The nation’s intelligence agencies — the CIA, the FBI, even the National Security Agency, have discovered that the Russians are doing naughty things.
Thank heaven for the nation’s intelligence agencies. Someone should bank the fire and put out the cat. We can all sleep better tonight.
The spooks and their fans in Congress and in the press cheer the conclusion that Hillary Clinton might have put her Cabinet together by now but for the sinister mischief of Vladimir Putin. “We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election,” the spooks say in a solemn warning. “Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in their U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton and harm her electability and the potential presidency. We further assess [that] Putin and the Russian government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump.”
Well, that’s a lot of assessing by spooks whose record of assessing has not always been a happy one. The spooks have missed lots of things, from the run-up to Pearl Harbor to the events of Sept. 11, the rise of radical Islamic terror and even the collapse of the Soviet Union, sometimes see things that are not there. Finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was a memorable “slam dunk.”
A president shouldn’t need an “intelligence community” to tell him that the Russians meddle in other people’s elections, or even that our own government has meddled in other people’s elections in days gone by. Meddling is what governments do, sometimes for good and honorable aims and ends, and sometimes not. You might find a virgin in a bordello (not a likely place to look) but a president shouldn’t employ such an innocent at the CIA.
The huffing and puffing about the election of Donald Trump continues as if this were mid-October, not the middle of January. The Washington Post and The New York Times imagine that if they can keep up the drumbeat of pain, spite and disbelief of Nov. 8 a good fairy will grant a do-over of the election — or if not that, at least so cripple President Trump that he will be rendered as incompetent, as thick and as witless about the world as the man he replaces.
Recognizing campaign meddling depends on who’s the meddler, on whose behalf, and why. In their panic to prevent the inevitable, Democrats forget, as David French observes in National Review Online, “that they’ve historically welcomed mischief-making — such as when Jimmy Carter pleaded with Leonid Brezhnev for Soviet help in the futile effort to defeat Ronald Reagan in 1980 and when Ted Kennedy pleaded with Yuri Andropov for Soviet help in the futile effort to defeat [the re-election of] Reagan in 1984.” But of course that was in the cause of a higher morality.
The election of Donald Trump has shattered a lot of things in America, and many of those things needed shattering. The shattering has scrambled the nation’s politics as rarely before. Adversaries have traded places, the old has become new and friends once cultivated in high places are no longer in high places. This confounds a lot of people who sorely needed confounding.
The Democrats and media notabilities who once derided the intelligence agencies as evil bunglers now treat everything the spooks say about the 2016 election as if it were holy writ, though the “explosive” report released last week offers little evidence, hard or soft. Only speculation. The purveyors naturally hide behind the useful excuse that presenting evidence would compromise sensitive sources and prevent their offering similar thin speculation in future.
The indictment of Vladimir Putin, which may well be deserved — we can stipulate that the Russians are rarely up to anything good toward the United States — but the “intelligence community” advertised a hearty stew of choice cuts of beef with lots of carrots, potatoes and spices, and serve only what intelligence sources tell The Wall Street Journal is a “thin” soup.
These are the same Russians that Hillary Clinton as secretary of State promised a “reset” of U.S.-Russian relations once the Obama administration got past the 2012 elections. They’re the same Russians Barack Obama promised better, friendlier times ahead once he was safely re-elected and beyond the reach of his constituents.
What he learned was that nations don’t have friends, nations have interests. And they’re usually not much impressed by a speech. This is a lesson that every president learns, some earlier than others. Mr. Obama spent eight years in the current events classroom and hasn’t learned much. America by necessity counts now on Donald Trump, and can only hope that he’s a faster learner than the man he replaces.
• Wesley Pruden is editor in chief emeritus of The Times.