Russians Having a Belly Laugh

Putin and his cronies, nay, the whole of Russia, must be having a belly laugh over America embroiled in paroxysms of accusations and denials over a home-made phantom, Russian influence in Donald Trump’s election, tying up its legislative and judicial resources, hobbling governmental functions, sapping and enfeebling America, the best scenario they could have wished for their arch rival. But the wonder of it all is that this boon they couldn’t have hoped for in their wildest dreams has fallen into their lap without spending a dime or lifting a finger. Nobody, not even a dummy, unless a US liberal, would think of messing with a US presidential election: simply it won’t work.
Physical tampering with the vote count may be ruled out right off the bat. A typical American polling place is not only staffed by local government officials or volunteers like judges or military officers well known and respected in the community but is also under constant surveillance by scrutineers or poll watchers, political party representatives and independents to ensure the integrity of the process. This is particularly so with modern electronic voting machines which are getting tamper proof.
Any attempt to influence elections must therefore be made in the electioneering phase, but picking the right candidate to support is dicey, because a candidate is apt to promise the world to get elected and forget all about it the next day. Suppose a candidate has been picked. The only legal way to show support is contribution to the candidate’s election chest. But the contribution does not obligate the candidate to the donor’s agenda. Anything like an explicit contract is illegal and cannot be enforced and the more so with implicit understandings. Moreover, these contributions are made public records and any significant amount from Russia would cause an uproar.
The only way to secure a candidate’s commitment to a foreign power’s cause would be buying him or her outright, an expensive proposition, especially with an American presidential candidate with any chance of winning. There are just too many eyes and leaks. In this particular case, the candidate is Donald Trump, a billionaire, who probably wouldn’t be interested in a bribe less than, say, 20 trillion dollars to pay off the national debt, and Russia does not have that kind of money. Besides even if bought, the successful candidate can renege.
That’s why, instead of monkeying around with elections, a foreign country employs lobbyists to work on incumbents already elected, mostly Congressmen, to influence US policy regarding a specific issue that concerns that nation. At the height of the Koreagate in mid-1970s South Korea had 100 or more Congressmen on its payroll, $100,000 to $200,000 per head, to persuade the US to maintain its military presence in South Korea and turn a blind eye to the dictatorship of Junghee Park. Neophytes in the game Koreans had good role models to copy from, Israel and Taiwan, who had lobbied for decades with elected officials and never meddled with the election process. We don’t hear of a lobby aimed at the President, perhaps because of the considerable White House staff blocking access but of course the staff, especially those who have the President’s ear, would be lobbied. Unfortunately, this is unavoidable as the President must rely on help for information and we have to pray for his good judgment to listen to the right advice. But that is not the issue in the current clamor over Russia.
Where there’s smoke, there is fire. So who set the fire if not Russia? American liberals and Democrats who still cannot believe Donald Trump has won the election fair and square. Russia loves them, bear hugging them as blood brothers. Unfortunately, the Russian euphoria may soon come to an end as their allies can’t produce any proof after 8 months of yelling and swearing and America finally gets a grip and sees how ludicrous it is even to think that any nation would be so dumb as to go about rigging a US presidential election.

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