So, Chelsea Manning is running for Senate in Maryland. Yay us. If you live in Maryland, you have my sympathy.
It’s the greatest swindle in the history of politics, but it’s also the version of the American Dream espoused by liberals. To wit: endanger the lives of your fellow servicemen, get convicted of treason, openly declare your particular mental illness, become a cause celebré, get pardoned by a president desperately seeking attention from his fellow liberals. Then get the government (read: American taxpayers) to pay for unneeded medical procedures so you can further your dubious celebrity and finally, cash in on that celebrity to become much wealthier than someone who actually works for a living.
As for the candidacy itself, it’s beyond a longshot. I probably have a better chance of winning the Democratic primary in Maryland. First off, as she’s still on active duty, she can’t be seated even if she wins. The reason she’s still on active duty (albeit on extended leave) is because the United States Army wants to dishonorably discharge her, but her lawyers are in court fighting that. They’re pointing to that politically motivated pardon as their excuse – which, of course, is the only reason she’s even allowed to run. Anyway, forget the rest of the controversy – not even many liberals are going to vote for a dishonorably discharged traitor.
So why run a futile campaign? Of course, she’ll run out a litany of reasons. Her first campaign ad is mix of Orwellian dystopia and Edward Snowden conspiracies, with a few LGBT themes mixed in. As a message, about the only ones who might buy into it are a few ANTIFA troglodyte types, and those people are not only a very small minority, they’re also the least likely people to vote. After all, blowing stuff up and rioting on George Soros’ dime is hell of a lot more fun.
But what do you need to run a campaign, even a bad campaign that has less chance of succeeding than I do of finding a cure for cancer? M-O-N-E-Y.
Let’s do some math here. Let’s say only 1% of voting age Americans would support a Chelsea Manning candidacy. That’s still around 2.2 million people. Now, let’s say only 10% of those people would be willing to donate $10 towards that candidacy. That’s $2.2 million in a campaign warchest. Think that’s a far-fetched number? Look at how much money Bernie Sanders raised in similar small donations during his quixotic run for the presidency two years ago (according to FEC records, he raised over $228 million).
$2.2 million is a lot of money, far more than Manning would probably ever spend on her campaign. It’s also small potatoes when compared to the sums the actual contenders will raise for the 2018 Maryland Democratic primary. But, what that level of fundraising would do is enable to live Manning to live very comfortably as a permanent gadfly candidate, similar to what Jill Stein has been doing for a decade now. And she won’t have to settle for ridiculous bids for the Senate, after all, she can use those campaign funds to campaign for governor and even president, a truly permanent gadfly candidate with no chance of ever winning anything, and therefore, no chance of ever having to actually work. Like I said, it’s the ultimate liberal dream: get rich while not doing anything.
But how to raise that money? Well, you have to target those people most likely to contribute to your swindle. Who are they? Predominantly young (mostly under 25), all extremely liberal, not very tuned in to television or newspapers. But they are very tuned in to Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram.
Guess where the Manning campaign ad is running? On Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram. Guess how many views it has on YouTube? About 100,000 already, and over 1,000 likes. Cha–ching!
The dominant political news of the week was the dismissal of Lt. Michael Flynn (ret.), President Trump’s first National Security Advisor. His abrupt departure brought back a few issues that should have been answered during the fall campaign, but weren’t. In a multi-part series, I’ll be examining the following:
1. Were the leaks that led to Flynn’s ouster justified? Are leaks ever justified?
2. Is the President’s Russophilia damaging to his Presidency and the nation writ large?
3. Should career civil servants place greater emphasis on conscience or policy?
One of the more interesting results of the Flynn Fiasco is the President’s relentless damning of the news articles that forced his hand and the leaks that made those news articles possible. While part of the attacks are typical hubris that nobody, except the Trumpers, takes seriously (sorry, the stories weren’t “fake news”), as with all good propaganda there is an element of truth to them. We’re all aware that Trump takes criticism about as well as a child. Those stories weren’t the opinion-filled pieces that Trump has been able to dismiss as terrible journalism. They are hard-hitting, factual articles that were made possible by the type of inside information that isn’t ever supposed to see newsprint.
In short, the President is rightly incensed about the leaks which have plagued his administration from Day 1. Regardless of the fact that we know Trump values personal loyalty above all other traits, leaks of this sort can constitute a national security threat.Take away that Trump feels personally slighted by what he perceives as an internal attack from the “deep state,” and we’re still left with the reality that someone (or several someone’s) within the National Security Council staff went and blabbed to the Washington Post about Flynn’s violations of the Logan Act, and to the New York Times and CNN about the Trump presidential campaign’s contacts with the Russian intel services as far back as 2015.
Americans have always had a love/hate relationship with government leaks. We celebrate Mark Felt, the leaker later famously revealed as “Deep Throat,” whose information exposed the corruption and malfeasance of the Nixon administration. We vilify Bradley Manning, whose leaking apparently drove him/her/it to finally lose whatever grasp on reality him/her/it ever had. Then there are figures like Edward Snowden, about whom we are ambivalent: the leaks were damaging and showed illegal government activity, but we can’t quite make up our mind whether he’s a whistleblower, a pawn or a traitor.
Now add in that often, our government will purposely leak information. Whether it’s Scooter Libby giving David Ignatius “deep background” about Iraqi WMD, or James Jones’ leaking Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s Afghan plan, the previous two administrations have used strategically timed leaks from the National Security Council to advance their agenda. That’s not inconsequential; the last 16 years have seen increasingly aggressive actions against leakers.
So the question before us is this: when is a leaker a whistleblower? Felt was undoubtedly a whistleblower, Manning a leaker.
The answer seems to be more one of public opinion than anything else. Had the nation simply shrugged off the Constitutional breaches of Richard Nixon as “Nixon being Nixon” and “politics as usual,” Jeffrey Zeifman would have been tasked with hounding Woodward and Bernstein to reveal their source. If we had publicly decided that Wikileak’s publication of Manning’s data dump revealed a pattern of illegal conduct by US forces, he might not be trying to get the taxpayers to pay for having his genitals whacked off. As for Mr. Snowden, he will probably find himself in permanent exile – while the NSA spying certainly violated the 4th Amendment, that Constitutional protection isn’t terribly popular at the moment.
Another factor is whether the government wants to pursue charges against the leaker. An example of such a situation is Scott Davis, the man responsible for exposing the Department of Veteran’s Affairs allowing veterans to die before ever seeing a doctor. He leaked internal documents showing VA was well aware of the problem but not doing anything to address it, a clear violation of 18 USC 793, 794. Yet, even the notoriously anti-leak Obama administration passed on filing charges against Davis. This was despite the fact that few leaks embarrassed the former President quite as badly as the revelation that even as he was sending American servicemen into harm’s way, he was turning a blind eye to their care upon their return.
And so, in this way, we’ll be able to eventually determine which of these leaks merit whistleblower status. That Gen. Flynn broke the law is beyond doubt; that he demonstrated woefully poor discretion likewise. (Seriously, a career spook who didn’t know a phone call to the Russian ambassador was being recorded by both the NSA and the Russian FSB? That’s…terrible). The level of demonstrated incompetence alone should have resulted in his dismissal, much less the willful lying to the Vice President. Similarly, if the ties between the Russian intel service and the Trump campaign are proven, then those leakers will likely rise in American lore to match that of Deep Throat. If it results in nothing more than innuendo, the President will be fully justified in rooting out and charging the people responsible.