China grants Ivanka Trump 5 trademarks amid trade talks
By ERIKA KINETZ
Monday, January 21
SHANGHAI (AP) — The Chinese government has granted Ivanka Trump’s company preliminary approval for another five trademarks this month, as her father’s administration pushes ahead on trade negotiations with China.
Four trademarks, including child care centers, sunglasses and wedding dresses, were approved on Sunday. A fifth, covering brokerage, charitable fundraising and art valuation services, was approved on Jan.6, according to online trademark office records. The applications were filed in 2016 and 2017. If no one objects, they will be finalized after 90 days.
Ivanka Trump’s expanding intellectual property holdings have long raised ethical concerns, particularly in China, where the courts and bureaucracy tend to reflect the will of the ruling Communist Party.
Ivanka Trump’s lawyers in China did not respond immediately to a request for comment.
Critics argue that by asking a foreign government for valuable intellectual property rights, White House officials could open themselves to pressure in government negotiations. There is also concern that the family’s global trademark portfolio would open the way for lucrative business opportunities once Donald Trump leaves office.
“The sheer number of foreign trademarks Ivanka Trump has gotten while working in the White House would be troubling enough, but the fact that she just got one for charitable fundraising when her father’s namesake foundation — which she served as a board member for and is closing in scandal following a New York Attorney General investigation outlining numerous legal violations — is especially troubling,” Jordan Libowitz, a spokesman for watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said in an email.
Ivanka Trump closed her fashion brand in July. Her representatives assert that trademark filings are a normal business practice and are needed to protect her name from copycats seeking to capitalize on her fame.
Companies apply for trademarks for a range of reasons. They can be signs of corporate ambition, but many also are filed defensively, particularly in China, where trademark squatting is rampant.
China has said it treats all trademark applications equally under the law.
Associated Press researcher Chen Si contributed to this report.
China demands US drop Huawei extradition request with Canada
By CHRISTOPHER BODEEN
Tuesday, January 22
BEIJING (AP) — China on Tuesday demanded the U.S. drop a request that Canada extradite a top executive of the tech giant Huawei, shifting blame to Washington in a case that has severely damaged Beijing’s relations with Ottawa.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Meng Wanzhou’s case was out of the ordinary and Canada’s extradition treaty with the U.S. infringed on the “safety and legitimate rights and interests of Chinese citizens.”
Hua said China demands that the U.S. withdraw the arrest warrant against Meng and “not make a formal extradition request to the Canadian side.”
Hua’s remarks came after more than 100 academics and former diplomats signed a letter calling on China to release two Canadians detained in apparent retaliation for Meng’s arrest.
They also follow a report by the Canadian newspaper Globe and Mail that the U.S. plans to formally request Meng’s extradition to face charges that she committed fraud by misleading banks about Huawei’s business dealings in Iran.
China detained former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and Canadian entrepreneur Michael Spavor on Dec. 10 in an apparent attempt to pressure Canada to release Meng, who was arrested Dec. 1 at the request of U.S. authorities.
Meng is Huawei’s chief financial officer and the daughter of its founder, Ren Zhengfei. Huawei has close ties to China’s military and is considered one of the country’s most successful international enterprises, operating in the high-tech sphere where China hopes to establish dominance.
The letter signed by academics and former diplomats said the arrests of the two will lead to “less dialogue and greater distrust, and undermine efforts to manage disagreements and identify common ground. Both China and the rest of the world will be worse off as a result.”
More than 20 diplomats from seven countries and more than 100 scholars and academics from 19 countries signed.
Meng is living under house arrest in her Vancouver mansion while her case is under deliberation. Kovrig and Spavor are being held in Chinese jails and have yet to be granted access to lawyers, according to those who have contact with them.
Brazil’s nationalist leader to address Davos globalist crowd
Tuesday, January 22
DAVOS, Switzerland (AP) — Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro will headline the first full day of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, with a speech to political and business leaders.
