Where I Went Wrong

by Berry Friesen (December 13)

My March 8th post included this:

"Trump has been anointed leader of the disaffected and given the task of neutering that threat.  I expect he will be elected the next President of the United States."

Five months later, my August 10th post reflected a change in my expectations.  I wrote:

"Trump will do what is necessary to lose, in other words. That’s what the script calls for."

A reader asks that in light of what has since transpired, I reflect on the August 10th post, especially my suggestion of a “conspiracy (with Trump’s cooperation) to elect Hillary.” Here is my three-part response.

1. On August 10, aggregated polls showed Clinton leading Trump by 8 points, a big jump from the 2.4 point margin less than three week earlier.  Trump appeared to be throwing away his chances with increasingly distracting and self-indulgent messages.  I interpreted his conduct as purposeful (not incompetence) and evidence of a plan—a conspiracy—to lose.

A second factor in my analysis was the behavior of the mainstream media. It had given Trump huge amounts of free publicity through the primary season, fueling his successful effort to claim the Republican nomination. In my experience, free publicity is solid evidence of support.   Yet in the race against Clinton, it was virtually united against him.

Even the leading newspaper of conservative Lancaster County, Pennsylvania (where I live) endorsed Clinton!

A third factor—admittedly less relevant than the other two—was the behavior of Bernie Sanders.  Like so many progressive Democrat candidates before him, he had animated the base of the Democratic Party and had won the loyalty of young voters.  Yet he carefully avoided criticism of Clinton’s terrible record on foreign policy.  And despite ample evidence of cheating by the Democratic National Committee, Sanders obediently accepted defeat without putting up a fight.

In short, each of the major party primaries had been wired to produce the Trump-Clinton contest. Trump’s campaign performance, together with the media’s behavior post-convention, suggested to me that the general election was “fixed” as well.

In retrospect, my August 10 post was premature and perhaps dead wrong.  During the final stage of his campaign, Trump became a more disciplined and focused campaigner who tried to win.

A week after my post, Trump began shaking up his campaign staff, elevating Kellyanne Conway and Steve Bannon.  Trump’s campaign director, Paul Manafort, a seasoned political operative with many compromising business interests in Russia, resigned a few days later.  

During the following weeks, the performance of the Trump campaign improved markedly. Clinton’s lead narrowed to 3.9 percent on September 12, only to widen again to 7.4 percent after the first debate and the broadcast of a videotaped Trump bragging in 2005 about grabbing women’s genitals.

So if there ever was a conspiracy for Trump to lose, it ended mid-August.

Moreover, even in early August, my perception of Trump’s ineffectiveness as a campaigner was distorted by my reliance on media reports highlighting Trump’s many tangents and distractions.  Only later did I learn how effectively he connected with audiences (mainly public rallies) about America’s wars, the economic woes of blue-collar households and cultural issues.

As for my perception of nearly unanimous support for Trump from mainstream media, it was premature too, as discussed below.

2.  On October 28, eleven days before the election, FBI Director James Comey delivered the "ultimate October surprise" when he announced the Bureau was re-opening its investigation of Clinton’s handling of classified materials. Over the course of the following week, aggregated polling tightened by nearly a point, down to a five point margin for Clinton.

Comey’s decision to open a criminal investigation of one of the candidates so close to Election Day was unprecedented.  It broke with long-standing Bureau policy of avoiding public actions likely to swing votes away from one candidate and toward another.

A week later Comey again shut down the Bureau’s investigation of Clinton, but the damage had been done.  Some voters leaning toward Clinton decided not to vote for her—some by staying home, some by leaving blank the “president” portion of the ballot, some by voting for Trump or another candidate.

And some voters leaning toward passing on the election came off the sidelines to vote for Trump.

If one-half of one percent of the electorate made one of those various choices in each of the closely contested races of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, then the impact of the Comey announcement was large enough to swing those states into wins for Trump and give him the national victory.

Of course, this is exactly the kind of impact the FBI policy of non-interference is designed to avoid. So we can assume Comey did not act on his own brief; he stepped out of line only after having the support of powerful players in the imperial power structure.  Who might they be?

