In his Lyceum address, President Lincoln asked a vital question. "At what point, then, is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, If it ever reach us it must spring up amongst us; it cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen we must live through all time, or die by suicide."
Suicide does not need to be a large-scale dramatic gesture. It can be one of apathy or cynicism. All it takes is a failure to appreciate and expect the approach of danger and an inability or lack of willingness to act in such a way that would prevent the fulfillment of a catastrophe.
I have never been so concerned for this county as I am now. We are in the middle of a Second Cold War.
Back in July, David Ignatius, writing from the Aspen Security Conference pointed out that "for decades, Russian intelligence agencies have used what they call 'active measures' to destabilize their rivals. Now they seem to be turning those tools on the U.S. political system, though in the process they appear to have violated Rule No. 1 of the spy business: Don't get caught."
But Putin, who understands the culture of the KGB he grew up in where the employment of hacking, black propaganda and other covert tools are part of standard tradecraft, also understands that a key change has occurred. In the era of fake news and the army of internet trolls that he mobilized as an effective tool throughout the election, there has been a vital change to Rule No. 1. If there is complete apathy in the face of even outrageous revelation, then it simply doesn't matter whether or not you get caught.
Leaked or not, the official CIA assessment is now out. Russia attempted (successfully) to throw the election to Trump.
President-elect Trump called for a Russian hack of Hillary Clinton's emails in July. We now see that the Kremlin was in possession of thousands of DNC emails including correspondence from John Podesta, other top Democratic advisors and Hillary Clinton herself to say nothing of other key Democrats.
Despite having left any official involvement in the Trump campaign by the summer, Yanokovich-Putin lobbyist Paul Manafort made a major comeback in the days preceding the Election Day. Buried in a Bloomberg report (29th paragraph) is a note on Manafort encouraging Trump to "go after Michigan." It was only a matter of time before we were looking at discrepancies on a massive level in full display. The breakdown of 87 optical scanners on Election Day. Now we know that 59% of the voting machines in Detroit malfunctioned on Election Day. This warrants further investigation to be sure especially in light of studies of electronic manipulation.
Disturbing questions need to be asked and asked now. How deep is the infiltration into the FBI? The president-elect and the CIA are at war. The FBI and the CIA are also engaged in open war the likes of which I have never seen. From the looks of them, the unprecedented and disturbing hacking powers now granted to the FBI will make any inquiry, let alone resistance to an attack on America, impossible. And now it seems that Comey was not simply aware of but, actively involved in a cover-up of the Russian hack? What are the real implications of this? Remember that this was apparent to Sen. Reid long before Dir. Comey's 11th hour false alarm that may have fatally damaged Hillary Clinton's campaign just a week before Election day. The investigations over the coming days may prove even worse if we are to look at the leads soberly.
Rex Tillerson's ties to Putin have finally become a "cause of concern" according to Sen. McCain. Given the circumstances, that he is being brought forward for Secretary of State, I'd say that this is something of an understatement.
Today the only thing that has changed is that the Kremlin isn't even bothering to deny the allegations of infiltration into the U.S. and collusion with Trump. "Just ask Trump" is their reply now. At what point, then, is the approach of danger to be expected?
To be sure, Trump did not emerge from a vacuum. It takes the creation and sustenance of a special kind of dysfunctional atmosphere to make that happen. In a liberal democracy, the spirit of post-partisan dialogue and open discourse has to significantly erode in order to allow an opening for authoritarian personalities to flourish. Even as we've watched our political culture erode into a shutdown of dialogue between our parties at best and a shutdown of the government at worst, we never thought that this would happen in America.
But here we are.
Trump has given the Republicans control of the White House and Congress. He is now only valuable as long as he keeps them in power. Once he ceases to be a blank check that will enable the institution of anything from Paul Ryan's healthcare plans to a new Supreme Court Justice and tax policies that the GOP has dreamed about for decades, he is disposable to them. And those specific Republicans who dispose of Trump will assume unprecedented control over the party and the country. The day that Republicans turn on Trump will be a glorious day, or at least thats the plan: Pence, Ryan and their cohorts will get to assume control of government while shedding the party and nation of undesirable baggage.
That is risky political calculus. And what if the chaos of Trump, as a witting or unwitting agent of one of the most dangerous forces in the world, cannot be controlled? What if the approach of danger is not being fully appreciated? Republican calculus here will amount to a national suicide pact.
A vivid image of how menacing Vladimir Putin truly is can be found if we look at the state of Syria or Crimea today. On President Obama's clock, Putin was emboldened by being allowed to roll across red lines and international borders. The new Red Line is not in Syria nor is it in the Ukraine. It is here in America and it has been flagrantly breached. Now what?