The nationalist leader is attending an event that has long represented business’s interest in increasing ties across borders. But globalism is in retreat as populist leaders around the world put a focus back on nation states, even if that means limiting trade and migration.
After Bolsonaro’s speech on Tuesday, German Chancellor Angela and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will address the gathering on Wednesday.
But several key leaders are not attending to handle big issues at home: U.S. President Donald Trump amid the government shutdown, British Prime Minister Theresa May to grapple with Brexit talks, and France’s Emmanuel Macron to face popular protests.
Follow the AP’s coverage of Davos here: https://www.apnews.com/Davos
The Shame of the One Percent Continues
by Mel Gurtov
Speaking at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Sir David Attenborough called on government and business leaders to support, with practical plans, “United Nations decisions on climate change, sustainable development, and a new deal for nature.”
“What we do now, and in the next few years, will profoundly affect the next few thousand years,” he said. True enough, but politically speaking, Sir David probably knows as well as anyone that precious few in his audience will be motivated to act decisively in the human interest—no more so than at any previous Davos meeting.
At this very moment, in fact, Oxfam published its latest data on global wealth distribution. It’s another sad rendition of an old theme: the rich are getting richer, the poor poorer. Notwithstanding China’s remarkable poverty reduction, the rest of the world’s poor are getting a decreasing share of the economic pie. As a result, Oxfam reports, “the 26 richest billionaires own as many assets as the 3.8 billion people who make up the poorest half of the planet’s population.” In 2016 it took 61 billionaires to match the wealth of the world’s 50 percent in poverty, and 43 billionaires in 2017.
For the world’s 2,200 billionaires, wealth rose an astounding $2.5 billion a day in 2018. These people—the global one percent—typically take in 27 cents on every dollar of global income growth, compared with 12 cents on the dollar for the global 50 percent. It doesn’t take much imagination to understand the real-world consequences of those figures—for example, that “about 10,000 people per day die for lack of healthcare and there were 262 million children not in school, often because their parents were unable to afford the fees, uniforms or textbooks,” according to Oxfam.
As we in the US celebrate Martin Luther King Day, we might consider what a single decision by those Davos participants would mean: a one percent tax on the one percent, which today would raise about $418 billion, enough to meet those health and education needs just mentioned. Think they’ll do that, in between glasses of Champagne?
Mel Gurtov, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Portland State University.
Brexit battle looms as UK lawmakers attack May’s ‘Plan B’
By JILL LAWLESS
Tuesday, January 22
LONDON (AP) — Prime Minister Theresa May is determined to get a tweaked version of her rejected European Union divorce deal through Parliament. British lawmakers have other ideas — lots of other ideas.
May’s Conservative government is headed for a showdown with Parliament next week, when lawmakers get to vote on the prime minister’s latest proposal, and can try to amend it to send her in another direction.
Here’s how the battle is shaping up:
MAY’S PLAN B
After the divorce agreement struck between the U.K. government and the bloc was resoundingly rejected by Parliament last week, May held talks with government and opposition politicians and came up with a “Plan B” — one that looked remarkably similar to her Plan A.
May told the House of Commons on Monday that she was aiming to win lawmakers’ backing for her deal after securing changes from the EU to a contentious Irish border measure.
The bloc insists that it won’t renegotiate the withdrawal agreement. And opposition lawmakers say the scale of May’s defeat last week — 432 votes to 202 — shows she must radically alter her deal if it is to have any hope of approval.
But Parliament is deeply divided about what changes to make. Pro-Brexit lawmakers want to remove the Irish “backstop,” an insurance policy that would constrain British trade policy in order to ensure there are no customs checks between the U.K.’s Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland. Pro-EU legislators want May to lift her insistence that Brexit means quitting the EU’s single market and customs union.
Amid the impasse, one thing is in short supply: time.
