How America Disgraces Itself

The ugly spectacle of the U.S. election is spilling over into the transition with new conspiracy theories about Russia and Donald Trump, as the world looks on in shock and dismay, says ex-CIA official Graham E. Fuller.

By Graham E. Fuller

It had been an exhausting, interminable 18-20 months of presidential campaigning during which much of the business of thoughtful American governance had to yield space to the riveting follies of politics. Yet  most other countries in the world, not locked into dictators or kings for life, conduct their elections far more briskly and get on with business.

Canada with its parliamentary system extended its last federal election campaign to 11 weeks; many were angered that the campaign had been extended even that far beyond the more traditional seven or eight weeks it takes to hold a federal election.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. (Photos by Gage Skidmore and derivative by Krassotkin, Wikipedia)

Republican presidential nominee (now President-elect) Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. (Photos by Gage Skidmore and derivative by Krassotkin, Wikipedia)

One might have hoped too, that whatever the electoral cost and fatigue had been in the U.S., the process would at least eventually distill it all down to the finest of candidates, tempered and honed in the exhausting demands of the campaign, to now represent America’s best. Instead we got what was demonstrably far from America’s finest — two candidates competing for the honor of who was hated the least. Election night left almost no one truly inspired, enriched or empowered by the outcome.

One might also have expected that by now, hallelujah, it would at least be all over, leaving nothing but a few sober post-mortem analyses of events. But even here the agony is exquisitely drawn out in a two-month interregnum, closer to purgatory, between the election and the inauguration.

The campaign indeed now seems far from over as we enter a new, extended, and possibly uglier period of speculation and spectacle in the parade of contestants now modeling for high office. Here again this interregnum seems unduly prolonged and messy compared to a parliamentary system where a back-bench opposition steps in ready to take over within days after election results are in.

Indeed, the circus now shifts to the very nature of the Electoral College system itself, exciting partisan passions further as to who the “legitimate” victor is. The challenging of the very legitimacy of winners seems now to have become part of the system — most vividly begun with George W. Bush’s appointment as president by the Supreme Court in 2000, followed eight years later with significant parts of the nation questioning Barack Obama’s legitimacy — even his very citizenship.

Eyes on Russia

Conspiracy theories (and yes, in theory conspiracies can exist) continue to flow about what might have been, including whether the FBI had intervened improperly and deliberately to swing the election to Trump. And now it is all eyes on Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses UN General Assembly on Sept. 28, 2015. (UN Photo)

Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses UN General Assembly on Sept. 28, 2015. (UN Photo)

The handwriting is on the wall. The specter of Russia has likely now become a permanent beast lurking behind the scenes in the Trump era.

The Russians may well have had a hand in helping hack the Republican and Democratic National Committees. But these WikiLeaks also revealed how a corrupted Democratic National Committee contributed heavily to skewing the Democratic Party nomination process against Bernie Sanders. If the Russians were involved — and we have not yet had an official pronouncement on that, only leaks — such interference is unacceptable and must be fully and publicly investigated. But such investigation should neither distract from nor delegitimize the content of the specific WikiLeaks information on the DNC, which should also be the object of outrage.

And now, in perhaps the most volatile delegitimization gambit ever, Trump is now whispered to be “Putin’s candidate,” a Russian pawn who has infiltrated the White House itself. The witch hunt on Russia conveniently displaces the entire substance of critically needed electoral and policy reform.

This is all very ugly stuff. Worse, it looks like questioning the electoral process and the legitimacy of the election itself may become a permanent feature of our domestic politics, inciting further divisiveness and bitterness on both sides of the political divide, rendering the country (even more) ungovernable. The bread and circuses of the interminable campaign extravaganza now seamlessly transition into the background noise of the entire Trump presidency itself.

