Although Russians may have aspired to influence the November election, the real election meddlers were Democrats in the Obama administration who conspired with foreign intelligence agencies against Donald Trump’s campaign, new media reports suggest.
The key player, we are learning, is the already infamous John O. Brennan but FBI Director James Comey also played a role. From January 2009 to March 2013, Brennan was Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, and then Director of the Central Intelligence Agency from March 2013 until Obama’s last day as president.
George Neumayr explains at the American Spectator how pro-Islam, pro-Communist Brennan appears to have masterminded the operation.
Seeking to retain his position as CIA director under Hillary, Brennan teamed up with British spies and Estonian spies to cripple Trump’s candidacy. He used their phony intelligence as a pretext for a multi-agency investigation into Trump, which led the FBI to probe a computer server connected to Trump Tower and gave cover to [then-National Security Advisor] Susan Rice, among other Hillary supporters, to spy on Trump and his people.
Drawing from a news article in the Guardian (UK), Neumayr adds:
Brennan got his anti-Trump tips primarily from British spies but also Estonian spies and others. The story confirms that the seed of the espionage into Trump was planted by Estonia. The BBC’s Paul Wood reported last year that the intelligence agency of an unnamed Baltic State had tipped Brennan off in April 2016 to a conversation purporting to show that the Kremlin was funneling cash into the Trump campaign.
Estonians were indeed tense after Trump’s seeming ambivalence about NATO on the campaign trail and the prospect that as president he might leave that former Soviet province at the mercy of Russian President Vladimir Putin. British spy agencies, too, were rife with Trump-haters.
The Guardian reports that Robert Hannigan, then-head of the British foreign surveillance service, Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), “passed material” to Brennan in summer 2016.
The claim about GCHQ involvement surfaced a month ago.
On March 16, Fox News contributor Andrew Napolitano accused GCHQ of working with the Obama administration to spy on Donald Trump, citing unnamed sources. The United States and United Kingdom are in fact parties to a multilateral intelligence cooperation pact. This five-way intelligence alliance among the U.S., U.K., Australia, New Zealand, and Canada is called Five Eyes (FVEY). It obligates the countries to work together in the area of signals intelligence (SIGINT). SIGINT is the gathering of intelligence related to communications between individuals (COMINT) and or from electronic signals not directly used in communication (ELINT).
When Brennan took over the CIA, he brought along fellow-travelers.
He dragged along “a raft of subversives and gave them plum positions from which to gather and leak political espionage on Trump,” Neumayr writes. He also “bastardized standards so that these left-wing activists could burrow in and take career positions. Under the patina of that phony professionalism, they could then present their politicized judgments as ‘non-partisan.’”
An official in the intelligence community told Neumayr that “Brennan’s retinue of political radicals didn’t even bother to hide their activism, decorating offices with ‘Hillary for president cups’ and other campaign paraphernalia.”
Neumayr cuts through the obsequious flattery the Guardian article bestows on its intelligence community sources, writing that things were so bad that Brennan’s CIA “operated like a branch office of the Hillary campaign, leaking out mentions of this bogus investigation to the press in the hopes of inflicting maximum political damage on Trump.”
“To ensure that these flaky tips leaked out,” Neumayr writes of the dubious pro-Trump plot by the Kremlin, “Brennan disseminated them on Capitol Hill. In August and September of 2016, he gave briefings to the ‘Gang of Eight’ about them, which then turned up on the front page of the New York Times.”
This was part of Brennan’s audition for the Hillary White House. Eager to retain his CIA post, the perennial excuse-maker for the Muslim Brotherhood also hated Trump for his alleged “Muslim ban,” which offended Brennan’s raging case of Islamophilia. In college Brennan spent a year in Cairo studying Arabic and taking Middle Eastern studies courses. He later was awarded a graduate degree in Middle Eastern studies.
Brennan and crew also helped to torpedo Mike Flynn, President Trump’s first short-lived National Security Advisor, because he “planned to rip up the Obama-era ‘reset’ with Muslim countries.” After reading the transcripts of Flynn’s calls with the Russian ambassador, “[t]hey caught him in a lie to [Vice President] Mike Pence and made sure the press knew about it.”