BUY BREATHING TIME
Britain is due to leave the EU on March 29, with or without a divorce deal. The political impasse over Brexit is fueling concerns that the country may crash out of the bloc without an agreement in place to cushion the shock. That could see tariffs imposed on goods moving between Britain and the EU, sparking logjams at ports and shortages of essential supplies.
May says the only way to avert a no-deal Brexit is to back her deal, but lawmakers are trying to pause the clock.
Groups of “soft Brexit”-backing lawmakers, who want to keep close economic ties to the EU, are planning to use amendments during a Jan. 29 debate on May’s plan to try to rule out a “no-deal” Brexit, delay Britain’s departure and put alternative plans on the table.
Half a dozen amendments had been filed by Tuesday, most aiming to allow time for Parliament to hammer out alternatives to May’s rejected deal. One of the most prominent, with support from both opposition and Conservative lawmakers, would give May until Feb. 26 to pass a deal, or see Brexit delayed as Parliament took charge.
It will be up to Commons Speaker John Bercow to decide which amendments are put to a vote. Any that are approved would not be legally binding, but as an expression of the will of Parliament would be hard for the government to ignore.
SEEK A NEW REFERENDUM
A growing group of campaigners argues that Brexit has become so divisive, complicated and gridlocked that politicians can’t solve it, and the only answer is to ask voters again whether they want to leave the EU.
May is strongly opposed to the idea. She said Monday that a new referendum, less than three years after voters opted for Brexit, would “damage social cohesion by undermining faith in our democracy.”
But campaigners for a second referendum say it’s the only way to break the logjam.
“Two and a half years ago we voted on an abstract idea, that’s the truth,” pro-EU Conservative lawmaker Dominic Grieve said Tuesday.
He said now that the details of Brexit were clearer, the best course was to “go back and ask the public whether they really want what the prime minister has negotiated and offer them the alternative, remain, instead.”
May says she plans to go back to Brussels after Jan. 29 to seek changes to the deal from EU leaders. The bloc insists that the legally binding, 585-page withdrawal agreement cannot be reopened, though it is more flexible about a non-binding political declaration laying out the framework of future relations between Britain and the bloc.
But EU leaders say they won’t consider any changes until Britain figures out what kind of Brexit it wants.
“I have a terrible sense of deja vu,” EU spokesman Margaritis Schinas said Tuesday, before using the words of the Spice Girls to send a message to British politicians.
“We expect the U.K. to tell us what they want, what they really, really want,” he said.
Raf Casert in Brussels contributed to this story. Follow Jill Lawless on Twitter at http://Twitter.com/JillLawless
Follow AP’s full coverage of Brexit at: https://www.apnews.com/Brexit
Mary Queen of Scots: don’t worry about movie accuracy, historians can’t agree on who she really was either
January 18, 2019
Author: Steven Reid, Senior Lecturer, Scottish History, University of Glasgow
Disclosure statement: Steven Reid receives funding from the Royal Society of Edinburgh for the research project described in the article.
Partners: University of Glasgow provides funding as a member of The Conversation UK.
The story of Mary Queen of Scots, packed as it is with drama and tragedy, has always been a favourite of film makers. As far back as 1895, Thomas Edison made The Execution of Mary Stuart, a short film which was the first ever to use special effects to show Mary having her head chopped off. Since then, the doomed Scottish queen has been the subject of numerous biopics, ranging from Katharine Hepburn’s Mary of Scotland (1936) to the new Josie Rourke film Mary Queen of Scots, starring Saoirse Ronan as Mary.
When news media cover period dramas, historians are always asked if they are accurate. As far as the new Rourke film is concerned, the answer is no, of course not. Yet again audiences will come away thinking that she met Elizabeth I in person; there was a romantic involvement between Mary’s husband Henry Stewart Lord Darnley and her Italian secretary David Rizzio; and that 16th century Scots were wild and uncultivated.
