When Bill Clinton’s staff left their desks for the final time, they’re reputed to have taken the “W”s off the keyboard. Childish, but funny. But childish.
The agency put the cost at $13,000 to $14,000, including $4,850 to replace computer keyboards, many with damaged or missing W keys.
Other “pranks” might sound more like what would be expected in this peaceful transition of power.
Six White House employees told investigators that they had seen graffiti derogatory to Mr. Bush on the wall of a stall in a men’s room. Other White House employees saw a sticker in a filing cabinet that said, ”Jail to the thief,” implying that Mr. Bush had stolen the 2000 election.
Vaguely familiar? But easily shrugged off. There was no bloodshed, just some hard feelings. The feelings are harder this cycle, and so too is the potential for harm. No one will ever know with certainty whether, and to what extent, Russian hacking influenced the 2016 election. Repeating the arguments answers nothing. There were a lot of moving parts, fingers pointing blame.
But nations spying on each other, hacking, seeking to influence outcomes, is hardly surprising. They do it to us. We do it to them. Everybody does it to everybody, friend or foe, ally or enemy. It would be a dereliction of duty otherwise. If you want something to be outraged about, our government does it to its own people.
With less than a month in his tenure, President Obama has decided to take action against the Russians for hacking and interfering in the election. Shockingly, the Russians responded in kind. What were the chances they would take a spanking by Obama, tilt their head down and say, “sorry, we were bad and promise to never do it again”?
One would suppose that this decision was made with at least the knowledge, if not the approval, of the incoming president. Anything else would have been incomprehensibly reckless on the part of the current administration, since it’s not as if Vladimir Putin isn’t aware of when his term is up. The president-elect has said that we need to “move on,” which was tantamount to throwing chum in the waters. The New York Times took the bait.
That would have been a particularly dangerous legacy given President-elect Donald Trump’s alarming affinity for Mr. Putin and stubborn refusal to accept the conclusion of American intelligence agencies that Russia’s cyberattacks were aimed at helping him and hurting Hillary Clinton. The president-elect told reporters dismissively before Mr. Obama’s decision was announced that Americans should “get on with our lives” and forget about the hacking scandal. So much for that wishful thought.
Ignoring that the president says he knew about, but withheld, the Russian hacking at a time when he could have done something to alert the public about it, President Obama is elevated to warrior status now:
His latest response shows real teeth, chiefly in the form of sanctions on Russia’s two leading intelligence services, the F.S.B. and GRU, including four top officers of the military intelligence unit who the White House believes ordered those attacks.
Even so, he’s not forgiven for letting Russia steal the election for Trump.
Mr. Obama should have retaliated against this treatment a long time ago…
If the Gandhi quote about an eye for an eye comes to mind, there’s good reason.
Mr. Obama is in a tricky place. He has been concerned, rightly so, about tailoring a response that imposes costs on Russia and acts as a deterrent to further Russian attacks without escalating a cyberwar.
On what planet would anyone expect that there would be no repercussions, no “escalating a cyberwar”? This was sure to happen, and the president and president-elect knew it and yet chose the route anyway. Whether Trump approved is a different question.
The external consequence is that we move back to the cold war days. There are a number of potential consequences, that it will provide a strawman for anti-Trump partisans to blame for their defeat, thus causing them to misdirect their focus and angst. It will give us a joint enemy to hate that isn’t the president, as we tend to come together when threatened externally. It will test allegations of Trump’s cozy relationship with Putin, putting him in the untenable position of exposing his real relationship.
None of this does much to help Americans. There are many who desperately want to see Trump fail, to enjoy the satisfaction of knowing they were right and he is the worst person ever. And he will fail in many ways, just as every president fails. Even those of us who enjoyed prosperity under Bill Clinton know that he got lucky, as the internet boom happened on his watch, not because of anything he did.
But your schadenfreude costs food on other people’s tables. How much satisfaction will you take in people being jobless, in children being hungry? How much will you enjoy watching yet more black guys killed in the streets by cops, or prisons filled up again? You couldn’t eat or sleep because of the trauma of not being called by your preferred pronoun, but care nothing about the trauma of bullets entering bodies? Aren’t you enlightened.
As much as Trump may be the worst possible president save the other choice, praising a cyberwar comes at a price we don’t need and can’t afford. It will not mean we get a do-over. It does not put an asterisk next to Trump’s name on the list of presidents. If he’s as ill-equipped to run this country as you think, then he needs as much help to facilitate its functioning as possible or real people suffer.
So we sent a bunch of Russians packing, and the Times informs us that’s “real teeth.” And they sent a bunch of Americans packing. And we have us a new war. To the extent any good will come of America’s risky shift, this just added another complication that will make solving any problem harder. But you applaud this, because you want to see Trump fail. And with him, America, and Americans, fail. And you think you’re the enlightened ones.