Apart from the damage to the moral fiber of the nation and its divisive recriminations, the business of governance continues to be indefinitely sidetracked by such circuses. It blocks sober debate about the sad plight of so many aspects of the nation — erratic foreign policy, runaway military spending, non-stop wars, the failing education system, the degradation of the national infrastructure, the decline of health care and rise of mortality rates, the ignoring of the environment, the need to treat broad ethnic injustices, myths about immigration, the movement of American jobs overseas (as the very essence of how capitalism is supposed to work) — these hard questions all lie unaddressed. And they are much less fun or telegenic than hurling charges about foreign conspiracies and presidential legitimacy.

Who Trump really is remains a major question. While his earlier utterances have been all over the map, his appointments provide more concrete indicators. And so far it doesn’t look pretty. We seem poised to enter a period of extreme retrogression and reaction across the board, a massive setback on nearly all fronts — unless some welcome surprises are in store from the very people who we wouldn’t expect them from. That cannot be utterly ruled out.

The American Outlier

But it is no wonder that the U.S. for all its massive military power and huge economy, is increasingly becoming an outlier on the international scene. Foreign statesmen both good and bad simply shake their heads in incredulous dismay at the decline of U.S. rationality, prestige and steadiness. But who can avert one’s eyes from a train wreck?

Barack Obama, then President-elect, and President George W. Bush at the White House during the 2008 transition.

Barack Obama, then President-elect, and President George W. Bush at the White House during the 2008 transition.

Yet this isn’t new. It’s not as if the U.S. has suddenly turned a corner with this election. U.S. foreign policy has grown ever more isolated from the world and from reality since at least 9/11. Life in this world of denial may even date from the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. That was when the U.S. received what must now be seen as palpably a curse — the transient domination of the entire global scene, when we trumpeted ourselves as the “sole global superpower.” We assumed that such was the new permanent order of the world. We’ve never gotten over it. We’re still trying to maintain that fiction and it’s not working. Trump will find that out painfully soon.

Our domestic political antics exclude us ever further from the ranks of more responsible, sober and clear-sighted states. The rest of the world is simply going to have to go on working around us in damage limitation mode as it has been doing since 9/11. Are we capable of limiting the long-standing damage to ourselves at home? The necessary very heavy lifting seems now almost a bridge too far.

Graham E. Fuller is a former senior CIA official, author of numerous books on the Muslim World; his latest book is Breaking Faith: A novel of espionage and an American’s crisis of conscience in Pakistan. (Amazon, Kindle) grahamefuller.com

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32 comments for “How America Disgraces Itself

  1. Zachary Smith
    December 13, 2016 at 7:26 pm

    If the Russians were involved — and we have not yet had an official pronouncement on that, only leaks — such interference is unacceptable and must be fully and publicly investigated.

    Personally, I’m going to need a hell of a lot more than some smug jerk at a podium making an “official pronouncement”. I want evidence, and plenty of it.

    But as an earlier essay here [US Intel Vets Dispute Russia Hacking Claims] so ably demonstrated, the Powers That Be Don’t have any such evidence. All they’ve got is the compliant Corporate Media which they’re using as a deafening bullhorn to blast out their version of how the Flying Saucer People Evil Russians really did steal the election from Queen Hillary.

    http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2016/12/tell-russia-hacked-election.html

    This blog post uses older stories describing how the NSA can track anything and everything on the internet. But I doubt if they’ll do anything except sit on their hands and let the latest hell-raisers do their thing. After all, there is still an outside chance they’d get Hillary after all. Or the worse-than-Hillary Pence.

    • Mahatma
      December 14, 2016 at 7:56 am

      Agree, and the acknowledgement of and litigimacy given to anti Russian hysteria by the language of this post is yet another failing.

      When Snowden reveled the domestic spying programs he did not rely on a “consensus” of NSA employees, he would have been laughed off and sent directly to prison. He had proof, documents.

      Until and unless the US can provide documents or digital evidence it has no case what-so-ever.

      The established order has been deeply wounded, the elites have lost the narrative, no one believes them any more. The corporate press is in panic mode, loosing money, controlled by oligarchs using the press for their own enrichment they discredit themselves over and over by using these ridiculous memes and bald face transparent propaganda.

      There is no more right or left there is the insurgency or the establishment – take your pick.