Compared to its predecessors, however, Rourke’s film does quite well at blending the established narrative about Mary with creative licence. The 1971 film of Mary’s life, starring Vanessa Redgrave and Glenda Jackson, had the two queens meeting not once but twice. The 1936 movie was generally criticised for its melodramatic portrayal of Mary. And let’s not even address the wildly inaccurate treatment of Mary and the Anglo-Scottish relationship in the 1998 and 2007 biopics of Elizabeth I, starring Cate Blanchett.
Yet while tallying points on the historical scorecard in films is always fun, it’s harder to criticise film makers here than over many other historical events. The reality is that it’s highly problematic to think in terms of the “truth” about Mary because right from the beginning, all the historical sources have polarised into two wildly different accounts of to what extent she influenced the events of her demise.
Mary vs Mary
Everyone agrees that Mary returned to Scotland from France in 1561 to become the active monarch, and that her reign started well and began to crumble after she married her cousin Lord Darnley in 1565. The marriage soon fell apart and Darnley was murdered by an explosion two years later.
Mary quickly married the Earl of Bothwell, and was forced to abdicate by rival nobles who objected to him becoming so closely interlinked with the throne. She ended up imprisoned before fleeing to England in 1568, where she was jailed again, in large part because of the threat she posed to Elizabeth as a rival to the throne. She remained in captivity until she was executed in 1587.
The disagreement turns on whether Mary was essentially a blameless victim or scheming perpetrator. Did she have a hand in Darnley’s death, in collusion with his possible murderer Bothwell? Did she marry Bothwell willingly or was she effectively forced because he had raped her? Was she actually involved in the Babington Plot against Elizabeth which resulted in her execution?
The two competing narratives sprang up from the moment Mary was forced off the throne in favour of her 13-month-old son, James VI. The intellectual and poet George Buchanan wrote one version, initially in his scurrilous 1571 tract De Maria Regina Scotorum. He smeared her as a lascivious whore who colluded with Bothwell in Darnley’s murder and helped her lover to seize the Scottish throne.
The victim narrative was created by Catholic writers like John Leslie, Bishop of Ross, who was one of Mary’s leading agents during her English captivity. Leslie’s 1569 text celebrated her Catholic piety and condemned her removal from the Scottish throne as an act of highest treason against the rightful Stewart monarch.
The same binary approach to Mary continues to the present day. During the civil wars of the mid-17th century, everyone compared her to her grandson Charles I. Royalists claimed they were both examples of how ambitious opponents have cast down the lawful monarch. Pro-republicans like John Milton countered that she was the source of Charles’s deceitful and evasive nature, and a moral warning of Stewart tyranny to come.
In the Victorian era, Mary’s critics built on Buchanan’s negative image of her, influenced to some extent by Presbyterian bias. Defenders excused Mary’s failings on account of her youth, gender, and a French upbringing which ill-prepared her to rule Scotland. Modern historians have been far better at viewing Mary in the context of her gender in a highly patriarchal society, but still divide vehemently. The late Jenny Wormald received death threats for her unrelentingly harsh critique in 1988; while John Guy took the process full circle with a staunch defence of Mary in 2004.
Mary in public
We know less about public perceptions of Mary down the centuries. Indeed, I’m involved in a new two-year research project at the University of Glasgow, with more than 40 academics and curators, partly to understand this better. We know, for instance, that in the 18th century, Mary was curiously absent from the propaganda of the Jacobites battling to return the Stewarts to the British throne through Bonnie Prince Charlie. This might have been because the attempts to restore her to power had always failed.
We also know that the imagery of Mary has consistently presented her as a martyr. What are believed to have been authentic likenesses of Mary were produced during her time as a youth in France – most notably the 1559 deuil blanc (white veil) portraits mourning the death of her first husband, François II.
