September 19, 2018

What Is Not Said Can Be Crucial

The talk shows and cable news networks are busy conjecturing as to whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Sergey Kislak, the Russian ambassador to the US, to impact last year’s election. Did Attorney General Sessions, General Michael Flynn or Jared Kushner discuss email leaks, “fake news” and other sordid acts with the ambassador and his colleagues?

Unfortunately, that speculation ignores an even more fundamental concern—what clearly wasn’t discussed—the moral, political and diplomatic outrage of the Kremlin impacting our democratic, electoral process.

This morning while driving to work I listened to Andrea Mitchell Reports on MSNBC. Mitchell is the long-time NBC journalist who serves as their chief foreign correspondent (she also happens to be the wife of Alan Greenspan). She is a sane and sober adult in a sea filled with lots of screamers and yellers.

Among her interviews today was Andrei Kozyrov, the former foreign minister of the Russian Federation (1990-1996). A seasoned Russian diplomat who is no fan of Vladimir Putin (he made that clear) and is now a visiting scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C. Parenthetically, he hired both Sergey Kislyak (the Russian ambassador to the United States who is at the center of the recent Trump-Russia controversy) and Russia’s current foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov.

In a frank and honest discussion of the controversy swirling around Attorney General Sessions, General Flynn and Jared Kushner, Kozyrov helped clarify why our focus on a single issue of the scandal, possible collusion, has been misguided.

What was really at stake in these encounters, as Kozyrov put it, wasn’t just the Trump campaign’s possible complicity in election tampering, but equally troubling, the impression that the Trumpites left with the Kremlin diplomat that “no one seems to be bothered by our actions.”

Kozyrov observed that Ambassador Kislyak couldn’t but come away from those meetings sensing that Trump campaign leaders really weren’t troubled by what he and his buddies had done; after all, no one said a peep about it. The former foreign minister concluded that the Trumpites’ silence would have been the lead in the diplomat’s cables to Moscow—“we can continue to meddle in the American elections, no one seems to care!”

Sessions, Kushner, and Flynn (who were adamant in stressing that they didn’t raise the issue of election involvement by the Russians) insured, by their silence, that the Kremlin would conclude that their tampering was cost free.

Kozyrov—remember, he’s the former Russian foreign minister—opined that the American “leaders” should have begun their discussions with Kislyak by denouncing the election meddling and telling him to make sure that the Kremlin stopped what it was doing immediately. By their timidity, they acquiesced to, and encouraged, what had been taking place.

Perjury and Logan Act violations are disqualifiers for high public office, but cowardice should be as well.  Our expectations for what public service demands should be higher than avoiding “legal jeopardy;” we should also expect that our “leaders” do what is moral, appropriate, and necessary—- especially when it comes to fundamental issues of democratic values and processes. Unfortunately, Flynn, Sessions and Kushner would be found wanting (they are manifestly missing a moral compass).

It’s ironic that a former Kremlin diplomat should have to remind us of what was, and is, at stake.

The interview is worth watching, it should be here shortly, http://www.msnbc.com/andrea-mitchell .