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Michael Bloomberg spent something north of $500 million on his 2020 presidential candidacy, only for the multi-billionaire to quickly drop out $500 million poorer. Bloomberg was hardly unique. He joined a long list of well-funded candidates whose war chests got them nowhere. Names like Phil Gramm, Jeb Bush, John Connally, and Tom Steyer similarly come to mind. Surely there are more.

It’s just a reminder that you can have a good to great track record, you can hire the best of the best campaign managers and consultants, but the money will prove worthless if you lack the message, style or the indescribable something that the electorate is looking for. Notable about what’s been written so far is that there’s nothing original or insightful about it.

Which is why it was so disappointing to watch the most recent Frontline on PBS. Up front, the show is great. So much interesting footage and commentary about global events. The episode referred to here is titled Putin’s Crisis. DO check it out. It’s very interesting.

Partially a rehash of past episodes on Russian authoritarian Vladimir Putin, Putin’s Crisis covers his increasingly tenuous hold on Russia after the aborted-coup attempt by Wagner Group head Yevgeny Prigozhin. There’s lots of interesting footage associated with Prigozhin, including an expletive-laced tirade directed at Russian military leadership over ineptitude that has resulted in so many parents losing children, and so many children losing fathers. It’s serious, and sickening to think about. Too bad the episode subsequently migrates to the ridiculous.

It turns out Prigozhin formerly ran the Russia-based Internet Research Agency, the very agency that is said to have planted “misinformation” on American social media in a way that allegedly swung the 2016 presidential election in Donald Trump’s favor. Yes, you read that right. Serious people on the Left are still promoting this fiction.

Susan Glasser, Evelyn Farkas, and other high-end reporters/foreign policy experts confirmed with the straightest of straight faces that Russian-created bots were what won it for Trump in 2016. Ok, see above to understand the flamboyant foolishness of such a view. The best funded and highest paid political consultants in the world (that would be American political consultants) couldn’t help the charismatic Bloomberg make even a hint of noise in the Democratic primaries, but the Russians with a fraction of Bloomberg’s funds could expertly lift the underfunded, and baggage-heavy Trump over Hillary Clinton? The same Russians who managed to botch Ukraine? 

But wait, they’ll say, it was Prighozin who led the successful misinformation effort. Ok, so the corrupt former hot dog salesman knows how to move the U.S. electorate better than the best of the best U.S. operatives? The very notion! It’s all a reminder that questionable as Republican efforts are now to pretend the 2020 presidential election was stolen, they’ve got nothing on Democrats when it comes to circulating conspiracy theories. Lest readers forget, a broad collection of high-end Democrats promoted the flawed voting machine theory to further explain Clinton's loss in 2016. Republicans learned from the best, it seems... Both sides are so awful.

Unknown is why Frontline would traffic in the awful. Funny here is that having confirmed in Putin’s Crisis that it was Prighozin and the Russians who won it for Trump, the producers directed the camera to Washington Post fossil Eugene Robinson. He claimed with a straight face that it was Trump’s victory in 2016 that gave Putin a free global hand to do bad things. Actually, Putin invaded Ukraine in 2022…

Ok, that’s it. It was that kind of episode. Why Frontline would air such nonsense is puzzling, as is it puzzling that so many smart people would pretend that what’s absurd is true.

John Tamny is editor of RealClearMarkets, Vice President at FreedomWorks, a senior fellow at the Market Institute, and a senior economic adviser to Applied Finance Advisors (www.appliedfinance.com). His latest book is The Money Confusion: How Illiteracy About Currencies and Inflation Sets the Stage For the Crypto Revolution.

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