Origin of the Term Useful Idiots
Vladimir Lenin, founder of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) was a master of propaganda and manipulation. To spread communism worldwide, Lenin recognized the need to transparently support socialist movements in foreign countries, but clandestinely subvert their governments. He found he could exploit individuals who, wittingly or unwittingly provided propaganda for communism, though not fully understanding it. He regarded those individuals contemptuously and, though never confirmed, many believe he described them with the disparaging term “Useful Idiots.”
All Lenin’s successors, from Joseph Stalin in 1924 to Vladimir Putin in today’s Russia, have followed Lenin’s strategy. First, identify the country’s Useful Idiots and create a message that appeals to their interests. Repeat that message continuously, incorporating another principle Lenin used quite effectively: “A lie told often enough becomes the truth;” Then watch Russia’s Useful Idiots go at it, subverting their own country.
Russia and the 2016 U.S. Election
Every U.S. Intelligence Agency has concluded that Russia intervened in the 2016 U.S. election with the goal of electing Donald Trump. A study conducted by the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee reached the same conclusion. But Trump, the self-proclaimed “genius,” creates his own facts and spreads them as gospel to his followers. And if, as he’s trumpeted, he won by a landslide and had the largest crowd ever to attend an inauguration, he certainly wouldn’t need any help to become President.
One obvious reason that Trump disputes the conclusions of our intelligence gatherers is his narcissism. But that is merely his personal flaw and frailty. Ordinarily, that would not put our country, and perhaps all NATO countries, in danger. However, it has become apparent that Trump cannot and will not accept Russia’s guilt because he’s heavily indebted to, and afraid of, Vladimir Putin.
When it comes to making a choice, Trump overtly sides with Russia at the expense of the United States. Driven as he is by fear and self-interest, damage to U.S. national security isn’t part of his calculations or concerns. In addition, his lack of insight and patriotism make him an easy mark. Either he’s too stupid to understand the enormous damage he’s doing, or he doesn’t care. However, with few exceptions, Republicans do understand, but have been willing to take on their new role as Russia’s Useful Idiots.
Republican Partisan Hacks – Representative Devin Nunes
Leading off is Russia’s Useful Idiot First Class, Devin Nunes, ranking member of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee. You may remember him from 2017 when he publicly revealed classified foreign surveillance reports he received from the White House. His objective then was to blame the 2016 Russian interference on President Barack Obama’s national security adviser, Susan E. Rice. Of course, he had no evidence and that accusation disappeared. In the words of Republican presidential candidate, Joe Walsh, Nunes “is a stupid, partisan hack.”
However, that fiasco did not deter Nunes from replicating the same clownish behavior during the current Trump impeachment hearings. He denigrates the hearings as a “circus,” and does his part in word and action to ignore or belittle serious, dignified career diplomats. And despite evidence and testimony to the contrary, he seems to feel obligated to promote the fabricated conspiracy theory created by Russia that baselessly insists Ukraine intervened in the 2016 election. But it doesn’t end there.
We’ve just learned Nunes has been secretly involved with certain sleazy characters known to be part of Trump’s Ukraine plot. So, here’s the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee investigating a crime in which he is a participant. A more ethical individual would recuse himself from participating in this investigation, but Nunes is clearly lacking in this regard. He is beyond just a partisan hack.
Though he enjoys the highest ranking as Russia’s Useful Idiot First Class, he is not the only Useful Idiot. More and more Republicans have signed up and joined the ranks, hoping to move up to Nunes’ rarified level. They understand the playbook well, offering that Russian fabrication to protect their “Great Leader” from impeachment.
Other Partisan Hacks
Representative Jim Jordan, a Russia’s Useful Idiot Second Class, joins Nunes. Without anything of substance to offer, his tactic is to personally attack the government officials who provide evidence of Trump’s wrongdoing. Jordan shouts unsubstantiated accusations at witnesses with rapid-fire bursts, frequently not allowing them to respond. When the chairman gavels him down to allow a witness to respond, Jordan interrupts and must be told politely to “shut-up.” Many commentators noted he was performing for an audience of one. But I suspect Putin enjoyed the theatrics as much as Donald.
