Distraction as a Strategy

Author: Gary Hart

There are not many reasons why a leader creates chaos.  One might be that he thinks it encourages creativity.  Another might be that he doesn’t know how to manage in any normal or systematic fashion.  But the only rational reason for the purposeful and continuing chaotic turmoil around a national leader is to create distraction.

Assuming this national leader is rational, what is he seeking to distract the public and the media from?  The obvious answer is Russia and the several investigations underway to discover how and why the Russian Government meddled in the U.S. national election last year and whether there was collusion, to use the favorite word of the day, between the Russian Government and the Trump campaign.

As bizarre as it seems, giving a political speech to the Boy Scouts of America, demeaning his own Attorney General, ranting about the failure of his Party to destroy the Affordable Care Act, hiring a strange and disruptive character as White House communications director, and other off-beat actions all have one affect: they keep the Russian investigations off the front page or the lead on the evening news.

The first strategy, that of building a fire-wall of protection by key figures in the new Administration, a fire-wall of Flynn, Sessions, and a “loyal” Comey, fell apart badly, in the case of the first two because of…their relationship with the Russian Government.  In addition, the leader in question, not understanding (perhaps not even having read) the Constitution of the United States thought these individuals took an oath of loyalty to him and not an oath to uphold the Constitution and rule of law even when they operated against his interests.

On the off chance that a strategy of distraction is in fact underway, it can only mean that the leader is willing to disrupt the normal operations of the Government of the United States to keep attention away from the Russia story and that price means the story has to be of some consequence.

If there is nothing of consequence between the leader and the Russian Government, or Russian bankers close to the Kremlin, then the investigations should be welcomed and encouraged just to get the matter behind us so that the Government of the United States can move on.  Skeptics don’t expect much in any case from the Congressional inquiries conducted by members of the leader’s Party loyal to him.  So, inevitably, the focus is on Mr. Mueller and his independent investigation.  If the Russia story is consequential, personally or financially, as many suspect, then that is the investigation to watch.

Presuming, as those who know him well do, that Mr. Mueller is the sole of professionalism, independency, and integrity, if he closes in on an unwelcome truth, we must all be alert.  An effort to impede his project, and particularly a shake-up at the highest levels of the U.S. Department of Justice for the purpose of firing him, will lead to a Constitutional crisis of epic proportions that will shake the foundations of this Republic.

It is not in the national interest for this to happen.  But the leader in question has given little evidence that the national interest supersedes his own.  He has yet to demonstrate that he is not in office to serve his so-called “base”.  His base is composed of all the people of America.

14 Responses to “Distraction as a Strategy”

  1. Gary Hart Says:

    Correction: substitute “soul” for “sole” GH

  2. Elizabeth Miller Says:

    While there is something very decidedly fishy (sorry, couldn’t resist 🙂 ) about the numerous connections between Russia and various TrumpWorld officials – including the big fish, himself – I wouldn’t be surprised if this is all a case of the Kremlin having its own brand of fun with an American political crew that couldn’t collectively free itself from the confines of a wet paper bag let alone actively collude with a foreign adversary. But, I could be wrong.

    If the strategy is distraction at all costs to keep the Russia investigation out of sight and mind then I think Trump et al. will be in for a rude awakening when and if they ever realize that this will only work to the advantage of the investigators who I surmise would rather conduct their work quietly.

    President Trump does not think or operate like a normal national leader. He sees himself as large and in charge and is only concerned with how the presidency reflects on him and him alone with little or no actual regard for his “base”, let alone for the other half of the country he purports to lead. Normal analyses and critiques, therefore, don’t apply to a president who in no way behaves normally.

  3. Chris R. Says:

    The hysteria over the Trump campaign’s alleged connections with Russians should be put in some perspective. Russia makes up a mere 1.8% of the global economy. It has a population the size of the U.K.’s despite is large geographic territory. Russia’s conventional military does not pose a threat to NATO. Without a nuclear deterrent, Russia’s military would become largely a paper tiger as evidenced by its old and decrepit aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov. So the question then must be, why would the United States government have done anything to facilitate an increase in Russia’s nuclear arsenal? According to Hillary Clinton’s pollster, two thirds of American want a probe of the Clinton foundation, the Obama Administration and the Russian uranium deal:

    The White House reports that Presdient Trump sill sight the bill imposing sanctions on Russia into law. Students of Russian history will see hacking in the attempt to influence foreign elections, and Putins role in it, as more of the “clever peasant” theme. In short, unable to compete at the same level industrailly, or technologically, Russia resorts trickery, deception, or seductive Russian women to achieve what it can’t by other means. Russian hacking into a campaign’s emails only illuistrates how incompetent that campaign was to allow it to occur. All email accounts for the campaign needed to have been hosted on a servier that could have been monitored for hacking attempts, foreign or domestic. A nation that can only attempt to influence our elections due to the naivete of a presidential campaigns chairman, is not a credible threat to our democracy.

