According to Intelligence reports, Russian hackers influenced the U.S. Presidential election by hacking and leaking Democratic emails. The Russians also sought to influence the election in a number of other ways, all of which fall broadly under the label of “propaganda.”
Moreover, the goal of all these operations, the reports say, was to help Trump’s campaign and hurt Clinton’s.
All this has left many of the Republicans–normally National Security hawks–in a bit of a quandary. Most of them seem to (at least implicitly) subscribe to the following view:
“Yes, it is bad that Russia hacked communications belonging to one of our political parties. And yes, we should probably stop them from doing that in the future.
But, since there is no evidence that Russia tampered with the actual vote totals, it in no way casts doubt on the election or makes it illegitimate. The people voted in a fair election, and Trump won enough electoral votes to win the election.”
The argument can be distilled down to “it’s not our fault if people voted for us on the basis of foreign propaganda.”
There seems to be a sort of “gentleman’s agreement” among the major powers of the world that they won’t interfere in each others’ elections. But, to quote the movie Lawrence of Arabia: “There may be honor among thieves, but there’s none in politicians.” So ti’s not really surprising that the agreement got violated.
Hillary Clinton said she believed Russia carried out this operation because Putin had “personal beef” with her. Apparently, Putin blames her for interfering in Russian elections in 2011, and took this opportunity to get revenge.
This makes me wonder: would the Russians have conducted an operation like this no matter who Clinton’s opponent was? Or was it motivated by Trump’s business ties and friendly stance toward the Russians? In other words, were the Russians primarily trying to hurt Clinton, or to help Trump?
That may seem like a distinction without a difference, but I think it is a question worth asking.