For the past nine months, we have seen widespread attacks on the common good. The latest assault is the Republicans’ proposed tax reform, a huge transfer of wealth to the richest one-tenth of one percent. This legislation would also greatly increase the national debt, supposedly a major red line for Republicans. In addition, President Trump continues to: 1) slow action on climate change; 2) support fossil fuels; and 3) weaken the protections of clean air, water and soil. Trump and the Republicans have repeatedly tried to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The repeal would have eliminated coverage for millions while increasing costs for millions more. Trump now is using an executive order to withhold subsidy payments, harming more Americans. White supremacists, especially males, believe they have support from the White House. They are pleased by Trump’s continuation of the ongoing large-scale deportation of Hispanic immigrants and by his repeated attempts to keep Muslims out.
The U.S. spending on the military was already out of control, and the Pentagon cannot account for over $6.5 trillion. Despite the already unnecessarily huge military budget and astonishing unaccountability, Trump proposed a large increase and Congress raised that amount even more.
These items give a hint of the scope of the disaster we are experiencing. Given these and other issues that deserve much more media attention, I find it hard to reconcile the focus that some media still place on the questionable allegations of Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s emails. I wonder what has happened to journalistic standards when the mainstream media repeatedly has treated allegations as facts.
U.S. intelligence agencies and others have searched for proof of this Russian hacking for well over a year. An early January 2017 intelligence report was touted as proof, but it provided no solid evidence, only an assessment, i.e., a best guess, in support of the allegation. Moreover, the report was presented as being done by 17 U.S. intelligence agencies, but was actually performed by handpicked analysts from three agencies — the CIA, FBI and NSA. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence was also involved. Remember the George W. Bush administration used bogus sources and cherry-picked intelligence to support the claim that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Unfortunately the media a vital role in promoting this disinformation.
There have been numerous other highly suspect claims of Russian activity, for example, an alleged threat to the power grid that was quickly knocked down, an attempt to hack voting systems in 21 states, and the use of Facebook and other social media to influence the election and to create disharmony.
Why is this unsubstantiated hacking allegation still being pushed? I doubt that it is really driven by concern about protecting our political system from outside influence. For example, Israel and its supporters have exercised undue influence on our system for decades with little concern expressed. In addition, given that outside interference is terrible, why aren’t we outraged over the history of U.S. interference in elections of and collusion in coups against many other nations? This history includes the blatant collusion by the Clinton administration in Russia in 1996. People elsewhere see this hypocrisy.
If we are serious, a few of the many steps we can take to improve the integrity of our elections are: 1) ensuring that all citizens are allowed to vote; 2) using paper ballots; 3) providing public funding of campaigns; and 4) having a nonpartisan group run the Presidential debates.
I think there are two more probable reasons why the inept Democratic Party leadership, much of the U.S. establishment, and much of the mainstream media have for still promoting this allegation. One refers mainly to domestic considerations and the other focuses on the foreign arena. The contention of the hacking of the DNC swiftly became the basis of a claim of collusion between Trump and Russia. The charge distracted attention from the DNC’s efforts to undermine the Bernie Sanders’ campaign. After Hillary Clinton lost the election, the Democratic Party leadership continued to focus attention on its unproven claim of Russian hacking. This focus diverted attention from the Democratic Party’s need to reform itself into a party representing everyone, not just the wealthy. Perhaps some also view the collusion allegation as a way of building support for impeaching Trump.
Regarding the foreign policy area, the allegation of Russian hacking fits nicely into an ongoing PR campaign to convince Americans that Russia is our enemy. Russia, under President Vladimir Putin, has dared challenge worldwide U.S. supremacy. In addition to economic sanctions, a military response to this challenge is possible and the U.S. public must be prepared to accept and support it.
If there were no Russian hack of these emails, those creating and benefiting from this allegation while knowingly increasing the risk of a nuclear conflict are beyond the pale.
Ron Forthofer, Ph.D. is a retired Professor of Biostatistics at the University of Texas School of Public Health, Houston, Texas; former Green Party candidate for Congress and for Governor of Colorado