There are two sorts of mischief at play in the Russian hacking story.
The first, of course, is Moscow’s. All we have now is a secret CIA report concluding that Russian intelligence not only intervened in our election, but that they did so with the purpose of electing Donald Trump. If this is true, it is a scandal of monumental proportions, and one that demands a serious and severe American response.
The second is the argument coming from liberals that, if Russia did indeed hack the Democratic National Committee and John Podesta’s emails, then that was the reason Hillary Clinton lost. This is a ludicrous argument without a shred of evidence behind it.
(Incidentally, neither of these arguments suggests that there was a hacking of the voting systems or or voter fraud in the election -- this is largely about the cyber intrusion into the Democratic party and into the emails of Podesta, who was Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman.)
The media got a lot wrong over the past year. But we were correct in largely dismissing the significance of the hacked emails, which were dull in the extreme. So dull, in fact, that far-right Clinton antagonists were forced to invent a scandal where none existed, which is how we got “Pizzagate.”
Were there embarrassing emails in that trove of documents? Of course. But Neera Tanden being hilariously impolitic while discussing fellow Democrats did not depress African-American turnout in Michigan. Reporters’ sucking up to Podesta is not what delivered the white working class to Trump.
There is another agenda beyond raising the “grave issues involving our national security,” which is something Podesta has done. And that’s to assign blame for the failures of the Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton, and, more broadly, the entirety mainstream liberalism to a scary foreign threat.
Clinton was a bad candidate with a bad message. That is why she lost. There are massive amounts of evidence to support this assertion. And again, there is zero evidence to the contrary.
In fact, there’s a case to be made that James Comey’s now-infamous decision to announce that the FBI was investigating more Clinton emails on Anthony Weiner’s computer was not the game-changer many argue it was. In fact, according to Diane Hesan, the person tasked by the Clinton campaign with tracking undecided voters, the turning point was really the Democrat’s “basket of deplorables” remark.
“It wasn’t FBI Director James Comey, Part One or Part Two; it wasn’t Benghazi or the e-mails or Bill Clinton’s visit with Attorney General Loretta Lynch on the tarmac,” Hessan wrote late last month in the Boston Globe. “No, the conversation shifted the most during the weekend of Sept. 9, after Clinton said, ‘You can put half of Trump supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables.’”
For liberal elites, “the Russians did it” or “it’s Comey’s fault” is an argument that really means “we don’t have to change.” But the fact is, if they want to win again, they do, and quickly. It wasn’t the Russians who forced Clinton to run as a center-left technocrat who prioritized identity politics. The Kremlin didn’t hand Pennsylvania and Wisconsin to Trump.
But that doesn’t mean the hack is something Americans will tolerate. It was an affront to our sovereignty, and it must be investigated by Congress, preferably with broad bipartisan participation. All the facts must be rooted out and made public; a secret CIA report will not do.
And, if Trump is smart about this, he will change his tune and welcome such an investigation. Otherwise, he’ll look like someone who tacitly approves of what Russia did. He’ll be starting off his already-unpopular presidency with a grievous self-inflected wound – one that he might never recover from politically.
Moreover, should the investigation conclude that Russia intervened in order to help our president-elect, then he must take the lead in punishing Moscow. What that punishment looks like is debatable, but could involve anything from stringent new sanctions to the expulsion of the Russian ambassador.
Americans are serious about sovereignty – it’s one of the reasons Trump, with his anti-trade, anti-globalist message, won the presidency. And should he try to hamper an investigation into Russian hacking, he will be betraying that message, and by extension his supporters.
Trump’s fans have been willing to put up with a lot from him. But trying to dismiss foreign interference in our election will simply be too much for any patriotic American, including the millions who voted for him, to bear.