McCain offers words of caution on Putin

I was sharing with Roger how some US Republicans have said they hold Vladimir Putin in higher regard than Nancy Pelosi and other US Democrats. In short, these folks are taking their eye off the ball. If they really feel this way, I have serious concerns around their judgment. Why would I say this?

In addition to his bent for invading or infiltrating former Soviet satellites, Putin has a history of ordering the elimination of his opposition. Either by murder, arrest or both, people who criticize the Russian leader have a habit of disappearing. In John McCain’s biography called “The Restless Wave,” he gives the example of Sergei Magnistky, among others, for whom the Magnitsky Act was passed to sanction Russia.

In short, Magnitsky, an auditor, went to bat for a US businessman who did business in Russia. When the businessman tried to extricate himself, his Russian business and its assets were seized by Putin under false pretenses. For his efforts, Magnitsky was jailed, where he was not treated for illnesses and was severely beaten, eventually dying in prison.

As is his nature, Putin took great offense at  the sanctions and made an executive order to cease US adoptions of Russian children.  Why is this important now? When Donald Trump, Junior and Senior, say the meeting at Trump Tower with the Russians was about adoptions, it is really about the existence of the Magnitsky Act and other sanctions that precipitated Putin’s cessation of adoptions.

Per McCain and other sources he cites, Putin, as a self-possessed strong man, reacts to strength, not weakness. He will keep doing what he is doing until the pain exceeds the gain. The sanctions hurt like hell, which is why he takes great offense when they are used, as he did today. So, unless the US punishes Putin for his cyber attack on America to sway public opinion, it will keep occurring with impunity.

The primary reason we know Putin is involved in the cyber attack is he controls everything in Russia. He pays attention to content of the US version of Russian Television so says former US anchors who left as a result. He pays attention to TV sitcoms to make sure they favor Putin on big items, while allowing some small criticism to avoid being too overt per a former producer of TV sitcoms. So, on the most impactful and cost effective tactic in modern warfare, where he can gain a great deal without ever firing a shot, of course, he is intimately involved in puppeteering the ongoing operation.

Putin is a shrewd man. He knows his stances against LGBT people in Russia, as well as repurposing the church as a center of influence, play well to US evangelicals. So, as he does his part to help break up western alliances and diminish democracies, as he is doing in the US, he is positioning himself as a global statesman.

Finally, there are two cautions from McCain we should heed. First, the source of the Steele Dossier about the Russians potential compromising information on the US President, Christopher Steele is a well-regarded professional, so says Sir Andrew Wood, former UK Ambassador to Russia. Issue has been made that the dossier was paid for as opposition research by first Republican opponents of Trump, but then by Clinton. But, McCain and Wood felt the dossier has enough veracity to get in the hands of the FBI.

Second, Putin views acquiescence as weakness. So, the US President’s fawning over Putin in Helsinki revealed Trump’s weakness. It was so weak, Putin actually walked away with too much (think about the sitcom story above), as it caused a backlash from the US Congress. He would have been better served if Trump appeared tougher towards Putin.

Trump contends there is pushback on his meeting with Putin. Of course, we should talk with other leaders who are at odds with is. I have not heard criticism of two parties talking. The criticism has been over being prepared and not being fooled. Putin, and Kim before him, have studied and prepared for such a meeting. The US President brags on winging it. That is not a good bargaining strategy.

Straight talk on immigration from a Republican statesman

In Senator John McCain’s book “The Restless Wave,” he devotes some time to the subject of immigration. Rather than use my words, I will borrow from his straight talk.

“There are politicians today who would have Americans believe that illegal immigration is one of the worst scourges afflicting the country. Some who espouse that nonsense believe it to be true. Their opinions were formed in restricted information loops as they communicate mostly or exclusively with people who believe the same….Decent, hardworking people who mean no harm are blamed for crime, unemployment, failing schools, and various other ills, and become in the eyes of many the objects of hate and  fear.”

McCain goes on to debunk four claims, from a vantage point of a state that has a significant level of immigrant population. Per McCain, “Here’s is a little straight talk:”

“First, there are eleven to twelve million immigrants, give or take, residing in this country without permission. Most of them are never going to leave, and there really isn’t much we can do about it or should we want to do about it….Two-thirds of the adult unauthorized immigrants have been here for at least a decade. They’re integrated into the fabric of our communities…

Second, the great majority of unauthorized immigrants came here to find work and raise their families, like most immigrants have throughout our history. They are not rapists, killers, and drug dealers of fevered imaginations on the Right….They’re decent people working hard to make better lives….

Third, since 2007 most immigrants who come here without permission simply outstay their visas. They don’t cross the border illegally. And since the Great Recession, net illegal immigration has been flat or negative as more immigrants voluntarily returned to their native countries as jobs were scarce. A wall along the southern border isn’t going to solve the problem….

Fourth, unauthorized immigrants aren’t depriving millions of native-born Americans of employment. Most jobs taken by immigrants are low-paying, and have the hardest conditions. Their employers have trouble filling payrolls. Many jobs are seasonal or otherwise irregular employment. Unauthorized immigrants are not sucking up all the blue-collar jobs in the country as their most hyperbolic antagonists insist.”

I wanted to share with you McCain’s words as they directly contradict those espoused by the President and those who have gone along with that argument. This argument is based on fear and one of the talents of the President is he knows what sells. Yet, that does not make it right.

We need thoughtful discussion around our immigration issues. We need to remember our ideals. We also need to use data and analysis. One data point is immigration is accretive (additive) to our economy. Another data point is our nation is one of immigrants. Yet, another data point is our country has off and on turned the spigot slower on immigration and then opened it up again. Often the nozzle was closed with fear as a selling tool.

McCain cited a speech from President Ronald Reagan. Paraphrasing it, when people immigrate to another country, they do not become nationalists of that country, although they become citizens. Yet, when they come to America, they become Americans. We are the melting pot of the world. These words are found on the Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

Fear may sell, but it does not solve problems very well. Why? Because fear is often based in large part on a lie. In my view, we should heed the words of a statesman like Senator John McCain, who is a hero in my book. Whether one agrees with McCain or not, I find he speaks plainly and from his heart.