A few days back, the Wall St. Journal published an editorial written by Yuri Vanetik about the Mueller report. Or, more specifically, about his personal connection to the subjects wound up in the just-released Mueller report.
Mr. Venetik is a wealthy individual from Orange County, California who uses some of that wealth to be politically active. If the Orange County, California isn’t enough of a tip-off, he supports Republicans. He also was born in the former-Soviet Union. His family were Jews who fled Ukraine in the 1970s when he was a child.
Mr. Venetik has contributed to conservative campaigns. Being a substantial contributor at that, he is knows and is known among the money circles of national politics. He has some decidedly superficial connections with some of the other names associated with Trump. He says, however, that he supported neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton in the last election; he backed Bush and Rubio in the primary and voted for an unnamed-third party in the general. More importantly, though, his first name is Yuri, a name that just drips with intrigue. It has even been used as shorthand for a Russian spy.
Mr. Venetik has not been investigated by the FBI nor by the Special Investigator’s team. He was never charged in that investigation and, apparently, has never been prosecuted for any criminal activity. However, a selfie taken with Paul Mannefort was enough to net him a four-part exposé in the newspaper chain which publishes the Sacramento paper The Daily Bee. The article juxtaposes various suspicious-sounding or minor incidents over the course of his lifetime into a narrative that implies Venetik is a Russian spy who works to manipulate Trump and the American body politic. He has sued the paper and obtained partial retractions but, as he suggests in his editorial, the accusations and innuendo will forever be tied to his name. Whatever he does until the day he dies, be it politics, charity, or just business activity, a Google search is going to bring up that he was part of this whole “Trump thing,” whatever that was.
I always assumed it was understood that the Left, particularly the hard-left, saw the Soviet Union as fellow travelers in the struggle for, well, whatever the hell they’re struggling for. It seemed to follow that they might look at the counter-reformist new Russians as inheritors of the Soviet’s mantel. I should be glad, shouldn’t I, that they too have come to see those ex-Soviets as the enemy of freedom – as an “Evil Empire,” if you will? The anti-Russian frenzy I’ve personally witnessed surpasses even that of the most ardent Cold Warrior of the early 80s. It is shocking, sometimes, but let us all agree. The Soviet Union was bad. Full Stop.
It makes me wonder, how out of place are the current tactics – both the political actions of the Progressive Left and the actions of the “Deep State” with regard to the Trump wiretapping and Hillary email revelations – how out of place would they be in Stalin’s Russia? Or maybe Kruschev’s Russia?
Could we find a case where a fairly successful resident of Russia had some opinions, and a propensity to express them, that didn’t jive with those of the Supreme Soviet. While that in itself wouldn’t get you shot in the back of the head, it might draw the wrong kind of “official” attention. Suppose also this figure had some relatives who fled to the West and on to America at the end of World War II. The possibilities might open an intensive investigations on the potential threat to Soviet security. Maybe somewhere along the line, they find he illegally imported something (literature, denim jeans, who knows) from Germany.
Maybe he’s brought up on charges for tax evasion or customs violations. He might end up in jail or a gulag. If so, from a societal standpoint, the man broke the law and, caught, he paid the price. You believe in the rule of law don’t you? Society and even the officials that control it have a plausible deniability that what, objectively, is tyranny is, for them, merely the rule of law, a fundamental pillar of freedom. Maybe the charges are minor, but the public association of that individual with improprieties means he loses a job, or misses out on promotions, or has difficulty forming and maintaining the relations that made him “successful” to begin with.
One can imagine this happening in the Soviet Union. I am almost certain I could find clear documentation of something very similar happening in Putin’s Russia. This is stock copy describing how a tyrannical government goes about controlling its people while avoiding the outright “gun them down in the streets” stuff that sparks revolution. I could probably, also, post a dozen variations on the story involving conservative figures in the United States, all taking place within the last couple of years.
Is there even a discussion left to be had? We have become what we have feared. We have met the enemy, he is us but, hell, he isn’t so bad after all.
The real question might be less about how far down a previously-unthinkable path we have come, but which direction are we headed? What horrors lie in the darkness under those trees, upon which we are quickly coming. Are we about to become Stalin’s Russia? That is most unlikely, as we have the example of Stalin’s Russia from which to learn. Mark Twain said that history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme. What rhymes with “enemy of the State?”