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Thomas Gallatin / January 3, 2017

A Tale of Two Hackings

Obama’s actions against Russia are politically rather than national security motivated.

On Thursday, Barack Obama, through the office of the U.S. Treasury Department, announced his response to the alleged Russian hackings of the DNC and Hillary Clinton’s campaign. The U.S. will expel 35 Russian diplomats and intelligence agents, sanction three Russian businesses and close access to two Russian government-owned compounds in Maryland and New York. Obama blamed the highest levels of government in Moscow for the hacks, claiming they were done to interfere in the U.S. election.

Democrats are predictably heaping praise on Obama’s decision, while several Republicans, long supportive of taking action against Moscow, have questioned the timing. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) stated, “While today’s action by the administration is overdue, it is an appropriate way to end eight years of failed policy with Russia.”

What is troubling about Obama’s recent actions is indeed the timing. Why now? While Obama decries Russian interference and the need for retaliation and greater security, the truth is, had Hillary Clinton won the election, he wouldn’t have even considered lifting a finger. Perhaps this was the yin to his 2012 yang, when he promised more flexibility with Russia after that election.

Furthermore, consider Obama’s response to China’s unprecedented hacking of the Office of Personnel Management in 2015. China stole personal data on more than 21.5 million government workers and Obama said almost nothing. In fact, the New York Times reported at the time that government officials “were under strict instructions to avoid naming China as the source of the attack.” How times have changed.

Obama’s newfound concern over the nation’s cybersecurity has far less to do with protecting the U.S. against future cyberattacks than bitter political retaliation against Donald Trump. Obama’s actions belie his lack of respect and trust in the U.S. system of government. He is primarily motivated not by concern for the well-being and security of the nation, but by protecting his own legacy and agenda. Since an incoming Trump presidency is a greater threat to Obama’s legacy than a nefarious geopolitical power such as Vladimir Putin’s Russia, Obama clearly wants to complicate rather than support future foreign policy efforts by the incoming president. Some legacy.

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