    President Trump frequently is l’enfant terrible and he has given us the reality TV presidency. He does throw some red meat to his base on occasion. A politician who does not know who his/her base is, or how to appeal to that base to remind them of what is important to them when under attack, usually becomes a former politican.

  4. Gary Hart Says:

    There may, or may not be, “hysteria” over Mr. Trump’s Russia connections and the Intelligence community’s universal conclusion that the Kremlin interfered in the last US national election, but none will be found at this site. I know Russia very well and I have had considerable experience with intelligence. There is something Mr. Trump is trying to hide, at considerable expense, regarding his experiences in Russia and continuing relations with Russian “bankers” and it will come out. GH

  5. Stephen D. Pillow Says:

    Senator Hart,

    You make three specific references within your commentary that, having spent the last 6 months closely watching, listening to, reviewing, and discussing the events that are transpiring around and within the current republican regime ensconced in the White House, I find a little low key for my sense of what is and has been happening and the dire impact that they are having upon us all. For me and most of my like-minded compatriots with whom I am in communication on an almost daily basis, your references seem to be overly cautious and unwilling to call an offensive smell what it actually is, a fart.

    As for your first comment: “…the only rational reason for the purposeful and continuing chaotic turmoil around a national leader is to create distraction.” This is a factual occurrence on an ongoing basis as far as I can tell.

    As to your second comment: “…the leader in question, not understanding (perhaps not even having read) the Constitution of the United States…” is blatantly self-evident by his actions on a daily basis and even though the media has made many jokes about this it is developing into a possible Constitutional crisis.

    And for your third comment: “On the off chance that a strategy of distraction is in fact underway, it can only mean that the leader is willing to disrupt the normal operations of the Government of the United States to keep attention away from the Russia story and that price means the story has to be of some consequence.” is without a doubt painfully evident to many of us. If, as you point out, he has nothing to hide, why is he expending so much energy, bluster, obfuscation, and downright lying to attempt to derail this Russia investigation?

    I realize that I tend to be, as my father often told me, somewhat of a hot head and go off halfcocked without regard to the consequences of what I say and of other people’s viewpoints and feelings. It is not my intent to cast any aspersions at you and/or your ideas as expressed within your commentary. I have been hearing these same and similar observations for months now from a plethora of sources and am to a point that I want the conversation to be directed to what we can do and should be doing right now to stop this regime and many of the republican members of Congress, who are aiding and abetting it, from doing any further damage to this country, the Constitution, the environment, our country’s honor and image throughout the world, but especially to our citizens, instead of hemming and hawing around the same issues day after day. This obscenity must be stopped immediately and done so in a Constitutional manner, or we will probably have to resort to some sort of violent reaction to this disaster that is brewing in our government.

    I am far too old to take up arms to defend our Constitution, even though I took an oath on August 7, 1967, when I was sworn into the United States Navy, to “uphold the Constitution of the United States of America and to protect and defend the United States of America and its citizens from all enemies foreign and DOMESTIC.” If I am not mistaken, That is the same oath that all elected and appointed officials of our government also take, including the one who currently occupies the White House. It is my belief that there are those within our country, yea, within our government, that have aligned themselves with ideologies and/or countries and by their very actions declare themselves to be DOMESTIC ENEMIES of the United States of America. That being said, I have never been relieved of the duties to which I swore that sacred oath to perform, therefore, I will do what is necessary to fulfill my obligation to our Constitution, our country, and its citizens to the best of my abilities until I am relieved of that obligation. As every person that I have ever met who was a Marine says, “Once a Marine, always a Marine.” That goes for this old Sailor too.

  6. Brian C. McCarthy Says:


    It’s sad that transgender Americans have been told by the president that they’re no longer welcome to serve their country in the military. Even sadder that this announcement was clearly timed to distract attention from the repeated failed attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act in the Senate and probably has nothing to do with the merits of the issue itself. Bad policy is one thing, bad politics is another; this goes beyond either and is just plain bad governance, bad judgement, and bad humanity. Can the president point to any specific problem that has arisen or reasonably might arise from having transgender persons in the military? Whether he can or can’t, he hasn’t. I can’t recall him ever having made transgender Americans in the military an issue on the campaign trail. There is a word for politicians who exploit a completely unrelated issue to distract attention away from a major public policy change. The word is ‘demagogue’. Other words with fewer syllables, that I won’t use on your respectable blog, come to mind as well.


