Special counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment last Friday of 13 Russians for interfering in American elections made for a busy news cycle. On Fox News, a breathless Marie Harf, formerly of the U.S. State Department, said many Americans get their news from Facebook, so Russian interference was a serious matter. Conservative Matt Schlapp, on the other hand, said the Russian internet trolling was “Rocky and Bullwinkle stuff,” which may have left younger viewers puzzled.
“The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show,” aired on television from 1959 to 1964 and starred Rocky the Flying Squirrel and Bullwinkle the Moose. The animated program also featured secret agents Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale in capers such as the theft of Bullwinkle’s weather-predicting bunion. Schlapp put the Russian trolling that brought on these indictments on that level, but more serious Russian intervention goes back much further.
Younger readers may be unaware that the Communist Party USA was a full-blown Russian operation. As the joke had it, the CPUSA, like the Brooklyn Bridge, was suspended by cables. During the 1930s, Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal administration was a virtual hiring hall for CPUSA members, whose loyalty was to Moscow.
“The curiosity is not that there were undoubtedly many Reds that made government their vocation, but that the entire Communist Party was not on the federal payroll.” When did Red Scare witch hunter Joseph McCarthy say that? Or perhaps it was that anti-Communist right-wing Republican Ronald Reagan? Oh, no . . . it was that McCarthyite conservative snob William F. Buckley, Jr., right?
Sorry boys and girls, the author is actually liberal Democrat Robert Vaughn, star of “Man From U.N.C.L.E.” and author of Only Victims: A Study of Show Business Blacklisting, the book version of his Ph.D. thesis at the University of Southern California.
During the Stalin Era, from the 1930s to the 1950s, the Russians recruited agents such as Alger Hiss of the U.S. State Department, where the spy wielded considerable influence on U.S. policy. For the full story on this American who colluded with Stalinist Russia, see Allen Weinstein’s Perjury: The Hiss-Chambers Case, and Witness: The True Story of Soviet spies in America and the Trial that Captivated a Nation, by Whittaker Chambers his own bad self.
Despite these accounts, Bill Clinton’s National Security Advisor, Anthony Lake, thought Hiss might be innocent. That admission played a role in Lake’s failure to become director of the Central Intelligence Agency—which brings up another dimension of Russian interference.
The Communist Party, which Russia funded and controlled, for years ran candidates in American elections. In 1976, 20 years after Nikita Khrushchev revealed Stalin’s murderous record, the CPUSA candidate was slobbering Stalinist Gus Hall. An American college student named John Brennan voted for the Stalinist, yet he went on to become director of the mighty CIA. As Yakov Smirnoff used to say, “What a country!”
The Stalinist Hall was also the presidential candidate in 1980 and 1984, when the CPUSA candidate for vice president was Angela Davis, who in 1979 won the Lenin Peace Prize, named after prominent Russian Communist Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, later known as Lenin. No congressional committee asked the FBI or the Justice Department to investigate how much the Russians had spent on the election, or what other propaganda operations they might have mounted.
The Hall-Davis ticket twice lost to Ronald Reagan and George Bush, but Davis went on to a career as a professor in the “history of consciousness” and feminist studies at the University of California at Santa Cruz. So in America, Russia’s favorite candidate can enjoy a long academic career, and even become the keynote speaker at the women’s march, the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration. As the pussy hats might have it, she earned it with her Lenin Peace Prize and candidacy for vice president.
Ah, but that was long ago. And anyway, as Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said, no Americans like Hall or Davis were involved this time and the campaign did not affect the outcome of the election. So it makes perfect sense that Marie Harf, one of Hillary Clinton’s most eager acolytes, continues to sound the alarm.
As State Department mouthpiece, Harf cited “lack of opportunity for jobs” as the root cause of the conflict with the Islamic State. Harf is not on record about the State Department’s Alger Hiss from back in the day. On the Left, however, to the extent that people are even aware of Hiss, it remains a point of orthodoxy that he was innocent.
Compared to real Russian intervention, the recent internet trolling pales into insignificance. “Rocky and Bullwinkle stuff” indeed.