Not surprisingly, Brennan is one of the key reasons the Obama administration did so little to combat jihadists domestically. After Muslim lobbies supposedly put pressure on him, in 2011 Brennan purged all mentions of Islam and jihad from law enforcement counter-terror training materials. He assured those groups that the Obama administration’s worse-than-useless “Countering Violent Extremism” program had been ideologically purified and pretended the miniscule white-supremacist movement was just as big a threat as head-cutting Muslim savages.
Throughout his service in the Obama administration, Brennan regurgitated the regime’s dangerously idiotic talking points about Islam. It’s not like he needed convincing.
Brennan has spoken of "the goodness and beauty of Islam," which he calls "a faith of peace and tolerance." "The tremendous warmth of Islamic cultures and societies," he said, typically makes visitors from non-Muslim lands feel very "welcomed."
Brennan was the CIA’s station chief in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. “I saw how our Saudi partners fulfilled their duty as custodians of the two holy mosques of Mecca and Medina,” he said. “I marveled at the majesty of the Hajj and the devotion of those who fulfilled their duty as Muslims by making that privilege — that pilgrimage.”
Former Marine John Guandolo, who worked in the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division, identified Brennan as an enemy operative who converted to Islam.
Brennan admitted he supported the Kremlin-funded Communist Party USA at the height of the Cold War, even voting for CPUSA presidential candidate Gus Hall in 1976. That fact alone should have instantly and permanently disqualified Brennan from all national security-related government posts.
FBI Director Comey’s hands are also not clean.
CNN reports that the FBI relied on the discredited “piss-gate” dossier to win approval from a secret court for permission to monitor the communications of Carter Page, a member of the Trump campaign. That Comey would act based on a dossier that is so ridiculous on its face that, among other things, it accused Trump of paying prostitutes to urinate on a hotel room bed in Moscow, suggests a strong desire on Comey’s part to hurt the Trump campaign.
Meanwhile, the Never Trumpers in the intelligence community can’t stop lying. Now they’ve fed more seeming nonsense to the media in order to keep the fake, faltering Trump-is-a-puppet-of-Putin story alive.
Citing unidentified American sources, Reuters is reporting that an official Russian think tank, the Moscow-based Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, drew up plans “to swing the 2016 U.S. presidential election to Donald Trump and undermine voters’ faith in the American electoral system.”
Three current and four former U.S. officials reportedly “described two confidential documents from the think tank as providing the framework and rationale for what U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded was an intensive effort by Russia to interfere with the Nov. 8 election.” Of course, it is not at all clear that U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded any such thing because no evidence, apart from the same anonymous statements recycled endlessly on CNN, has been made public.
The first document was “a strategy paper written last June that circulated at the highest levels of the Russian government but was not addressed to any specific individuals.” It urged the Kremlin to conduct “a propaganda campaign on social media and Russian state-backed global news outlets to encourage U.S. voters to elect a president who would take a softer line toward Russia than the administration of then-President Barack Obama,” all seven of these mysterious spooks reportedly said.
That Russia could even fantasize about having a bigger Russia-lover in the Oval Office than Barack Obama, the most pro-Russian U.S. president of all time, is difficult to fathom.
Obama advanced Russia’s interests in so many ways, according to Robert G. Kaufman. In 2009 he killed President Bush’s missile defense program for the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland. Then he renegotiated the New START nuclear arms agreement, which curbed the U.S. missile defense arsenal while letting the Russians add to theirs. In March 2012 Obama was caught on an open microphone telling then-Russian President Dmitri Medvedev to wait until after the upcoming election when he would be able to make even more concessions on missile defense. As Russia engaged in what one expert called the largest military buildup since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Obama flipped off Mitt Romney during a presidential debate. After Romney on the campaign trail referred to Russia as “without question, our No. 1 geopolitical foe,” Obama mocked him, saying “the 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back.” And Obama did virtually nothing but talk when Putin invaded Ukraine.
“Thanks to Obama's reset, Putin believes more than ever that he can achieve his consummate objective of reversing the outcome of the Cold War,” Kaufman adds. “No wonder Putin thought he could wage a cyber campaign to delegitimize the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.”
A second document from the institute that was drawn up in October counseled that Hillary Clinton was probably going to prevail in the election. That paper urged Russia to halt its pro-Trump propaganda campaign consisting of efforts by “state-backed media outlets, including international platforms Russia Today and Sputnik news agency, to start producing positive reports on Trump’s quest for the U.S. presidency, the officials said.”
