Saturday, December 17, 2016

The do-over: A principled call
for the longest shot of all


IT’S AS CLOSE to a consensus as Congress as come to in the last eight years. A statement written and released by four senators, Democrats and Republicans alike, has articulated serious reservations over the apparent role of the Russian government in the outcome of the U.S. presidential election in November.

A quartet of Democratic and Republican senators released a statement on Dec. 11, warning that fears of Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election “cannot become a partisan issue.”

“Democrats and Republicans must work together, and across the jurisdictional lines of the Congress, to examine these recent incidents thoroughly and devise comprehensive solutions to deter and defend against further cyber-attacks,” said the statement signed by incoming Democratic leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y.), Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.), Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-R.I.), and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).

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“The stakes are too high for our country” for it to become a partisan matter, the statement said. “We are committed to working in this bipartisan manner, and we will seek to unify our colleagues around the goal of investigating and stopping the grave threats that cyberattacks conducted by foreign governments pose to our national security.”

Former CIA analyst Robert Baer agrees, but also has a proposed remedy, one meant to address fears and concerns about the legitimacy of this recent election, and not just make changes in the future. In the classic schoolyard parlance, it’s called a do-over.

“It looks to me the Russians did interfere in our elections,” Baer said Saturday on CNN. “We’ll never be able to decide whether they changed the outcome, but I tell you, having worked in the CIA, if we had been caught in European elections or Asian elections or anywhere in the world, those countries would call for new elections — and any democracy would.



“The Electoral College before the 19th has got to know whether the Russians had an effect ...and whether they affected American opinion. When a foreign country interferes in your election and the outcome is in doubt and the legitimacy of the government — I don’t know how it would work constitutionally, I’m not a lawyer ... but ... if the evidence is there, I don’t see any other way [than] to vote again.”

Myra Slotnick, a Massachusetts playwright, agrees with Baer and started a petition on Monday at change.org pursuing a new election “to take place in Federal buildings, and overseen by the Federal Government.”

It’s important to note that, for all the gravity and moment the senators’ joint statement created, it falls short of actually calling for a re-do of the presidential election of 2016. And for all the passion behind Slotnick’s effort, it’s more unlikely than a sunrise in the west. If this thing had any chance, no doubt the senators would discuss the legislative process of mounting such an effort — and rightly so: A do-over would require a constitutional amendment.

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LIKE BAER, I can’t even fathom the various hurdles that would have to be got over for this to happen. Many people will file this in the “long shot” round file along with current efforts to persuade the members of the Electoral College to reject President-Elect Donald Trump.

But Baer’s principle is hard if not impossible to argue with. If a representative or a diplomat of the United States is ever to utter the words “free and fair election” again, in an international context — wagging our righteous finger at some other country for some electoral impropriety — we need to get this right for ourselves.

Or, at least, we should.

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