Trump's right: Obama was asleep at the switch on Russia

For those of us who worked for Mitt Romney in 2012, his words -- his warning, really -- about Russia will never fade....

Posted: Feb 21, 2018 12:17 PM
Updated: Feb 21, 2018 12:17 PM

For those of us who worked for Mitt Romney in 2012, his words -- his warning, really -- about Russia will never fade.

"(Russia) is without question our No. 1 geopolitical foe. They fight for every cause for the world's worst actors. The idea that he (Obama) has more flexibility in mind for Russia is very, very troubling indeed," Romney told CNN's Wolf Blitzer on March 26 of that election year, referring to President Barack Obama being caught on a hot mic telling then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that after the election the United States would have more "flexibility," so long as Obama was re-elected.

Obama would use Romney's words later as a bludgeoning tool in a debate, mocking him for suggesting that Russia posed a threat to our national security.

"When you were asked what's the biggest geopolitical threat facing America, you said Russia. Not al Qaeda. You said Russia," Obama condescended. "And the 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back, because the Cold War's been over for 20 years."

His riff indicated more interest in delivering a memorized debate quip than in taking seriously the threat Vladimir Putin posed to America.

Of course, Romney was right. Based on everything we know about Russia's activities in the 2016 election, there is no doubt they meddled. There is doubt about active collusion between Russia and Donald Trump's campaign, and about whether Putin's efforts changed the election outcome.

But on Putin's attempt to exploit the political and cultural divisions dividing Americans, there is no question. You have to wonder if Putin launched his operation because he knew that Obama's presidency was so divisive.

In fact, just after the 2016 election, as Obama was leaving office, just 27% of Americans who responded in a survey conducted by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research saw America as more united as a result of Obama's presidency, versus 44% who said it was more divided.

Obama divided us politically. And Putin, fully aware of Obama's naivet- on Russia's geopolitical intentions, took advantage of what Obama was doing to our national unity.

After special counsel Robert Mueller rolled out his indictments of 13 Russians involved in election meddling last week, Trump -- among his other, more colorful tweets -- arrived at the right question: "Obama was President up to, and beyond, the 2016 Election. So why didn't he do something about Russian meddling?"

The reason is right in front of our face. Obama simply didn't take Russia seriously. What he said to Romney at the debate reflected exactly how he viewed the Russian threat; it will be remembered as one of the greatest presidential foreign policy failures in American history.

Obama instead spent his time on other foreign policy items designed around public relations more than national security -- opening up relations with Cuba, cutting a disastrously bad deal with Iran and commuting the sentence of the traitor Chelsea Manning.

Obama was the President when Russia decided to meddle and hack an American presidential election, and he ought to get the blame for pursuing vanity projects rather than detecting and protecting America from what was an act of war by a hostile foreign power.

National security aside, if I were Hillary Clinton or any of her supporters, I would be irate even now at Obama's failure to inform the American people fully about the Russian intrusion. Yes, I understand Obama's concerns about appearing to put a thumb on the scale. But no attack on our democracy should go unreported to the people, and besides -- everyone already knew Obama was for Clinton anyway. Election or not, the commander in chief failed to act when confronted with clear evidence of foreign interference.

Like so many other issues left to him, this is now Trump's mess to clean up. And I hope he does. He must forcefully acknowledge Russian meddling (which can easily be done without sacrificing his own legitimacy), and he must launch a presidentially appointed task force of military leaders, homeland security officials, intelligence officials, tech industry experts, election administrators and experienced campaign operatives charged with detecting and stopping Russian interference in 2018 and 2020.

I'd drag them to the Oval Office, swear them in and tell them not to come out of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building until we have a handle on stopping this foreign aggression. The optics of this would reassure the American people that a new commander in chief is not going to let Obama's failures stand when it comes to Russia.

Trump's foreign policy legacy will be measured against Obama's. That's a low bar to jump, and I hope the President and his team will do all that is necessary to protect America from future intrusions on our democracy, as his predecessor's failure is looking worse by the day.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 113876

Reported Deaths: 3238
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds7894177
DeSoto693279
Harrison512983
Jackson450384
Rankin389486
Madison381293
Lee351479
Forrest300778
Jones289184
Washington256499
Lafayette248343
Lauderdale2437134
Lamar224238
Oktibbeha200854
Bolivar200477
Neshoba1842111
Lowndes178362
Panola169139
Leflore165887
Sunflower160949
Warren154355
Monroe148172
Pontotoc146119
Marshall141229
Lincoln138957
Pike138256
Copiah136936
Coahoma124936
Scott124929
Yazoo121733
Grenada121638
Simpson121249
Union117425
Tate116039
Leake114640
Holmes114460
Pearl River112959
Itawamba112225
Adams107343
Prentiss104819
Wayne100821
Alcorn98712
George97918
Covington97026
Marion94642
Tippah88922
Newton85627
Chickasaw84026
Tallahatchie84025
Winston83321
Hancock81628
Tishomingo80041
Attala79026
Clarke74351
Clay68421
Jasper67917
Walthall63827
Calhoun62212
Noxubee59617
Smith59116
Montgomery54323
Claiborne53716
Tunica52917
Yalobusha52614
Lawrence51214
Perry48723
Carroll48012
Greene47318
Stone46414
Humphreys42816
Amite42113
Quitman4196
Jefferson Davis40511
Webster37013
Wilkinson33720
Benton3335
Kemper32215
Sharkey28314
Jefferson27510
Franklin2403
Choctaw2056
Issaquena1074
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 155915

Reported Deaths: 2674
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson22988375
Mobile16788315
Tuscaloosa10235140
Montgomery9978197
Madison922894
Shelby727463
Baldwin661569
Lee651765
Marshall437249
Calhoun422461
Etowah421450
Morgan407135
Houston371734
DeKalb336029
Elmore317353
St. Clair289142
Limestone279730
Walker275593
Talladega263635
Cullman239925
Lauderdale218042
Jackson212515
Franklin203231
Autauga203030
Colbert198731
Russell19283
Blount191125
Dallas186327
Chilton185832
Coffee173211
Escambia172230
Covington171429
Dale166551
Chambers134343
Clarke133617
Pike132713
Tallapoosa131387
Marion107129
Barbour10129
Butler100240
Marengo100222
Winston91913
Geneva8617
Lawrence83732
Pickens83618
Bibb82514
Randolph82016
Hale75830
Clay73612
Washington73412
Cherokee73114
Lowndes70428
Monroe64510
Henry6436
Bullock63917
Crenshaw60330
Perry5856
Fayette56913
Wilcox56412
Conecuh56013
Cleburne5518
Macon53020
Lamar4745
Sumter47221
Choctaw39012
Greene34216
Coosa2033
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