Given that Russia Today and Sputnik are virtually unknown among American news consumers, it is hard to imagine anything they might broadcast or publish having much of an impact on an American election.
But it is becoming increasingly obvious that Russia didn’t do much, if anything, to influence the election.
John Brennan and others in the Obama administration used America’s taxpayer-funded national security apparatus to engage in espionage against an opposition presidential campaign, an incoming administration, and that administration’s transition team.
The whole campaign aimed at convincing Americans that President Trump was a tool of Russia was created by Democrats for their illicit purposes.
Almost every day new evidence emerges proving that point.
On Tuesday morning around 10:45AM, a Muslim named Kori Ali Muhammad walked through Fresno, California, shooting three men dead at random, including one in the parking lot of Catholic Charities. When he was arrested, he screamed “Allahu akbar.” According to the local ABC station, Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer “indicated it was ‘still too early’ to know if the shootings were an act of terrorism.”
Of course. And for those who refuse to acknowledge the nature or magnitude of the Islamic jihad against the West, it will always be too early, even if Kori Ali Muhammad presents Dyer with an ISIS membership card and a letter signed by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi commanding him to carry out this attack. In this case, the familiar dance of denial by non-Muslim authorities intent on absolving Islam of all responsibility for the crimes done in its name and in accord with its teachings is not the central lesson of the attack – that sad charade has played out all too often in the past, and will many more times in the future, and there is nothing new to say about it.
The key story in the murders committed by Kori Ali Muhammad is that they constitute a jihad attack carried out by an apparent member of the Nation of Islam, the racist black supremacist pseudo-Islamic group headed by Louis Farrakhan. According to the Los Angeles Times, “a Facebook profile page for a Kori Ali Muhammad from Fresno paid homage to black pride and black nationalism, with images of the red, green and black Pan-African flag and images of a raised fist. The page listed him as a ‘warrior’ for RBG Nation, referencing red, black and green.”
What’s more, “in recent days, he repeatedly posted images to his frenetic Facebook page with the hashtag #LETBLACKPEOPLEGO. He referenced ‘white devils’ and praised melanoma skin cancer. In a post Monday, he wrote in all caps: ‘MY KILL RATE INCREASES TREMENDOUSLY ON THE OTHER SIDE ASÈ ALLAH U AKBAR.’ Shortly before that, he posted: ‘BLACK WARRIORS MOUNT UP AND RIDE OUT *ASÈ* #LETBLACKPEOPLEGO.’” Ase, according to the Times, “is a term from the Yoruba people of Nigeria, referencing a concept that there is power in our spirituality, words and feelings.” Muhammad also referred to “white devils” and the Nation of Islam’s mythical evil figure who created white people, Mr. Yakub.
If Muhammad is indeed a member of the Nation of Islam, he demonstrates yet again how members of the Nation of Islam, even though orthodox Sunni and Shia Muslims consider the Nation a heretical sect, can identify with the global jihad, and place themselves in its service. The most notorious example of this is the Beltway Sniper, John Allen Muhammad, who along with his accomplice, Lee Boyd Malvo, murdered seventeen people in sniper attacks in the Washington, D.C. area in October 2002. Muhammad had joined the Nation of Islam in 1987; Malvo was discovered to have kept notebooks in which he drew portraits of Osama bin Laden and other jihadis and declared his determination to wage jihad himself.
When Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan spoke at the Nation’s annual gathering in Detroit last February, attendees greeted him with thunderous cries of “Allahu akbar” and listened raptly as Farrakhan railed against not against the Nation’s bogey, white people, but against the Jews: “I want to disabuse the Jews today of the false claim that you are the chosen of God — that Israel or Palestine belongs to you. I want to disabuse you of that. I’m going to tell you about your future. You that think you have power to frighten and dominate the peoples of the world. I’m here to announce the end of your time.”
He has, of course, spoken this way many times before. That Farrakhan would so often use the platform of his racist cult to attack the Jews suggests that he is interested in currying favor with mainstream Muslims who are well aware of how deeply embedded anti-Semitism is in the Qur’an. Orthodox Islam does not blame the evils of the world on white people, but the Nation’s Jew-hatred is certainly mainstream Islam, and an indication of how the Nation is often a way station: African-American men convert to it and then pass from it into orthodox Sunni groups, or turn to jihad even without doing so. Kori Ali Muhammad is just the latest example of this.
