I was heartbroken when I read Mr. James Marples' letter (“Clinton Meddled Too”) conflating Russian meddling with the Clintons' election activities. On the bright side, Mr. Marples helped me better understand why some in our country, believing that they are patriots, are willing to sell their souls, and our country, for a few pieces of silver.
Mr. Marples wrote that he could not understand why “the media and segments of the public went berserk” following the Putin-Trump press conference. Perhaps I can explain. I heard the president dismiss Russian meddling in our elections, a fact that has been established by every branch of the U.S. Intelligence Community. The Republican-dominated Senate Intelligence Committee has agreed with this assessment, along with the conclusion that Russian interference was designed to benefit Trump.
I am aware that our president attempted to correct what he said at the press conference: “I said the word ‘would’ instead of ‘wouldn’t’.” Yet his befuddled clarifications have always included the caveat that there “could be other people [besides Russia] also; there’s a lot of people out there.” No doubt, yet Russia is the only perpetrator identified so far.
Mr. Marples complained that “pundits utter two words ad nauseum: ‘collusion’ and ‘meddling.’” After all, he asserts, we all know that the Clintons “'meddled' in the election.” What?!! Perhaps I can clear this up a bit. We have a word in English for attempts by Americans to influence elections; we call it “politics.” When Americans — whether it be the Clintons or the Koch Brothers — try to persuade others, when they donate money to campaigns, when they volunteer for the candidate of their choice, this is something we consider to be part of a “democracy.” When a foreign power, especially one hostile to our interests, attempts to influence an American election, we call that “meddling.” Perhaps Mr. Marples could remember it this way: Democracy = Good; Meddling = Bad.
With respect to the distinction between “collusion” and “meddling,” that, too, is important. There is conclusive evidence that Russia meddled, and continues to meddle, in our elections. (Remember that “Meddling = Bad” rule!) There is evidence that members of the Trump campaign colluded with Russia, and a growing body of evidence that Trump himself was aware of this, but it would be unfair to assert that collusion has been unequivocally established.
Finally, I do not know whether, as Mr. Marples wrote, any “Russian whispered in [his'] ear as to ‘how to vote.’” On the other hand, how odd it is that Mr. Marples parrots exactly what Russia wants U.S. citizens to believe and say! Perhaps some are unaware of the vast body of research demonstrating that people can be persuaded by messages in advertising, including political advertising, without being aware that their attitudes are changing.
Russia spends just over $1 million/month to influence our elections; they get quite a bargain for that! The evidence suggests that the Russians did in fact whisper in Americans' ears, and many citizens swallowed the messages hook, line and sinker.
Our nation's future is dim.
Ken Roach, Ed.D., is a Salt Lake City educator and a licensed mental health professional. He teaches graduate students about critical thinking in ethics, supervises an outpatient mental health clinic and serves on several professional boards. The views expressed in this commentary are his own.