Saturday, December 31, 2016

A Tale Of Two "Leaders"

One craves power above all else, while the other craves decency above all else.  They come together in the middle of a heated election season, at which information is disclosed indicating that a foreign power hostile to the United States is attempting to use the Internet in order to hack into databases, e-mail accounts, and other sites that store sensitive political information.  The obvious purpose of this hacking:  to disrupt the election process in a way that benefits the foreign power responsible for it.

This would be concerning for everyone in any election season.  It should be particularly so in this election season, in which one of the two major candidates for the Presidency has not only shown an affinity for the leader of the aforesaid political power, but has even invited that power to hack into the e-mails of his opponent.  This should have been an obvious moment to put aside partisan politics and think about the future of the Republic, and perhaps of democracy itself.

Except that it wasn't.  Because one of the "leaders" is Mitch McCONnell, the current and future majority leader of the U.S. Senate.  And the other is Barack Obama, the outgoing President of the United States.

Obama, of course, was the one providing the information.  Strictly speaking, he did not have to, because his authority in foreign affairs under Article II of the Constitution is enough to allow him to unilaterally act to stop the hacking.  However, Obama decided to confer with McCONnell before releasing any information about it to the American people, to be able to present a united front in the face of a material threat to the integrity of our government.

Either he forgot who he was dealing with, or underestimated the indecency of his opposite number. Because McCONnell informed him that any public disclosure of this information would be treated as a partisan disclosure on behalf of Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party.  So Obama made no disclosure.

Had he done so, voters on both sides of the partisan fence would have had an important piece of information to use in weighing their choices.  Some may still have voted for Donald Trump, under the misguided theory that having a President friendly with Vladimir Putin, the leader of the foreign power in question, would be good for the U.S..  (Obviously, those voters have never seen "The Manchurian Candidate.")  Many others might have decided that it would be best for the country, and the world, not to have a President who might effectively be a foreign agent rather than a patriotic

In any case, the outcome of the election, and the short-term and long-term future of the nation, might now be materially different.  They won't be, because of the bizarrely bipolar nature of our national politics.  McCONnell leads a party motivated by nothing but a craving for personal power, heedless to the dangers of misusing it. That might not be so terrifying if Obama did not lead a party worried more about obeying the rules of Hoyle than they are about winning the game.

I have nothing but the greatest respect for Obama and most of what he has accomplished, while carrying a demographic burden that would have crushed a lesser leader, but he shares with other members of his party an obsession with clean hands that overlooks the occasional need in politics for sharp claws.  This article sums up the predictable result: the other party holds the government in its hands, while the other side has nothing but cleanliness.

If I were Obama, I would give serious consideration to making up for his mistaken confidence in GOP decency, by going through Robert Reich's checklist before he leaves office, and make sure to check off every single item on it.  And if I were leading the Democratic Party, I would give serious consideration to taking the advice of Sean Connery in the movie "The Untouchables," as outlined here.

My fear is that neither Obama nor the Democratic leadership will take Reich's or Connery's advice. Rather, they will continue to try kicking the football the GOP "holds" for them.  And the Russians will not have to bother taking American democracy prisoner, because it will already be dead.

It's up to us, in that case.  Are you prepared to fight back.  If you're not, do yourself and all of us a favor.  And learn.  Because Obama was right about one thing   we are the change we seek.  We always have been.  We always will be.

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