    • chris moffatt
      December 14, 2016 at 9:43 am

      You can bet that they haven’t released the evidence yet because they haven’t finished faking it. Just wait a while.

    • Sam F
      December 14, 2016 at 2:57 pm

      Actually it makes no difference at all how the DNC emails were obtained: the truth revealed is the whole story. The DNC has been a corrupt tool of oligarchy for generations, burying the real issues and fielding fake liberals, to destroy the Left and serve as a backup in case the Repubs miscalculate. They will certainly stay that way, and the only hope of recovering democracy is in rejecting the Dems and Greens, and setting up a true progressive party.

      Without a party that represents the true interests of the people, prepared to eliminate the power of money over mass media and elections, eliminate corruption among politicians and judges, replace most of the military with full employment and foreign aid programs, and provide health and stability to the people, the US is ruined forever. Dump the Dems; we need a true progressive party.

  2. Bill Bodden
    December 13, 2016 at 7:55 pm

    Election night left almost no one truly inspired, enriched or empowered by the outcome.

    There were those who smiled or perhaps rejoiced that Hillary Clinton was not elected president but who also dreaded the prospect of a President Trump and a Vice President Pence. The former may have been a source of pleasure, but the latter is the price we will have to pay for it.

  3. Bill Bodden
    December 13, 2016 at 8:01 pm

    Canada with its parliamentary system extended its last federal election campaign to 11 weeks; many were angered that the campaign had been extended even that far beyond the more traditional seven or eight weeks it takes to hold a federal election.

    There is a reason why the American system drags on for such long periods. It always means a deluge of revenue for the corporate media. Suggest a website or blog on which the various candidates can make their points free of charge, and the corporate media would go into violent opposition.

  4. Bill Bodden
    December 13, 2016 at 8:08 pm

    Apart from the damage to the moral fiber of the nation and its divisive recriminations, the business of governance continues to be indefinitely sidetracked by such circuses. It blocks sober debate about the sad plight of so many aspects of the nation — erratic foreign policy, runaway military spending, non-stop wars, the failing education system, the degradation of the national infrastructure, the decline of health care and rise of mortality rates, the ignoring of the environment, the need to treat broad ethnic injustices, myths about immigration, the movement of American jobs overseas (as the very essence of how capitalism is supposed to work) — these hard questions all lie unaddressed. And they are much less fun or telegenic than hurling charges about foreign conspiracies and presidential legitimacy.

    So, how did the United States get to be the greatest nation ever on the planet?

    • Dennis Merwood
      December 13, 2016 at 11:23 pm

      Bill, the United States isn’t “the greatest nation ever on the planet”. That’s just what you as an American were brain washed to believe.

      And besides, if you really believe that the U.S. as the worlds greatest economic power, and the world’s only superpower, gives the U.S. the right to intervene unilaterally in other countries to impose what the U.S. views as justice……

      Then when China becomes the world’s largest economic power, I suppose you will then be OK with China intervening unilaterally in other countries around the world, including the U.S., to impose what it views as justice?

      • Bill Bodden
        December 14, 2016 at 12:32 am

        Dennis: Apparently my cynicism was not as obvious as it should have been. It might have helped if I had enclosed “the greatest nation ever on the planet” in quotes.

    • Bill Bodden
      December 14, 2016 at 12:34 am

      Apropos: “Message From the Future: Your Acceptance of Evil Has Condemned Us All” by Chris Floyd – http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/12/13/message-from-the-future-your-acceptance-of-evil-has-condemned-us-all/

    • Hillary
      December 14, 2016 at 11:24 am

      So, how did the United States get to be the greatest nation ever on the planet?

      By constant repetition of this claim by politicians to the US Public who never stop loving to hear & believe it.

      “Americans are the most entertained and least informed people on the planet!”

      As Gore Vidal noted we live in a dream state the “The United States of Amnesia”.

  5. Bill Bodden
    December 13, 2016 at 8:11 pm

    Thank you, Mr. Fuller, for this excellent assessment America in its third century.

