The mainstream media has suffered a serious bout of amnesia — a Russian concussion, if you will.
Of course, the MSM is ignoring the clear evidence that Hillary Clinton is guilty (very guilty) of altering the course of the Democratic primary to defeat Sen. Bernie Sanders (just skim through those Democratic National Committee emails and you’ll see). But the media is also pretending (or is simply unaware, not sure which is worse) that nations don’t try to alter the outcome of elections in other nations.
Take 1996. Boris Yeltsin, the president of Russia, was up for re-election in the summer and the United States felt that he was easier to deal with than his opposition, Communist rival Gennadi Zyuganov. But Yeltsin, the hard-partying and affable leader, had health problems and his approval rating was dismal — single digits. His chances did not look good.
Enter the United States, which, in a clandestine operation successfully helped Yeltsin pulled out a win.
“For four months, a group of American political consultants clandestinely participated in guiding Yeltsin’s campaign, ” Time magazine wrote in a cover story titled “Yanks To The Rescue — The Secret Story Of How American Advisers Helped Yeltsin Win.” Here is the inside story of how these advisers helped Yeltsin achieve the victory that will keep reform in Russia alive.”
The 6,000-word story tells a tale of how Felix Braynin, a close friend of some of Yeltsin’s top aides, thought Yeltsin would need help to win.
Most of Yeltsin’s confidants believed the President would be magically re-elected despite the Duma catastrophe, but Braynin thought otherwise. The President, he reasoned, could lose without the same kind of professional assistance U.S. office seekers employ as a matter of course. Braynin began a series of confidential discussions with Yeltsin’s aides, including one with First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets, who at the time was in charge of the President’s nascent re-election effort. Finally, in early February, Braynin was instructed to “find some Americans” but to proceed discreetly. “Secrecy was paramount,” says Braynin. “Everyone realized that if the Communists knew about this before the election, they would attack Yeltsin as an American tool. We badly needed the team, but having them was a big risk.”
To “find some Americans,” Braynin worked through Fred Lowell, a San Francisco lawyer with close ties to California’s Republican Party. On Feb. 14, Lowell called Joe Shumate, a G.O.P. expert in political data analysis who had served as deputy chief of staff to California Governor Pete Wilson. Since Wilson’s drive for the 1996 Republican presidential nomination had ended almost before it began, Lowell thought Shumate and George Gorton, Wilson’s longtime top strategist, might be available to help Yeltsin. They were–and they immediately enlisted Richard Dresner, a New York-based consultant who had worked with them on many of Wilson’s campaigns.
Dresner had another connection that would prove useful later on. In the late 1970s and early ’80s, he had joined with Dick Morris to help Bill Clinton get elected Governor of Arkansas. As Clinton’s current political guru, Morris became the middleman on those few occasions when the Americans sought the Administration’s help in Yeltsin’s re-election drive. So while Clinton was uninvolved with Yeltsin’s recruitment of the American advisers, the Administration knew of their existence–and although Dresner denies dealing with Morris, three other sources have told Time that on at least two occasions the team’s contacts with Morris were “helpful.”
Then President Bill Clinton knew all about the effort. “So while Clinton was uninvolved with Yeltsin’s recruitment of the American advisers, the Administration knew of their existence — and although Dresner denies dealing with Morris, three other sources have told Time that on at least two occasions the team’s contacts with Morris were ‘helpful.’ “
The team did plenty of nefarious things to keep their identities secret.
The American team hired two young men, Braynin’s son Alan and Steven Moore, a public relations specialist from Washington, to assist them, and promptly established its office in a two-room suite at the President Hotel. The Americans lived elsewhere in the hotel and were provided with a car, a former KGB agent as a driver, and two bodyguards. They were told they should assume that their phones and rooms were bugged, that they should leave the hotel only infrequently, and that they should avoid the campaign’s other staff members.
The Americans managed to hide their identity for many months. In interviewing various polling and focus-group companies before hiring three, they described themselves as representing Americans eager to sell thin-screen televisions in Russia. “That story held for far longer than it ever should have,” says Shumate. The Americans carried multiple-entry visas identifying them as working for the “Administration of the President of the Russian Federation,” a bit of obviousness that constantly threatened to undermine all the supposed secrecy surrounding their real work.
And Clinton was involved.
Communicating in code — Clinton was called the Governor of California, Yeltsin the Governor of Texas — the Americans sought Morris’ help. They had earlier worked together to script Clinton’s summit meeting with Yeltsin in mid-April. The main goal then was to have Clinton swallow hard and say nothing as Yeltsin lectured him about Russia’s great-power prerogatives. “The idea was to have Yeltsin stand up to the West, just like the Communists insisted they would do if Zyuganov won,” says a Clinton Administration official. “By having Yeltsin posture during that summit without Clinton’s getting bent out of shape, Yeltsin portrayed himself as a leader to be reckoned with. That helped Yeltsin in Russia, and we were for Yeltsin.”
The American team wanted Clinton to call Yeltsin to urge that he appear in his ads. The request reached Clinton — that much is known — but no one will say whether the call was made.
And, it worked.
A bit of relief came when a CNN correspondent reported that “the only thing voters we’ve spoken with like less than Yeltsin is the prospect of upheaval.” Dresner howled. “It worked,” he shouted. “The whole strategy worked. They’re scared to death!” After months being cooped up in the President Hotel wearing blue jeans, sneakers and PETE WILSON FOR PRESIDENT T shirts, the Americans headed for the building where Russia’s central election commission would be announcing the results as they came in. “The hell with security,” Dresner said. “I want to see this.” And there they sat near the back of the auditorium, six guys in suits with computer projections in their hands and a lap-top computer. The place was overrun with reporters, but Yeltsin’s secret American advisers were never recognized.
So maybe the U.S. press corps, with all its feigned indignation over the supposed collusion between Russia and President Trump, need to brush up on their history. It’s not the first time a nation has sought to influence another nation’s election — and it won’t be the last.