But while Mary was highly fashion conscious and wore a huge range of colours and outfits – a fact captured well in the new film – she’s almost always seen dressed like in the image earlier in the article: a black gown with a widow’s cap, high white collar, tightly bound hair and rosary and crucifix. This is derived from contemporary accounts of what she wore in captivity and at her execution. But in a similar way to images of Robert Burns, these details would stay the same over the years while her face, body size and shape have varied hugely.
The films of Mary have also been consistent, depicting her mainly as a sympathetic, strong heroine. It may or may not be the real Mary; we will never know for sure. So there isn’t a lot of point in worrying about historical accuracy when it comes to this Scottish icon. Take her as you find her, and rest assured that it won’t be long before Hollywood decides to serve up another new version for mass consumption.
3 groups, many videos, many interpretations of DC encounter
By JEFFREY COLLINS
Tuesday, January 22
A group of five black men shouting vulgar insults while protesting centuries of oppression. Dozens of white Catholic high school students visiting Washington for a rally to end abortion. And Native Americans marching to end injustice for indigenous peoples across the globe who have seen their lands overrun by outside settlers.
The three groups met for just a few minutes Friday at the base of the Lincoln Memorial, an encounter captured in videos that went viral over the weekend — and again cast a spotlight on a polarized nation that doesn’t appear to agree on anything.
At first the focus was on a short video showing one of the high school students, Nick Sandmann, wearing a red “Make America Great Again” hat and appearing to smirk while a crowd of other teens laughed derisively behind him, as he faced off against a 64-year-old Native American, Nathan Phillips, who played a traditional chant on a drum.
Pull back further and a different view emerged, however, in a separate video showing members of a group calling itself the Black Hebrew Israelites taunting everyone on the mall that day, calling the Native Americans who had gathered there for the Indigenous Peoples March “Uncle Tomahawks” and “$5 Indians” and the high school students “crackers” and worse.
It was an ugly encounter of spewed epithets but one that nevertheless ended with no punches thrown or other violence.
Still, the videos were all over social media, again appearing to illustrate a nation of such deep divisions — racial, religious and ideological — that no one was willing to listen to the others’ point of view. Add to that the political tensions spilling over from a government shutdown that has gone on for a month and the stage was set for a viral moment.
But in this case, the videos didn’t tell the whole story, all the parties involved agree.
“I would caution everyone passing judgment based on a few seconds of video to watch the longer video clips that are on the internet, as they show a much different story than is being portrayed by people with agendas,” Sandmann, a junior, said in a statement released late Sunday.
Sandmann’s statement does seem at odds with some video from the confrontation that showed students from his school, Covington Catholic High in Park Hills, Kentucky, laughing at Phillips’ Native American group and mockingly singing along with him, as well as interviews with Phillips who said he heard the students shout “Build that wall!” and “Go back to the reservation!”
The fullest view of what happened that Friday afternoon came from a nearly two-hour video posted on Facebook by Shar Yaqataz Banyamyan. It showed members of his Black Hebrew Israelite group repeatedly interacting with the crowd as people from the Indigenous Peoples March and the high school students vigorously argued with them for a few minutes.
Sandmann said in his statement the students from his all-male high school were waiting for their buses near Banyamyan’s group when the latter started to taunt them. One of the students took off his shirt and the teens started to do a haka — a war dance of New Zealand’s indigenous Maori culture, made famous by the country’s national rugby team.
Phillips, an elder of the Omaha tribe, and Marcus Frejo, a member of the Pawnee and Seminole tribes, said they felt the students were mocking the dance and walked over to intervene.
Phillips and Sandmann locked eyes, their faces inches apart. Both men said their goal was simply to make sure things didn’t get out of hand. But caught on video, the encounter still went viral.
The high school students felt they were unfairly portrayed as villains in a situation where they say they were not the provocateurs.
“I am being called every name in the book, including a racist, and I will not stand for this mob-like character assassination,” Sandmann said in his statement.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Covington apologized for the incident, promising an investigation that could lead to punishment up to expulsion if any wrongdoing by the students was determined.