Michel Chossudovsky and John Steppling point to the Wall Street Journal, which on October 24th broke the story that during 2015, Clinton allies had donated nearly $700,000 to the campaign fund of a Virginia pediatrician making her first run for a political office, the state senate.  Who is this political novice who drew such big-time support? Dr. Jill McCabe, wife of Andrew McCabe, Deputy Director of the FBI.

Later reports put the total of all donations from Clinton allies to McCabe at $1 million.

Chossudovsky rightly describes the Journal as “the mouthpiece of the US financial establishment.”  Its publication of the McCabe scoop raised serious questions about whether the FBI has been bought off by the Clinton machine.  This not only triggered Comey’s defensive response; it also revealed that the pro-Clinton consensus was falling apart.  Important elements of the political elite wanted Clinton to lose.

Sheldon Adelson is another imperial mover-and-shaker.  The Las Vegas casino billionaire—known for his “Israel first” commitment and his direct line to Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu—bet big on Trump during the final days of the campaign.  Three days after Comey re-opened the investigation, Adelson gave the Trump campaign $25 million, according to FoxNews.

In summary, when Comey re-opened the investigation of Clinton’s emails, he had the backing of powerful interests such as the Wall Street Journal and Adelson.

None of this implies I was correct in August to suggest Clinton and Trump were co-conspirators in a plan by which Clinton would win the election.  It simply identifies a coordinated development late in the campaign that played a large role in Trump’s surprising triumph.

3.  There are several remarkable aspects to the ongoing Trump transition to the presidency.

Trump has named three Pentagon officers to his inner circle:  generals Mike Flynn, James Mattis and John Kelly.  More generals and admirals are under active consideration. Trump seems to be preparing for some kind of fight.

The empire’s European members are warning Trump against any cooperation with Russia.  The empire’s Middle East members are warning Trump against getting serious about fighting ISIS.

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter visited Afghanistan last week and insisted US troops would stay there indefinitely in order to avoid another 9/11.

Trump appears surprisingly casual about the international threat—terrorism—commonly thought to dominate our age.  He reportedly is offered a CIA intelligence briefing every day, but is declining all but one a week.

President Obama has ordered a comprehensive intelligence review of Russia’s alleged interference in the election.  Though the results may never be made public, the investigation itself will plant seeds of doubt serving to delegitimize President Trump.

Meanwhile, the CIA is leaking to the media unsubstantiated reports that Russia interfered in the election for the specific purpose of helping Trump win.  Trump has responded by publicly questioning the integrity and reliability of the CIA.  And the FBI is weighing in too, telling Congress that the evidence against Russia reportedly isn’t as clear as the CIA claims. Other intelligence agencies are also distancing themselves from the CIA's claims.

Craig Murray, the former British diplomat who champions human rights and government transparency and has direct connections to Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, says he has personal knowledge that the WikiLeaks documents from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) were not obtained via hacking, but via an insider leak.  I find Murray credible.

Veteran Intelligence Agents for Sanity helpfully describes the difference between hacking and leaking and explains that hacking always leaves a digital evidence trail.  The failure of the CIA to produce such evidence points strongly toward a leak and away from Russian involvement.  I also find the individuals involved in this organization highly credible.

Washington “seems divided” at the moment; the late-campaign erosion of the pro-Clinton consensus has developed into a serious power struggle over whether to accept or reject a Trump presidency. If it continues to escalate over the course of this week (and important voices are trying to make that happen), Hillary Clinton may yet prevail in the Electoral College vote December 19.  For example, should Trump’s victory be formalized without knowing whether or not he owes Russia or China lots of money?

This is not a debate over whether the US will continue to function as an empire; that is beyond question.

What is at issue is how the US will maintain world dominance in the years ahead. Toward that end, Trump wants to work with Russia and stop depending on Islamic-based terror groups such as al-Qaeda and ISIS.  The long-entrenched imperial power structure (including the Clinton machine) is digging in its heels; it likes the plan currently in place.

Alternatively, as William Engdahl describes it, the apparent power struggle precipitated by Trump’s election is merely “a deception strategy” designed to engage and distract the American public, lure Putin’s Russia back into junior membership in the US-led empire, and ultimately “weaken the developing deep bonds between Russia and China.”

As noted, I’m inclined toward the view that the current elbow-throwing at the apex of the empire is genuine, not merely theatrics meant to deceive.  But as I’ve learned the hard way, it’s too soon to say.