If authorities ever decide that the random shooting of three non-Muslims by a Muslim screaming “Allahu akbar” might possibly be terrorism, they might begin investigations that would make all this clear to them and help them prevent it from happening in the future. But nothing seems much less likely.
Tom Wolfe, Noam Chomsky (inset) and Charles Darwin (inset)
Noam Chomsky would seem an irresistible figure for lampooning by Tom Wolfe, whose career has been devoted to eviscerating the preening of America’s bien pensant class. Since the Vietnam war, when he looked like nothing less than Dennis the Menace's father, Chomsky has been the very model of left-wing indignation. In The Kingdom of Speech, Wolfe places him among the brave intellectuals of that era "willing to leave the office, go to the streets, and take part in antiwar demonstrations"—yet whose arrests "were of the token variety that seldom caused the miscreant to miss dinner out." Beginning with his essay "The Responsibility of Intellectuals" (1967), Chomsky has churned out hundreds (make that thousands) of grim, anticapitalist pronouncements and accusations of the United States as a murderous one-party state ruled by a managerial elite.
Yet it is not Chomsky's role as a left-wing gadfly that is Wolfe's major brief here. Before there was Chomsky the political icon there was Chomsky the linguist. His current outsized status is a case of what economists call the multiplier effect. Beginning in the late 1950s, Chomsky awakened the world to the issue of language, providing "the entire structure, anatomy, and physiology of language as a system." His authority moved linguistics from its position as "a satellite orbiting around language studies" to "the main event on the cutting edge." By 1960, linguists were reduced "to filling in gaps and supplying footnotes for Noam Chomsky."
Why the fuss over language, anyway? And why on earth does Tom Wolfe care? It comes down to evolution, a theory embedded in "the very anatomy, the very central nervous system, of all modern people." Wolfe grants the opposable thumb, but not the notion that human speech sprang from the loins of orangutans. Language, in Wolfe's account, is an artifact created by man and, like all of man's tools from slingshots to iPhones, has allowed Homo sapiens to take control of the world. It is the sine qua non of being human. Wolfe's final words, literally, on the subject: "To say that animals evolved into man is like saying that Carrara marble evolved into Michelangelo's David."
Before reaching that point, Wolfe tells two interconnected stories. One concerns the way an idea comes to hold an exalted position over men's minds and changes our ways of thinking about the world. Wolfe's examples of such power are Jesus, Muhammad, John Calvin, Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, and Charles Darwin. The second story is about the institutional power that transfixes, multiplies, nails down the idea in men's minds—and marginalizes, Palinizes, and slanders those who emerge from low-lying swamps with a different narrative.
Darwin's big idea was the Theory of Evolution. Darwin didn't dare to go so far, but everyone knew that On the Origin of Species (1859) concerned the evolution of humans. Despite the outrage of clerics, the idea was massively promoted by individuals such as Thomas Huxley, who didn't even believe in evolution but was an out-and-out materialist, i.e., atheist. (Understanding the power of language, Huxley wisely coined "agnostic" to describe himself.) Before long, "At the higher altitudes of society, as well as in academia, people began to judge one another socially according to their belief, or not, in Darwin's great discovery." Sound familiar?
It was, of course, language itself that promoted, then institutionalized, Darwinism in newspaper reviews, learned societies, and scholarly articles. Nothing in the fossil record, however, explained the miracle of human communication. Even Alfred Russel Wallace, whom Darwin finessed on the priority issue, denied an animal genealogy for speech. From the get-go, the size of the human brain—which allowed people to think abstractly, to plan ahead (of which no animal is capable), to comprehend space and time—"was so far beyond the boundaries of natural selection" as to render that term meaningless "in explaining the origins of man." In The Descent of Man, his sequel to Origin, Darwin sought to prove that humans were simply very smart parrots, hardwired for speech, thereby bringing the missing Homo sapiens into "the big picture of evolution." The Oxford linguist Max Müller, although without ever naming Darwin, referred to the notion that language had evolved from animal sounds as the "bow-wow theory." Despite his name and birthplace, Müller was also a certified English Gentleman and insisted on a "hard and fast line between man and brute," a "Rubicon." There the matter rested, and studies of the origins of language fell into dogmatic slumber by the turn of the 20th century.
