Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical left and Islamic terrorism.
Vladimir Putin’s hatred for Hillary Clinton is one of the foundational myths of the election rigging conspiracy theory. Why else would the Russians risk a war to rig an election?
The origin story of the myth has appeared in a thousand media narratives. It was born in a media echo chamber in late July 2016 from overlapping stories in Politico, NBC News and Time Magazine. The stories all claimed that the Russian leader hated Hillary Clinton because she questioned his election results.
"When mass protests against Russian President Vladimir Putin erupted in Moscow in December 2011, Putin made clear who he thought was really behind them: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. With the protesters accusing Putin of having rigged recent elections, the Russian leader pointed an angry finger at Clinton, who had issued a statement sharply critical of the voting results,” Politico informed readers.
It all fits very nearly.
Hillary Clinton criticized the Russian election. Vladimir Putin accused her of interfering with the election and so he decided to pay her back.
And these accusations are aimed at the administration that the media claims colluded with Russia.
If Putin rigged the election against Hillary because he blamed her for interfering in his election, shouldn’t he now rig the next election against Trump over this latest accusation? If Putin is consistent, then Trump’s next Dem opponent, whoever he or she might be, will be nothing more than a Russian puppet.
The media mythmakers want us to believe that Hillary Clinton’s criticism was an extraordinary event. By voicing these criticisms, she supposedly incurred Putin’s wrath which went on burning all these years.
In a meeting with donors, Hillary claimed that Putin rigged the election because “he has a personal beef against me”. Donors were supposed to believe that Russia had spent years and millions, risking a war, because of this “personal beef”. That’s enough beef for an international chain of restaurants.
But former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had called that same Russian election, a “mockery of the electoral process”. That’s far stronger language than anything that Hillary Clinton had used.
Some claim that Putin hated Hillary especially because a woman had dared to criticize him. Rice is not only a woman, but a black woman. If Putin is a sexist, isn’t he also probably a racist?
Criticism of Russia’s elections in the Putin era has been fairly routine. Hillary Clinton wasn’t breaking new ground with her tepid remarks. State Department human rights reports have been unflattering under any and every administration. Despite the media’s myths, nothing new happened in 2011.
But if Putin had really wanted to send a message in 2011 by retaliating against an American election, there was one next year. That would have sent a very direct and timely message. Instead he waited five years to unleash his brilliant plan to buy ads on Facebook and push fake Black Lives Matter groups.
Because the Ford Foundation can only divide Americans so much without a little help from Moscow.
If Putin hated Hillary, he could have gone after her in 2008 when she joked that he didn’t have a soul. But that didn’t stop her from brandishing a Reset Button or aiding Russia’s uranium acquisition anyway.
Putin did try to blame Secretary of State Clinton for the election protests. But that had more to do with delegitimizing the protesters by accusing them of treason. (The Dem conspiracy crowd has borrowed Putin’s tactic and accuses everyone who questions its conspiracy theory of being a Russian traitor.)
There’s no reason to think that the ’11 exchange was anything more than cynical politics. Hillary didn’t care about Russian election results. Putin knew that the protesters risking their lives were doing it before Hillary had said anything. And he knew that the Clintons were always open for business.
A year before Hillary’s election criticism, she had signed off on the Uranium One deal and the Clinton Foundation went on soliciting cash from Putin’s pals along with every other foreign power broker.
Much of the election conspiracy revolves around claims that Putin had suborned Trump. But why would he have needed to pour time and energy into developing a suborned presidential candidate when he already had a corrupt tool who would do anything for money including give away America’s uranium?
Could Putin really ask for anything better than the return of an administration that had sold pardons to foreign criminals for money and which already had its own slush fund that he could donate to?
And if Moscow was out to stop a hostile candidate, there were far more urgent threats and insulting candidates to target during the two previous presidential elections.
Mitt Romney had called Russia as a major threat in language far stronger than anything Hillary Clinton had used in 2011. That would have been a good time to put Putin’s thumb on the scale. Instead the Russians didn’t bother bringing down Mitt because like absolutely no one, they were waiting for Hillary.
And if the Russians were going to interfere in any election, it would have been in 2008. That’s when Senator McCain, a Russia hawk, was up against Barack Obama, a lefty who promised a Russia reset. McCain’s win would have been a serious threat to Russia. President McCain would have pushed back against Russia in Georgia. He would have fought to dramatically expand NATO. There hadn’t been an American election with so much at stake for Russia since Carter battled Reagan. And nothing.
Not unless the conspiracy crowd is suggesting that Russia helped Obama win.
McCain had warned that there would be a "dramatically different relationship" with Russia. And Putin had accused the United States of creating a “crisis in Georgia” to help McCain win. Unlike Hillary, McCain genuinely hated Putin. And there’s every reason to believe that Moscow was none too fond of him.
But we’re supposed to believe that the Kremlin was more threatened by Secretary Reset Button.
Even if the Russians weren’t ready to interfere in ’08, McCain had two Senate races since then. He won his last race in ’16 by less than 350,000 votes. The Russians could have added him to their election interference hit list. If Moscow can rig a presidential election, the Arizona senate race should have been easy. And Putin would have eliminated a major critic whose advocacy continues to pose a threat.
But McCain is still in office while Hillary complains that she only lost because of sexist Russian bots.
The idea that Hillary Clinton posed a unique threat to Putin has no historical evidence behind it. Every losing presidential candidate since Kerry posed more of a threat to Vladimir Putin than her. Either the Russians took down McCain and Romney. Or the Hillary-Putin narrative is another conspiracy theory.
Since this “rigged election”, Ukraine will receive the actual weapons which Obama refused to sell them. Russian START treaty violations are being exposed and Patriot missiles are heading to Poland. While Obama allowed Russia’s Iranian allies to take American sailors hostage in the Persian Gulf, under Trump, our forces fought back against a Russian attack on an American base in Syria with maximum force.
Would Hillary Clinton have done any of those things or would she have pushed another reset button?
Vladimir Putin doesn’t hate Hillary. He finds her very useful. If she had won, Moscow would have gotten exactly what it wanted. After her defeat, Hillary has become Russia’s best troll, dividing the country and casting doubt on our political system while making opposition to Russia into a partisan issue.
The media myth that Putin hates Hillary just makes her a more effective agent of Russian influence.