Trump campaign won't say no to hacked political dirt, Democrats agree not to use illegally obtained data

You gotta cover all your bases.


I do not expect political parties to be fair and balanced. But as I mentioned above, if a hostile foreign power is digging up dirt on one side and not the other because they want Republicans to win then using that illegally obtained information creates a moral quandary to say the least.

The only way Democrats could level the playing field would be to appeal to another foreign power to hack the GOP, and I don’t think that would be in the best interests of a healthy democracy either.


That guy’s just hoping that Trump will choose Warren as a running mate (we all know Trump hates Pence).

Or maybe Warren chooses Trump as a running mate?

Both and the election is just to determine which one is Pres and which is VP?




Alternately, Dems could stop navigating by the same old political map while the Orange One terraforms politics through buffoonery and criminality. I don’t know what this would look like on the national scale, but Dems won’t compete if they think that their standard scheming from the last era will still work.

Even a completely ethical, ideologically pure political party could be tactically compromised in an election if the opposing party was privy to its internal communications, just as bugging an opposing team’s locker room would give one side an unfair advantage even if they didn’t overhear any plans to cheat. The idea that “this kind of behavior can’t hurt the Dems if the Dems aren’t up to anything shady” is misguided.

An example from the other side: Al Gore’s campaign was provided with a stolen copy of George W. Bush’s debate prep notes. Gore’s team didn’t just decline to use the information, they alerted the FBI about what had happened.


It would, though! A healthy democracy is one where political institutions are unable to keep secrets from the public. It doesn’t matter if those secrets are exposed through crime, foreign espionage or investigative journalism, the result tilts the balance of power toward the public and away from the political class. An unhealthy democracy is one where ostensibly opposed institutions agree to go easy on each other in order to reduce threats to their power overall. Again, the idea that democracy could be strengthened by keeping information out of the hands of the public is…I dunno, bad.

The entire thesis of American democracy is that the conflict of adversarial institutions keeps real power from aggregating in the hands of any single institution. See: the separate branches of government, political parties, and the trial system.

As the public, we should want political parties to stop at nothing to destroy each other, because an institution that’s constantly under criticism has to constantly justify itself, and retains only the minimum power that it can justify. We are not our parties, we don’t need to see to their safety and comfort. They serve at our pleasure and ultimately democracy would do fine without them.

1 Like

I prefer the concept of the “loyal opposition,” the idea that political parties should be rivals but not enemies.

Theoretically both Republicans and Democrats should be able to take it on faith that the other party cares more about the interests of the American Public than the interests of a hostile foreign power.


"If I don’t get caught, I’ll do it again,
But if I do get caught, I’ll be sneakier next time.


I agree, and yet. Here we are.

I feel like @zikzak has a point. The government needs to fear the people, and not the other way around. Transparency pulls the shit that goes down in the dark out into the light.

But I also feel like there’s no way the government we have now – that has been engaging in shitty stuff for (I would bet) as long as it’s been around – will ever move toward transparency. Especially with the current administration showing that the mores and ethics of politics mean nothing, and the restraints fall away bit by bit, day by day. It cannot be trusted to govern itself, any more than corporations or capitalist industries. But the checks and balances are weakened, if not outright gone.

I’m wondering when we climbed into this hand basket.


There is a difference between opposition research and receiving stolen goods. No surprise that Turmp and Giuliani are happy to get their big screen TVs and political dirt off the back of a truck.


Sounds like ZikZak was cool with the Watergate burglary.


Watergate is different because not all espionage is about leaking to the public. The problem with the Watergate burglary was both that it was directly orchestrated by political power, and that rather than putting information in the hands of the public, it was intended to secretly give advantage to a particular ruling faction. The outrage about Watergate was that government officials shouldn’t use their military and espionage powers to gain secret private advantages. I totally agree.

I would point to things like the Pentagon Papers and the Snowden leaks. Information - obtained illegally - which is relevant to political issues and is 100% legitimate to include in political discourse.

Well, if we’re really talking about stolen goods then the whole thing seems silly. The DNC is promising not to break the law? That’s meaningless. What they’re actually suggesting is that things which were originally obtained illegally shouldn’t be part of the public discourse around political issues. That’s a much more sweeping position, and one which is targeted at de-legitimizing the critically important (criminal) work that people like Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden have done to promote democracy at the expense of politicians.

