Everyone Is a Russian Asset

America laughed at Hillary Clinton’s remarks about Tulsi Gabbard, but her ideas fit perfectly in the intellectual mainstream.

By Matt Taibbi and cross-posted from Rolling Stone.

Hillary Clinton, not long ago the nominee of the Democratic Party, had some choice words about the state of American politics Friday.

“I’m not making any predictions, but I think they’ve got their eye on somebody who is currently in the Democratic primary and are grooming her to be the third-party candidate,” Clinton said on a podcast with former Barack Obama aide David Plouffe. “She’s the favorite of the Russians.”

Clinton appeared to be talking about Hawaii congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, a combat veteran. She wasn’t done, teeing off on former Green Party candidate Jill Stein:

“[Jill Stein’s] also a Russian asset… Yeah, she’s a Russian asset — I mean, totally. They know they can’t win without a third-party candidate.”

She went on to talk about Donald Trump:

“I don’t know what Putin has on him, whether it’s both personal and financial … I assume it is.”

Hillary Clinton is nuts. She’s also not far from the Democratic Party mainstream, which has been pushing the same line for years.

Less than a week before Clinton’s outburst, the New York Times — once a symbol of stodgy, hyper-cautious reporting  ran a feature called, “What, Exactly, is Tulsi Gabbard Up To?” The piece speculated about the “suspicious activity” surrounding Gabbard’s campaign, using quotes from the neoconservative think-tank, the Alliance For Securing Democracy, to speculate about Gabbard’s Russian support.

This was the second such article the Times had written. An August piece, “Tulsi Gabbard thinks we’re doomed,“ hit nearly all the same talking points, quoting Clint Watts, an ex-spook from the same think-tank, calling Gabbard “the Kremlin’s preferred Democrat” and a “useful agent of influence.” The Times article echoed earlier pieces by the Daily Beast and NBC.com that said many of the same things.

After Clinton gave the “Russian asset” interview, it seemed for a moment like America’s commentariat might tiptoe away from the topic. Hillary Clinton has been through a lot over the course of a career, and even detractors would say she’s earned latitude to go loonybiscuits every now and then. A few of the Democratic presidential candidates, like Beto O’Rourke and Andrew Yang, gently chided Clinton for her remarks. But when Gabbard (who’s similarly been through a brutal media ordeal) snapped back and called Hillary “Queen of the warmongers,” and Donald Trump followed by calling Clinton “crazy,” most pundits doubled down on the “asset” idea

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