Jay Bookman

Opinion columnist and blogger with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, specializing in foreign relations, environmental and technology-related issues

Opinion: Russia is getting away with it

"I think Russia has moved from plausible deniability to implausible deniability," national security adviser H.R. McMaster told the country in an interview last week, asserting that the evidence of Russian interference in our 2016 election is now conclusive and overwhelming.

“The Russians were very active in Europe as well, in the French election recently, in the Spanish referendum in regards to Catalonia [independence]," McMasters told Greta van Susteren of Voice of America. "You see them active in Mexico already. I mean, what they did in Montenegro to try to foment a coup,"

And how do we, as Americans, respond to this threat? How best do we fight back?

"What I think we need to do with Russia is to confront their destabilizing behaviors, and pull the curtain back on it," McMasters said. "Once the people - once everybody sees what they’re up to, they lose a lot of their power to foment lack of confidence and to pit communities against each other.”

Ah. There we have the problem: The strategy should be to confront and expose, but who exactly is supposed to lead that effort?

McMasters' interview got little attention, in part because he's just a staffer. The one person with a megaphone in the Trump administration, the person who can get attention anytime he wants it, which is always, is President Trump himself. But rather than use that megaphone to expose Russian intervention in our elections, to confront Russia and to prepare our country to fight back, Trump continues to pretend that it never happened.  In fact, he argues, it would be an insult to Vladimir Putin to keep bringing it up.

And Lord knows we don't want to insult Putin. Everybody else on the planet, sure. But for some reason, not Putin. Instead, Trump continues to suggest that the very idea that Russian intervened is a conspiracy against him hatched among the FBI, the intelligence community, the Democrats and I suppose McMaster as well.

That's just startling, given the basic national interests at stake. By law, only U.S. citizens are allowed to vote. Why? Because an election is something to be decided between us as Americans, no outsiders welcome. It's the same reason that by law, only U.S. citizens and U.S.-based corporations are allowed to spend money attempting to influence the outcome of an election. Any foreign involvement is an attempt to inject foreign interests over American interests, and accepting, encouraging or even looking the other way when a competing, antagonistic foreign power offers help ought to be considered an outrage.

That jealous defense of our right to self-determination goes back to our very beginnings. The constitutional requirement that a president be native-born -- a requirement put on no other office -- was instituted as a safeguard against foreign influence. Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, writing in the Federalist Papers in 1788, explained that the Electoral College would also guard against "the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils."

"How could they better gratify this, than by raising a creature of their own to the chief magistracy of the union?" Hamilton asked, referring to the presidency.

How indeed.




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About the Author

Jay Bookman writes about government and politics, with an occasional foray into other aspects of life as time, space and opportunity allow.