Monday, March 27, 2017

Russians: Oh, Plueeeeze!

Here's my personal experience with Russians:

1. A Russian cardiologist decided he wanted to do real estate development and he demolished the ranch house next door to my house and he built a McMansion which towered over my house, making mine look like a carriage house next door and in fact it was so out of character for the neighborhood people simply referred to it as "the monstrosity," and you never had to ask what they were talking about. Everyone knew.

2. Russian ex-pats, maybe they were embassy employees, used to play ice hockey on the C&O canal down the street from my house whenever the canal froze over, and you could hear them shout "Da! Da!" whenever anyone scored a goal. They were young men and they looked like they were having fun and you sort of had to like them.

3. I was at a dinner party once with Tim Sebastian (BBC) and Anne Garrels (NPR), news media people who were fluent in Russian and they both  were clearly enthralled by Russia, which Tim described in rapturous detail.  "The smell of sweat in the Moscow subway. The energy. The sheer magnetism of the place." 

4. A Russian émigré sold me my new Ford Taurus station wagon. He told me he was a Jew and in Russia that was stamped into his passport. I don't know if that was true. I do know the car turned out to be a lemon, suffering the fate a large number of that model suffered for about four model years--recurrent transmission failure.

5. My son made me watch an entire  Maria Sharapova tennis match. I have enough ADD, I cannot sit still to watch any sports event I'm not playing in, but he made me watch. It took 2 hours.  Her opponent looked to me to be the better player, quicker, more precise shots, better ball movement and placement, but Sharapova was relentless. She'd lose a game, a set, but she kept on coming back at this smaller, more agile player, until she finally wore her down and beat her. I don't know if you can generalize to all Russia from Ms. Sharapova, but that did seem to be the Russian strategy during WWII.

6. A Russian émigré friend worked for Voice of America, and he was a delightful fellow, with a wonderful, mordant view of the world--he simply expected the government to lie, all governments--Russian and American and British--it's simply their default posture, he said.
"But the Voice of America is a government agency," I said. "Do you lie for a living?"
"I say what I'm told to say. I cannot know if it is true or not. But since it comes from the government, I assume at least some of it is not true."
"So you lie for a living?"
"At least here," he smiled, "I lie for the good guys."

One thing about Vladimir Putin and the current Russian government, it's pretty obvious he kills people who displease him. Rather a more aggressive response than tweeting, but it does have the virtue of clarity, and, apparently, there is a long tradition of this sort of practice in Russia.

Having said all this, do I care if Mr. Putin worked hard to help Mr. Trump get elected?
Not in the least.
I worked hard to persuade others to vote against Mr. Trump.
In the end, it was the decision of the voters.
The voters were bombarded with information and misinformation and they knew enough to distrust all of it.
Doesn't matter whether the Russians released stuff about Hillary's emails. I cannot believe any of that was determinative.  All sorts of things undermined HIllary: Her speeches to Wall Street for $225,000 a pop which she could never satisfactorily explain, could never shake the idea she was bought and paid for by Wall Street, her stand on abortion, her gender, her pant suits. Who knows what combination of things cost her Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and Florida?
But the Russians had no chance of changing minds in any of those places, no matter how persuasive they tried to be.

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