Enter Noam Chomsky, who revived the notion of the biological origin of language by identifying—eureka!—the device in the brain where the capacity for speech was stored. Maybe not an actual device, or gadget, or thing-amabob, but it had a name: language acquisition device, or LAD. Again, we are in "hard-wired" territory, as the LAD represented an "innate" capacity of the human brain. The instant a child, whether in Timbuktu or in Paris, is exposed to human speech, the hypothetical LAD goes into operation. It is programmed with a universal grammar, which likewise does not have to be taught. In the early 1960s, Chomsky's theory acquired the name transformational grammar, or TG, as linguists worked out the theory by churning out analyses that described the rules by which ever-more-complicated linguistic constructions are generated. Thus, "Mary is liked by John" might be considered a transformation of "John likes Mary," generated from an underlying deep structure. All languages, whatever their surface structure, work the same way, and humans easily recognize such variations and are also able to distinguish and to disambiguate—"What annoyed John was being ignored by Mary"—all because of that little LAD.
Chomsky's theory, like Darwin's, was based on what Wolfe calls an "uncontroversial" assumption: that language had evolved, that the human mind had an innate capacity for language, and that all languages share certain universal forms. Chomsky's institutional power has been such that no one has been able to weaken that edifice—even if, Mao-like, Chomsky has revised and retrofitted his doctrine to the point that it resembles a Rube Goldberg device. Despite millions of dollars in funding and decades of research, however, a "language organ" has never been located, while Chomsky's earlier oracular pronouncements simply fall into a deep well of oblivion.
One of Chomsky's updatings to the arsenal of universal linguistic features was recursion, unveiled in 2002. An example: "Mary suspected that John's failure to arrive for their date meant that he could not be counted on to get them to the airport on time." By my count, that sentence nests at least five separate thoughts.
Enter Daniel Everett, who, beginning with a 25,000-word article in 2005, debunked Chomsky's language organ, along with LAD, universal grammar, and deep structure. Unlike Chomsky and his acolytes, Everett actually went out into the field—indeed, into the remotest Amazonian rain forest—where he lived for several decades with the exceedingly isolated Pirahã tribe. Their isolation is reflected in the archaism of their language: Not only does it lack recursion, but it also has no words for "yesterday" or "tomorrow," no way of expressing the past or the future. Thus, while the Pirahã sing and dance and hunt, they create no epics and, aside from the bow and arrow and a primitive scraping tool for making arrows, they produce no artifacts. They do not draw and have no conception of gods or of numbers. (This state of affairs led the Smithsonian Channel to produce a documentary entitled "The Grammar of Happiness" in 2012.) The Pirahã are fully evolved in the physical sense, but in their remarkable isolation, they represent "the most basic prototype of Homo sapiens."
Like the clerics in Victorian England, Chomsky's bulldogs sought to shoot down Everett; but he outflanked them with a bestselling account of his life among the Pirahã (Don't Sleep, There Are Snakes) in 2008, followed by Language: The Cultural Tool in 2012, which, according to Wolfe, shows that language did not evolve from anything; it was "a 'cultural tool' man had made for himself."
Wolfe advances a theory of mnemonics to explain how humans created this artifact. I have not seen any references in the linguistics literature to such a theory, and Wolfe offers no notes; but to my mind, it suggests a very cumbersome way of language processing. I am one of those folks more impressed with a theory that is simple. Yet there may be something to it: Humans, after departing East Africa, did have 100,000 years or so to work out the details, not forgetting that ancient peoples had more prodigious memories than us moderns, even larger than Victorian polymaths.
Although Tom Wolfe does not connect the two, it strikes me that the notion of a linguistic deep structure tells us much about Noam Chomsky's politics. A century ago, Chomsky would have been an unorthodox figure among linguists: Aside from his native English, he is proficient in only a single foreign language, Hebrew, learned as a child. Before the so-called revolution in linguistics that he inaugurated, the field was mostly devoted to recuperating and describing the world's languages. Scholars, and missionaries in particular (such as Daniel Everett), spent their lives traveling in the most wicked and inhospitable terrains—if not to bring the Word, at least to document the rich variety of the earth's tongues. Chomsky, in contrast, disdains fieldwork: As Wolfe notes, he sits instead up high, "very high, in an armchair in an air-conditioned office at MIT, spic-and-span . . . [and] never leaves the building except to go to the airport to fly to other campuses to receive honorary degrees . . . more than 40 at last count."
