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home : opinions : opinions August 20, 2017

The Publisher's Pen
Jason Sturek

Strong bipartisanship is the answer to Russia

The average politically engaged American will glean, more or less, what they choose to from the Congressional hearing involving FBI director James Comey on Monday.

Comey confirmed that the FBI is investigating potential ties between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, including whether or not any such contact would be defined as criminal. He also said there is no evidence that the Obama Administration wiretapped Trump Tower, as President Trump asserted via his Twitter account earlier this month.

Trump supporters might say that just because there’s an investigation does not mean it will conclude that there was wrongdoing, or that just because there is no direct evidence of wiretapping that it doesn’t mean some sort of surveillance on Trump Tower didn’t occur. The nature of how the FBI comments on ongoing investigations or press reports — which is essentially not to comment at all — leaves a lot of room for interpretation or, perhaps more accurately, speculation.

I think what I’d like to focus on is the clear intent, both logically and as emphatically suggested by Comey and many Congressional leaders, that the Russian government benefits by casting doubt on some of our most cherished institutions. Two of those would be the integrity of our election process and trust in a free press.

For a foreign government to attempt to sway the public’s opinion of candidates in the United States should give us all pause. If trust in the press was at a higher level than it is, those sorts of shenanigans would be far less effective and more easily dismissed. When the press is concurrently a target of intense criticism, that opens the door to misinformation to spread faster and more dangerously. It seizes upon human nature, which is to spend an amount of time attempting to be informed that either 1) piques curiosity or 2) is required for successful day to day survival in a society.

Again, that’s troublesome. What often interests us is the most sensationalized bits of news, sometimes dripping with bias or even intentional falsehoods, depending on the source. People gravitate toward narratives they inherently agree with. And what we need to know to “survive” in daily life is nil until something fundamentally shifts in the fabric of that society — and by then, it’s probably too late, or the road to repair is difficult if we can even agree on a definition of what is wrong.

It’d be very serious if it turns out that people close to Trump colluded with the Russians to take advantage of their resources during the election. Whether or not that happened — or to what degree that happened — the mere questions it begs about our electoral process and Americans’ distrust in it makes it a win thus far for any foreign government that sees a weakened United States as of benefit to them.

The fact of the matter is that a free society is an extremely delicate thing to maintain peacefully. Our nation’s history is fraught with hard times, including slavery, a violent civil war, the displacement of indigenous people, civil rights abuses, assassinations and riots. But the good news is coming: Despite all of those many challenges, our nation has always remained unified and civilized enough to blunt the sharpest blades of suffering and injustice and to consistently be a beacon of hope and an example for the rest of the world.

Just as someone intent on killing in a free society — such as in a crowded theater — will probably have a degree of success in their miserable mission, so too will any outside government or organization that cleverly uses our free flow of information against us.

So how do we overcome that?

It’s simple. We don’t have to agree on every issue, but we do have to take some big picture views of the state of our nation from time to time. To me, there is no more patriotic moment than when two people who fiercly disagree on a political issue discuss their views respectfully and shake hands afterwards, perhaps even working toward a thoughtful compromise. Even better when it happens in Washington, D.C.

There is no better sign of our nation’s health than when all three branches of government have their effects on a piece of legislation through the wise checks and balances put into place by our founders, which prevents the consolidation of too much power in any one person’s hands.

To say that outside influences can never impact the United States is utterly foolish. But to offer that anything other than a strict adherence to the system that has allowed us to flourish for more than two centuries would be far more reckless.

It is my sincere hope that nothing is ever found that truly ties an administration to a foreign government — or that a prior administration would stoop to the surveillance of an opposing campaign. But the true greatness of our nation could be made to shine in either instance because of the response we’re capable of. Open hearings broadcast to the nation and world, like those that occurred this week, are what set us apart from less effective governments.

There is no more important time for bipartisan cooperation than now. If Russia — or anyone else — seeks to undermine the world’s faith in our system of government, let’s encourage our leadership to ensure that we respond in a way that seeks truth and rights any wrongs peacefully and in keeping with the rule of law.

There will hopefully be a report one day soon by the FBI that everything was investigated and there’s nothing to be concerned about. If the opposite is true, we’ll need strong leadership to convince a divided nation of what must be done in the wake of that.

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