Did Russian ‘Hacking’ Give Obama Two Election Victories?

If you are convinced that Russians “hacked” the 2016 presidential election to put Donald Trump in the Oval Office, then you need to consider the possibility that they also equally influenced the last two election cycles.

Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr., testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee this week raising concerns about foreign cybersecurity threats. In other words, the threat of foreign governments spying on America. What a surprise! Governments spy on each other and try to meddle in each other’s affairs. Color me shocked!

The difference now is in the methods. A popular TV show, The Americans, is set in the 1980s and features a married American couple living in the suburbs of Washington, DC with two children. The all-American family, except that Mom and Dad are deep-cover Soviet agents. They make phone calls, photograph documents, use a radio transmitter and make dead drops. Hardly sophisticated by today’s standards, but state of the art spycraft during the Reagan years.

Flash forward a few decades and we have Al Gore’s famous invention of the Internet, along with email, cyber networks and sophisticated computer systems. As technology advances, so does spycraft. Electronic infiltration and eavesdropping rather than recording devices hidden in lamps and spies meeting in dark alleys.

Russia has always been an adversary of the United States. China too. Adversaries that compete for world dominance and influence. You can throw smaller players into this mix including Cuba and North Korea, hardly superpowers, but thorns in the side of America. Spying and propagandizing are as old as time, practiced not only by the Soviets but also by us.

Now suddenly the Obama administration and intelligence community are shocked, shocked! to find gambling in Casablanca, that the Russians are spying and meddling in US affairs. And the outrage that accompanies such a revelation is ironic. Particularly from Democrats, who for much of the past century had a love affair with Russia.

Suppose Russia did try to influence this most recent election as Director Clapper asserts? Who’s to say they didn’t try to influence past elections? Such as the 2008 and 2012 US presidential elections. Preposterous suggestion? Or not?

Why would Russia want to influence a US election? For one of two reasons. Either they want a particular candidate to be elected, one who would further, or at least not impede, the Russian geopolitical agenda. Or simply to throw a wrench into an already chaotic and divisive political process to sew further social discord and distract the country from events happening elsewhere on the globe. We already have the fake news big media industry to accomplish the latter goal.

The Obama administration tried to hack the recent Israeli parliamentary elections, perhaps for the same reason the Russians might want to influence our election: to elect their preferred candidate. Obama wanted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to lose reelection, so he spent US taxpayer money trying to oust him. Perhaps the Russians are simply trying to emulate President Obama.

Who would the Russians have preferred as President in 2008? Barack Obama or John McCain? A malleable, unaccomplished and narcissistic community organizer with a soft spot for communist regimes and left wing causes? Or a crusty Viet Nam veteran and POW who would be no friend to the Russians. No reset buttons or talk of “flexibility after the election” with McCain. Instead a hard line approach to the Russians as he warned this week, "Every American should be alarmed by Russia's attacks on our nation." Which candidate would the Russians prefer to deal with for four years?

Flash forward to 2012. Another election. One candidate, Mitt Romney, called Russia, “Our No. 1 geopolitical foe. They fight for every cause for the world’s worst actors.” Or another candidate, Barack Obama, who responded to Romney with, “The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because the Cold War’s been over for 20 years.” Who would the Russians want to contend with for the next four years? A patsy or someone who recognized the “evil empire” for what it was?

The Cold War may have been over in Obama’s mind during the third presidential debate in 2012, but since Hillary Clinton, his preferred candidate, lost in 2016, the Cold War has suddenly been resurrected, complete with diplomat expulsions and American military activities along the Russian border. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought Ronald Reagan was president today.

Did the Russians “hack” the elections in 2008 and 2012? I don’t know. Just as the intelligence bosses today don’t seem to know how the 2016 election was swayed by Russian influence. Or if it even was. But following the logic of the current news cycle claiming Russia hacked the 2016 election, it makes perfect sense that Russia interfered in our previous two presidential elections to trick America into electing Obama, their preferred candidate, twice to the presidency. Getting their wish a second time in 2012, they were feeling confident enough to celebrate by invading and annexing Crimea, with nary a peep from the Obama administration. Confirming the rationale for their 2012 election hack.

If the Russians did indeed hack the 2008 and 2012 elections, whom would they have preferred to win in 2016? A candidate so careless with national security and classified information that hacking was hardly even necessary? Her campaign manager, John Podesta, was not hacked. He gave up his email password in a classic phishing scheme. Would Russia favor a candidate that sold them uranium in exchange for a fat contribution to her family foundation? A candidate happy to parrot her boss’s “blame America first” mantra while making a mess of the Middle East?

Or would the Russians prefer to negotiate with a shrewd businessman, schooled in The Art of the Deal? One who chooses a Defense Secretary with a nickname of “Mad Dog”? One who wants to rebuild the military in Ronald Reagan style? Do the Russians really think they can play Donald Trump as a fool? How did that work out for the 16 other Republican primary candidates? Or Hillary Clinton? Or almost all the mainstream media? Or the Hollywood crowd?

If I were Vladimir Putin, I would be much happier with Mrs. Clinton in the White House than Mr. Trump.

If our electronic and cyber infrastructure needs repair or an upgrade, by all means that should be a priority. But President Obama picking a fight with the Russians as he is leaving the White House is a bad idea. Especially over supposed election hacking, something he himself is guilty of. And why is this suddenly an issue to Obama with only weeks left in his presidential tenure? He had eight years to raise the issue and fix it. America selected Donald Trump as President. Time to stop the shame and blame game and get over it.

Brian C Joondeph, MD, MPS, a Denver based physician and writer. Follow him on Facebook  and Twitter.

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