Thus, the theory of transformational grammar rests on not a single natural language, but purports to offer insight into the functioning of the mind itself. Deep structure, in this theory, is a place in the mind where abstract linguistic functions (nouns, verbs, subject, object, passive voice, etc.) live. These functions resemble Immanuel Kant's conceptual categories, also constituents of the human mind—of all minds, thus "universal." Chomsky has acknowledged his indebtedness to the 18th-century rationalist philosophers, and, of course, the power of their thinking lives on in one of the greatest affirmations of Enlightenment universalism: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." Very beautiful—but very abstract, and the United States has spent two-and-a-half centuries seeking to realize these truths.
When he inveighs against the United States, Chomsky is resurrecting Voltaire, railing at the obscurantism of the church or at people who believe in witches. For such hyper-rationalists, there are truths that the mind knows, indeed all minds know: that we should be tolerant of others, should practice what we preach, should love others as we love ourselves—and would do so if our minds were not distorted and diminished by the lying propaganda we so willingly imbibe from self-serving authorities.
Chomsky's vicious attacks on America draw on what is apparently a lifelong revulsion at the disparity between the democratic ideals on which the United States is founded—our deep structure—and what he considers the murderous hypocrisy of our actual behavior—our surface structure. And although Chomsky repeatedly says that he is against all authoritarian governments, his vast linguistic provincialism has blinded him to the full variety of the world. He can only see the sins of the United States of America. His legacy has been misanthropic, indeed antihuman.
Elizabeth Powers is the author of the forthcoming From Velveeta to Brie: A Memoir of How We Had It All.
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, delivers a speech a day a referendum that granted him sweeping new powers. (Burhan Ozbilici/AP)
Turkey’s Islamist President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has engineered the path to his virtual one-man rule of Turkey. A very small majority of Turkish voters approved a controversial referendum on Sunday to amend the country’s constitution, converting the largely ceremonial post of president into a highly powerful chief executive. The amendments eliminate the post of prime minister and confer vast new powers on the president to issue decrees as law and make judicial appointments. The changes will obliterate any semblance of a democratic republic with checks and balances among independent branches of government. They will take effect with the 2019 presidential election. Erdogan is expected to run for the newly empowered presidential office, which he could hold onto for at least two terms through 2029.
The constitutional amendments will simply formalize the creeping autocracy and Islamization that Erdogan has imposed on the Turkish people during his years as prime minister from 2003 to 2014, and while serving in the supposedly ceremonial post of president since 2014. The current prime minister is an Erdogan loyalist.
Turkey has been operating under emergency rule since last summer’s failed coup. A vast purge of government workers suspected of opposing the government took place, accompanied by mass arrests. The alleged dissenters removed from their positions cut across academia, the police, the military, prosecutors and the judiciary. Turkey also accounted for nearly a third of the global total of journalists arrested world-wide in 2016. More than 100 news outlets were closed down.
In the run-up to the referendum, opponents were physically assaulted and intimidated. Authorities prevented some opposition rallies from taking place. Opponents of the referendum have charged that the referendum results were fraudulent, complaining of last-minute changes in the rules that allowed ballots to be counted without the legally required official stamp.
An International Referendum Observation Mission, conducted by the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (which includes Turkey as a member), was highly critical of the referendum campaign. It found that the “constitutional referendum took place on an unlevel playing field and the two sides of the campaign did not have equal opportunities… Supporters of the ‘No’ campaign faced a number of undue limitations on their freedom to campaign. Many ‘No’ campaigners suffered physical attacks. A high number were arrested, most often on charges of organizing unlawful public events or insulting the president.”
The mission had limited access to polling stations on referendum day. Within those limits,the mission’s observers did not find widespread irregularities in vote counting and tabulation that they were able to observe. However, the mission corroborated the opposition’s complaint about the last-minute non-appealable change in the rules by the Supreme Board of Elections, loosening the standards for ballot validity.
