Tulsi Gabbard: Presidential candidates must also condemn election interference by US intelligence agencies
Reckless claims by anonymous intelligence officials that Russia is “helping” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) are deeply irresponsible. So was former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s calculated decision Tuesday to repeat this unsubstantiated accusation on the debate stage in South Carolina. Enough is enough. I am calling on all presidential candidates to stop playing these dangerous political games and immediately condemn any interference in our elections by out-of-control intelligence agencies.
A “news article” published last week in The Washington Post, which set off yet another manufactured media firestorm, alleges that the goal of Russia is to trick people into criticizing establishment Democrats. This is a laughably obvious ploy to stifle legitimate criticism and cast aspersions on Americans who are rightly skeptical of the powerful forces exerting control over the primary election process. We are told the aim of Russia is to “sow division,” but the aim of corporate media and self-serving politicians pushing this narrative is clearly to sow division of their own — by generating baseless suspicion against the Sanders campaign.
It’s extremely disingenuous for “journalists” and rival candidates to publicize a news article that merely asserts, without presenting any evidence, that Russia is “helping” Bernie Sanders — but provides no information as to what that “help” allegedly consists of.
The American people have the right to know this information in order to put Russia’s alleged “interference” into proper perspective. It is a mystery why the Intelligence Community would want to hide these details from us. Instead it is relying on highly dubious and vague insinuations filtered through its preferred media outlets, which seem designed to create a panic rather than actually inform the public about a genuine threat.
All this does is undermine voters’ trust in our elections, which is what we are constantly told is the goal of Russia.
If the CIA, FBI or any other intelligence agency is going to tell voters that “Russians” are interfering in this election to help certain candidates — or simply “sow discord” — then it needs to immediately provide us with the details of what exactly it’s alleging. Otherwise, all it is doing is fomenting a sense of powerlessness and paranoia in the voting public, which could suppress engagement in the electoral process. And, at least according to the anonymous officials speaking menacingly to the media, that is precisely what Russia wants.
If our political leaders and those in the media were really concerned with protecting the integrity of our elections from outside manipulation — instead of just making money from manufactured hysteria — they would presumably devote more coverage to proposals to institute backup paper ballots, which would ensure that no malicious actors can ever alter our votes or hack into our election infrastructure. The bill I reintroduced last year, the Securing America’s Elections Act, does exactly that — but the media has never shown much interest because it would not generate the so-called bombshell headlines they so desperately crave.
The FBI, CIA or any other intelligence agency should immediately stop smearing presidential candidates with innuendo and vague, evidence-free assertions. That is antithetical to the role those agencies play in a free democracy. The American people cannot have faith in our intelligence agencies if they are pushing an agenda to harm candidates they dislike.
Any attempts to keep the American people quiet — with the threat that if they dare criticize the Democratic Party establishment, they will be labeled hostile foreign agents — are unacceptable and disgraceful.
This new McCarthyism must be renounced by every presidential candidate; otherwise, we must conclude they lack the foresight and integrity required to lead our country. If candidates are too afraid to stand up against those who would suppress the voices of the American people with McCarthyist smears, they are not real leaders. They are just power-hungry, self-serving politicians whose goal is to play-act as president — rather than actually defend the freedoms enshrined in our Constitution.
It is now clear that the mainstream corporate media and the warmongering political establishment are seeking to do two things:
- Create enough suspicion around Sanders, by falsely tarnishing him as a puppet of Russia, that he loses the election.
- Or, at the very least, if Bernie wins the Democratic nomination, force him to engage in inflammatory anti-Russia rhetoric and perpetuate the new Cold War and nuclear arms race, which are existential threats to our country and the world.
That strategy worked very well with President Trump. Trump has spent his entire presidency trying to “prove” to the media that he is not Putin’s puppet by carrying out extremely aggressive policies that have brought us closer to nuclear war with Russia than we have been in decades.
If Sanders is the Democratic nominee, the corporate media will do everything they can to turn the general election into a contest of who is going to be “tougher” on Russia. This tactic is necessary to propagandize the American people into shelling over their hard-earned tax dollars to the Pentagon to fund the highly lucrative nuclear arms race that the military-industrial complex craves. In the most recent appropriations bill last year, the Pentagon was handed $738 billion — which includes a blank check for dangerous new nuclear warheads and destabilizing missile systems that increase the likelihood of catastrophic war with Russia.
The question facing any potential Democratic nominee is this: Am I going to allow myself to be manipulated and forced into a corner by overreaching intelligence agencies and the corporate media where, in order for me to win the presidency, I’m going to have to do what I know is not in the interests of the American people and world peace?
Or will I stand up to the corrupt neocon and neoliberal establishment, condemn their lies and smears, and act with the integrity and foresight necessary to forge a rational policy that will serve all our interests?
The problem with Trump is that he talks tough against the media and the intelligence agencies, but he was not strong enough to stand up to their pressure. He was cowed into trying to prove that he’s not a puppet of Russia and as a consequence has brought us closer and closer to nuclear war. The Democratic nominee cannot make the same mistake; our country and the world are depending on it.
Gabbard represents Hawaii’s 2nd District and is seeking the Democratic nomination for president.