By Robert A. Vella
After watching the concluding episode (part two) last night on PBS of the FRONTLINE documentary “Putin’s Revenge,” I came away with two very clear observations. First, that the success of Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s plan to undermine America’s already weakened democracy by meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election caught everyone by surprise including Putin himself. Second, that all the players involved on all sides look terribly bad now in the aftermath for a variety of reasons.
This incident will have profound and long-lasting ramifications. America’s post World War II role as the world’s champion of democracy is definitively over. Its high-minded rhetoric will no longer be taken seriously, its credibility has been destroyed. U.S. geopolitical activities will be seen for what they truly are and have been – as imperialistic pursuits and means to maintain its global hegemony. If one cannot walk the walk, as they say, one cannot talk the talk. Unless another champion steps forward, and I can see none on the horizon, democracy will be the biggest loser; and, that is the saddest aspect of this story I can imagine.
Back to the documentary…
As the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign transpired, it was difficult for outside observers to contemporaneously see the cause-and-effect relationship between specific events and the tangible results which were produced. Timing was key, and the film does an excellent job of revealing it. Rather than citing examples, it would be more convincing for readers to watch both episodes of the documentary especially part two. See also:
Putin comes across as the scheming, vindictive Russian nationalist (Machiavellian, in my view) determined to make his image as an undemocratic authoritarian more palatable by helping to elect another undemocratic authoritarian (i.e. Trump) as leader of his principal rival (i.e. U.S.). My biggest criticism of the film is the way it demonized Putin with close-up images of his stern eyes which suggested evil intent. This was overly dramatic and unnecessary.
Donald Trump is portrayed as an unwitting buffoon, an egomaniac (megalomania, in my view) who’ll do or say anything if he thinks it will serve his purpose at any given moment.
The Republican Party establishment, and Trump’s campaign team, are exposed as willing to sacrifice U.S. national security interests in order to capture the White House. They seem to hate Democrats more than they hate Putin.
President Obama is depicted as an over-thinking (à la JFK’s “whiz kids”), weak leader whose inaction gave Putin the political space needed to execute his plan.
Hillary Clinton is represented as headstrong and reckless in both her support of pro-democracy movements (e.g. the Arab Spring, the Ukraine) and in her opposition to Putin’s Russia.
The Democratic Party establishment (i.e. the Democratic National Committee) is castigated as incompetent, naive about internet security, and as actively biased against Clinton’s main challenger for the nomination – the progressive populist Bernie Sanders.
The mainstream news media is reproved as mindlessly chasing sensationalist stories, indifferent towards its journalistic responsibilities, and as even the purveyors of propaganda.
Indirectly, and to a lesser extent, capitalism is rebuked with references to the self-serving interests of financial oligarchs in relevant countries.