Glenn Greenwald and Joe Cirinione were both on Democracy Now! a few days ago. Their debate was streets ahead of the usual fayre, and was fairly wide ranging. I fully recommend watching the entire debate or reading the entire transcript. Joe Cirinione more or less echoed the opinions or headlines we’re seeing in msm.
What follows are some salient and under-reported points made by Glenn Greenwald in response to Cirinione and by extension, the dominant narratives of “our” media. There was much more in the way of thoughtful commentary and opinion than what I’m able to sensibly provide here. The transcript is in two parts. Part one is here. Part two is here. (Both links also provide access to video of the interview).
On Trump meeting with Putin in Helsinki
I think it’s excellent. And I would just cite two historical examples. In 2007, during the Democratic presidential debate, Barack Obama was asked whether he would meet with the leaders of North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela, Syria and Iran without preconditions. He said he would. Hillary Clinton said she wouldn’t, because it would be used as a propaganda tool for repressive dictators. And liberals celebrated Obama.
On Russian meddling in US Election
So, I mean, I think this kind of rhetoric is so unbelievably unhinged, the idea that the phishing links sent to John Podesta and the Democratic National Committee are the greatest threat to American democracy in decades. People are now talking about it as though it’s on par with 9/11 or Pearl Harbor, that the lights are blinking red, in terms of the threat level. This is lunacy, this kind of talk. I spent years reading through the most top-secret documents of the NSA, and I can tell you that not only do they send phishing links to Russian agencies of every type continuously on a daily basis, but do far more aggressive interference in the cybersecurity of every single country than Russia is accused of having done during the 2016 election.
In 2012, he (Obama) mocked the idea, spread by Mitt Romney, that Russia was our greatest existential foe. Yes, that was before Crimea, but it was after Georgia. It was after they were accused of murdering dissidents and imprisoning journalists. He mocked that idea and said we have all kinds of reasons to try and get along with Russia. Even after 2016, after Crimea, after he was told that the Russians interfered in the U.S. election, he didn’t talk about it as 9/11 or treat it like 9/11. He expelled a few Russian diplomats and urged everybody to keep it in perspective, and said that Russia is the seventh- or eighth-largest economy in the world, behind even Italy, and not a grave threat to the United States.
On Putin ‘having something’ on Trump.
No, I mean, I’ll believe that when I see evidence for it. So let me just make two points. Number one is, if you look at President Obama versus President Trump, there’s no question that President Obama was more cooperative with and collaborative with Russia and the Russian agenda than President Trump. President Trump has sent lethal arms to Ukraine—a crucial issue for Putin—which President Obama refused to do. President Trump has bombed the Assad forces in Syria, a client state of Putin, something that Obama refused to do because he didn’t want to provoke Putin. Trump has expelled more Russian diplomats and sanctioned more Russian oligarchs than [Obama] has. Trump undid the Iran deal, which Russia favored, while Obama worked with Russia in order to do the Iran deal. So this idea that Trump is some kind of a puppet of Putin, that he controls him with blackmail, is the kind of stuff that you believe if you read too many Tom Clancy novels, but isn’t borne out by the facts.
On press freedom.
You know, a lot of times when people talk about Trump’s attacks on press freedom, they talk about his rhetoric, his mean tweets about Wolf Blitzer and Chuck Todd, and his criticisms of the media. I don’t think that those are meaningful attacks on press freedom. I think what are meaningful attacks on press freedom are investigations into the work that journalists do with sources, in the attempt to imprison sources for giving journalists information that belong in the public domain. We at The Intercept have had two of our alleged sources the subject of investigations by the Justice Department, including one of whom who is now in prison. And my colleague Jim Risen, who the Obama administration threatened with prison for many years, wrote an op-ed in The New York Times after Trump was elected, saying if Trump ends up being able to attack press freedom, it will be because—due to the infrastructure that Obama created, this obsession with investigating and prosecuting and imprisoning sources, like my source, Edward Snowden, under the espionage statutes. And, of course, the Obama Justice Department prosecuted more sources under the espionage statute—in fact, three times as many—than all previous administrations combined. That, to me, is a real threat to press freedom, not some insults on Twitter, that Donald Trump is now taking advantage of.
As far as the indictments from Mueller are concerned, it’s certainly the most specific accounting yet that we’ve gotten of what the U.S. government claims the Russian government did in 2016. But it’s extremely important to remember what every first-year law student will tell you, which is that an indictment is nothing more than the assertions of a prosecutor unaccompanied by evidence. The evidence won’t be presented until a trial or until Robert Mueller actually issues a report to Congress. And so, I would certainly hope that we are not at the point, which I think we seem to be at, where we are now back to believing that when the CIA makes statements and assertions and accusations, or when prosecutors make statements and assertions and accusations, unaccompanied by evidence that we can actually evaluate, that we’re simply going to believe those accusations on faith, especially when the accusations come from George W. Bush’s former FBI Director Robert Mueller, who repeatedly lied to Congress about Iraq and a whole variety of other issues.
On the Democratic Party and the conversations around their electoral defeat.
It wasn’t just Hillary Clinton in 2016 who lost this election. The entire Democratic Party has collapsed as a national political force over the last decade. They’ve lost control of the Senate and of the House and of multiple statehouses and governorships. They’re decimated as a national political force. And the reason is exactly what Joe said. They become the party of international globalization. They’re associated with Silicon Valley and Wall Street billionaires and corporate interests, and have almost no connection to the working class. And that is a much harder conversation to have about why the Democrats have lost elections than just blaming a foreign villain and saying it’s because Vladimir Putin ran some fake Facebook ads and did some phishing emails. And I think that until we put this in perspective, about what Russia did in 2016 and the reality that the U.S. does that sort of thing all the time to Russia and so many other countries, we’re going to just not have the conversation that we need to be having about what these international institutions, that are so sacred—NATO and free trade and international trade organizations—have done to people all over the world, and the reason they’re turning to demagogues and right-wing extremists because of what these institutions have done to them. That’s the conversation we need to be having, but we’re not having, because we’re evading it by blaming everything on Vladimir Putin.
On Trump verbally attacking the EU and NATO.
Just like this week, when he said that the European Union was a foe, what he said was something that for a long time on the left was really kind of just uncontroversial orthodoxy, which is that of course the European Union is an economic competitor of the U.S., and a lot of what their trade practices are do harm the American worker. We put up barriers against Chinese products entering the U.S., and yet the EU buys them and then sells them into the U.S., indirectly helping China circumvent those barriers in a way that directly harms U.S. workers. This is something that people like Robert Reich and Sherrod Brown and Bernie Sanders have been talking about for a long time. So it does make it very difficult when the only person who’s raising these kinds of issues and talking about these things—we need to get along better with Russia and China, we need to reform these old, archaic, destructive institutions—is a megalomaniac, somebody who’s completely devoid of any positive human virtue, which is Donald Trump. So it puts you in the position of kind of trying to agree with him, while knowing that he’s really not going to be able to do anything about those in a positive way.
I don’t think I can add a damn thing, bar my wish that the general tone and calibre of debate we engage in, and that we’re subjected to, was more akin to this than what we generally have.