Thursday, June 8, 2017

Russian Meddling in the U.S. Presidential Election

No no no, not the Trump/Putin thing -- I know no more about it than you do.  Talking about historical precedents and parallels here.

At their summit on 3 June 1961,  the boss of the USSR told JFK:

“We cast the deciding vote  when you beat that son-of-a-bitch Nixon,” Khrushchev said.
“We waited to release the spy pilots until after the election.  So Nixon could not claim he knew how to deal with the Russians.”
-- Richard Reeves, President Kennedy:  Profile of Power (1993), p.  159

That account closely matches Khrushchev’s own recollections of his first meeting with JFK:

I joked with him that we had cast the deciding ballot in his election to the Presidency ovefr that son-of-a-bitch Richard Nixon.  When he asked me what I meant, I explained that, by waiting to release the U-2 pilot Gary Powers until after the American election, we kept Nixon from being able to claim that he could deal with the Russians:  our ploy made a difference of at least half a million votes, which gave Kennedy the edge he needed.
-- Khrushchev Remembers (Eng. translation 1970), p. 458

The election was indeed a squeaker.   Whether Khrushchev’s move was as helpful to Kennedy as that attributed to Chicago mayor Richard Daley, may never be determined:

Nixon, for one, always believed that Daley’s help included rounding up a few thousand crucial votes, just enough to carry Illinois, from Democrats who had died between presidential elections.
-- Reeves, op. cit., p. 110

Note that something quite similar occurred in 1980, this time  to aid the Republican candidate, when Iran waited to release the U.S. hostages until shortly after Reagan’s election, out of venom for President Carter.  Reagan just smilingly received the credit that he in no way deserved.  (And repaid the favor later, in the kowtowing to Iran and its client Lebanese Hezbollah, in the Iran-Contra affair.)

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