The day the Obama administration went public with the statement that Russia was engaged in active measures against the United States, the media ran with stories on the hacked DNC emails and the Trump p*ssy-grabbing Access Hollywood tape, according to the bombshell report in The Washington Post.
Dubbing Russia’s attack “the crime of the century” against American democracy, The Post’s national security team described how on October 7th, the Obama administration issued a 3 paragraph statement by Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson :
The U.S. Intelligence Community (USIC) is confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations. The recent disclosures of alleged hacked e-mails on sites like DCLeaks.com and WikiLeaks and by the Guccifer 2.0 online persona are consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts. These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the US election process…
Some states have also recently seen scanning and probing of their election-related systems, which in most cases originated from servers operated by a Russian company…
To get more stories like this, subscribe to our newsletter The Daily.
Nevertheless, DHS continues to urge state and local election officials to be vigilant and seek cybersecurity assistance from DHS. A number of states have already done so. DHS is providing several services to state and local election officials to assist in their cybersecurity…
The statement urged states and local officials to seek cybersecurity assistance from the DHS. This is the assistance that Republican governors turned down, with one Republican Governor citing “state’s rights.” State’s rights to be hacked by Putin? This argument makes no sense and demands follow up.
Why wouldn’t Republican governors want this help to protect and defend their states from a hostile attack by Russia?
Former FBI Director James Comey refused to sign his name to the letter, saying – cue ironic music – that it was too close to the election for the FBI to get involved.
“Early drafts accused Putin by name, but the reference was removed out of concern that it might endanger intelligence sources and methods,” The Post wrote, continuing, “The statement was issued around 3:30 p.m., timed for maximum media coverage. Instead, it was quickly drowned out. At 4 p.m., The Post published a story about crude comments Trump had made about women that were captured on an āAccess Hollywoodā tape. Half an hour later, WikiLeaks published its first batch of emails stolen from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.”
Why did the media obsess over the Podesta emails, while ignoring the Russian attack? Perhaps because it got drowned by other bombshells, like the p*ssy-grabbing video of now President Trump bragging about sexual assault – a thing which should have been his downfall in normal times.
The Podesta emails were dropped on the same day as the DHS warned the public about Russia’s attack, and the same day as the Access Hollywood tape, both of which served to distract the public from what now appears to be, as The Post put it, the “crime of the century.”
But what about the days and weeks that followed?
This is something the press needs to examine. Why did Hillary Clinton’s private email server (something almost every Republican who had been in an executive branch position had also done, but which held no allure for the press when done by any of them) and Podesta’s hacked emails so compelling?
Beltway group think, a process in which the issues are decided and influenced by the input of colleagues and competitors, serves as a needed check, a way of peer reviewing ideas, but it can become dangerous when certain ideas are pushed more effectively than others.
The press failed in the 2016 election. Instead of riding over this sore spot to point fingers at Putin and even Trump – both of whom certainly deserves it – we need to take ownership of this failure. The one thing we have control over and need to change for the future is our own choices.
To this end, I would add that Democrats need to get better at messaging and need to stop hedging so far from hysteria that their warnings aren’t heard. In the days that followed as I started covering the Russia angle, I often wondered if I was making something of nothing, since it hardly made a ripple and Democrats seemed so calm.
Yes, the press fails to pick up the rational approach, and that’s on them, but when things are this dire, Democrats need to rise to the occasion by borrowing one ounce of the hysteria Republicans reach on a daily basis over nothing.
That is not to suggest Republicans don’t own the majority of the blame for deliberately ignoring an attack on our election systems or that Moscow is not the sole party at fault.
But this attack isn’t going away, and we’ve learned how our news cycle can be exploited by those with the means and the will.
Listen to Sarah on the PoliticusUSA Pod on The Daily newsletter podcast here.
Sarah has been credentialed to cover President Barack Obama, then VP Joe Biden, 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and exclusively interviewed Speaker Nancy Pelosi multiple times and exclusively covered her first home appearance after the first impeachment of then President Donald Trump.
Sarah is two-time Telly award winning video producer and a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.