A defining feature of America in this age of Trump is the extent to which it has become an international laughingstock. Remarkably, nary a day goes by without his administration providing fodder for that stock.
The US intelligence community’s top election security official said in a statement Friday that China ‘prefers’ an outcome where President Donald Trump is not reelected in November and Russia is working to ‘denigrate’ former Vice President Joe Biden’s White House bid.
(CNN, August 7, 2020)
Clearly most countries “prefer” an outcome. And, as has been the case since time immemorial, they’re exerting whatever legitimate influence they can muster to realize it.
The problem is that Russia and a few other rogue nations are “working” to denigrate a candidate. This crosses the line into dirty tricks, amounting more to election meddling than influence peddling.
There’s no political equivalency here. But, if you find it difficult to define election meddling (as distinct from influence peddling), I suggest you rely on the standard Justice Potter Stewart famously applied to define obscenity:
I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced… [b]ut I know it when I see it …
(Jacobellis v. Ohio, 378 U.S. 184 (1964))
Still, this extraordinary and unnecessary statement reflects poorly not just on US intelligence but American democracy itself. Most notably, by spooking the American people, the intelligence community is sowing the very seeds of doubt and chaos Russia intended.
Not to mention the manifest fatuousness of it all. I mean, am I the only one who thinks this so-called intelligence statement could have required no more sleuthing than it would’ve taken to assess that Democrats prefer CNN and denigrate Fox News, or that Republicans prefer Fox News and denigrate CNN?
America is a bona fide superpower: it invented the Internet; it effectively controls international banking and trade; and its companies control social media. Therefore, the US intelligence community had myriad ways to deliver a shot across the bow of kleptocratic Russia, which the late Senator John McCain once famously dismissed as little more than a gas station masquerading as a country.
Instead of this feckless statement, that shot should’ve shown Russia that meddling in US elections is truly tantamount to playing with fire. Further, that Russia would get burned notwithstanding any Manchurian spell Putin might have on Trump.
Because, as things stand, there’s a tail-wagging-the-dog spectacle to the way Russia has been looming as a bogeyman over American democracy in recent years. And it’s as untenable as it is humiliating.