How to spite Putin

Easy to get him off our backs

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - VOICES - SHEL­DON RICH­MAN Shel­don Rich­man, who lives in Lit­tle Rock, is ex­ec­u­tive ed­i­tor of The Lib­er­tar­ian In­sti­tute.

Idon’t think the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment fooled around with the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. The U.S. gov­ern­ment won’t re­lease its ev­i­dence of Rus­sian hack­ing so that it can be judged by in­de­pen­dent ex­perts—and that makes me sus­pi­cious.

I am not im­pressed that a bunch of “hand­picked” (James Clap­per’s words) an­a­lysts from three in­tel­li­gence bu­reau­cra­cies (not 17) have mod­er­ate-to-high con­fi­dence the Rus­sians did it. An ex­pres­sion of con­fi­dence is not ev­i­dence. Be­sides, we’ve been through this be­fore. Re­mem­ber the “slam dunk” ev­i­dence of Iraqi weapons of mass de­struc­tion? The ad­mo­ni­tion to trust the in­tel­li­gence “com­mu­nity” makes me laugh.

Those who in­sist the Rus­sians did it make two con­flict­ing claims: The Rus­sians are said to be in­cred­i­bly skilled at cy­ber es­pi­onage and were in­cred­i­bly sloppy in hack­ing the DNC and Podesta emails. Come on, what do you take us for? What skilled crim­i­nal leaves his fin­ger­prints all over the crime scene? Would Vladimir Putin have left his call­ing card like a comic-book vil­lain?

What would Sher­lock Holmes, Frank Columbo (that’s the lieu­tenant’s first name), or Adrian Monk say about that?

Some­thing else feeds my doubt. Re­ports that Putin didn’t ex­pect to keep Hil­lary Clin­ton from win­ning the pres­i­dency, but only wanted to dam­age her, are hard to be­lieve. A dam­aged Clin­ton would still be more pow­er­ful than Putin, and the pub­lic would have backed her when she re­tal­i­ated for elec­tion-tam­per­ing.

The com­pet­ing the­ory that Putin ex­pected Trump to win would make the Rus­sian ruler quite the prog­nos­ti­ca­tor be­cause no one else—in­clud­ing Trump, ap­par­ently—ex­pected him to win. And why would Putin want such a thin-skinned un­pre­dictable nar­cis­sist in the White House? Be­cause he had dirt on him? Per­haps. But in re­sponse to a black­mail threat, a Pres­i­dent Trump would be as likely to tweet a jpeg of an ICBM with the words “Black­mail this, loser.”

But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the Rus­sians are skilled at hack­ing (we, of course, would never in­ter­vene in a coun­try’s elec­tions) but bungled this one job big time. Those who now see Rus­sians (if not Putin him­self) un­der ev­ery bed warn that they’ll be back, in 2018, 2020, and be­yond. Our elec­toral sys­tem is no longer safe. Amer­ica is on the brink of dis­as­ter. What to do?

I have an idea. It’s so clever and fool­proof that I’m sur­prised no one in the rul­ing elite and its mass me­dia has thought of it. We can yank the rug out from un­der that das­tardly Putin, and he’ll never bother us again.

How? Let’s make na­tional elec­tions so in­con­se­quen­tial that he would re­gard med­dling as a colos­sal waste of his pre­cious time.

Why would he care who got elected if the gov­ern­ment couldn’t do much? Imag­ine a pres­i­dent and Congress that could not seize what right­fully be­longs to oth­ers, could not put peo­ple in cages, could not hand out booty to well-con­nected in­ter­est groups and in­di­vid­u­als, could not im­pede trade, could not pro­hibit peace­ful ac­tiv­i­ties, could not grant priv­i­leges, could not in­ter­vene in other coun­tries’ af­fairs, could not over­see a vast bu­reau­cracy ded­i­cated to es­pi­onage, could not start ag­gres­sive wars, could not nur­ture a sprawl­ing econ­omy-dis­tort­ing mil­i­tary-in­dus­trial com­plex, and could not do all the other things the gov­ern­ment does to­day.

In other words, imag­ine if politi­cians and bu­reau­crats were judged by the same moral stan­dards as the rest of us. The iden­tity of the pres­i­dent of the United States would mat­ter to the out­side world less than the iden­tity of the pres­i­dent of Switzer­land. (This year it’s Doris Leuthard.)

If all that this idea ac­com­plished was to keep Putin out of our busi­ness, lots of peo­ple should like it. But the ben­e­fits would be so much greater.

For ex­am­ple, the cam­paign-fi­nance prob­lem would dis­ap­pear overnight. Years of cam­paign-fi­nance re­form have ac­com­plished noth­ing but make the prob­lem worse, if the cam­paign watch­dogs are to be be­lieved. So here fi­nally is some­thing that would work. No one would bribe politi­cians who have noth­ing to de­liver in re­turn—just as no one shops where there’s noth­ing to buy. Cam­paign-fi­nance prob­lem gone! My pro­posal should be heartily wel­comed by the anti- Cit­i­zens United crowd.

And here’s one last ben­e­fit from my pro­posal, which I al­most over­looked: We’d be free.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.