Erdogan touted the slim 51.4% majority yes vote on the referendum as an “historic decision” for Turkey. He rejected the criticisms of the international monitors and claimed the vote was the "most democratic election" of any Western country. Responding further to the criticisms, he added, "First, know your place! We won't see or hear the politically motivated reports you prepare." Reprising his anti-European remarks during the referendum campaign, Erdogan told supporters that he had been "attacked" by nations with the "crusader mentality."
Erdogan scolded opponents for challenging the results, declaring their efforts would be "in vain." He indicated an interest in restoring the death penalty, which would end Turkey’s ability to become a member of the European Union. As if on cue, Erdogan supporters assaulted some Turks who dared to protest what the opponents considered to be a fraudulent referendum vote, leading towards a dictatorship.
Erdogan’s opponents have good reason to be worried. The referendum is virtually the last nail in the coffin of a pluralistic democratic state with even a modicum of checks and balances. Last month, the European Commission for Democracy through Law (known as the Venice Commission) issued a critical report on Turkey’s proposed constitutional amendments. The Venice Commission’s analysis found that the amendments would result in “an excessive concentration of executive power in the hands of the President and the weakening of parliamentary control of that power.” The report also warned that changes placing more unchecked power in the hands of the president over the selection of judges would place “the independence of the judiciary in serious jeopardy… The amendments would weaken an already inadequate system of judicial oversight of the executive.”
The Venice Commission also questioned the process under which the referendum took place: “The whole process of parliamentary adoption and submission for approval by referendum of the constitutional amendments is taking place during the state of emergency, when very substantive limitations on freedom of expression and freedom of assembly are in force.”
Taken together, the Venice Commission report concluded that the scope of powers conferred on the newly empowered presidency by the proposed constitutional amendments carries the “intrinsic danger of degenerating into an authoritarian rule.” It viewed the proposed amendments as “a dangerous step backwards” for Turkey.
For Erdogan, however, the proposed constitutional amendments vastly enlarging the powers of the presidency represent a major step forward in his master plan. They will place him in a position to complete his long-held vision of eliminating Turkey’s secular pluralistic state and replacing it with an Islamic state governed under Sharia law. Way back in 1994, as Istanbul's mayor, Erdogan called himself the "imam of Istanbul." He also said, "'Democracy is like a streetcar. When you come to your stop, you get off." A 2007 U.S. diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks noted concerns about Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party's (AKP) “‘secret’ Islamist agenda.”
Soon to be freed of any effective constraints, Erdogan can fully unleash his true Islamist, anti-Western identity and make himself the “iman” of Turkey who seeks to bring about some sort of Ottoman revival.
Donald J. Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton in November came as a shock to the world. Polls, news reports and everything the Clinton campaign was hearing in the final days pointed to her becoming the first female president in American history.
In their compelling new book, “Shattered,” the journalists Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes write that Clinton’s loss suddenly made sense of all the reporting they had been doing for a year and a half — reporting that had turned up all sorts of “foreboding signs” that often seemed at odds, in real time, with indications that Clinton was the favorite to win. Although the Clinton campaign was widely covered, and many autopsies have been conducted in the last several months, the blow-by-blow details in “Shattered” — and the observations made here by campaign and Democratic Party insiders — are nothing less than devastating, sure to dismay not just her supporters but also everyone who cares about the outcome and momentous consequences of the election.
In fact, the portrait of the Clinton campaign that emerges from these pages is that of a Titanic-like disaster: an epic fail made up of a series of perverse and often avoidable missteps by an out-of-touch candidate and her strife-ridden staff that turned “a winnable race” into “another iceberg-seeking campaign ship.”
It’s the story of a wildly dysfunctional and “spirit-crushing” campaign that embraced a flawed strategy (based on flawed data) and that failed, repeatedly, to correct course. A passive-aggressive campaign that neglected to act on warning flares sent up by Democratic operatives on the ground in crucial swing states, and that ignored the advice of the candidate’s husband, former President Bill Clinton, and other Democratic Party elders, who argued that the campaign needed to work harder to persuade undecided and ambivalent voters (like working-class whites and millennials), instead of focusing so insistently on turning out core supporters.
