So, the intelligence report released Friday says, “Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election” in part to “denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency.”
That much we knew. But does anyone think the American public didn’t find Hillary Clinton untrustworthy and unlikable until Putin butted in?
Unless we learn more, we also know Russian activity had nothing to do with the election’s outcome. Most of the coverage of the Senate hearing on Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman actually buried the lead.
I previously wrote that we should stop blaming the Russians regarding the outcome of the presidential election. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper basically backed me up on that when he said the election wasn’t rigged.
It seems as if no one is providing a proportional response to the Russian hacking scandal—except maybe Russian President Vladimir Putin. Like most dictators, Putin has just denied and lies with impunity.
Meanwhile, President Barack Obama expelled Russian government officials from the United States—for doing far less than Chinese hackers did. President-elect Donald Trump is unwisely taking whacks at U.S. intelligence. Democrats enjoy using the talking point that Russia interfered in the U.S. election to get Trump elected – implying a foreign power altered the outcome – and hawkish Republicans who never liked Trump to begin with buttress the talking point.
Clapper, of all people, was the one to speak calm to the situation. Most of the news surrounded what he had to say about Trump’s “disparagement” of the intelligence agencies. The real news was what he told the Senate didn’t happen.
“They did not change any vote tallies or anything of that sort,” Clapper told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
This is not to say case closed. The investigation should continue and the American public should learn more. As Americans, we don’t want any foreign power hacking into the email of the DNC or John Podesta.
Obama shouldn’t be faulted for taking action against Russia for this. It might well have been better to nail the Russians in 2015 for hacking the State Department’s email system. When the Chinese hacked the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, which exposed more than 20 million current and former federal employees in 2015, the White House had trouble answering why there were no sanctions on China.
So Obama is either applying sanctions only when he has a political ax to grind or he was derelict after the far more serious hackings. Trump is wrong to attack U.S. intelligence and keep talking about the weapons of mass destruction that weren’t in Iraq. Democrats and pundits are wrong to conjure up conspiracy theories about how Russia stole the election. And GOP Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham are wrong to call this an act of war—certainly by comparison to other hackings.
It’s quite likely that if the shoe were on the other foot, and the Putin government hacked the Republican National Committee and a top campaign aide of the Republican presidential nominee, before a Democratic victory, we’d be hearing conservatives on talk radio declaring the threat of a Manchurian President. But that doesn’t make conspiracy mongering okay.
If anything, all sides are giving Putin just what he wanted—a way to make himself look powerful and show he knows how to make American politicians act silly. The hackings were an embarrassment to the United States, but the hyperbolic fretting is self-inflicted embarrassment.
Fred Lucas is a columnist for Political Storm and the White House correspondent for The Daily Signal. He is the author of “Tainted by Suspicion: The Secret Deals and Electoral Chaos of Disputed Presidential Elections” (Stairway Press, 2016).