Friday, December 30, 2016 at 7:54 AM

Obama Strikes Back for Russian Interference in US Election. Putin Retreats…

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

President Obama struck back at Russia on Thursday for its efforts to influence the 2016 election, ejecting 35 suspected Russian intelligence operatives from the United States and imposing sanctions on Russia’s two leading intelligence services.

The administration also penalized four top officers of one of those services, the powerful military intelligence unit known as the G.R.U. …

Taken together, the sweeping actions announced by the White House, the Treasury, the State Department and intelligence agencies on Thursday amount to the strongest American response yet to a state-sponsored cyberattack.

(New York Times, December 29, 2016)

This is actually pretty Solomonic. Nothing affirmed this quite like Putin announcing that he’d rather wait for a reprieve from his putative puppet Trump than retaliate.

Except that part of the wisdom of Obama’s punishment is that it checkmated Trump. After all, Trump must either endorse the punishment and incur Putin’s face-saving wrath, or grant the reprieve and fatally compromise his presidency.

That said, I’d be remiss not to comment further on Putin retreating from the challenge Obama’s punishment posed. For, arguably, this is every bit as significant as Obama retreating from the challenge Syrian President Bashir al-Assad posed when he crossed that infamous “red line.”

No doubt you recall the international ridicule Obama suffered after he failed to retaliate. What’s more, this ridicule seemed warranted given the lengths to which he had Secretary of State John Kerry go to telegraph his intent to do so.

Well,

Well, Putin had Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov do the same. Specifically, Lavrov interrupted regular programming on Russian TV to announce his recommendation for Putin to retaliate in kind. This meant the immediate expulsion of 35 suspected American intelligence operatives.

Except that, with the stage thusly set, Putin interrupted regular programming himself to announce the following:

While we reserve the right to take reciprocal measures, we’re not going to downgrade ourselves to the level of irresponsible ‘kitchen’ diplomacy… In our future steps on the way toward the restoration of Russia-United States relations, we will proceed from the policy pursued by the administration” of Donald J. Trump.

(New York Times, December 30, 2016)

Yet, instead of suffering ridicule, Putin won praise from Moscow to New York and points between. For example, no less a useful idiot than Trump flattered him as “a very smart man,” and former CIA agent Philip Giraldi hailed him for behaving as “the only adult in the room.” This, despite the fact that, in attempting to belittle Obama’s punishment and make himself look like “Vlad the beneficent,” Putin threw Lavrov (and his universally expected and accepted recommendation) under the bus.

But this feint did not disguise the fact that, instead of rising to the challenge Obama posed, Putin retreated — like bullies who finally meet their match invariably do. Never mind that one can hardly blame him for thinking that he would fare better by matching wits with the certifiably dimwitted Donald J. Trump.

Apropos of which, I have made plain my disdain for Trump’s character and intellect in this and other commentaries too numerous to count—dating back to “Trump for President?! Don’t Be a Sucker,” April 8, 2011. Yet I can think of no more instructive description of him than that which Henry Adams offered of Ulysses S. Grant in chapter 17 of his autodidactic memoir, The Education of Henry Adams (1918):

Nobody knew why he succeeded, they believed in him because of his success. …

The intellect counted for nothing, only the energy counted [like] men whose energies were the greater the less they wasted on thought … sometimes vindictive … always needing stimulants, but for whom action was the highest stimulant — the instinct of fight — such men were forces of nature. …

That, two thousand years after Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar, a man like Grant should be called … the highest product of the most advanced evolution, made evolution ludicrous.

Not to mention that Grant was a daring and successful general who ran a notoriously corrupt and incompetent presidency. And, past being prologue, I expect Trump, a daring and successful businessman, to run a presidency that is every bit as corrupt and incompetent.

But Grant’s reputation as a national hero made him immune to impeachment for the high crimes and misdemeanors that characterized his presidency; whereas Trump’s as a national shyster makes him susceptible to the same.

This. Will. Not. End. Well.

Related commentaries:
Russian interference in US election

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