The Russians haven’t loomed so large as a sinister hand influencing the course of American society since the Red Scares of the 20th century.
Then, it was largely the right that warned of Russian infiltration; now it is progressives who see Russians altering the course of American history through dark manipulations.
There’s no doubt that Russia meddled in our election in 2016 and is attempting to do so again. But the left’s overwhelming focus on Russia has taken on the trappings of a conspiracy theory with a comforting monocausal explanation for everything: Russia did it.
Hillary Clinton didn’t blow on her own a winnable election in 2016; she was undone by a Kremlin conspiracy.
Trump hasn’t said ridiculous things about Vladimir Putin because he has wildly unrealistic expectations of being able to cut a deal with him and bristles at saying whatever the media and establishment want him to say; he’s controlled by Moscow.
We aren’t a bitterly divided country, as we’ve been through much of our history; the Russians are “sowing divisions.”
And, finally, a Delaware computer repairman didn’t come into possession of Hunter Biden’s laptop through strange happenstance; it was faked and planted by the Russians.
Oddly, the left had a relatively indulgent attitude toward Russia when it was one of the world’s two superpowers, armed to the teeth, engaged in nuclear brinkmanship with the U.S., in control of a swath of Europe, including half of Germany, and devoted to spreading revolution around the globe. But it is obsessed with Russia now that the country has a GDP smaller than Italy’s and some hackers and poorly trafficked websites spreading bad information.
This fixation drives the ridiculous magnification of small-time pro-Russia players and the belief that the Russians have a hand in nearly every significant American event.
The New York Times published a piece last April titled “Putin’s long war against American science.” At the investigative website Bellingcat, Aric Toler noted that one news-aggregation website featured in the Times piece, The Russophile, is a one-person operation run by a Swedish blogger.
After the death of George Floyd, former national security adviser Susan Rice took this exaggerated view of Russian influence to its illogical conclusion, saying the disorder on American streets was “right out of the Russian playbook.”
It’s more understandable to have questions about the provenance of the Hunter Biden laptop and doubts about the credibility of the two men who brought it to light, Rudy Giuliani and Steve Bannon.
Perhaps it will turn out that that the laptop really is part of a Russian disinformation operation, even though Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe says it’s not.
There’s no reason to take the leap, though, and treat it as gospel truth that Russia is pulling the strings. House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, who has spent four solid years jumping to conclusions on Russia, told CNN that “we know that this whole smear on Joe Biden comes from the Kremlin.”
How? The Biden camp has yet to say the emails from the laptop are fakes. Its response to an email alleging that Hunter Biden set up a meeting of a Ukrainian businessman with Joe while he was vice president was to check his schedule and say no such meeting took place, at least formally.
A former business partner of Hunter’s vouches for the authenticity of another email about a potential deal with a Chinese company.
It’s not as though the story told by the emails hasn’t, in broad contours, been out there already. More than a year ago, the New Yorker published a detailed piece on Hunter’s shady foreign business dealings, and Politico ran a report on how Hunter and Joe Biden’s brother James sought to profit from their proximity to Joe.
We should have a little national self-confidence. The phenomenon of the families of powerful politicians benefiting from their connections isn’t a Russian fabrication -- it’s as American as apple pie.
Rich Lowry is editor of National Review.