This is way worse than Watergate. Why aren't we treating it that way?
|Greg Olear||Jul 24, 2020||64||9|
IN THE WEE HOURS of June 17, 1972, five men were arrested for breaking into the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee offices at the Watergate complex in Washington. Almost immediately, the cover-up began: It was a botched “third-rate burglary attempt.” It was Cuban freedom fighters. It had nothing to do with John Mitchell. It had nothing to do with CREEP. It had nothing to do with Richard Nixon.
The truth about Watergate eventually trickled out, thanks to the efforts of intrepid investigative journalists at the Washington Post—and the vindictiveness of Mark Felt. Forty-eight years later, we know just about everything about the scandal, including Felt’s secret identity as Deep Throat. Watergate was such an integral moment in our history that we reflexively affix the “-gate” suffix to all political scandals, large or small.
But what was the crime of Watergate itself, the inciting event? Nixon’s “plumbers” broke into DNC headquarters…to bug the joint. To spy on their rivals. And to what end? Democrat George McGovern lost the 1972 election resoundingly, an ass-kicking of historic proportions. Nixon took 49 states, capturing the Electoral College by an impossible 520-17 margin, and won a whopping 60 percent of the popular vote.
The irony of Watergate is that the dirty tricksters wound up taking down their beloved president, and they didn’t need to. In the grand scheme of things, the people most harmed by Watergate were its perpetrators: James McCord, G. Gordon Liddy, Jeb Magruder, John Mitchell, President I Am Not a Crook. (Well, and Martha Mitchell, but you get the idea). Even so, that botched burglary led—rightly—to the key conspirators going to prison, and to Nixon resigning in disgrace.
Contrast that with the most recent “-gate” involving a US president: Bountygate. There have been so many “gates” since 1972 that the term has lost all meaning, and “Bountygate,” the name itself, sounds innocuous, like it has something to do with the paper towels Donald John Trump set-shot at hurricane victims. Perhaps this is why the scandal has so far been the inverse of Watergate: an egregiously heinous crime (negligent homicide of American soldiers) followed by a paucity of public outrage or media attention.
Yes, it took time for the non-WaPo media to jump on the Watergate story, but that scandal was intricate and hard to fully grasp. Bountygate couldn’t be easier to understand: Russia—the hostile foreign power whose president owns ours—paid bounties to Taliban forces for killing American soldiers in Afghanistan. Trump was told this, many months ago, in his Presidential Daily Brief—actually, he was told three times—and did nothing. On the contrary, he continued to capitulate to his overlord Vladimir Putin. On 8 May 2020, after he’d been thrice informed, and while there were medical supply shortages at home because of his bungling of the pandemic response, he pledged to send ventilators to Russia to help treat covid-19 patients there. He said: “We had no calls from Russia for years. And all of a sudden, we have this great friendship. And, by the way, getting along with Russia is a great thing, getting along with Putin and Russia is a great thing.” A great thing, to get along so swimmingly with the guy paying cash money to kill our soldiers!
It’s been four full weeks since the New York Times broke the story, which was confirmed by the major media outfits, including the AP. Trump has continued to sit on his (small) hands. He has not so much as issued a comment condemning Russia’s actions. He did, however, condemn the newspaper that had the scoop:
Lindsey Graham @LindseyGrahamSCImperative Congress get to the bottom of recent media reports that Russian GRU units in Afghanistan have offered to pay the Taliban to kill American soldiers with the goal of pushing America out of the region. https://t.co/dm4QWATzgg
When George W. Bush whiffed on the “Bin Laden Determined to Attack US” intelligence, he didn’t blame the briefer. He didn’t meet Bin Laden in Helsinki. He didn’t pledge fealty to Al Qaeda and repudiate his own intelligence services. Instead, he went after the guy (he went after the wrong guy in the wrong way, for sure, but he didn’t not act). Even the second-worst president since Reconstruction grasped the basic concept that when our enemies attack us, what we have to do is respond.
The press reports discuss financial transactions. That means that the bounty program wasn’t just theoretical. It was functioning. Money changed hands. Taliban forces killed US soldiers and collected their dirty rubles, sure as businesses run by Trump’s cronies took taxpayer-funded PPP money. Those bounties were paid by Russia. Russia, whose president owns ours.
There are those in the media who like to poke fun of folks like me, for making everything about Russia—the Trump propagandists, but also the Glenn Greenwald/Julian Assange-fluffer faction of the presumed “left.” But, like, if Trump is truly free to speak his own mind, to go his own way with respect to Putin…why doesn’t he? Why does he stand with an enemy despot instead of our soldiers, of whom he is the titular Commander-in-Chief? Why did he call Putin yet again yesterday, and not even bring up the bounties?
Say it again a different way: Taliban killed US soldiers and got paid for it. By Russia. By the government run as a dictatorship by Vladimir Putin. Who, hand in glove with its powerful mafiya, owns Trump. Whose election fuckery won Trump the White House. Whose election fuckery Trump is depending on in November, to cheat himself into another term and avoid criminal prosecution.
Simply put, there are only two reasons Trump has done nothing about Bountygate. First: he can’t, because he’s both owned by Putin and depending on his active endorsement come Election Day. Second, he’s grotesquely incompetent. (Note that the two are not mutually exclusive). This is merely the latest and most brazen exhibit in the long case of Donald John Trump being exactly the Russian puppet Hillary Clinton told us four years ago that he was.
But why did Putin do this? The bounty program is gratuitous. Surely the Taliban don’t need convincing to kill US soldiers. This is the little twerp flexing his muscles, demonstrating, for all the world to see, his complete control over our supplicant president. For all we know, it was Putin’s own intelligence services who leaked the story. That little fucker wanted us all to know.
The occasional PREVAIL correspondent Moscow Never Sleeps, who worked for years in Russia, explains the psychology at work here: “Power in Russia is being able to kick your enemy’s dog in the ribs, in public, without fear of reprisal,” he says. “The reason the Russians won’t deny the bounty story other than with a bit of a smirk and a ‘Who, us?’ denial is that if Trump won’t even acknowledge, much less protest, far much less do a goddamned thing about it, what Putin is proving is that he can kill the occasional neighbor’s dog with impunity.” (That Trump famously hates dogs makes this parable all the more apt).
So it’s like this: A hostile foreign power has kicked our proverbial dog, for all the world to see. Our president has not so much as lifted a finger to stop him—and his GOP enablers are shamefully, contemptuously silent.
An honorable man would resign—but Trump has no honor. A patriotic Senate Majority Leader would pressure him to do so—but Mitch McConnell is a traitor to his country. It’s incumbent upon us not let this story die. Bountygate must be front and center until the election.
And about that election: Say what you will about Joe Biden, but does this look like the kind of leader who would let anyone kick his dog?
Photo credit: President Donald John Trump addresses service members stationed during his visit to Osan Air Base, South Korea, June 30, 2019. U.S. forces across the peninsula are charged with the mission of deterring aggression, defending the Republic of Korea and maintaining stability in Northeast Asia. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. James L. Miller)