Obama as 'defender against Russia' is a farce

In a piece published today, Claudia Rosett argues that Obama’s last-minute actions on Russia (and Israel) are not aimed at Vladmir Putin and Benjamin Netanyahu respectively but at sticking a thumb in the eye of Donald Trump and his supporters. Rosett argues that the hacking and gradual release of emails by Wikileaks were a sideshow in the overall scheme of things. She calls the effort to cast them as decisive in the election “laughable.” The real question is why Obama chose this moment to react to Russian provocation when there were so many other chances to do so which he previously ignored:

And for Obama to repackage himself at this late date as America’s last-ditch defender against Russia is a farce. Russian hacking fits into a far larger pattern of Russian predation that for years no-drama Obama has treated as no big deal, responding chiefly with lip service and half-baked sanctions…

Just connect the dots, from Obama’s 2009 fawning “reset” with Putin, to his 2012 confidential promise, caught on an open microphone, of post-reelection flexibility, to his 2013 handover of his “red line” in Syria to the ministrations of Putin.

Then came Obama’s 2014 de facto acceptance of Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea, and Obama’s de facto deference right up to the present date of Russia’s increasingly bold reach back into the Middle East, including air strikes in Syria…

With just three weeks left in office, Obama is flat out of time to remedy his eight-years of failure to contain Russia. But Obama does have time, if he harps chiefly on Russian hacking, to smear doubts across the legitimacy of Trump’s election.

And here it should be pointed out that, despite endless headlines to the contrary, Russia did not “hack the election.” Russia hacked a few groups and individuals involved in partisan politics but it did not tamper with voting machines as certain computer scientists and Jill Stein have publicly suggested was the case. The result of all of this “hacked election” fake news being spread by the media is that a majority of Democrats now believe Russia actually hacked the election. Obama’s belated reaction, announced yesterday, reinforces that idea.

In any case, it really is striking that a hack of millions of OPM records by China, including personal information like fingerprints, generated no clear response from the Obama administration but the Russian hacks have resulted in this high profile reaction just weeks before he leaves office.

Rosett makes a similar argument with regard to Obama’s last minute actions against Israel at the UN, i.e. the move at the UN created a resolution that is difficult for Trump to undo. That’s also the case with Obama’s last-minute ban on oil and gas drilling in the Atlantic and the Arctic, plus his designation of 1.5 million new acres of land as a national monument. Overall, Obama seems more focused on making course corrections more difficult for the incoming Trump administration than he is with settling scores with foreign leaders.