How did President Barack Obama respond to Russia's attack on the 2016 election? Impotently.
As The Washington Post reported Friday, Obama was given evidence in early August 2016 that showed Russian President Vladimir Putin was directing the hacking campaign. Obama was also told that Putin planned to continue his attacks.
In response, the Post explains, Obama was offered various retaliatory options. By punishing him for attacking U.S. democracy, U.S. officials believed Putin would reconsider his strategy. And the early options presented to Obama were good ones (though not as good as my suggestion). They included "sectorwide economic sanctions and cyberattacks that would take Russian networks temporarily offline. One official informally suggested — though never formally proposed — moving a U.S. naval carrier group into the Baltic Sea as a symbol of resolve."
In the end, Obama effectively did nothing.
He "feared that any action would be seen as political and that Putin, motivated by a seething resentment of Clinton, was prepared to go beyond fake news and email dumps."
It's a pathetic excuse.
For one, it implies Obama feared that by upsetting Putin, the Russian leader might have leaked more damaging information on Clinton. More importantly however, it reflects how Obama was consistently out-escalated by the Russian leader.
Put simply, Obama got scared. Or as a former senior administration official told the Post, "I feel like we sort of choked." A more appropriate answer would have been, "We choked."
Yet as much as the Post's report gives some context to Obama's weakness, it shouldn't surprise as many people as it is. After all, we've long known that Obama wasn't up to countering the KGB killer.
That reality was clear when, in September 2013, Obama accepted a ponzi scheme instead of punishing Assad for shredding civilian lung matter.
It was clear when, in March 2014, Russia shot down a passenger jet and let drunk thugs trample on passenger bodies.
In an April 2016 interview, The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg asked Obama whether his Syria red-line debacle led Putin to sense his weakness (hint: it did). Obama responded in vintage fashion. By pouring scorn on the question. "Look," he said, "this theory is so easily disposed of that I'm always puzzled by how people make the argument."
As Obama uttered those words, Putin's election attack was fully underway. By June, it was self-evident even to those of us without top secret security clearances.
But by the time he left office, Obama was still puzzled. And Putin was still pushing. And Aleppo was pulverized.
Did Obama choke on Russia? Does a bear poop in the woods?