by Bob Cesca
There's a rather contentious presidential campaign underway in France. Bear with me on this. Here in the states, we like to think of France as a pleasant, idyllic land where wine, gourmet cuisine and mindblowing sex flow freely -- where college and healthcare are free, and where the biggest annual sporting event involves 120 of the world's fittest men in garish cycling regalia circumnavigating the nation on bicycles during the hottest month of the year.
[Insert record player scratching sound here.]
Tell me if this sounds familiar. The moderate candidate and frontrunner in the election, Emmanuel Macron, is being assaulted by fake news stories linked to Russia, as well as out-loud attacks from the Russian state news media. The scary-conservative candidate, Marine Le Pen, is heavily favored by the Kremlin, while the head of Macron's political party is screaming at France's government to do something about the emerging reports of Russian interference in the election in support of Le Pen.
Among other things, Russia Today (yes, that one) in France along with the French language version of Russia's Sputnik news agency accused Macron of engaging in a gay affair, while accusing Macron of being too "pro-Europe" and a puppet of the U.S.
Ferrand said in a statement, "It is clear that the far-right and the right and their candidates are rather well regarded (in Russia) while we call for a strong Europe, a powerful Europe. It is obvious, objectively, that a certain number of Russian media clearly don't want that."
Looks like Putin is busily taking over western democracies, one by one. Sadly, unless Russia's war is immediately and fully exterminated, it will continue. Hop-scotching from nation to nation to nation. Already, the Dutch are moving to paper ballots specifically to ward off Russian hacking operations.
Beginning sometime prior to Donald Trump's official escalator ride and campaign kick-off event back in June of 2015, Russian intelligence agencies on orders from Vladimir Putin, working in conjunction with Russian billionaires and malicious hackers in Ukraine and elsewhere, launched a cyber attack on the United States. It's an attack for the modern era, but it's potentially no less destructive or intolerable than 9/11. Already the body count is stacking up as Russian journalists and operatives linked to the story are disappearing. And what happens when Trump steps up and joins a shooting war on orders from Putin? How many will die because Trump was stupid enough to become compromised by the SVR, FSB and the GRU -- Russia's intelligence community that operates with impunity. (By the way, there's no telling the western national security secrets these agencies seized from Edward Snowden in 2013.)
We need to stop underselling the Russia story and call it was it is: an attack -- an unprecedented act of war by Russia against the United States. It's obviously not a traditional war, but the impact has already skewed well beyond any other attack on our sovereignty since 9/11 and, preceding that, the War of 1812, when England set fire to the White House, among other things.
No, this doesn't require a military retaliation. It's not that kind of war, but it's still a war. Russia unequivocally installed a friendly and cooperative candidate in the White House for the sole purpose of aiding Putin's efforts to rebuild and expand the former Soviet empire, while also enriching the bank accounts of the Russia's wealthiest citizens. As a conspirator in this war, Putin coerced and blackmailed Donald Trump to carry his message into the White House where he's already begun to alter American foreign policy on Russia to a drastically softer, more lenient posture.
The war didn't end with the election, by the way. The election was merely a necessary gateway for Putin and his cronies, while the overall attack continues in the hands of Trump, Trump's staff and, yes, Trump's most loyal supporters acting as fully participatory or unwitting enemy combatants -- useful idiots on up to known collaborators like Flynn, Sessions, Ross, Manafort, Page, Stone, Kushner, Sater, Cohen and so on. The most appropriate question of the hour has to be: Who among Team Trump didn't have illegal or untoward contacts with Russian officials prior to inauguration day?
Cable networks ought to be in a full wartime freakout stance right now. The fancy "America Under Attack" logo animations backed with pulse-pounding bumper music ought to be the first thing we see into and out of commercial breaks. They called 9/11 a "new kind of war," but this war by Russia against America is perhaps the first of its kind in which one superpower attacked another superpower at its uppermost levels of government merely by digitally manipulating the internet and the press in order to install a Russia-controlled president. It's an attack on Article II of the Constitution, yes, but more than anything else, it's an attack on the integrity of our most sacred institution: our democratic elections.
Yet only around 38 percent of Americans appear to be legitimately concerned. It's possible, as my friend and colleague Buzz Burbank told me the other day, that many Americans are slow on the uptake -- some of them checked out of the political and current events game after the election. So, it's within reason to predict increased public outcry as time moves forward. After all, it was a full two years between the comparatively quaint Watergate break-in and Nixon's resignation. But it's also possible that Americans have taken free and fair elections for granted -- we're too busy with our gadgets and our Facebook branding to think about the unthinkable.
Maybe that's it. Or maybe it's simply too egregious to comprehend.
How are we supposed to trust the validity of the next election? I certainly won't. Unless there's accountability, we might as well let Vladimir Putin decide who's going to run the country. Actually, he already is, and it's being sold to a compliant public using an "indoor voice" at a joint session address, with promises of infrastructure, tax cuts, jobs and American greatness.
It's time to get on a war footing. And this is one we have to win.