  6. Realist
    December 13, 2016 at 8:13 pm

    The fight remains so vicious because the contestants assume that the stakes are control of the whole damned world and not just leadership of the American federal government.

    What is pathetic and makes no sense is that the rest of the so-called “free world” (the contingent of American vassal states around the world cemented largely through military alliances) fail to speak out against the American hegemony that greatly disadvantages their economies and social fabrics (largely caused by a chain of American military misadventures in the Middle East and attempted isolation of Russia after threatening stability in that country through violent actions first in Georgia and then in Ukraine). Moreover, a similar scenario is being unfolded by the Exceptional County to hamstring China within its own corner of the world. The key question is when will Continental Europe, the IngSoc Countries around the globe, and our far Eastern doormats finally come to their senses and start acting in their own best interests rather than suffering to advance the domineering agenda of the United States?

    • Bill Bodden
      December 13, 2016 at 9:25 pm

      The key question is when will Continental Europe, the IngSoc Countries around the globe, and our far Eastern doormats finally come to their senses and start acting in their own best interests rather than suffering to advance the domineering agenda of the United States?

      Perhaps they are waiting for the American people to first get their own house in order – a wait that will probably be interminable.

  7. The Artist formerly known as young man
    December 13, 2016 at 8:47 pm

    It looks like they are trying to go Maidan on Trump. But maybe Trump saw all this coming and that’s why he surrounded himself with military men. US are innovative country – usually wannabe rulers use the military in order to stage a coup, Trump may go the other way – he might use the military in order to prevent one.

    Another innovation in a possible coup against Trump would be that military (or any other) coups are usually staged in order to change the direction in which a certain country is going. US would be probably the first country to stage a coup because they don’t want to change the course.

    They also might try to turn the nomination of Exxon CEO for Secretary of State into Exxon Valdez disaster. One of the people leading the charge is McCain – a coward masquerading as a war hero who after being slapped around little bit by the Vietnamese – spilled the beans and might have cost hundreds of Americans their lives, but now he is a model patriot questioning the patriotism of Trump and Tillerson. Go figure.

  8. John
    December 13, 2016 at 8:50 pm

    Well I say this with a heavy heart……America has now become a text book example of a “tabloid nation” brought to you by special interest……..and the band plays on….without protest……..

    • Joe Tedesky
      December 13, 2016 at 9:21 pm

      Please be patient, since what we are watching now are only the previews of Season One of the Donald J. Trump Presidential Reality TV show. If all goes well with the contracted first four seasons this new presidential concept show could evolve into an eight year contract. Although a Reality TV Presidency could provide plenty of transparency of government, this Reality show will preempt the actual workings of the Oval office, and replace the real events with investigations into Russian hacking. The Russian hacking story will fill most of season one, with a spectacular ending where Putin jumps off Marine 1 and shakes hands with President Trump.

      The Hillary part of the show comes with a Warning, if you don’t believe Russia swayed the 2016 Presidential Election then you will be deemed a ‘traitor’ by America’s limousine liberal left. In the case you survive the pseudo left, well then you may get a free breakfast at the exquisitely new Trump Hotel-Casino when it opens up in Moscow late 2020…it will be huge. After Trump leaves office DC will be shut down, and the new capital will be moved to Moscow…isn’t decline absurdly insane?

  9. CitizenOne
    December 13, 2016 at 9:43 pm

    The whole affairs of the Obama administration with a DNC Chairperson who was the end to democratic rule and a royalty which marched a much disliked candidate up the aisle headed by the same DNC Chairperson who was disgraced at the Democratic Convention, forced to resign, made a campaign manager of the Hilary campaign and her inevitable demise was a hero. She was thanked profusely by Obama who actually hated her. She was lauded by the Clinton campaign as a key ally who had done nothing but taken the positions of conservative lobbyists for cash to the detriment of the democrats for years.

    You have to wonder how such a subversive person which made so many missteps could possibly be thanked by a president and a president elect.

    But this is only the beginning of a long list of missteps made by the Obama administration on foreign policy. The disastrous policy decisions in Ukraine and Syria are but a few. It seems as though the administration was a ship with sails set tight to heel over in the direction of any wind that blew and capsize.

