A New McCarthyism: Greenwald on Clinton Camp's Attempts to Link Trump, Stein & WikiLeaks to Russia

August 31, 2016


Glenn Greenwald

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and one of the founding editors of The Intercept.

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald says Democrats have adopted a "Cold War McCarthyite kind of rhetoric" by accusing many its critics of having ties to Russia. "It’s sort of this constant rhetorical tactic to try and insinuate that anyone opposing the Clintons are somehow Russian agents, when it’s the Clintons who actually have a lot of ties to Russia, as well," Greenwald said. "I mean, the Clinton Foundation and Bill Clinton helped Russian companies take over uranium industries in various parts of the world. He received lots of Russian money for speeches."


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: And when it comes to Russia, I mean, you have this very unusual juxtaposition. Talk about the Democrats’ approach, Hillary Clinton’s approach, to Putin, and also Donald Trump. I mean, his recently departed, from the campaign, at least, campaign manager, Paul Manafort, his close ties to Ukraine and to the Soviet ally former president, Yanukovych, in Ukraine, who then fled to Russia, and whatever the—not clear what his financial dealings were with them. But talk about Russia as it relates to U.S. foreign policy.

GLENN GREENWALD: To me, this is one of the more remarkable things of this campaign, which is that any of us who grew up in politics or came of age as an American in the ’60s or the ’70s or the ’80s, or even the ’90s, knows that central to American political discourse has always been trying to tie your political opponents to Russia, to demonizing the Kremlin as the ultimate evil and then trying to insinuate that your political adversaries are somehow secretly sympathetic to or even controlled by Russian leaders and Kremlin operatives and Russian intelligence agencies. And this was not just the McCarthyism, which was sort of the peak of that, but even long after. This was typically a Republican tactic used against Democrats. So, if Democrats advocated greater detente with the Russians, arms deals or other negotiations with Russia to decrease tensions or decrease conflict, Republicans would immediately accuse those liberals and Democrats of advocating that, of being—either having allegiance to the Kremlin or being useful idiots or stooges of Russian leaders.

And it’s amazing to have watched, in this campaign, Democrats completely resurrect that Cold War McCarthyite kind of rhetoric not only to accuse Paul Manafort, who does have direct financial ties to certainly the pro—the former pro-Russian leader of the Ukraine, but really anybody who in any way questions the Clinton campaign. I mean, they even tried doing it to Jill Stein a few weeks ago by claiming that she had done something nefarious by attending an event in Moscow sponsored by the Russian television outlet RT that’s controlled by the Putin government. And so, it’s sort of this constant rhetorical tactic to try and insinuate that anyone opposing the Clintons are somehow Russian agents, when it’s the Clintons who actually have a lot of ties to Russia, as well. I mean, the Clinton Foundation and Bill Clinton helped Russian companies take over uranium industries in various parts of the world. He received lots of Russian money for speeches. The Clinton Foundation has relationships to them. President Obama refused to arm factions in the Ukraine that were trying to fight against this pro-Russian dictator, and continuously tries to partner with the Russians in Syria. So this rhetoric can cut both ways, and it’s very problematic, I think, to try and depict anyone who questions NATO or who advocates detente with Russia of somehow being disloyal or useful idiots or stooges to Putin, given how dangerous that rhetoric traditionally has been in American political discourse.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Glenn, where WikiLeaks fits into this picture with Russia, and then also if you could talk about Ed Snowden?

GLENN GREENWALD: I mean, what I just talked about, in terms of this tactic of trying to depict political adversaries as being agents of Russia, obviously, from the beginning of the Snowden reporting, that was used to try and demonize Edward Snowden by virtue of the fact that he ended up in Russia, where he sought and then obtained asylum. Even though he never intended to go to Russia—he was passing through Russia, and he ended up getting stuck there because the U.S. government revoked his passport on the plane from Hong Kong to Moscow—they used the—they first forced him to stay in Russia and then used the fact that he was in Russia to depict him as some kind of a nefarious Russian agent.

And they’ve done the same to WikiLeaks, especially since WikiLeaks disclosures this year have been damaging to the Democratic Party and the Clinton campaign. I mean, it’s amazing that WikiLeaks’s last disclosure resulted in the resignation of the top five officials of the Democratic National Committee, including the DNC chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz. So WikiLeaks has become an enemy of the Democratic Party, and they seem to have one tactic with their adversaries and enemies, which is to accuse them of being Russian agents. And that’s the tactic that has now been used against WikiLeaks, as well.

And so, it’s a very sort of disturbing strategy that not is just disturbing in and of itself, but that will have enduring consequences in the likely event that Hillary Clinton wins, because when you constantly inflame the public by telling them that Russia is this enemy, that they have domestic agents operating in the U.S., namely anyone who is a critic of the Clinton campaign, that’s going to have lots of long-term implications in terms of how the U.S. government treats Russia, how the American media and the American people are going to expect the U.S. government to react to Russia and how much dissent and criticism is going to be allowed without people being accused of being agents of the Kremlin.

