What to do about pos­si­ble Rus­sian elec­tion in­ter­fer­ence?

Cecil Whig - - & - Joel Mathis and Ben Boy­chuk

— Don­ald Trump’s elec­tion as pres­i­dent hit a new snag last week 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. Joel Mathis 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

WASH­ING­TON

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 Barack 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. Ben Boy­chuk 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 founder 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 se­cre- tary 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 award­win­ning writer in Kansas. Ben Boy­chuk is man­ag­ing edi­tor of Amer­i­can Great­ness. Reach them at joelm­mathis@gmail.com, bboy­chuk3@att.net, or www. facebook.com/be­nand­joel.

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