“Our failure to reach out to white voters, like literally from the New Hampshire primary on, it never changed,” one campaign official is quoted as saying.
There was a perfect storm of other factors, of course, that contributed to Clinton’s loss, including Russian meddling in the election to help elect Trump; the controversial decision by the F.B.I. director, James Comey, to send a letter to Congress about Clinton’s emails less than two weeks before Election Day; and the global wave of populist discontent with the status quo (signaled earlier in the year by the British “Brexit” vote) that helped fuel the rise of both Trump and Bernie Sanders. In a recent interview, Clinton added that she believed “misogyny played a role” in her loss.
The authors of “Shattered,” however, write that even some of her close friends and advisers think that Clinton “bears the blame for her defeat,” arguing that her actions before the campaign (setting up a private email server, becoming entangled in the Clinton Foundation, giving speeches to Wall Street banks) “hamstrung her own chances so badly that she couldn’t recover,” ensuring that she could not “cast herself as anything but a lifelong insider when so much of the country had lost faith in its institutions.”
Allen and Parnes are the authors of a 2014book, “H R C,” a largely sympathetic portrait of Clinton’s years as secretary of state, and this book reflects their access to longtime residents of Clinton’s circle. They interviewed more than a hundred sources on background — with the promise that none of the material they gathered would appear before the election — and while it’s clear that some of these people are spinning blame retroactively, many are surprisingly candid about the frustrations they experienced during the campaign.
“Shattered” underscores Clinton’s difficulty in articulating a rationale for her campaign (other than that she was not Donald Trump). And it suggests that a tendency to value loyalty over competence resulted in a lumbering, bureaucratic operation in which staff members were reluctant to speak truth to power, and competing tribes sowed “confusion, angst and infighting.”
Despite years of post-mortems, the authors observe, Clinton’s management style hadn’t really changed since her 2008 loss of the Democratic nomination to Barack Obama: Her team’s convoluted power structure “encouraged the denizens of Hillaryland to care more about their standing with her, or their future job opportunities, than getting her elected.”
The campaign frequently spun its wheels in response to crises and urgent appeals from Democrats on both the state and national levels, the authors report. Big speeches were written by committee. “Evolving the core message” remained a continuing struggle. And the Brooklyn campaign headquarters — which would end up outspending Trump’s campaign by nearly 2 to 1 — frustrated coordinators in battleground states like Colorado by penny-pinching and cutting back on television, direct mail and digital advertising.
As described in “Shattered,” Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook — who centered the Clinton operation on data analytics (information about voters, given to him by number crunchers) as opposed to more old-fashioned methods of polling, knocking on doors and trying to persuade undecideds — made one strategic mistake after another, but was kept on by Clinton, despite her own misgivings.
“Mook had made the near-fatal mistakes of underestimating Sanders and investing almost nothing early in the back end of the primary calendar,” Parnes and Allen write, and the campaign seemed to learn little from Clinton’s early struggles. For instance, her loss in the Michigan primary in March highlighted the problems that would pursue her in the general election — populism was on the rise in the Rust Belt, and she was not connecting with working-class white voters — and yet it resulted in few palpable adjustments. Michigan, the authors add, also pointed up Mook’s failure to put enough organizers on the ground, and revealed that his data was a little too rosy, “meaning the campaign didn’t know Bernie was ahead.”
These problems were not corrected in the race against Trump. Allen and Parnes report that Donna Brazile, the Democratic National Committee chairwoman, was worried in early October about the lack of ground forces in major swing states, and that Mook had “declined to use pollsters to track voter preferences in the final three weeks of the campaign,” despite pleas from advisers in crucial states.
After a planned appearance in Green Bay with President Obama was postponed, the authors write, Clinton never set foot in Wisconsin, a key state. In fact, they suggest, the campaign tended to take battleground states like Wisconsin and Michigan (the very states that would help hand the presidency to Trump) for granted until it was too late, and instead looked at expanding the electoral map beyond Democratic-held turf and traditional swing states to places like Arizona.
In chronicling these missteps, “Shattered” creates a picture of a shockingly inept campaign hobbled by hubris and unforced errors, and haunted by a sense of self-pity and doom, summed up in one Clinton aide’s mantra throughout the campaign: “We’re not allowed to have nice things.”