  7. Chris R. Says:

    Once the Democratic Party made the decision to rig its primaries to nominate Hillary Clinton, who as Secretary of State had approved giving the control of 20% of the uranium production in the United States to a Russian owned company, the competing campaign had not only a right, but a responsibility to meet Russians who might have further information about the deal. Since that Russian company had paid the Clinton foundation $2.35 million and a related Russian investment bank had paid Bill Clinton $500,000 for a speech, it is difficult not to infer a connection between those donations and the bizarre decision to enable U.S. uranium to be used for nuclear weapons aimed at the U.S.

    Perhaps the biggest distraction with the allegation that the Russians influenced the 2016 election is that it has been used by too many Democrats as an excuse to avoid considering how damaged its 2016 presidential nominee was, how flawed its nominating process was, and how the party sold out to an elite, Wall Street led, donor class. Had the Democrats taken the past 8 years to pass a threshold single-payer healthcare system instead of enacting the Gingrich-Romney model, assisted homeowners underwater with their mortgages, and liberated those with crushing student loan debt, there never would have been a president Trump. The Russians didn’t make the modern Democratic Party from simply becoming, (in Eric’s words,) Republican Lite corporate party.

  8. Elizabeth Miller Says:

    President Trump is using distraction as a strategy because the media allows him to do so.

    There is a very easy way to stop the distraction – keep the focus off of the distractions and squarely on the important issues that need attention.

    Wouldn’t it be nice, for example, if the WH press corps started asking really tough questions at their daily briefing about just the important issues (do they a require a list?). If nothing else, we would all better understand how prepared this WH is to deal with the challenges at hand and the crises yet to come.

  9. Chris R. Says:

    *The Russians didn’t force the modern Democratic Party to simply become, (in Eric’s words,) the Republican Lite corporate party.

  10. Gary Hart Says:

    The comment above establishes the thesis of this essay. Whether or not Mr. Trump and his family and friends colluded with Russia in hacking into the US national election has nothing to do with Mrs. Clinton. The US arrangement to accept and reprocess Russian uranium years ago was a program widely publicized and vetted in the US national interest. The question remains: did the Trump campaign or Mr. Trump himself cooperate with Russia in suborning the US nation election and, if so, why? GH

  11. Brian C. McCarthy Says:

    I agree with Ms Miller that the media enables the distraction strategy. In response to the Republican Lite theory, it should be pointed out that not very long ago there used to be some non-rightist Republicans (Jacob Javits, Lowell Weicker, John Chafee, etc.) who easily won election and re-election in what are now considered reliably Democratic states. And there still are some, just not very many in Congress or other Federal positions. I know a die-hard Republican (from blue state Rhode Island) who formed a “Republican Veterans for Hillary” group last year. And, sadly, I know a few Democrats who voted the other way for a variety of reasons. Party labels are a distraction in themselves and dishonest, incompetent, corrupt politicians exist in both parties. Rather than focusing on party labels or even ideology, the goal for now should be to return honest, knowlegable, and responsible individuals to office. If any of us were today offered a Republican President Gerald Ford and a Republican Senate with the likes of Mr Javits and Mr Weicker among its more prominent members, in lieu of what we have now, how could any of us say no?

  12. Eric Jacobson Says:

    What a striking difference 4 decades make:

    In the mid-1970s the public believed some elites (such as Sen. Hart and his fellow Senate colleagues on the Church Committee) were worthy of the public’s trust. Over the ensuing 40+ years ALL American elites forfeited that trust and are now widely seen by everyday Americans as maniacally self-serving and out to exploit and harm ALL the middle- and lower class members of society. Even Al Gore — who second only to Bill Clinton was THE pied piper of Republican-lite neoliberalism — now says so! https://twitter.com/StevilleJanae/status/891728523177717761 .

    Consider one of the basic needs: shelter. As Jimmy McMillan, a maverick single-issue New York mayoral and gubernatorial candidate memorably put it beginning in 2005: “The rent is too damn high!” See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=79KzZ0YqLvo and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rent_Is_Too_Damn_High_Party.

    But (of course) serious rent control (except in a few localities) was- and is a non-issue in mainstream Democratic circles due to the power of the real-estate-owning Democratic donor class.

    Now further consider Charles Ferguson’s 2010 documentary Inside Job (viewable on Hulu), a primer on the manner in which the rapacious wolves of Wall Street deliberately exploited the legitimate desires of lower- and middle class Americans to escape renter status and become homeowners, in order to fraudulently create worthless “AAA-rated” investments and fraudulently sell them to unsuspecting institutional purchases at home and abroad. The documentary also makes crystal clear how Clinton, Bush and Obama Administration officials from top-to-bottom colluded with these criminal Wall Street swindlers in producing and responding to the directly resulting crash of 2008-2009. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FzrBurlJUNk (trailer).