See the example of George W. Bush’s ill-begotten debate prep notebook above. This isn’t a hypothetical: the Democrats had a chance to use stolen goods to help their campaign and they declined, instead opting to report the theft to the proper authorities.

If the Republicans would commit to the same position then we might get back to a place where the parties viewed each other as adversaries with different ideas of governance instead of blood enemies that need to be destroyed at all costs.


There’s so much fucking wrong with that.

So Watergate was bad because they didn’t use free, 3rd-party contractors? And because they didn’t leak it?

Let’s get this straight, right now. The Russian FSB hacking the DNC to get dirt on a candidate in order to discredit them IS NOT FUCKING WHISTLEBLOWING! It’s espionage.

Your examples of the Pentagon Papers, Snowden, Manning, are all examples of someone working for the government or a government contractor encountering something damning and leaking it. As soon as you go looking for the kompromat, and steal it, it’s criminal. There’s no moral high ground in leaking it to the public vs. using it secretly, because, guaranteed, that’s just a calculation of which is more advantageous.

If you can’t tell the difference, you are a bad human being.

ETA: There is a US law legalizing and protecting whistleblowers. Manning and Snowden should have been protected by it. Their actions are arguably not criminal due to the whistleblower protection act. A 3rd party stealing information (or hacking - same damn thing when we’re talking information) is definitely NOT covered by the act.


It seems like they are going the opposite way, having decided that they just should never have bothered being sneaky. People have repeated the cliche that you get in trouble for the cover-up rather than the crime so often that now people think actual crimes are not a big deal.


I swear I heard they were rolling back those protections, because they discovered they aren’t fond of the whistle being blown.

1 Like

I have no problem with you, I’m not mad, and I think you’re a fine human being. :slight_smile:

Well here’s another example: The Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI - a.k.a. the reason any of us know about something called COINTELPRO.

Their only known action was breaking into a two-man office of the FBI and stealing over 1,000 classified documents. They then mailed these documents anonymously to several US newspapers to expose numerous illegal FBI operations which were infringing on the First Amendment rights of American civilians.
This was absolutely espionage, absolutely criminal, and a very good thing to do.

It’s not a question of whether it was contract labor or government employees, it was that the state itself made it happen. If the scandal had been “some Republican party operatives did some illegal stuff to some Democrat party operatives” it would not have been very significant. But that’s kind of a side issue anyway.

If Watergate had played out differently, and the wiretaps had led to leaked revelations about corruption in the DNC, I would think that those revelations should absolutely be part of public discourse, regardless of the bad character of those who exposed them. It’s possible to say that it shouldn’t be allowed to conduct criminal espionage, and still acknowledge that revelations about powerful institutions resulting from criminal espionage, when given to the public at large, are generally a public good.

I’m not endorsing the character of those who leak, spy, burglarize, etc. Those people are often pretty rotten, and as you say, just calculating the best way to hurt their target. But if that information is turned over to the public - even for machiavellian reasons - it allows all of us to participate in determining what happens next.

Leaking publicly means there are bounding conditions on how much the spy’s agenda can deviate from the public will, and even the risk that the public might get pissed and go counter to their agenda. That’s democracy, right? We like that! If the information is hoarded and used secretly, we are cut out of that process in favor of a clandestine conflict between elites - the opposite of democracy.

Certainly I support any legal approach which keeps people like Manning and Snowden out of jail, but ultimately it shouldn’t matter whether what they did was legal or not. It will always be possible for powerful institutions to pass laws which criminalize exposing their secrets. Those secrets will be exposed anyway and that’s a good thing for the public.

The public benefited tremendously from the Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI: a third party conducting criminal burglary in order to steal and expose secrets which had a clear and deliberate effect of undermining particular political figures. The DNC is trying to paint such things as harmful to the democratic process when actually it’s just harmful to their process.

Of course they reported it to the authorities, that’s the correct move regardless of morality or self-interest. After all, the whole thing could have been a setup by Republican operatives to entrap them for the criminal act you point out. That’s why I say a pledge to not break the law is meaningless. Anyone who plans to break the law will not announce it. This controversy is about another matter, not whether either party intends to commit crimes.