It’s December 12. You probably want to get those orders in for you Christmas and Hannukah gifts. The Cyber Monday gift guide can be found down the page here.
Assuming These Allegations About Russia Check Out . . . What Do We Do?
So, the Russian government didn’t just want to undermine public faith in the U.S. electoral process, it outright wanted to elect Trump, huh?
If the country as a whole is going to move forward from that conclusion, we’re going to have to see at least some of the evidence declassified. While many people (including myself) will find it quite plausible that Vladimir Putin and the Russian government preferred Donald Trump to Hillary Clinton and were willing to make mischief and unleash limited cyber-warfare to help out the candidate they preferred, this is a big, consequential charge that should have far-reaching consequences for U.S. foreign policy. We can’t just take it on faith from some anonymous sources leaking to the Washington Post.
Intelligence agencies have identified individuals with connections to the Russian government who provided WikiLeaks with thousands of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and others, including Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, according to U.S. officials. Those officials described the individuals as actors known to the intelligence community and part of a wider Russian operation to boost Trump and hurt Clinton’s chances.
“It is the assessment of the intelligence community that Russia’s goal here was to favor one candidate over the other, to help Trump get elected,” said a senior U.S. official briefed on an intelligence presentation made to U.S. senators. “That’s the consensus view.”
Presuming this all checks out, the next big question is, “What do we want to do about it?”
It will not surprise you that some Democrats have concluded that the only fair recourse is for their preferred candidate to win.
So far this weekend, I’ve received phone calls from three electors who say they have doubts that Donald Trump should be chosen by the Electoral College next week (December 19). They tell me they’ve been in contact with other electors who feel the same way.
I don’t want to get your hopes up about this. Chances are, the Electoral College will still give Trump the 270 votes he needs to become President of the United States. But I find it interesting that several electors are at least raising this question.
In my view, electors have a constitutional duty not to vote for Donald Trump. The framers of the Constitution established the Electoral College to guard against two possibilities: either that a demagogue might be elected, or that a foreign power might influence the outcome of a presidential election. Trump epitomizes both of these concerns.
Is Robert Reich speaking to Democratic electors or Republican ones? If he’s hearing from Democratic electors that they think the Republican electors ought to flip… well, duh. Of course they think there’s only one moral course of action for the electors.
Meanwhile on Capitol Hill…
“To the extent that foreign interference in the United States presidential elections may have influenced the final result, I believe the electors have the right to consider that,” Rep. David Cicilline (D., R.I.) said in a statement to Politico on Saturday.
Mark Sumner declares at Daily Kos, “Even if they never touched a voting machine, there’s absolutely no doubt: Russia hacked the election,” revealing that the word “hacking” doesn’t mean anything anymore.
If Russia hawks want everyone to take this accusation seriously, then it has to sound different from the usual partisan whining that the other side cheated.
We’re witnessing the odd phenomenon of Democrats insisting that the election was hacked and the Democratic administration insisting it wasn’t. Back on November 26:
The Obama administration said it has seen no evidence of hackers tampering with the 2016 presidential election, even as recount proceedings began in Wisconsin.
“We stand behind our election results, which accurately reflect the will of the American people,” a senior administration official told Politico late Friday.
“The federal government did not observe any increased level of malicious cyber activity aimed at disrupting our electoral process on Election Day,” the official added. “We believe our elections were free and fair from a cybersecurity perspective.”…
The senior Obama administration official reiterated the government’s accusation that Russia had directed its hackers to go after U.S. political organizations and political operatives’ email accounts with the goal of interfering in the election.
In other words, the Russians hacked the DNC’s e-mails and John Podesta’s e-mails, but that, by itself, is not reason to question the election results. (Quick, find a voter who originally planned to vote for Clinton but shifted to Trump specifically because of either of those leaks.) Democrats who are furious about the election results are deliberately blurring the lines – suggesting that the Russian role in the cyber-break-ins amounts to a Russian role in the election results.
