Election meddling nothing unexpected
The Russian “influence campaign” — a phrase coined by our intelligence community to describe efforts to guide votes to President Trump — has caught many of us mid-yawn.
The audacity! The indignation! How dare they? Yawn.
In this day and age, that’s really not something unexpected, is it? An election campaign is all about influencing the other side to vote your way.
Haven’t foreign nationals meddled in each other’s elections since before the New World was discovered? Don’t we do our best to steer elections of allies and foes in the direction of our national interest?
We do it all the time. The database of political scientist Don Levin of Carnegie Mellon University shows that over several decades the U.S. interfered in foreign elections 81 times.
These actions included designing campaign material, providing training, making public pronouncements, disseminating propaganda and misinformation, providing or withdrawing foreign aid and even direct funding of specific campaigns and parties.
Case in point: Barack Obama’s (failed) attempt to unseat Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Hypocrisy aside, before leaving office Obama expelled 35 Russian diplomats (“spies”) and closed a couple of their banking branches in retaliation for interfering in our elections. Today, Democrats are clamoring for more sanctions and losing patience with Republicans dragging their feet.
Why the delay? Russian President Vladimir Putin himself ordered this outright attack on our sacred institution and allegedly compromised free elections. Punish him first, finish investigations later. Why wait for confirmation to slap on additional sanctions?
While we’re at it, why not pile on more penalties for his support of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and interference in Serbia? Should we cut off all trade with one of the world’s top 10 economies? Meddle in Putin’s next election? Start a war?
Many people say it’s important to know the truth. Well, here it is: Russia meddled. But it’s not like they had little Ivans pulling strings inside Peoria’s electronic voting kiosks.
However, it could be that rubles helped pay to air a commercial that did not paint Hillary Clinton in the best light. Then again, other rubles that made their way into the Clinton Foundation might have been used to scare folks into believing Donald Trump would blow up the world.
Maybe we should consider rerouting all the money we’re spending on multiple investigations and put it toward strengthening our cybersecurity. Then we can spend less time worrying about foreign nationals meddling in our business.
We’ll be able to relax and concentrate more on bad commercials and fake internet news. And we can continue the debate over who’s more biased: MSNBC or Fox.
Not so fast. What if Trump was indeed involved and stole the election?
Have you seen the blowback from all the leaks coming out of the White House? Heard the man talk about history, geography, military protocol? Does anyone really (I mean, really) think he and Putin could collaborate, design and pull off a scheme elaborate enough to change history?
If you believe this, do you also believe Mexico will pay for the wall? I didn’t think so.
Columnist Michael Raymond can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.