    It seems like a rudderless ship which misread the signs and steered every time into stormy waters where their policies were dashed on the rocks. They were misled by false sirens and were lured to their watery graves by the sweet songs of ISIS and the Ukrainian “Revolutionaries” who turned out to be something entirely different in Syria and Ukraine.

    Now the republicans are concerned about Trump who might not listen to his advisors in the intelligence communities. They fear he might be influenced by Russia. They plan to investigate Russia’s involvement in a hacking scheme while they ignore their own political manipulations.

    I would argue the same questions should be raised for the Obama administration with Hillary Clinton as the lead person involved in many misadventures.

    The fact that they got it wrong on many foreign policy decisions leading to mass death and civil wars in formerly stable governments begs the question did they listen?

    The euphoric highs of the Obama administration that an Arab Spring was at hand in Syria and that a democratic revolution was at hand in Ukraine which led to disastrous outcomes threatening World Peace are signs that a democratic party which can have subversive election campaign managers might make grave foreign policy errors as well.

    I think perhaps we should settle on a new administration wherein democrats now out of power realize the errors of their ways and are forced to transform themselves into serious political opponents based on sound reasoning and a broader view of World events rather than through the lens of rose colored glasses.

    Anyone looking at the bombed out crater which was Aleppo can see the error of their ways.

    • Realist
      December 14, 2016 at 12:42 am

      It seems to me that the kind of fresh start you want is what we thought we were getting in Obama. The snake turned out to be a traitor to his supporters and to world peace and democratic principles in general. If I hadn’t trusted him in the first place, I wouldn’t feel so betrayed, I suppose. Just as much as Dubya, he truly deserves to be brought up on charges of crimes against humanity, but that will never happen because every sitting president would then come to fear the wrath of his successor. Never fear, it won’t be long till the job comes with a lifetime term of office and no need for elections.

      • Bill Bodden
        December 14, 2016 at 2:08 am

        The snake turned out to be a traitor to his supporters and to world peace and democratic principles in general. If I hadn’t trusted him in the first place,

        People who were familiar with how the system works and were able to recognize inbred signals were not disappointed. They knew better than to expect his promises were sincere and would be kept.

        • sierra7
          December 14, 2016 at 6:50 pm

          Really!
          All you had to do was look at the cabinet and other official appointees that Obama dragged into office to advise him…..a future disaster…..
          (Caveat: I’m neither Democrat or Republican and older than the glaciers)

  10. December 13, 2016 at 10:01 pm

    I believe it more than “disgraces itself.” I believe it and its “allies” are War Criminals that have opened the gates of hell. See link below:
    http://graysinfo.blogspot.ca/2016/12/the-war-criminals-that-opened-gates-of.html

  11. deang
    December 14, 2016 at 3:34 am

    Dean Baker, in his book The United States Since 1980, maps Reagan’s presidency of the eighties as the beginning of the US breaking with other nations, moving far to the super-irrational right, and becoming what is called here “an outlier.” He makes a compelling case, one that confirms my observations and experiences living through the last four-plus decades. I would say that the rise in the 1990s of the right-wing media like Fox News and rightist talk-radio, made possible in large part by Reagan’s rescinding the media Fairness Doctrine in 1987, is what turned the US population at large, at least most of the white part of it, into raving lunatics divorced from the real world and irrationally bellicose. There really was no “deep partisan divide” before all that, though you could see the cleavage beginning a bit under Reagan in the eighties. Horrible country this has become the last thirty-five years.

  12. jfl
    December 14, 2016 at 10:18 am

    Yet this isn’t new.

    No it’s not. Fuller’s CIA assassinated JFK for crossing up its plans for invading Cuba and for such statements as ‘Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable,’ and now they’re trying to assassinate DT pre-emptively for his pronounced stance vis a via Russia.

