Our Sunday Focus cover this week highlights views from opposing camps regarding last week’s anti-climactic House hearings spotlighting former special counsel Robert Mueller. Our friends on the left, David Gallagher and David Schleicher, suggest that formal censure of this norm-busting, legally suspect president is the pragmatic course. Whatever else, this surely makes more sense than wasting time on impeachment, given that conviction is unlikely and the 2020 election may soon address the matter. And our friend on the right, Lynn Woolley, regrets the political parties haven’t moved past the Mueller dustup and focused on bolstering election security against Russia and other adversaries. This too makes sense.
But the key to stronger election security is in everyone recognizing up front that loading any related legislation with poison pills such as, say, gerrymandering reform will doom these initiatives. Don’t get us wrong: This newspaper believes partisan gerrymandering is inherently corrupt. It also remains legal so far as the federal courts are concerned. While a ruling this summer by Chief Justice John Roberts seems to endorse solutions such as that in House Bill 1 — the creation of independent redistricting commissions in every state — such reforms must wait. Republicans aren’t about to tolerate any redistricting reform so long as the status quo favors their party.
The real tragedy: failure by everyday U.S. citizens to grasp that America was decisively attacked during the 2016 presidential election — a conclusion not only reached by U.S. intelligence agencies quite independent of the Mueller inquiry but broadly acknowledged by lawmakers of both parties. And while much of the nation was focused on last week’s Mueller hearings, we found greater interest in a Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee report highlighting Russian interference. It recommends states move to voting machines that have verifiable paper trails and aren’t connected to wireless networks. It recommends that, for now, states resist online voting. The Achilles’ heel: leaving such safeguards voluntary propositions by the states and counties, ensuring weak links that can contribute to more electoral calamity and more foreign skullduggery.
The report underlines this: Russian operatives “conducted an unprecedented, coordinated cyber campaign against state election infrastructure.” Next time they may succeed. Russia’s objectives were to “deepen distrust in our political leaders; exploit and widen divisions within American society; undermine confidence in the integrity of our elections; and, ultimately, weaken America’s democratic institutions and damage our nation’s standing in the world.” But before blaming our leaders for what they’ve done in word and deed to exacerbate matters, each citizen should ponder what he or she has done to help the Russians succeed beyond their wildest dreams, whether it’s by posting nutty, misleading, incendiary social-media filth or standing by rash politicians obviously in conflict with the U.S. Constitution, the Founders’ vision and American values. Not everything necessary to change course in America requires an act of Congress.