Basic Instinct: Putin’s Useful Idiots

By Michael Willard

I have this rule. Never send a client out to meet with the media if you are sure that person is going to get his or her heart ripped out, stomped on and then fed to hungry wolves.

This happened recently to Rep. Randy Weber of Texas and Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana. It was painful to watch. Whoever had the responsibility for tethering them to reality failed.

The Republicans — and not to appear partisan because it happens to Democrats as well — were sacrificial lambs who lacked a basic understanding that Russia interfered in US elections.

Weber and Kennedy ignored the obvious. The Kremlin, while embracing them, calls them derisively “useful idiots”.

Perhaps they were on a far planet when every US intelligence agency came to the conclusion it was the Kremlin who tried — and maybe succeeded — in influencing the Trump-Hillary Clinton contest.

Somehow, someway, they thought it was actually Ukrainians who attempted to sway the vote, and yes, they indicated, maybe the Russians were also engaged in such mischief.

There was, though, no equivalency.

The two lawmakers had been — whether knowingly or hood-winked — led astray with improper briefings prior to their TV appearances. Even amateurs know you game-plan before meeting with seasoned journalists.

You come armed with facts. In fact, you develop your messages ahead of time, and rehearse them. In this case, when it came to substance, Weber and Kennedy were jaybird naked.

If the messages are goofy from the outset — nonsensical in the extreme — the interviewee is doomed in the face of the camera and heat of the klieg lights.

The source of Weber and Kennedy’s messages, in this case, was none other than the man who has told more than 13,000 plus lies (according to the Washington Post) since inauguration day.

We’re referencing the Donald J. Trump, President of the United States. Trump’s own awkward and fanciful words on Fox television about who attacked our election:

“The Democrats, a lot of it had to do, they say, with Ukraine. It’s very interesting. It’s very interesting. They have this server, right? From the DNC, Democratic National Committee.

“The FBI went in and they told them, ‘Get out of here. You’re not getting it. We’re not giving it to you.’ They gave the server to CrowdStrike or whatever it’s called, which is a company owned by a very wealthy Ukrainian.

“And I still want to see that server. You know, the FBI has never gotten that server. That’s a big part of this whole thing. Why did they give it to a Ukrainian company?”

There were big whoppers in that jumbled-jungle of loopy syntax and the two GOP stumblebums bought it hook, line and fake news sinker. There was literally nothing truthful in Trump’s quote.

Also, neither Weber nor Kennedy were ambushed by the media.

They voluntarily went on national CNN news programs like somnolent men strolling up to the firing squad wall. They were so ill-prepared for the barrage it was embarrassing for the viewer.

In all honesty — while CNN doesn’t approach the political bias of Fox News programming — it too has succumbed to the times, leaning too often into the frenzy of favoritism while proclaiming balance.

They do this not so much in the verbiage of the content, but in intonation, acting out the ironies and sarcasm of their personal feigned outrages.

They, too, could use a course correction. As much as I admire the evening lineup of Cuomo, Burnett, Cooper, and Lemon, they often talk in more advocacy-speak than reportage.

However, let’s examine the foundation of Weber and Kennedy’s responses which parroted Trump who was, in essence, echoing the Kremlin’s Vladimir Putin.

  1. The company CrowdStrike is not a Ukrainian company. It is owned by a naturalized America and he was born in Russia. His name is Dmitri Alperovitch. The company is based in Sunnyvale, Ca.
  2. There is absolutely no evidence that the Ukrainians have the DNC server that the Russians hacked in 2016. Emails from the server were released by Wikileaks to damage the Clinton campaign.
  3. The DNC didn’t tell the FBI “Get out of here. You’re not getting it.” in fact, the FBI obtained copies of forensic images made by CrowdStrike, a security company traded on NASDAQ. It had imaged the DNC server, creating a digital copy of the files.

I lived in Moscow and Kyiv for a combined 22 years. While I return these days to Ukraine once or twice a year, I haven’t been in Moscow since summer 2013, prior to the Ukrainian revolution.

Whether real or imagined, I am not welcomed. My wife and I worked with Putin’s main opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, in the Moscow mayor’s race six years ago.

My Moscow was an earlier, pre-Putin vintage of the mid 90s, an era of openness and independence that was short lived. I don’t think it will return anytime soon.

The fear I have, though, is that with the help of “useful idiots”, America is in danger of being a mirror image of what Ronald Reagan called “the evil empire”.

Michael Willard



I am a novelist but my day job is utilizing my years as a business consultant, journalist, and public service in the field of international development.

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J. Michael Willard

I am a novelist but my day job is utilizing my years as a business consultant, journalist, and public service in the field of international development.