Mort Sahl once said: "Jimmy Carter has been a great ex-president. He should have gone straight to the ex-presidency." No-one can say that about Barack Obama. Lately, both the right and left have been throwing crap at him -- and some of that crap is well-deserved.
The crap coming from the right is very crappy indeed. The Trumpists are crying foul about "unmasking." That's their way of saying: "When the previous administration caught us doing something wrong, they should have kept our identities masked." Seriously, that's what the argument comes to: "How DARE the cops keep us under surveillance while we case the bank?"
The crap-attack coming from the left is far more serious. It has long been clear that, well before the election, Barack Obama possessed enough evidence to expose Trump's perfidy, yet the former president refused to do so.
The focal point for the current controversy is this WP story
, which appeared yesterday. The article discusses a highly-classified report on Putin's personal involvement in the Great Election Hack -- a report which reached Obama in August. Obama took measures which now seem far, far too cautious.
But other administration officials look back on the Russia period with remorse.
“It is the hardest thing about my entire time in government to defend,” said a former senior Obama administration official involved in White House deliberations on Russia. “I feel like we sort of choked.”
Damn right they did. Remember, in June -- well before that August report -- Paul Ryan and other Republicans were already trading "jokes"-that-weren't-jokes
about Putin's stranglehold on the Republican party in general and on Trump in particular. Trump's interactions with Russian mobsters like Sater were either known or easily knowable. Even then, some people were asking questions about the Putin-linked banks that were willing to deal with Trump after most other financiers had decided to steer clear of him.
Here's Charles Pierce's reaction
to the WP piece:
This, right here. This is where they choked. The American people had damned close to an absolute right to the information their government already had. The most fundamental act of citizenship is the right to cast an informed vote. The idea that the Obama administration withheld the fact that the Russians were ratfcking the election in order to help elect a vulgar talking yam is a terrible condemnation of the whole No Drama Obama philosophy. Would Donald Trump have raised hell if the White House released what it knew? Of course, he would have. But, as it was, the American people went to vote with only about half of the information they needed to assess his candidacy. This was a terrible decision.
From The Hill
, this morning:
Then-President Obama was too cautious in the months leading up to the election, frustrated Democratic lawmakers and strategists say.
“It was inadequate. I think they could have done a better job informing the American people of the extent of the attack,” said Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee who co-chairs the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee.
And even after the election was over, they say, the penalties Obama levied were too mild to appropriately punish what by all accounts was an unprecedented attack on a U.S. election.
Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.), another House Intelligence member, called the penalties “barely a slap on the wrist.” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who supports tougher sanctions Russia, said in a statement Friday that the administration “abjectly failed to deter Russian aggression” and “failed to impose any meaningful costs on Russia.”
Some Republicans argue the Obama administration only started to take the Russia threat seriously after President Trump had won the election.
Of course he did. The question is why
Former Homeland Security secretary Jeh Johnson on Wednesday told lawmakers that the White House held back on responding to Russia because it didn’t want to play into fears, propagated by then-candidate Trump, that the election would be “rigged.”
“One of the candidates, as you'll recall, was predicting that the election was going to be rigged in some way,” Johnson said. “And so we were concerned that, by making the statement, we might in and of itself be challenging the integrity of the election process itself.”
What a surreal situation! Trump was allowed to make baseless accusations, and those baseless accusations became an excuse for Obama to refrain from making accurate statements. As always, an infuriating double standard allows the R people to do that which the D people may not.
My take on this differs (as you might expect) from the standard responses you'll encounter on most progressive sites.
I believe that the voting tabulation machines were
hacked directly. The people who keep offering us assurances that such things are impossible never discuss the details; we are simply asked to take these pronouncements on faith. The FBI's "experts" have displayed little expertise, as revealed in this edition of Brad Friedman's podcast
. Much of that episode focuses on the predictable GOP "win" in Georgia, but you will also hear some very important observations about the 2016 general election, and about American elections in general.
Months ago, I expressed my opinion that Trump kept hammering the "rigged election" theme because the machines really were
rigged, though not by Hillary. A forensic examination of the machines would have exposed the malware. Thanks to the demonization of Hillary (from both the right and the left), the public would have instantly presumed that her team planted the malware.
During the recounts, Trump's lawyers did everything in their power to prevent any forensic examination of voting equipment from taking place, a course of action which stands outside of all innocent explanation. Why wouldn't
Trump want such an examination? That's like telling your spouse: "No, I did not place a keylogger on your computer. Nevertheless, I forbid
you from running a scan for trojans."
I view Obama's actions (or inactions) through the prism of 2008. In that year, as in 2016, Hillary Clinton was subjected to the worst smears in the history of American politics. But in 2008, the sinister figure behind the smear campaign was Barack Obama himself. The only difference between Obama and Trump is that Trump was willing to get his hands dirty personally, whereas Obama let bots and surrogates do all of the truly filthy work. In that sense, Trump comes across as the more honest -- and therefore more honorable -- of the two political fighters.
Nearly all of the tactics ascribed to Putin and Cambridge Analytica in 2016 were pioneered by David Axelrod and Team Obama in 2008. True, social media was not quite as important then as it later became. Nevertheless, bots were employed, smears were launched, "fake news" hit hard, websites were overwhelmed, opinion was artificially manipulated, caucus primaries were rigged, delegates were apportioned unfairly -- and anyone who dared to counter the many anti-Hillary lies would be shouted down by a million seemingly-real voices.
Remember when shit like this
appeared every minute of every hour of every day on Democratic Underground, TPM, HuffPo and Daily Kos?
I sure as hell remember. I'll never forget. And I'll never stop waving the bloody shirt. Some wounds cannot be forgotten or forgiven.
The public still does not understand that Axelrod ran a perception management firm called ASK which performed the same manipulative tricks in 2008 that Cambridge Analytica performed in 2016. As I noted in my first piece on ASK
, they first made their mark by mounting a campaign to deregulate electricity.
Remember the disaster that hit California? Remember Enron? Remember how the internet was filled
with voices pooh-poohing the "conspiracy theory" that Enron deliberately engineered California's woes? Remember how anyone who dared to say "There's something funny going on here" was inundated with ever-so-clever remarks about tin foil hats? Remember how those ever-so-clever remarks disappeared the day the Enron tapes came out and we all learned that some conspiracies are real
From my second piece
on Axelrod's operation:
That year saw not just a fevered political campaign but the creation of a genuine cult of personality. Big blogs like Daily Kos and TPM were inundated with comments from individuals never seen before or since, and they all spread horrific lies and rumors about Hillary and Bill Clinton while lauding Obama in reverential, almost messianic terms.
Were these personas? Were the Obots actually...bots?
Don't be silly. The question isn't even a question.
My own blog, humble as it was, got battered by a "vitriol monsoon." The hate-spew came every few minutes, day and night. Software was obviously involved. A large amount of that hate commentary -- including several death threats -- came from the same ISP in Chicago, Illinois. The home of the Obama campaign.
Obama screwed over Clinton in 2008 and he did it again in 2016. How could he pin the blame on either Russia or Cambridge Analytica? What did they
do that he didn't