It has become one of the Washington Post’s favorite headline constructions: “Without Evidence, Trump Claims ______”
Since they’re so fond of using this tactic – even when it isn’t true – we thought we’d turn it around on them. Because on Tuesday, WaPo columnist Max Boot – one of those so-called conservatives who has made a name for himself hating on Trump – made the extraordinary, unproven claim that the president could not have won the 2016 election without the aid of the Russian government.
In his piece, Boot makes an argument, no doubt about that; he goes on for nearly 1,000 words while trying to prove his point. But does he provide any EVIDENCE to back up the claim in the headline: that without Russian help, Trump would have lost to Hillary? No. No he does not.
What Boot does is rely on the opinion of one former FBI agent named Clint Watts, who wrote in his book that “Russia absolutely influenced the U.S. presidential election.” Boot even closes his, er, thinkpiece, with a quote from Watts: “Without the Russian influence effort, I believe Trump would not have even been within striking distance of Clinton on Election Day.”
Boot follows this up with what we’re sure he believed to be a conversation-smashing slam dunk: “That,” he wrote, “is the inconvenient truth the Putin Republicans won’t admit.”
Beyond the fact that we should probably not take seriously anyone using the term “Putin Republicans,” Boot declines to note that what Watts wrote is not “the truth,” inconvenient or otherwise. It was just one dude’s opinion. Former FBI agent? Who cares. If we go out and find just one former FBI agent who believes the Russians did NOT materially affect the election, are we back to square one? Would Boot concede that such an individual undoubtedly exists?
Whether or not he would, this goes beyond partisan hackery. To claim that the Russians effectively chose Donald Trump as the American president is to do far worse damage to our democracy than Putin could have ever dreamed. To make this claim in the Washington Post is recklessness and journalistic malpractice on a grand scale. These are the kinds of claims that sow social unrest; they should not be made without significant, substantial evidence. And a close reading of Boot’s column reveals that he possesses no such thing.
He takes us through the paces, though: The DNC hacks, the social media trolls, the fake news bots. He admits – reluctantly – that “there is no evidence that vote tallies were changed,” but tells us that the Russians “may have” used stolen voter data for a variety of nefarious purposes. The best part is where he recounts the WikiLeaks drops and tells us all about the impact they must have had on swing voters in the Midwest. He doesn’t get around to mentioning that the WikiLeaks emails were not Russian propaganda; they were the plain, uncensored words of Democrats like Donna Brazile, Debbie Wasserman Shultz, and Hillary Clinton. But somehow these drops were monstrously unfair while the Access Hollywood tape was totally above-board political gamesmanship? Sure.
The Washington Post has adopted the motto, “Democracy dies in darkness.” But it’s becoming increasingly clear that Democrats THRIVE in darkness. They’ve been fighting the bright light of transparency for more than two years now; whenever things come to the public’s attention – be it DNC emails or illegal immigration statistics or FBI FISA warrant applications – they throw a fit and cry foul. Now they want us to believe that Russia is wholly to blame for Trump’s election.
Well, they haven’t proved that case yet. We’re guessing they never will.