The Looming Legitimacy Crisis (Or, Who Does Russia Really Want As President?)

So maybe Donald Trump's candidacy really is dead this time. Unlike all the other times the media and various high-minded types who have consistently failed to grasp deeper dynamics were so vociferously and spectacularly wrong.

My first reaction to "Just grab them by the p----" was that Trump's goose was finally cooked. I mean, all his endless crapola has to reach critical mass sometime and this one is utterly beyond the pale, right? But people already know he's a boor, a month is a very long time in politics, there is widespread disdain for Hillary Clinton and what she represents, and saying he was bullshitting the smarmy Today Show host Billy Bush is actually kinda clever, perhaps even believable. (Since the billionaire bully boy is, if nothing else, a prime BS artist.) Not to mention that, unlikeable and frequently fascistic though he is, Trump did get the best of Hillary in much if not most of their second debate. (Which is not to say that further revelations, if they do emerge, will not definitively sink Il Duce Donald.)

And then there is this other little thing.

A vast and very much unfolding trove of revelation about the Clintons and their operations, courtesy of Wikileaks. And, of course, the kindly folks at Russian intelligence, using sometime Russia Today talk show host Julian Assange as a more than capable cut-out.

The Clinton machine has gone from boasting about never being hacked to complaining about a Russian plot to defeat Hillary.

Defeat Hillary? Really?

Not so much.

If the excerpts from Hillary's secret megabucks speeches to Wall Streeters and other financial elites had been released during the Democratic primaries, I believe that Bernie Sanders would have won the presidential nomination.

His big money advertising campaign, which never really felt strongly grounded, would have had some revelatory red meat to hammer home with devastating effect. There's certainly more than enough there in the excerpts (and I suspect that Russian intel has actual recordings rattling around somewhere): Hillary's vision of a super-NAFTA of "open trade and open borders," her belief that Wall Streeters are best suited to regulate Wall Streeters, her bragging about pushing fracking all around the world, her practice on controversial issues of having "a public position and a private position," and on and on.

But that kill shot didn't happen, even though Sanders repeatedly decried Hillary's anti-Russia attitudes in the debates.

Similarly, if someone was actually trying to defeat Hillary, the time to begin release in the general election was just before the first debate, when Trump was very strong in the polls and on the verge of taking command of the race.

But that didn't happen, either.

Instead, the rather leisurely Assange announced a London talk from the balcony of his Ecuadorean embassy abode, then rescheduled for a video press conference in the middle of the night in the US at a Berlin anniversary party for Wikileaks. I watched that event in real time here in California, and Assange seemed to have no particular urgency for the supposed takedown of Hillary Clinton.

To be clear, Russia is out to do the Clintons deep political harm. I explained why in July; the enmity goes back to the '90s, when a rising Putin was pretending to be aligned with the sort of Russian liberal reformers I tried to help and he ultimately crushed.

It was a chaotic, humiliating time when Russians across the board were appalled by the Clintons' push to expand NATO to Russia's post-Soviet borders, when Russians were dismayed at receiving relatively little US assistance when they were flat on their collective behinds.

Events since then, which include the extraordinary spectacle of Hillary's former State Department spokesperson urging on regime change protesters in Kiev, capital of Ukraine, have only accentuated matters.

I think that Russian intelligence -- which I believe, especially given how shoddily the Clinton team handled Hillary's extremely sensitive e-mail archive, has thoroughly penetrated the Clintons' operations -- is out to delegitimize her prospective presidency here and around the world.

An informal Russian source confirms the obvious, without acknowledging the role of his nation. The Kremlin's leaders want a predictable, stable figure as US president, hostile or not.

That's practically axiomatic in geopolitics. Especially so in this situation, since Hillary can't actually carry out much of her anti-Russia agenda. (Imagine Putin's dramatics dealing with a hostile Hillary who has largely illusory options. Every would-be great actor needs a great foil.)

Intervene in the Syrian civil war? There's little stomach for that, no matter how bad the humanitarian situation in Aleppo, where rebels continue the crisis by refusing to surrender even though they cannot win. And the BBC reports how the Russian intervention, quite contrary to Obama National Security Council forecasts, has been very successful.

Stable and predictable are not words readily applied to Donald Trump, whose enthusiasm for the ruthless authoritarian Putin seems far more visceral than intellectual. That sort of emotionalism can turn negative.

Still, if Trump, who, though ever thuggish, seems to have gotten steadier and more focused, finally does get his act together, who can say for certain what Wikileaks and, er, company will reveal?

One thing is clear. If the second most unpopular nominee in history does go on to defeat the most unpopular nominee in history, as she should, she will face a legitimacy crisis of vast dimensions. Because the hits keep coming, and Clinton, Inc. is a target-rich environment.

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