Thursday, December 15, 2016

Accurate And Not Very Unfortunate

One of the disappointments of the 2016 presidential election is that we were deprived of the opportunity of seeing Kelly Ann Fitzpatrick Conway slink back into the sewer she came out from.

Fortunately, though, she has done a minimum of  gloating, instead preferring whining. Politico reports

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest’s assessment that President-elect Donald Trump may have known about Russian cyberattacks targeting the U.S. electoral process was “breathtaking” and “very unfortunate,” Trump’s senior adviser Kellyanne Conway said Thursday morning.

Speaking at his daily press briefing, Earnest referenced a remark Trump made at his most recent formal press conference, held in July, when he publicly invited Russian hackers to search for emails deleted from the personal server of Hillary Clinton.

Trump later said he was being sarcastic when he made the remark, but Earnest said Wednesday that the comment “might be an indication that he was obviously aware and concluded, based on whatever facts or sources he had available to him, that Russia was involved and their involvement was having a negative impact on his opponent’s campaign.” Conway took exception to the press secretary’s comment in an interview Thursday morning on Fox News’s “Fox & Friends.”

“That is just remarkable. That is breathtaking. I guess he's auditioning to be a political pundit after his job is over soon. That is incredibly disappointing to hear from the podium of the White House press secretary,” she said. “Because he basically — he essentially stated that the president-elect had knowledge of this, maybe even fanned the flames. It's incredibly irresponsible and I wonder if his boss, president Obama agrees.”

Evidently, it takes very little to take away Mrs. Conway's breath. During the campaign, her boss pleaded "Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.... They probably have them. I’d like to have them released” She is deeply offended- offended!- that the statement could possibly be interpreted as Trump encouraging a foreign power to undermine his nation's electoral system by continuing to hack e-mails of a political party and release them to the public.

Conway, noticing effort of the Hamilton Electors, fears for the legitimacy of  Mr. Trump's election, hence, his presidency.  Politico contines

As she and other members of the president-elect’s team have done regularly, Conway said any suggestion that Russian cyberattacks aided Trump’s win is simply the latest excuse from Democrats upset by the election’s outcome.

“I think coming from the podium and basically trying to relitigate a political campaign when the president and the president-elect and their senior staff are trying to work together very closely to have a peaceful transition of power in a great democracy with just about a month plus ago, I find it to be very unfortunate,” Conway said.

The impact upon the election of  the hacked e-mails, unlike the clearly determinative effect of FBI director Comey's actions, is nearly impossible to determine.  Matthew Yglesias explains

it's challenging to know with any certainty what did and did not move votes. What's more, the election was so close in the three crucial swing states that essentially anything could have been the difference maker. It does seem, however, that Clinton was hurt very badly by late-breaking revelations from the FBI that it had uncovered new emails related to the investigation into her private email server — emails that later turned out to be irrelevant or duplicates.

But there was something more insidious in Conway's remarks than her feeble attempt to refute the notion that the emails influenced voters. The well-spoken Conway, carefully choosing her exact words as always, claimed (emphasis mine) "he essentially stated that the president-elect had knowledge of  this, maybe even fanned the flames."

Notwithstanding first glances, he actually said no such thing.  Earnest had stated

There was ample evidence that was known long before the election, and in most cases long before October, about the Trump campaign in Russia, everything from the Republican nominee himself calling on Russia to hack his opponent. It might be an indication that he was obviously aware and concluded, based on whatever facts or sources he had available to him, that Russia was involved and their involvement was having a negative impact on his opponent's campaign.

Earnest did not "essentially state" Trump knew. He stated it "might be an indication," which, given the facts known, is far less accusatory than it could have been.

More significantly,  Earenest referred to the pre-election period, when the individual was candidate Donald J. Trump running for political office. He was not President-elect Trump, eleccted by the American people (albeit without a plurality of the vote) to be their next President.

It is a crucial distinction, given the greater credibility and legitimacy of someone given the nod for President rather than a candidate spinning every which way in order to win an election. The choice of "President-elect" rather than Trump or- the more precise "candidate Trump"- was not accidental.

Kellyanne Conway knows the distinction and spoke accordingly in order to de-legitimize the words of the President's spokesman. And there should be little doubt where the truth lies when considering her words against those of someone who is, well, Earnest.

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