Donald Trump’s election as president hit a new snag recently with reports that the CIA had concluded Russia interfered in the campaign on his behalf, hacking Hillary Clinton’s campaign and releasing information about her in an effort to secure his election.
Trump called the conclusion “ridiculous,” but congressional Republican leaders promised an investigation, and some Democrats said the CIA should present its evidence when the Electoral College meets this month to finalize the election results.
How should Americans react if Russia interfered? Joel Mathis and Ben Boychuk, the RedBlueAmerica columnists, debate the issue.
First: Let’s admit that Mitt Romney was right.
Back when he was running for president in 2012, he identified Russia as America’s No. 1 geopolitical foe. Democrats laughed at him then, but Vladimir Putin has certainly tossed a monkey wrench into the workings of American democracy: Our confidence in the legitimacy of our elections is close to an all-time low. Certainly, the legitimacy of Donald Trump’s presidency is now in doubt.
Second: Understand that Trump brought this on himself, in several ways.
Remember when he publicly urged Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails and release them to the press? “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” he said during a July press conference. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”
Remember, too, that Trump spent much of the campaign preparing Americans not to accept the results of the election as legitimate — with constant, unsupported allegations that the vote had been “rigged” against him. Now? He’s reaping what he sowed.
Third: As painful as it is for me to say, this affair goes down as a major negative mark on President Obama’s legacy.
It’s understandable that administration officials hesitated to discuss the Russian hacking before the election — unlike Vladimir Putin, apparently, Obama didn’t want to create the impression he’d meddled in the election.
Less understandable, though, is that the Obama administration apparently hesitated to push back against Russian hackers because of a desire to save diplomatic efforts in the Syrian civil war. That was the wrong decision. Russia’s apparent interference in our elections was an act of war, threatening the integrity of our government, and Obama’s first duty should’ve been to act in defense of America, not Aleppo. He failed.
Americans went to the polls, though, knowing that Trump had called for Russian interference and that Russians had probably hacked Clinton’s campaign. Nearly half of them voted for Trump anyway. We can’t say we didn’t see this coming. We will, however, have to live with the results.
Contempt or respect: those are the two options before the United States at the beginning of a new presidential administration. When it was still a world superpower, America had the grudging respect even of its enemies. They might have hated us but they at least feared us.
Can the same be said after eight years of Barack Obama’s lead-from-behind administration, with its failed Russian resets and aborted pivots to the Pacific? Vladimir Putin’s free hand in Syria is the back of the hand to the United States.
And Democrats expected something better from Hillary Clinton? Something different?
So the question is why Russia meddled in the U.S. presidential election. Because Trump would be more pliant? What does Putin know about Trump that the know-it-all press and blinkered, partisan Democrats do not?
The point is, the press and the Democrats underestimated Trump from the outset of his campaign. Trump was supposed to flounder a few months after he announced. Then he was supposed to lose the primaries. Then Republicans were supposed to block his nomination. Then he was never, ever supposed to beat Clinton.
And now he’s supposed to be Putin’s puppet? Please.
One of the safest bets of the past election was that the Russians — and the Chinese and the North Koreans and the Israelis and probably the British and the French — got the contents of Clinton’s unsecure and unlawful private email server when she was secretary of state.
Never mind her lame denials. If hackers could break in to the Democratic National Committee’s email with an amateurish phishing attack, you better believe foreign intelligence agencies broke Clinton’s server with ease. She was thoroughly compromised.
That’s what Trump was talking about in July. He wasn’t “inviting” the Russians to hack Hillary. He knew — along with anyone with a lick of sense — that the hacking happened long ago.
It’s ironic, really. Weeks before the election, the press lost its mind over the possibility that Trump wouldn’t accept the legitimacy of the election. If what Democratic partisans are saying is true, Trump would have been right to question the outcome had it gone the other way.
Joel Mathis is an award-winning writer in Kansas. Ben Boychuk is managing editor of American Greatness. Reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, or www.facebook.com/benandjoel.