June 24, 2017

WE DON'T NEED PROTECTION FROM THE FACTS:

Obama Did What He Had to Do : His cautious response to Russian interference protected our democracy. (William Saletan, 6/23/17, Slate)

There's plenty to second-guess in Obama's management of this episode. But the idea that he failed because Trump won is wrong. Obama's job wasn't to prevent the election of a particular person, even one as awful as Trump. Obama's job was to preserve the country. That meant protecting the integrity of our elections and public faith in them, which he did, to the extent possible after Russia had already hacked into the Democratic National Committee and spread misinformation. The next task--exposing the full extent of Russia's interference, punishing it, and deterring future attacks--is up to Trump. If he fails, the responsibility to hold him accountable falls to Congress. And if Congress fails, the job of electing a new, more patriotic legislature falls to voters.

According to the U.S. intelligence community's Jan. 6 assessment, Vladimir Putin's long-term goal in directing the interference campaign was to "undermine public faith in the US democratic process." Obama responded accordingly. "We set out from a first-order principle that required us to defend the integrity of the vote," Obama's former chief of staff, Denis McDonough, told the Post. Russia's hacks and leaks were bad, but corruption of voter rolls and election tallies would be far worse. So the Obama administration focused on alerting state officials, fortifying cyberdefenses, and privately threatening Russia with retaliation.

Why didn't Obama raise public alarms about Russian infiltration? Because that might have backfired. "Trump was predicting that the election would be rigged," says the Post. "Obama officials feared providing fuel to such claims, playing into Russia's efforts to discredit the outcome." According to the paper, Obama and his team "worried that any action they took would be perceived as political interference in an already volatile campaign." Rather than speak up when the CIA first warned him about Putin's moves, Obama waited for "a high-confidence assessment from U.S. intelligence agencies on Russia's role and intent." He asked congressional Republicans to join him in cautioning citizens and state election officials. You can argue that this was politically naïve. But Obama wasn't playing politics. He was trying to unite the country.

There's the problem with secrecy in a nutshell : the idea that only certain citizens should see information. Open source it all and let the market sort it out.

Posted by at June 24, 2017 7:23 AM

  

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