Editorial: The Russian trap

We ought to punish Russia for its election meddling but not make the situation worse by questioning the legitimacy of the Trump presidency.

For generations, America was smarter than Russia. We were superior in matters of technology, economics, the military and, most importantly, freedom. That is why the Soviet Union and its brand of communism failed a mere 74 years after Lenin brought it to the world.

We have reached another point where it is once again critical that we act smarter than the Russians.

The latest intelligence reports undoubtedly will convince even more Americans that Vladimir Putin and the Russians meddled in the U.S. presidential elections, with the aim of helping Donald Trump win the presidency. It is perfectly sane to believe that assertion. What would be dangerous is to use that belief to question the legitimacy of a Trump presidency.

Not only would that be dangerous, it would be dumb. It is what the Russians hope will happen. Americans questioning the democratic process would give the Russians their largest victory yet.

It is disconcerting that Trump seems threatened by the prospect of admitting that the Russians meddled in our elections. He should not be. The intelligence reports provide no indications that the Russians tampered with voting machines or did anything else to actually manipulate vote totals. Instead, they used information gathered through spy craft to feed a very aggressive propaganda machine aimed at influencing the opinions of American voters.

If the Russians succeeded in changing the minds of some American voters, that speaks much more about the qualifications of those voters than it does to the legitimacy of the Trump presidency. Anyone paying a modicum of attention had to be suspicious that the Russians were playing propaganda games with our election. On Oct. 7 — more than a month before the election — the director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security formally accused the Russian government of hacking emails with the intent “to interfere with the U.S. election process.”

If Americans had their minds changed by Russian propaganda, simply add it to the list of liars who influenced the election. Most of them are based in America and funded by partisan interests — both Democrat and Republican.

There is no real reason to believe that Americans who voted for Trump are getting something different than they expected. We’re giving the Russians far too much credit if we think they engineered this outcome. If you don’t like the outcome, look no further than your fellow voters.

Perhaps what would be more productive, though, is for us all to resolve to do something about the Russians. That includes our president-elect. We defeated the Russians once before, and it was an exercise that brought us together as a country. We could use that too.

It would be sweet indeed if Russian hacking is the event that spurs Congress, the president and both political parties to become united in a common cause. If so, we should send the comrades a thank you — via email.