AMY GOODMAN: And what about Donald Trump and his admiration for Putin, and how you think he would deal with Russia?

GLENN GREENWALD: So, again, I think that Donald Trump comes from this ideological tradition, to the extent that he has any cogent views at all, that says that the United States should get along with the world’s dictators, unless those dictators directly threaten the United States. And it’s a little bit hard for me to take seriously complaints that Donald Trump wants to get too close to Putin, who’s a dictator or an authoritarian, when the closest allies in the world of the United States government are themselves dictators and tyrants, beginning with the Saudi regime and going throughout that region and into lots of other regions, as well. Cuddling up to dictators has long been and continues to be a central U.S. policy.

I do think that Trump’s admiration of Putin is sort of personal, in that Trump personally admires what he regards as this sort of fascistic strength, this kind of assertion of will and this ability to command and rule, that does reflect very negatively, in fact kind of alarmingly, on Trump’s personality, the parts of his personality that result in admiration for Putin. So I think there are genuinely disturbing aspects of it.

But the fact is that there’s a lot of people who think that the United States should not be seeking out tension and conflict with Russia. And ironically, the person who has probably done the most to reduce tension between the U.S. and Russia is the person who currently occupies the White House: Barack Obama. And so, I think it’s important to leave space in American political debate to advocate for greater cooperation with Russia without having your loyalties or sympathies called into question.

AMY GOODMAN: You know, we mentioned in the first part of our conversation what’s happening in Israel and Palestine. You write that Clinton-led Democrats are now "to the right of George W. Bush" when it comes to Palestinian rights. Explain what you mean.

GLENN GREENWALD: The fact that Israel is illegally occupying the West Bank is a consensus of international law. And not only is it a consensus of international law, but George Bush himself, as steadfastly supportive of Israel as he was, often said that Israel’s occupation of the West Bank was illegal, and he used those terms. So did the Bush administration. That was its formal position.

During the platform debate of 2016 within the Democratic Party, when several Sanders appointees, led by Cornel West and James Zogby and others, attempted to insert language into the platform that simply reflected this international consensus—namely, that Israel was occupying the West Bank illegally and that the U.S. government opposes it—the Clinton appointees on this platform committee, including Neera Tanden, who will now head the transition and currently heads the Center for American Progress, and other witnesses and appointees were opposed to that and objected to it and actually blocked the inclusion of that language. And so, apparently, it’s the current position of the Clinton-led Democratic Party that you can’t or should not use the term "occupation" to describe what Israel is doing in the West Bank, even though that is the international consensus and even though the Bush administration itself was willing to embrace and use those terms. And that does place the Democratic Party, unsurprisingly, to the right of not just the international community, but even the Bush administration, when it comes to their blind, slavish, incredibly immoral support for the Netanyahu government.

AMY GOODMAN: So, Glenn Greenwald, your view of third parties? I mean, you talk about Jill Stein. There’s the whole debate over the debates, who gets to participate in the debates, which, of course, it’s a self-fulfilling cycle, because if you get in the debates, you get much more well known, and you have a national platform that is viewed by millions of people. But what do you think about both Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico, and Dr. Stein, the Green Party candidate? Johnson, of course, the Libertarian, Gary Johnson.

GLENN GREENWALD: I think—yeah, I think American political discourse would value greatly from the inclusion of both of them in the debates, which is exactly why neither the Democratic nor the Republican Party will allow it. What—the big scam of the Democrats and Republicans is that they agree overwhelmingly on most issues. It doesn’t seem like that’s the case, because that’s the scam. The issues on which they agree, such as giving billions of dollars of taxpayer money to Israel each year, are simply ignored, so you don’t realize the issues on which they have agreement, because those issues are ignored by television commentators and don’t get debated. And then there are issues where they vehemently disagree, whether it be like abortion or LGBT issues or the rate of taxation or healthcare, that do get attention, and so it seems like they disagree on everything, because the only issues that get any attention are the ones where they vehemently disagree.

Allowing third parties and four-party candidates into the debate, who would then call into question U.S. posture toward Israel or the drug war or the criminal justice system or a whole variety of other issues where both parties agree, including trade, would open up the range of issues that Americans start questioning and start thinking about and start challenging, that they never think about now because the two major parties agree. And I’ve watched here in Brazil, for example, where there’s all kinds of parties, and eight or 10 parties, or six parties participate in the presidential election, so you have far-left and far-right and center parties, where all views get aired. And you contrast that to the United States, where a tiny range of issues get debated, because only two sides are heard, and that’s exactly the way both parties want it.

AMY GOODMAN: Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept, speaking to us from his home in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. You can visit our website to watch the first part or our interview, when we talked about the impeachment trial of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, Bernie Sanders’ opposition to the coup in Brazil, the Clinton Foundation and the future of Rio after the Olympics.

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