The Indigenous Peoples Movement felt the encounter was a reminder the U.S. was founded on racism and President Donald Trump’s presidency is rekindling hatred based on skin color.
“Trump has riled up a reactionary voting block that reminds us that we are a nation founded on patriarchy, genocide and racism. Trump is clearly giving these archaic instincts license, encouraging the kind of aggressive goading that I witnessed,” movement spokesman Chase Iron Eyes said in a statement.
Trump himself weighed with several tweets in as some news reports questioned whether the early criticism of the students was warranted. The president tweeted Tuesday, in part: “Nick Sandmann and the students of Covington have become symbols of Fake News and how evil it can be.”
Banyamyan posted his own reaction on Facebook, referencing the dozens of high school students in their Make America Great Again gear coming over to his group of five and chanting. In a rambling video, he also praised Phillips and compared Sandmann to the devil.
After the sun set and the Covington high school students left, Banyamyan’s video showed a few police officers stopping by to check on his group as they were wrapping up their protest. One of the officers said they were worried by the number of people that briefly massed in that one spot. One of the Black Hebrew Israelites said there were no problems.
“We weren’t threatened by them,” he said. “It was an OK dialogue.”
Foreign interference in US elections dates back decades
January 22, 2019
Author: Bradley W. Hart, Assistant Professor of Media, Communications and Journalism, California State University, Fresno
Disclosure statement: Bradley W. Hart does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Americans have spent the last 18 months wondering about Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election.
Charges have already been filed against 12 Russian intelligence officers for interfering with the 2016 presidential campaign, as special counsel Robert Mueller continues investigating the extent of the Trump campaign’s links to Russia. A Senate report concluded that the Russians’ interference was aimed at influencing the outcome of the election. If true, the president would not be the first U.S. politician that foreign powers tried to help.
In fact, two campaigns, in 1940 and 1960, featured bold attempts by hostile foreign powers to put their preferred candidates in the Oval Office. While neither was successful, both highlight a vulnerability in the American political system that, for the first time, has become the subject of major public discussion.
1940: Nazis try to beat FDR
As I point out in my book “Hitler’s American Friends: The Third Reich’s Supporters in the United States,” American politics was deeply divided in 1940. The key debate was over war and peace, in this case the Second World War raging in Europe.
American public opinion was split between those who wanted to help the flagging Allies – and potentially enter the war – and a bipartisan coalition of non-interventionists and isolationists. The Roosevelt administration was seen as interventionist; its opponents had their power base on Capitol Hill.
The 1940 election took place against this backdrop. For months, President Franklin Roosevelt refused to answer questions about whether he would run for a third term in office. No one knew who might seize the Democratic nomination if FDR choose not to run. There was also no clear candidate who could command national support on the GOP side. The Nazis concluded that if Roosevelt could be replaced by a non-interventionist, the prospects of U.S. involvement in the European war would be greatly reduced.
So Berlin enlisted the support of a sympathetic, well-connected American. William Rhodes Davis was an oilman with a sketchy business past who, in the late 1930s, made a fortune by selling cut-rate Mexican oil to Hitler’s government. Simultaneously, Davis cultivated connections inside the Democratic Party, making a sizable donation to its 1936 election efforts.
When war broke out in Europe in 1939, Davis’ fortunes changed as the British imposed a blockade on German ports. He believed the only way to save his business was by personally making peace in Europe by negotiating a deal between the warring parties himself. Calling on his Democratic Party connections, Davis approached the White House with his plan for peace. FDR was sensibly skeptical.
Undeterred, Davis traveled to Germany, met with leaders of the Third Reich including Hermann Göring, and returned with the vague outlines of a deal that would have given Germany territorial gains in exchange for Roosevelt mediating a peace treaty. Roosevelt refused to even meet with Davis upon his return, worried that he might be compromised and acting as a Nazi agent. In fact, there was a secret aspect to Davis’ mission to Germany.