Assuming the evidence is as clear as the Post’s sources suggest it is, does anyone find it odd that President Obama has been so quiet about the topic? It’s been more than a month since Election Day. Yes, the president ordered a review, and he wants it done before he leaves office. But White House Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Adviser Lisa Monaco told reporters not to jump to conclusions: “We’ll see what comes out of the report. There will be a report to a range of stakeholders, including Congress.” If an argument against interest is treated as more likely to be true, what are we to make about hesitation against interest?
Do you take that tone if you think the Electoral College is about to certify the wrong winner?
Man, I Had Forgotten What Actual Economic Optimism Felt Like
Simon Johnson, a professor at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, writing at MarketWatch, November 1: “A big adverse surprise — like the election of Donald Trump in the U.S. — would likely cause the stock market to crash and plunge the world into recession.”
Look, we all make bad predictions, professor. And there’s still plenty of time for Trump to mess things up. But this morning’s New York Times points out that there’s enormous optimism about the U.S. economy right now:
The Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index is up 5.6 percent since the election map turned more red than blue; all the major stock indexes hit records yet again on Friday. Consumer confidence levels released on Friday showed they had jumped to a two-year high.
Much of the swelling confidence, to be sure, is markedly one-sided. A new national survey by the Pew Research Center found that the leap in Republicans’ optimism about the economy’s direction has far outpaced Democrats’ sagging outlook.
The recent heart-pumping stock rally, Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JP Morgan Chase, said at an investment conference this week, is “based upon the hope, which I hope is accurate, that the Trump administration will be very good for unleashed business per se,” and may improve overall growth.
Remember economic optimism? It’s been a long while!
The Democrats Still Aren’t Welcoming to the Wrong Kind of Trump Critics
Conservative blogger and horseradish mogul Jazz Shaw wondered what those who subscribed to the “NeverTrump” philosophy think they’ll be doing four years down the road. A few of us weighed in, and he particularly focused on whether there was a Democrat who could plausibly compete for our support, a scenario I have an exceptionally difficult time picturing:
I don’t think we NeverTrump-ers should spend the next four years fuming relentlessly and start thinking already about who could replace him. We ought to applaud him when we think he’s right and argue against him when we think he’s wrong, as we would do for any other president. As a traditional conservative, I don’t see a lot of signs that the modern Democratic party could generate a nominee that would be much of an improvement than Trump, warts and all. It would have to be a figure who’s astonishingly different from most of what the party has stood for since the millennium.
The Democratic party has experienced a lot of changes since the Bill Clinton years. It’s bizarrely simultaneously both more hostile to the world of business and more intertwined with its favorite business entities. It will denounce corporate greed one day and subsidize Solyndra the next; they’ll denounce Mitt Romney as a greedy, corrupt plutocrat one year and embrace Terry McAuliffe the next. It is functionally willing to accept quiet war on the cheap with drones in far-off places like Pakistan, Yemen, and Libya, and yet the grassroots has deep pacifist and isolationist streaks. They’ll shrug at Russia invading Crimea but go to DefCon One over hacking the DNC’s e-mails. They only feel the national interest is threatened when their partisan interest is threatened. They don’t merely “stand for” ideas like gay marriage, transsexual rights, abortion rights, gun rights, etcetera, they seethe with contempt for anyone who thinks differently.
If you’re free-market, strong defense, traditional values, then there just isn’t much of an entry point. I suppose the first step for the Democrats would be to find a potential nominee who doesn’t embody or project this seething contempt for non-progressives. Out of the names you mentioned, Cory Booker probably does that best.
ADDENDA: Just what you wanted for the holidays: a video of me discussing the fatherhood book Heavy Lifting, entitled, “The Sexiest Man Alive.” Thanks to the good folks at Prager University for inviting me to put that together. It will probably not surprise you that the comments section is on fire, with one fellow complaining, “it summarises with how we are expected to raise children and work hard… Like these are the epitome of mens achievements. Not his creativity and free time to do what really fulfills him.” Because marriage, parenthood and work can’t possibly be fulfilling, right?
Thanks to everyone who listened to the pop culture podcast last week. It appears there is genuine, far-reaching, bipartisan consensus: “Santa Baby,” “Happy X-mas (War Is Over) and “Wonderful Christmastime” are among the most abominable and insufferable Christmas songs in recent memory and should be purged from shopping mall Christmas Muzak immediately.