On Dec. 8, 1941 — one day after Japan attacked the United States — President Franklin Roosevelt told the nation, “No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.” He went on to add that “we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us.”
On Sept. 20, 2001 — nine days after the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington — President George W. Bush told the nation, “Tonight we are a country awakened to danger and called to defend freedom. Our grief has turned to anger, and anger to resolution. Whether we bring our enemies to justice, or bring justice to our enemies, justice will be done.”
More than a year after the 2016 election — when U.S. intelligence agencies agree the Russians meddled in our politics — President Donald Trump has not said anything nearly as definitive about the attacks by Russia’s government. In fact, the president has persisted in suggesting any such activity is a “hoax.”
Speaking last week to a congressional committee, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats put things differently, “Frankly, the United States is under attack.”
The Senate Intelligence Committee was told by Coats, “There should be no doubt that Russia perceived that its past efforts as successful and views the 2018 U.S. midterm elections as a potential target for Russian midterm operations.”
Speaking before the same committee, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray, National Security Agency Director Adm. Mike Rogers and CIA Director Mike Pompeo echoed Coats’ warning.
Also, earlier this month, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said, “I think it's important we just continue to say to Russia, ‘Look, you think we don't see what you're doing. We do see it and you need to stop. If you don’t, you’re going to just continue to invite consequences for yourself.”
Further, Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last month released a report that noted, “If Putin can demonstrate to the Russian people that elections everywhere are tainted and fraudulent, that liberal democracy is a dysfunctional and dying form of government, then their own system of ‘sovereign democracy’ — authoritarianism secured by corruption, apathy, and an iron fist — does not look so bad after all.”
Let’s grant the obvious. When Roosevelt and Bush made their remarks, the death and damage caused at Pearl Harbor and on 9/11 were much more visible than Russia’s hacking of Democrats’ email accounts and creation of phony social media profiles in order to spread propaganda.
The Justice Department announced Friday that special counsel Robert S. Mueller’s probe has led to the indictment of 13 people associated with a so-called Russian troll farm. According to the indictment, the defendants used “fraud and deceit for the purpose of interfering with the U.S. political and electoral processes, including the presidential election of 2016.”
Those words seem like a decent substitute for smoking rubble.