The grinning ar­son­ist

‘No such thing as an ex-KGB man’

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - EDITORIAL PAGE - Doug Thomp­son Doug Thomp­son is a po­lit­i­cal re­porter and colum­nist for the North­west Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette. Email him at dthomp­son@nwadg. com or on Twit­ter @NWADoug.

The U.S. House needs to pass the bill im­pos­ing more sanc­tions on Rus­sia for in­ter­fer­ing with our elec­tion. The Se­nate passed it last month, 97-2.

The House speaker promised Wed­nes­day to sup­port such a bill. He needs to push strongly un­til it passes. Af­ter the House acts, the pres­i­dent needs to sign it.

What Rus­sian leader Vladimir Putin is do­ing to our elec­tions is more im­por­tant than whether a Trump col­luded about it. The in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the Trumps is part of a much big­ger whole.

Rus­sian hack­ers, on Putin’s or­ders, went af­ter voter reg­is­tra­tion com­puter records. They hacked into at least one ma­jor party’s elec­tion head­quar­ters and re­leased what they found. They are prac­ti­cally brag­ging about it. Putin de­nies eat­ing the ca­nary while smil­ing through the feath­ers pok­ing out of his mouth.

The news from Tues­day gave im­por­tant de­tails, but those de­tails are from a big­ger pic­ture. The win­ning pres­i­den­tial can­di­date’s son, a sonin-law who is his most trusted ad­vi­sor and the cam­paign man­ager leapt at the chance when they were of­fered use­ful dirt on an op­po­nent that sup­pos­edly came from the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment.

Putin’s greater goal was not to help any­one but to hurt the United States — and Bri­tain, France, Ger­many and oth­ers. His goal is to sully free and open elec­tions while sow­ing dis­cord.

Mis­sion ac­com­plished. “There is no such thing as a for­mer KGB man,” as Putin said in 2004.

Our house is on fire. One fac­tion of the fam­ily in­sists there is no fire. Those smoke de­tec­tors go­ing off are just noise. The other fac­tion in­sists there would be no fire if the oth­ers had been more care­ful with matches. The rest of us are look­ing for a fire ex­tin­guisher. Mean­while, the ar­son­ist stands on the front lawn, grinning and smok­ing a ci­garette, still hold­ing a can of gaso­line while watch­ing the blaze catch.

Speak­ing of fire, Congress needs to burn Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s bridge to Rus­sia for him. He is ir­ra­tionally too ea­ger to please the man at­tack­ing us.

Trump met with Putin in Ham­burg. He was sup­posed to con­front Putin about elec­tion in­ter­fer­ence. Trump walked out declar­ing that his ad­min­is­tra­tion and Rus­sia were go­ing to start a joint “cy­ber se­cu­rity” unit in­stead to safe­guard elec­tions, among other things. No bet­ter de­scrip­tion of the Alice-in-Won­der­land folly of this goofy, quickly aban­doned plan can be given than that of Sen. Mario Rubio, R-Florida: “Part­ner­ing with Putin on a ‘Cy­ber Se­cu­rity Unit’ is akin to part­ner­ing with As­sad on a ‘Chem­i­cal Weapons Unit.’”

Whether the pres­i­dent’s team col­luded with Putin in the elec­tion is one is­sue. That will re­quire an in­ves­ti­ga­tion that is al­ready un­der­way. The fact the pres­i­dent is Putin’s giddy fan­boy, how­ever, is an­other is­sue en­tirely. That is both more im­por­tant and bla­tantly ob­vi­ous. I can­not help sus­pect­ing that one rea­son the pres­i­dent and his cronies lobby against a sanc­tions bill in the House is be­cause self-serv­ing busi­ness deals hang in the bal­ance.

“The prob­lem with dwelling too much on the covert forms of col­lab­o­ra­tion, which we have come to call ‘col­lu­sion,’ is that do­ing so risks let­ting Trump at least a lit­tle bit off the hook for what is not mean­ing­fully dis­puted: that the pres­i­dent pub­licly, know­ingly, and re­peat­edly — if only tac­itly — col­lab­o­rated with a for­eign power’s in­tel­li­gence ef­fort to in­ter­fere in the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion of the coun­try he now leads.” That ex­cel­lent point comes from the Law­fare. com blog, which I heartily rec­om­mend.

“Fo­cus­ing on covert col­lu­sion risks putting the lines of pro­pri­ety, ac­cept­able can­di­date be­hav­ior, and even — let’s be frank — pa­tri­o­tism in such a place where openly en­cour­ag­ing for­eign dic­ta­tors to hack your do­mes­tic op­po­nent’s emails falls on the tol­er­a­ble side,” it goes on.

Mean­while, the ad­min­is­tra­tion seeks voter reg­is­tra­tion records from all 50 states.

De­spite all prior ex­pe­ri­ence, give the pres­i­dent the ben­e­fit of a doubt. As­sume he re­ally be­lieves do­mes­tic voter fraud is a prob­lem. His so­lu­tion — de­lib­er­ately or not — would put all the in­for­ma­tion Putin’s hack­ers ever wanted into one data­base. They would not have to im­per­son­ate vot­ing ma­chine man­u­fac­tur­ers and send emails to hun­dreds of dif­fer­ent county of­fices. In­stead, the ad­min­is­tra­tion would gather ev­ery­thing they de­sire. Some­body in this ad­min­is­tra­tion would prob­a­bly give it to the Rus­sians and ask what it all means.

Putin did not plan all these things. Things are just turn­ing out bet­ter than he ever dared hope.

Fight the fire. If enough of the build­ing is saved, fig­ur­ing out who was re­spon­si­ble and in what pro­por­tion will be easy.

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