James Carville, a Democratic political strategist who was Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign manager in 1992, gave a wide-ranging keynote address Tuesday at UC Irvine on topics including suspected Russian government meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Carville was the highlight of UCI’s Cybersecurity Policy & Research Institute half-day academic conference titled “Can Adversaries Hack Our Elections? Can We Stop Them?” He spoke at the campus’ Student Center in a panel moderated by Bryan Cunningham, executive director of the institute and a former senior U.S. government intelligence officer.
Carville, a former co-host of CNN’s “Crossfire” who now teaches at Louisiana State University, focused many of his remarks on ongoing suspicions about Russian interference — such as manipulating social media with bots or spreading false news stories — throughout the 2016 election campaign that may have helped now-President Trump.
Carville said that issue will likely be “studied forever.”
“That is something that political science will deal with for a long time,” he said.
Carville also surmised that the suspected Russian effort likely got help from within the United States because it would take insiders in America’s complex election system to know how to manipulate it.
“The idea that someone in Russia is sitting there at Moscow State University and knows how to do this is insane,” he said.
According to Carville, “dirty tricks” in the 2016 election were different from those in past elections because of apparent foreign influence.
“It’s not every election cycle that a hostile nation gets involved,” he said.
In December 2016, then-President Obama ordered a full review into hacking aimed at influencing U.S. elections going back to 2008.
An intelligence assessment released in January 2017 said Russia had attempted to collect information about and influence politics in U.S. elections since the Cold War but that the 2016 election represented a “significant escalation.”
Discussions like the one at UCI will help prevent future foreign interference in elections, Carville said.
“We are [now] on guard. That helps a lot,” he said. “We are looking for it. We weren’t looking for it in 2016.”