n="justify"> Never in the history of American elections, has so much fuss been made by so many about so little. (With Apologies to Winston Churchill).
Fair and verifiable elections are the heartbeat of democracy. Conversely, fraudulent elections deny the "winners" of such elections their legitimacy.
I agree. And so too, I am sure, do most Americans.
So what are we to make of the just-released report of the Director of National Intelligence which assesses, with "high confidence," that "Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election, the consistent goals of which were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton and harm her electability... Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump."
This charge of official Russian "interference" has escalated in the media and among Clinton supporters to a high frenzy. For example, there is this from Clinton supporter Michael Morell, former CIA director: [The hack was] "an attack on our very democracy. It's an attack on who we are as a people. A foreign government messing around in our elections is, I think, an existential threat to our way of life... [T]his is the political equivalent of 9/11."
There is more: The hack, says Michael Gerson, could be "the largest intelligence coup since the cracking of the Enigma code during World War II." And the usually circumspect Michael Winship writes: "It is very likely now that Donald Trump will be inaugurated as president of the United States on Jan. 20, in no small part because of the direct intervention in and manipulation of the American electoral process by Vladimir Putin." (The Morrel, Gerson, and Winship sources are all here).
Finally, there is this from Malcolm Nance, MSNBC's omnipresent intelligence guru:
Russia [has] conducted a cyber warfare attack on the fundamental structure of the American democratic system that has been in place for 240 years. At any other time in history this would almost be considered an act of war...
This is a fundamental attack on America's natural processes which has never been done in the history of this nation. And for those people were dismissing as a leak or a rumor, then you don't understand that America has never had an enemy put their hand on the arm of the scale of the American electoral process.
Quite frankly, I haven't read or heard such excited and unanimous agreement from our politicians and media since the run-up to the Iraq War in 2002, when Vice President Cheney proclaimed that ""there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt that he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us." Following that, Colin Powell presented "evidence" to the UN Security Council that Saddam Hussein was stockpiling weapons of mass destruction. Editorial opinion dutifully supported Powell's accusation.
We now know, with equal but opposite certainty, that both Cheney and Powell lied to the American people and the world. If anything positive can be gained from the disastrous Iraq War, it is this: belligerent accusations and rhetoric from the government and media, however unanimous, should be treated with suspicion. Governments do lie, and the mainstream media can uncritically accept and repeat those lies.
However, true or false, the "Putin hacking the Democrats" charge has evolved from an unsupported accusation to an unchallenged dogma -- a "cognitive frame," to use George Lakoff's trendy term -- within which a "what to do about it" debate rages, while few step outside that frame to ask, "but did Putin really do it?" or "even if he did, what was the extent of the damage?"
In the meantime, public attention has been successfully drawn, to the great relief of the Democratic National Committee, from the embarrassing content of the purloined emails to the issues of the source and implications of the leaks. And the Democrats are successfully using Putin and his alleged "interference" as a blunt weapon against Trump.
I hasten to add that I am no admirer of Vladimir Putin. Please keep this in mind as you read further. If I were a Russian, I would not vote for Putin, as many (perhaps most) of my Russian friends did not in the Presidential election of 2012. Neither did more than a third of the Russians who voted in that election. Many of these individuals openly criticize Putin. None of them, to my knowledge, have been harassed, much less sent to a Siberian gulag, because of their opposition.