If Julian Assange plays this right, he just might score an invitation to CPAC next year.
The notorious WikiLeaks founder would have to attend the Conservative Political Action Conference remotely because he is still holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, avoiding a rape investigation in Sweden and fearing extradition to the United States for his malicious exposure of state secrets. But, surely, the details could be worked out.
Assange is now treated as a respectable figure by some elements of the right because he detests Hillary Clinton and promises to torpedo her campaign with new email exposures. Never mind that he has done everything within his power to damage the interests of the United States, in league with his quasi-ally, Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Rarely has “strange new respect” been stranger.
It’s like conservatives embracing Kim Philby, the infamous British double agent who defected to the Soviet Union in the 1960s, if he promised to produce damaging information about Lyndon Johnson before the 1964 election. Or welcoming Philip Agee, the anti-CIA activist from the 1970s who was allied with Russian and Cuban intelligence, if he demonstrated enough hostility to Jimmy Carter.
The enemy of my enemy (or more properly, my domestic political opponent) can still be a reprehensible creep, and that’s what Assange is.
But Sean Hannity of Fox News has a newfound soft spot for the accused rapist and scourge of America. A couple of years ago, Hannity tore into the Obama administration for not doing more to capture the WikiLeaks founder, and sympathized with the contention that Assange was the equivalent of a terrorist. Now, the host says he was “conflicted” about Assange, and he had qualms about his work only because “I believe in privacy.”
This makes it sound as though WikiLeaks published a Hulk Hogan sex tape. Instead, Assange dumped, among other things, what the Defense Department called “the largest leak of classified documents in its history.”
Hannity was once outraged that the leaks potentially endangered U.S. allies in Afghanistan, but today hails Assange for exposing “how corrupt, dishonest and phony our government is.” The fugitive himself puts his agenda in more starkly anti-American terms. He has a poisonous, Chomskyite view of the United States as a dastardly “empire,” bending the world to its will and persecuting brave dissidents like none other than Julian Assange.
When he started out, Assange was committed to exposing the world’s genuinely pernicious states. He said he was going to criticize “highly oppressive regimes in China, Russia and Central Eurasia,” and warned a newspaper in Moscow of the damaging information he had acquired about Russia.
Assange is no longer in that line of work. He has fallen into the arms of Vladimir Putin as the activist pursues his vendetta against the United States and its former secretary of state, whom, it so happens, Putin despises for condemning the conduct of Russia’s 2011 parliamentary elections. An avowed champion of transparency and free speech, Assange told the Times he doesn’t go out of his way to castigate a Russian government that kills journalists because to do so is “boring.”
Interfering in a U.S. election is much more interesting. U.S. officials believe that Russia was behind the hack of the Democratic National Committee that WikiLeaks used to such effect around the time of the Democratic convention. The promised additional WikiLeaks exposures may well be the handiwork of the Russians, as well.
It is Hillary’s own fault that she is vulnerable to the likes of Assange. Her secrecy, corrupt practices and dishonesty make her an ideal target. Yet there is a world of difference between Tom Fitton, the head of Judicial Watch, who has done so much through litigation in the U.S. courts to expose Clinton, and Assange, a certified America-hater whose work is likely enabled by Russian intelligence.
There was a time when everyone could see the distinction, but that was before 2016, a year of strange, not to say loathsome, bedfellows.
Rich Lowry can be reached via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.