    Nothing new. If Trump survives the coup by the electoral college the first thing he needs to do as POTUS is kill the CIA. Kennedy should have done after the Bay of Pigs. Long overdue. Does the CIA run the POTUS? – it has for the past 8 years – or does the POTUS run the CIA? If Trump doesn’t kill the CIA Pence will serve out his term, just as LBJ served out JFK’s. The CIA will kill him.

    It’s time to pull the plug for good on the CIA.

  13. Zachary Smith
    December 14, 2016 at 1:50 pm

    The ‘Putin hacked the election’ theme is catching on. If Angela Merkel loses in Germany it’ll be because of Putin. And now the Brits are joining the parade by claiming Putin is responsible for Brexit.

    http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-12-13/british-member-parliament-accuses-russia-manipulating-brexit-vote

    What’s next? Benedict Arnold was a secret Russian Agent? Guy Fawkes? Judas Iscariot?

    There may be some real opportunities for History Majors because all the textbooks are going to need rewritten to account for all the endless Putin schemes.

  14. Jerry
    December 14, 2016 at 11:46 pm

    “… in theory conspiracies can exist …” — really, Mr. Fuller. An ex-CIA official is telling us that there are no real conspiracies, just theoretical ones. Are you coming clean and saying that every communist or terrorist conspiracy alleged by the US was just a hoax? It must then follow that the US never cooked up any conspiracy with anyone else.

  15. Winston
    December 15, 2016 at 4:51 am

    Murray knows who it is and he has history of telling it like it is::
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4034038/Ex-British-ambassador-WikiLeaks-operative-claims-Russia-did-NOT-provide-Clinton-emails-handed-D-C-park-intermediary-disgusted-Democratic-insiders.html

    EXCLUSIVE: Ex-British ambassador who is now a WikiLeaks operative claims Russia did NOT provide Clinton emails – they were handed over to him at a D.C. park by an intermediary for ‘disgusted’ Democratic whistleblowers

    Craig Murray, former British ambassador to Uzbekistan and associate of Julian Assange, told the Dailymail.com he flew to Washington, D.C. for emails
    He claims he had a clandestine hand-off in a wooded area near American University with one of the email sources
    The leakers’ motivation was ‘disgust at the corruption of the Clinton Foundation and the ’tilting of the primary election playing field against Bernie Sanders’
    Murray says: ‘The source had legal access to the information. The documents came from inside leaks, not hacks’

    Tells like it is:

    https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2004/jul/15/foreignpolicy.uk

    The envoy who said too much
    One minute he was Our Man in Tashkent, the next he was a major embarrassment for the Foreign Office. Craig Murray, ambassador to Uzbekistan, talks to Nick Paton Walsh about his turbulent year

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-445896/How-I-know-Blair-faked-Iran-map.html

    How I know Blair faked Iran map
    By CRAIG MURRAY, Former Ambassador to Uzbekistan and Head of the Foreign Office’s Maritime Section

  16. jimbo
    December 15, 2016 at 9:34 am

    But the emails were just about the Democrats and nothing about the Republicans and for that I don’t blame Russia but Wikileaks. Wikileaks has always been selective in what it releases. Certainly it has rarely been forthcoming in secrets I care about, especially 9/11. I’d bet there is information any CN reader or reporter would think worthy of a Wili leak but for some reason you don’t see it. What is released is probably whatever is in Julian Assange’s agenda. In this case Assange probably has a personal (and understandable) grudge against HRC and so he released only info that made the Hillary and the Dems look bad.

  17. Gary
    December 17, 2016 at 5:35 pm

    A post by Graham – “I never met a jihadi terrorist I couldn’t use for our own nefarious purposes” – Fuller, with no apparent irony intended!? Amazing! Really, you can’t make this stuff up!

    http://www.voltairenet.org/article178524.html

  18. December 18, 2016 at 12:21 am

    Almost all the comments appear to be “anti” American policies and represent the 1/2 of America that is revolting against the establishment.
    If Trump does not respond to this sentiment I would expect an even more bizarre meltdown.

  19. stephen brown
    December 24, 2016 at 8:47 am

    I have yet to hear of one legitimate voter come forward and admit to having their vote influenced by Russian hacking.

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