What a Discovery! Tad Devine Is Shady AF

At the Washington Post, Dana Milbank has written a piece about Tad Devine: "The Deep Cynicism of Bernie Sanders's Chief Strategist." It's all about Devine's gross history of working for despots alongside Paul Manafort, for lots of money. And also working for Sanders, on a campaign ostensibly opposed to big money and establishment politics, for lots of money.

The information is solid. There's just one problem with the piece: If this information is important enough to write about now, it was sure as shit important enough for Milbank to write about while Sanders was running for president.

Milbank did write about Sanders hiring Devine during the campaign: In February 2016, he wrote an entire column on how Sanders isn't a revolutionary, but instead a pretty conventional politician — and cited as one example "his hiring of Tad Devine, a veteran of the Kerry and Gore campaigns, as a top adviser." Yes, Devine was indeed an adviser to Kerry and Gore, and the rest of his résumé was public then, too.

Milbank tries to justify his failure to do this basic vetting on Sanders' chief strategist by asserting that the Manafort trial has given us all some new insight into Devine, who was the prosecution's first witness: "Thanks to Robert S. Mueller III's prosecution of Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman and sometime business associate of Devine, we now have an unusual glimpse into the role the Democratic ad man had in electing and preserving the power of Ukraine's Viktor Yanukovych, a crooked pro-Putin autocrat."

That's just straight-up garbage. Devine's work on behalf of Yanukovych has not been a secret, nor has the immense amount of money Devine made working for Yanukovych and Sanders.

A year and a half ago, I wrote about Devine's collaboration with Manafort in Ukraine, and a month later tweeted about the exorbitant sums he earned working for Sanders (which I also noted many times during the campaign).

I've previously written about Devine continuing to work for Yanukovych even after his rival, Viktor Yushchenko, barely survived a poisoning attempt, obliging Yushchenko to "campaign with his face half paralysed and a catheter inserted into his back to inject painkillers into his spine."

And about how curious it is that Devine, with all his experience in Ukraine, which Putin uses as his own personal test lab, would be unfamiliar with the Kremlin's strategies; how truly extraordinary it would be if such a person did not see the proliferation of anti-Clinton disinformation on social media among his candidate's own supporters, especially as reports began to emerge about Russian interference, and did not even suspect that Russia was interfering on behalf of the Sanders campaign.

And about how perplexing it is that the campaign for which Devine served as chief strategist would abruptly adopt a policy of working with Russia in Syria that did not make sense then and does not make sense still, just like every other campaign of Hillary Clinton's chief rivals.

I was hardly the only person writing about this stuff: There were articles on much larger platforms, too, like Gabriel Debendetti's 2016 piece at Politico, "Inside Bernie's Wild Ride," and Eli Clifton's and Joshua Holland's 2016 piece at Slate, "Bernie's Fundraising Was Revolutionary; How He Spent His Money Was Not," the latter of which Milbank even links in his piece. And there were other people with exactly as few resources as I have who wrote about Devine when it really mattered, too.

Devine's background isn't news, and neither is the enormous amount of money he's made working for bad people, and neither is his questionable behavior working for Sanders, from being the person who convinced Sanders to run as a Democrat to railing against superdelegates, despite the fact that he "was instrumental in the creation of the superdelegate process."

It's possible, of course, that Milbank is only now finding out about Devine's shady dealings.

What's also possible is that Milbank knows damn well who Tad Devine is and what he's done, and knew it while Devine was working for Sanders. That would certainly explain why he inserted the lie that the Manafort trial exposed this history, which is manifestly false. It's possible that Milbank knew it, but didn't write about it then, because it would have discredited Sanders, and thus harm Hillary Clinton's most effective critic.

But maybe I'm being uncharitable again. Maybe Milbank didn't have any agenda regarding the candidate about whom he once "joked" that her beer of choice ought to be "Mad Bitch."

Maybe he really didn't know about Devine, or think his background was important until now — in which case, he's just super shitty at his job.

The press has got to do better. Though I'm singling out Milbank for criticism here, his piece is emblematic of what's broken across the landscape of the political press.

There is a midterm election coming up, and then the next presidential election will start immediately thereafter. And I am horrified (if entirely unsurprised) that the press has largely failed to learn any meaningful lessons from their catastrophic failures the last time around.

The press is constantly under attack from the sitting president, and his relentless stoking of his base's hostility toward the press endangers them. I am keenly aware of that sort of pressure, and what it means to have to work under the threat of harm. That's all the more reason why the press has to get this stuff right.

Dig the first time around. It should be abundantly clear by this point that there won't always be a second bite at the apple if we don't make the first one count.

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