    And this is but one example of how the rich have abjured solving- and instead sought to “monetize” all the social ills plaguing America. Ferguson’s documentary also shows how all concerned with the sub-prime mortgages/structured finance conspiracy got away with the stratospheric financial killings they had made! White collar crime pays!

    It is no accident then that in 2016 when Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said that “the business model of Wall Street is fraud” and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said that “the American Dream is dead” the American electorate responded to their populist messages (enlightened and regressive versions respectively) as if they had received an electric jolt to their ailing hearts.

    Indeed, Donald Trump’s election over the desultory establishment doyenne Hillary Clinton was- and is a last-ditch attempt by the voters to send elites a wake-up call and revise the balance of power in favor of common men and women. Trump’s evident insincerity and fecklessness over the past 6 months-plus is a potential yuge problem for our country — one Trump may now have sensed and may (or may not) now be trying to correct. See eg. https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2017/08/will-john-kelly-save-trumps-soul . Time will tell.

    A far greater problem will arise if and when elites counter-attack Trump and attempt to drive him from office short of the 2020 presidential electoral cycle or even seriously threaten to do so (as Sen. Hart alludes may happen if and when what, if anything, Trump may be hiding comes to light). If that happens all bets will be off.

    Speaking of distraction, let’s not let Trump’s floundering in office (which in certain respects may be “fake” and in fact cagey as Glen Ford alludes here http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_peace_president_20170801 ) blind us to the essential nature of the 2016 Trump and Sanders’ phenomena. I recently ran across what must be the best explanation of it written in “real time” of them all, written by an astute Canadian journalist, Robert Sibley, in March 2016: http://ottawacitizen.com/opinion/columnists/sibley-what-u-s-voters-are-saying-is-off-with-their-heads .

    Make no mistake: The level public anger in our country towards elites is now so high that a French Revolution type insurrection CAN happen here. And if any establishment forces move to depose Trump, as former CIA chief John Brennan recently obliquely called-for in remarks at the Aspen Security Forum ( http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-07-24/former-cia-director-calls-coup-if-trump-fires-mueller ) such a lethal public uprising against the putschists would almost certainly occur. (To put it nicely, Mr. Brennan is a numbskull: he admitted he supported Gus Hall, the U.S. Communist Party’s nominee for president, in 1976. The CIA hired him anyway. Go figure.)

    Therefore even if evidence that Trump had some illicit pre-presidential business dealings in Russia were to turn up (which candidly seems as unlikely as finding the phantom “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq) it will not trigger any public revulsion similar to that which occurred during Watergate 4 decades ago that propelled Congress to impeach President Nixon. That was then. This is now.

    And speaking of now (2017): I wish to align myself with Mr. Pillow and other contributors to this blog who have urged Sen. Hart to resume a political leadership role in American life. What we have been saying, always respectfully, on and between the lines of our sporadic comments to this general effect is: “Erudite blogging on political and cultural topics for about a dozen readers is far too small a pond for a former near-leader of the free world.” (Hell, I can do that on my own as an unknown public interest lawyer from “left-coast” Los Angeles on my Facebook pages!) What the nation and world badly need is a highly politically experienced veteran “golden voice” from the Colorado Rockies back in the thick of mainstream political debate in this country. After all it was you Senator who promised in your televised speech to the Democratic National Convention over 33 years ago: “This is one Hart you will not leave in San Francisco!”

    If you do decide to accept this mission-near-impossible and return to the political fray after 3 decades in establishment-imposed exile and asinine-media-imposed ignominy, it is essential Senator that you begin by going out on a listening tour during which you spend some quality time with the American multitudes (and especially the relative- and absolute have-nots) in all 50 states. I believe you will find that Russia is very far from their minds except perhaps for a fear of conflict escalating to nuclear war. See https://www.the-american-interest.com/2017/07/14/russia-scandal-looks-different-outside-washington/ .

  13. Gary Hart Says:

    “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven; a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak…” Ecclesiastes 3. And a time to serve, and a time to let others serve. GH

  14. Elizabeth Miller Says:


    Well, I’d like to suggest a JB/JB ticket for 2020 with the old but still eminently relevant slogan, ‘Protect the Earth, serve the people, explore the universe’.

    Jerry Brown and Joe Biden … a kind of co-presidential ticket with lots of openings for advisors of all sorts and generations.

    A girl can dream …

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