More than a little has been made about an affinity between Donald Trump and Russia’s Vladimir Putin. Michael Hayden, who was NSA Director and CIA Director during the Bush administration, analyzed that affinity recently in an opinion piece.
Among other things Hayden referenced Trump’s consistent rising to the defense of Putin, citing Trump’s casual dismissal of Russian involvement in the hacks of the DNC. He also noted Trump’s dismissal (or ignorance) of Russian support for Syrian dictator Assad’s targeting of innocents and non-ISIS rebels. Of course, there was also the Trump campaign’s insistence on the removal from the GOP platform of language supporting Ukraine in its struggle with Russian invasion and intimidation.
Hayden suggests various reasons that might explain all this. Maybe it’s Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort’s work for a now disgraced pro-Russian Ukrainian leader. Maybe it’s Trump advisor Carter Page’s complex business interests in Russia. Maybe it’s Trump’s own business interests in Russia (Trump has said he has “zero investments in Russia,” while his son admitted in 2008 that “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets . . . we see a lot of money pouring in from Russia”).
Echoing others in the military and intelligence communities, Hayden describes Trump as “polezni durak,” which he translates as meaning “the useful fool, some naïf, manipulated by Moscow, secretly held in contempt, but whose blind support is happily accepted and exploited.” Hayden described this as a “pretty harsh term.” But, he wrote, it’s the most benign interpretation he could come up with for what is occurring between Trump and Putin.
This reminded us here at the Muckraker of the arguments we (and many others) have been making about the alt-right’s hijacking of the Trump campaign after Corey Stewart’s departure. Of particular interest for us has been the rising dominance within the campaign of its CEO, the alt-right avatar Stephen K. Bannon. It’s not been missed by some people that the same major alt-right financial supporter of the self-professed alt-right platform, Brietbart News, which Bannon led before joining the Trump campaign, is also the primary funder of the alt-right super-PAC from which both Trump campaign manager, Kellyane Conway, and deputy campaign manager, David Bossie, have come (Bossie is also the president and chairman of Citizens United and the person Corey Stewart identified as being a problem in the Trump campaign). In short, the alt-right may have claimed the top three spots in the Trump campaign.
What we have argued in several posts over the past several weeks (again as have many others) is similar to what Hayden is arguing about the Trump-Putin connection. We don’t think Trump is necessarily knowledgeable enough to actually know what’s going on within his own campaign. We sometimes think, as we’ve said, that he’s being manipulated by far more intelligent and nefarious people like Stephen K. Bannon, who actually consider Trump to be an immature, malleable, useful fool – a “polezni durak”.
But this all reminded us here at the Muckraker even more of what we’ve all come to learn exists right here in Prince William County. The parallel involving Mac Haddow and the control he exerts over several members of the Board of Supervisors and others is remarkable, and is a source of major concern among a significant segment of the local Republican Party.
In some ways Haddow’s control more resembles the Putin connection. There’s the disdain for the law and the desire for personal enrichment with taxpayer funds that resulted in his conviction and jail term for actions while a government employee. There’s his willingness to work for the benefit of dictators shown by his lobbying work that involved the victims of Pan Am Flight 103 and removal of restrictions on Khadafy. There’s the bullying and intimidation tactics he exerts to gain control, shown by his actions involving the Chantilly Youth Association.
In other ways his control more resembles the Bannon connection. There’s his outward commitment to a supposed set of high social and political values that prove to be nothing but a charade, as demonstrated by his establishment of the Gainesville Truth Squad blog, his involvement in its successor Sheriff blog, and the use of his influence as a spiritual mentor to drag an otherwise innocent person into his toxic stew. There’s the cronyism shown by placing not only himself in a Supervisor’s office, but also obtaining tax-payer funded positions for his spouse and son-in-law in that office. There’s his recognition that because of his past and continuing conduct he could not pursue his agenda directly himself, so he pursues it by manipulating others he deems to be “polezni durak.”
The term “polezni durak” would seem to apply quite appropriately to a group of people Haddow has drawn into his orbit, including elected officials, failed candidates, and local members of the alt-right. Some have been manipulated into thinking they owe election to him, even though the makeup and drawing of their districts virtually assured their victory even if they had never stepped out their front doors. Some are obsessed with the notion that he might turn on them and viciously assault them with false attacks on the Sheriff blog. Others think he actually supports them, not realizing or quickly forgetting how lukewarm his actual support becomes when it becomes clear they are no longer a real threat to his political enemies. Finally, some on the alt-right are attracted by his willingness to engage in the dishonest hate tactics they’ve admired so long on talk-radio and cable-TV – like forged documents and fake reports.
Where the analogy fails is with Gainesville Supervisor Pete Candland. Candland is useful to Haddow, but he’s not a fool.
There is some disagreement on this last point among the Muckraker contributors. Months ago a contributor submitted a post (not approved or published) that highlighted one of Candland’s petulant fits about criticism. Candland had remarked – we think talking about the Muckraker – about how the “worst” things “imaginable” had been said about his staff. As an example he cited what appeared to be our post about Mac Haddow’s spouse’s salary in his office (we’ll link to our post here so you can judge for yourself if this is saying the worst things imaginable). The contributor who submitted the piece argued that Candland was incredibly dumb (the contributor didn’t use that word, but a less charitable set of terms) if he saw any equivalency between the comments about what Mac Haddow’s wife was paid and the vicious, false, personal attacks that Candland’s crew had been unleashing for years on county staff, other elected officials and candidates, and private citizens, on the Sheriff blog.
We didn’t publish the contributor’s post. Not because there was anything wrong with it (though we would have had to soften the language quite a bit), but because we had other things to cover at the time. But it generated disagreement within the Muckraker community because other contributors reviewing the piece believed that Candland, along among those in the Haddow orbit, is anything but a fool.
Some believed that Haddow has dirt on Candland or has intimidated Candland in such a way as to guarantee Candland doing Haddow’s bidding. Others, however, felt very strongly that Candland is much like Haddow. In their view, his crocodile tears at the criticism he mentioned were all part and parcel of the “big lie” approach to things that the Haddow-Candland cabal use on the Sheriff blog all the time. Candland, they thought, was nothing more than just a “little Mac” who fully embraces the tactics of Haddow, and who believes his own dishonesty, bullying and hypocrisy are justified by his cause. How else could Candland square his public stances on ethics and transparency with his own conduct and his involvement in the Sheriff blog.
The only source of agreement among the parties on the issue was that Candland and Haddow, like most bullies, are very thin-skinned. While the verdict was easy on the other members of the Haddow orbit, the debate continues to this day as to whether or not Candland is Haddow’s “polezni durak” or instead is a willing, useful tool. Of course, neither answer is good for Prince William County.