After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Franklin Delano Roosevelt gave a speech that galvanized a nation and led the way toward the United State’s present role as a world leader.
One could argue that right now President Obama is in a position to give a speech that could have a similar impact. The Atlantic reported December 2nd that, “A group of top senators is asking President Obama to release more information about Russia’s involvement in the election, hinting that important details are being kept secret.” What if Obama were to release this information in a statement to the nation? Obama’s last act could be his most important and memorable. Consider the speech below. Obviously, President Obama would have to write his own. The text below is intended to illustrate the importance he can give to the Russian’s efforts to undermine the U.S. democracy. It looks like he will be the last president in a position to do so for awhile.
In 2016 — a year which will live in infamy — the United States election was deliberately attacked by the counterintelligence forces of the Russian Federation.
The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Russia, was still in conversation with its government and its president looking toward the maintenance of peace.
Indeed, while Russian hackers stole information from the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the president of the Russian Federation has continued to deny that his country has made any effort to influence the US election.
It will be recorded that the nature and the timing of these cyber-attacks make it clear they were intended to influence the US election. While these cyber-attacks were taking place, the Russian president sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peaceful relations.
The cyber-attacks during the election caused severe damage to the US election process.
In August, the F.B.I. warned state election officials Russian hackers had exported voter registration data from a computer system in at least one state, and had pierced the systems of another.
On October 7th, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security released a joint statement that accused Russia of launching computer hacks “intended to interfere with the US election process”(2). It stated that the US intelligence community “is confident that the Russian government directed the recent compromises of emails” belonging to the Democratic National Committee. The leaks of these emails led, among other things, to the resignation of the Chair of the Democratic National Committee.
On November 24th, The Washington Post published evidence the Russian propaganda effort helped spread “fake news” on social media during the election that helped Trump win. This propaganda effort involved the Russian state-funded media outlets, RT and Sputnik.
I regret to tell you that given the pervasive impact of these attacks and the narrow margin of victory, we must conclude these attacks fundamentally undermined the integrity of the election. Russia had a clear motive for this attack on our democracy. Donald Trump has advocated policy changes that are out of step with American politics and are directly in the interest of Russia:
He has talked repeatedly about allowing Russia to takeover Crimea.
He has talked about reducing or removing the sanctions on Russia imposed by the European Union for their takeover of Crimea.
He has talked repeatedly about not supporting NATO.
He has repeatedly compared the Russian president favorably to his democratic opponent.
Russia has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive to undermine the US election. This unprecedented attack constitutes a form of Cyberwarfare: actions by a nation-state to penetrate another nation’s computers or networks for the purposes of causing damage or disruption. Cyberwarfare is different from traditional warfare. It does not entail killing enemy soldiers; but as we have seen, it can be used to undermine our democracy. The facts speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and security of our democracy.
As Commander in Chief of the armed services of the United States, I have directed that all measures be taken to defend our democracy. But always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us.
No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated attack, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.
The people of the United States and their government have defended this democracy for 240 years. This will not change. We will also make it very certain this form of treachery shall never again endanger us.
Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our democracy and our interests are in grave danger.
With confidence in our counterintelligence forces, with the unbounded determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph — so help us God.
I report to Congress and the American people that since the unprovoked and dastardly cyber-attack by Russia on the US election, a state of cyber war has existed between the United States and the Russian Federation.
President Obama could include the information about Russian involvement in the election the senators requested to be declassified. What would be the impact of such a speech? There are three things we can be sure it will accomplish even in this unpredictable political climate.
First, it will give the American citizens a chance to know the truth about what our government knows about Russia’s effort to undermine our democracy before Donald Trump becomes president. Once this transition occurs we cannot be sure we will ever know the truth.
Second, it will accentuate the divide in the republican party that has been closing since Trump’s victory. It will drive a spike in this divide that will remain throughout Trump’s tenure. It could, in fact, lead to his departure.
Republican Representative Mike Rogers, chairman of the U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said in late July 2013, that “most Americans” do not realize that the United States is currently in the middle of a “cyber war”(Intelligence Chairman: U.S. Fighting Cyber War ‘Every Day'”, PJ Media, 29 July 2013). In his book Cyber War, Richard A. Clarke defines Cyberwarfare as “actions by a nation-state to penetrate another nation’s computers or networks for the purposes of causing damage or disruption”(HarperCollins, 2010). So republicans are going to have to acknowledge that Obama is right: we are engaged in a cyber war with Russia.
Lyndsey Graham has called for congressional hearings investigating Russia’s attempts to influence the election. Top democrats have also called for investigations of the Russians. John McCain and Lyndsey Graham will lead a congressional delegation to Ukraine, Georgia and Estonia to reassure these European partners that Washington is still committed to confronting Russian aggression.
Republicans like Graham, McCain, and Rogers are already taking the cyber threat from the Russians seriously. An Obama speech revealing more evidence from the government about this threat as he leaves office will only increase the desire of these republicans to take this threat from Russia seriously. In this respect, they will always differ with Trump and all of his supporters who are willing to ignore Russia’s role in the election.
Third, this speech will fundamentally undermine Trump’s ability to act on his agenda. The effort to secure our democracy will have to take precedence. The actions we have already seen from Lyndsey Graham and John McCain will be joined by all the Democrats.
An Obama speech declaring we are in a cyber war with Russia would give the congressional hearings Graham has called for a unique significance: they would be bi-partisan hearings focused on securing the U.S. democracy from future cyber attacks. They will get ratings on a par with the Watergate hearings.
These hearings will eventually turn to Trump’s ties to Russia: his financial ties to Russian financiers; his ties to Russia’s largest commercial bank, Alfa Bank; the timing between his request that Russia hack the emails of his opponent and Russia’s hack of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. If democrats are wise, these hearings will culminate with the video of Trump stating in the last presidential debate that our country “has no idea” who hacked the emails of the DNC after he had received high level security briefings stating our country did know. Within this context, his effort to mislead the American people constitutes a form of treason.
If Obama insures our country takes Russia’s actions during this election seriously, it will increase the chances that eventually congress will hold Trump responsible for his actions.
This effort to secure our democracy will be in a position to claim the mandate of the election. Clinton’s lead in the popular vote is now over 2.5 million. Trump won three swing states by less than 100,000 votes: MI, PA, WI. The Russian influence on the election alone can account for this margin: all the leaked emails and all the fake news stories specifically intended to hurt the Clinton campaign. We don’t even have to consider the Comey announcement 11 days before the election, without concluding that the illegal influences on this election could have been decisive.
In spite of Russia’s unprecedented efforts, the majority of the voters still rejected Trump’s agenda. This is an empirical fact that cannot be spun. If Lyndsey Graham, John McCain and other republicans are joined by the democrats in an effort to secure our democracy and hold Russia accountable for attempting to undermine the vote of this majority, they will be in a position to claim the mandate of the election. Obama has an opportunity to make this mandate clear and thereby set the agenda for the next administration. This would essentially undermine Russia’s attempt to set the agenda for our country. It would therefore be the first step to restoring the security of our democracy, like Roosevelt’s speech on December 8th.