While there, he talked to Göring about the possibility of a non-interventionist winning the 1940 election. Davis even had the perfect candidate in mind: labor leader John L. Lewis, the controversial head of the Congress of Industrial Organizations, or CIO, who was a non-interventionist and a staunch opponent of the president.
Göring evidently allocated US $5 million to support the plan and stashed it at the German embassy in Washington D.C. for Davis’ use.
Despite the oilman’s confidence, his plan would come to nothing. The Democrats renominated Roosevelt by an overwhelming majority. Lewis never had a chance at the nomination. The Republicans then shocked the world by nominating an interventionist and former Democrat, Wendell Willkie, at a fractious convention.
With no isolationist in the race, Davis was simply unable to use the Nazi money to any great effect. He used some to pay for a national radio address by Lewis denouncing Roosevelt. In the end, the president was re-elected.
The U.S. government discovered the extent of Davis’s plot after the war, when a Department of Justice official authored an explosive report about Nazi sympathizers in the United States. The report was buried by President Harry Truman and the plot would not be fully revealed until 1961.
1960: Soviets get nowhere with Adlai
Twenty years later, the world was a different place. The Nazis had been defeated, but the Soviet Union had emerged as a new global rival to democracy. With the Cold War about to escalate, the Soviets made their own attempt to influence U.S. presidential politics.
This time, the Republican side of the race was already decided. Two-term Vice President Richard Nixon, a vocal anti-communist, was essentially unopposed.
The Democratic nomination was a different story. Massachusetts Sen. John F. Kennedy was the liberal favorite, but the entrance of Texas Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson – the powerful Senate majority leader – split party loyalists.
The Soviets, however, attempted to intervene on behalf of another prominent Democrat: Adlai Stevenson, the former governor of Illinois and two-time defeated presidential nominee in 1952 and 1956.
Stevenson had lost both races by crushing margins to war hero Dwight D. Eisenhower, and in the latter race he scandalized public opinion by calling for a halt to hydrogen bomb testing. Though a treaty banning all but underground nuclear tests would be signed in 1963, Stevenson’s position was seen as being soft on defense – and communism.
In early 1960, the Soviets decided Stevenson was their chosen candidate for the upcoming election, although he had given no indication he was intending to run. In January, the Soviet ambassador, Mikhail A. Menshikov, invited Stevenson to a meeting at the Soviet embassy.
After champagne and caviar, Menshikov presented Stevenson with a stunning message from Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. Khrushchev, Menshikov reported, was impressed with Stevenson during their past interactions, particularly during the Soviet leader’s famous visit to the United States in 1959. Even before that, during a 1958 conversation, Khrushchev had told Stevenson that he “voted” for him “in his heart.” Now, Khrushchev hoped to back his feelings with concrete action.
Menshikov suggested that the Soviets might help Stevenson’s campaign using the media.
“Could the Soviet press assist Mr. Stevenson’s personal success?” the ambassador asked. “How? Should the press praise him, and, if so, for what? Should it criticize him, and, if so, for what? … Mr. Stevenson will know best what would help him.”
Stevenson rejected the offer out of hand. He told the ambassador the offer was “highly improper, indiscreet and dangerous to all concerned.” He recorded an account of the conversation days later and never spoke of it publicly. The strange episode only came to light in 1977 when Stevenson’s biographer discovered his memorandum detailing the conversation.
Interference unlikely to end
Neither the Nazis nor the Soviets were able to sway American politics, and their preferred candidates never came close to the Oval Office. Whatever revelations may yet emerge concerning the current president’s involvement with Russia, it is critical to remember that foreign election manipulation is nothing new and is unlikely to cease. Combating such interference is crucial to the American electorate’s confidence in its own leaders, as Stevenson well knew.
Gene H. Bell-Villada: Meanwhile, US interference in foreign elections dates back decades, too. (Italy 1947, Guatemala, Chile, Iran 1953, and many lesser-known episodes.)