More recently, Louisiana Senator John Kennedy joined the conspiracy theorists. However, he backtracked after being derided for his foolish comments. Responding to a question from Fox News’ Chris Wallace, Kennedy stated emphatically that no one could be sure Russia was the culprit in the 2016 election—it might have been the Ukraine! One day later he told CNN’s Chris Cuomo that the way Wallace posed the question led to his misunderstanding. On reflection, it was Russia and not the Ukraine. However, subsequently he asserted that there’s “no question” in his mind that Ukraine attempted to meddle in the 2016 U.S. election. With that level of mendacity, he’ll quickly move up to Russia’s Useful Idiot Third Class.
There is a brigade of other Republican senators and representatives who have signed up to become Russia’s Useful Idiots. But these three deserve special recognition for their obvious fealty to propaganda contrary to the best interests of the United States.
Lindsay Graham and Joe Biden
And last among the most outspoken, but certainly not least, is Senator Lindsay Graham, Russian Useful Idiot First Class. As I said in my last post, Lindsay Graham’s backbone disintegrated after the death of his mentor, Senator John McCain. Now he’s gone further down the rabbit hole chasing a hologram of Joe Biden. Trump and his political allies have pushed the debunked allegation that Biden called for the firing of a top Ukrainian prosecutor to protect his son, who once sat on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company.
Biden did call for the prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, to be fired, and he used aid to Ukraine as leverage to make it happen. But it wasn’t because Shokin was investigating Burisma; it was because he wasn’t investigating corruption by Ukrainian politicians. In this, Biden was supported by the Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau and the U.S.’ European allies who believed Shokin was himself corrupt. This is the exact opposite of the reasons now given by Republicans. But spreading misinformation and fomenting confusion is part of a Russian Useful Idiot ‘s job.
Trump, and perhaps Putin as well, must see Biden as a threat. Investigating Joe Biden is an attempt to help Trump’s reelection, and distraction from the Democratic effort to impeach him. In fact, despite all the evidence uncovered thus far, Graham acts as if none of it has substance or meaning. After describing Adam Schiff’s hearings as “un-American,” he added, “I’m not going to create a country where only Republicans get investigated . . . And we’re going to ask questions of Hunter Biden’s role, and getting the prosecutor fired.”
The Ukraine Did It
And that is the tragedy of this entire episode. The truth of what transpired is clear and unambiguous, and most responsible Republicans know it. Trump held up military aid to the Ukraine until its new president agreed to announce an investigation of Joe Biden and the 2016 U.S. election. That is pure and simple bribery, an impeachable offense. But given their fear of being “primaried” and losing their positions, Republicans instead choose to be Russia’s Useful Idiots. They defend Trump with an argument right out of the Russian playbook. They claim the Ukrainians did it. And they refuse to be confused by the facts.
Fiona Hill: It’s Not the Ukraine
Born in England, Fiona Hill is an American by choice, having become a citizen in 2002. She is a nonpartisan, nonpolitical national security professional focusing on Europe and Eurasia, with special expertise in the former Soviet Union. She has served three presidents: National Security Advisor under Donald Trump and National Intelligence Officer under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. She is regarded as one of the foremost experts on Russia and its antecedent, the Soviet Union.
In her appearance at the impeachment hearings, she related the following:
“Based on questions and statements I have heard, some of you on this committee appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country—and that perhaps, somehow, for some reason, Ukraine did. This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.
The unfortunate truth is that Russia was the foreign power that systematically attacked our democratic institutions in 2016. This is the public conclusion of our intelligence agencies, confirmed in bipartisan Congressional reports.”
Attempting to pass blame to the Ukraine for interference in the 2016 elections, while knowing there is conclusive evidence that it was Russia is unconscionable. It is tantamount to providing aid and comfort to an enemy—Russia, a country actively hostile to the United States. It is time for Republicans to step out of their role as Russia’s Useful Idiots and exercise their constitutional duty as responsible elected U.S. senators and representatives. Or are they just too cowardly to do so?