aul Starobin is a former Moscow bureau chief for Business Week. He is the author of Madness Rules the Hour: Charleston, 1860, and the Mania for WarMadness Rules the Hour: Charleston, 1860, and the Mania for War, forthcoming from PublicAffairs.
Idiotic is one of the milder words that come to mind on hearing Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, brand Donald Trump "a puppet” of the Kremlin. Mook did so this past Sunday on ABC’s "This Week With George Stephanopoulos,” even though by then, Paul Manafort, Trump’s supposed link to Moscow, according to this fevered line of thinking, had already resigned from his role as campaign chairman.
This is an obvious smear—an accusation that needs to be separated from the not-implausible charge that Russians hacked into the Democratic National Committee’s computer network. The "Manchurian Candidate” meme—Paul Krugman suggested in aNew York Times column in July that Trump might be called "The Siberian Candidate”—is a crude fantasy. It’s being happily pushed by Clinton political operatives who have little actual knowledge of Russia or are simply inventing a fable that they know credulous or sympathetic pundits and reporters will run with.
Ex-KGB Colonel Vladimir Putin is more sophisticated and artful than that. His principal method is information warfare—the establishment, for example, of RT, the Russia Today television channel, broadcasting 24/7 in English, to deliver to the world the Russian spin on news events. He may try to put into place stooges in Eastern Europe but the idea that he can control a candidate for U.S. President is laughable, even to him. And with his sardonic sense of humor, he’s probably having a good laugh at the present stupidity of American politics.
Even Stephanopoulos—a veteran of Bill Clinton’s White House and still viewed by critics as a Clinton loyalist—challenged Mook’s Kremlin "puppet” line and called him on it. Mook could do no better than reply with what FactCheck.org, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center, labelled a "baseless insinuation” about a person Trump brought with him to a security briefing.
Unfortunately, much of the media has promoted this puerile nonsense. Idiotic indeed.