A teacher stands before a class of 24 students and announces that the 240-year-old school mascot has been stolen.
Evidence suggests that the senior class president from a rival school is behind the theft, but a dozen of the students angrily reject the storyline. They don’t know much about the other school’s class president, but they do know that they don’t trust their own teachers and classmates to tell them the truth. For a full class period, the two sides argue and accuse each other of spreading lies and conspiracy theories. Some of them, consumed by their anger, cease listening altogether and shout insults instead.
We are going to stop the parable here, because this is where America is right now regarding Russia.
For years, Vladimir Putin’s government has embraced computer hacking, cyber attacks, military invasions and the 21st-century version of propaganda known as “fake news” – but not everybody believes the evidence.
Today, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen will prosecute the case against Putin before the World Affairs Council of New Hampshire at SNHU in Manchester. As a member of both the Foreign Relations and the Armed Services committees, Shaheen spends a lot of time looking for ways to strengthen the Atlantic Alliance and neutralize Putin, who she rightfully says is attempting to create “a Soviet-style sphere of influence along its border.”
He is trying to accomplish this through the methods mentioned above, but also by meddling in elections here in America and in Europe, including this year’s critical contests in Germany and France.
Whatever one believes about why Hillary Clinton lost the election, Putin’s preference for Donald Trump was and is clear. And knowing what we know about Putin, it’s hard to imagine he wouldn’t use all of the nonmilitary weapons in his arsenal to sway the American election in his favored direction.
Shaheen, Sen. John McCain and others on both sides of the aisle have called for tougher Russia sanctions, including a crackdown on foreign investment in Russia’s oil and gas industry, which is a step we support. We also agree with Shaheen and McCain that it is time for an independent investigation into the role Russia played in getting Trump elected.
Shaheen points to the work of the nonpartisan National Commission on Terrorist Attacks on the United States, formed in the aftermath of
9/11, as a model for such an investigation. And if there was any doubt about the necessity of a nonpartisan commission, it was quashed on Wednesday. That’s when House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes briefed Trump on intelligence that purportedly backed the president’s claims that he was wiretapped by the Obama administration. Nunes did so behind the backs of his Democratic colleagues.
It’s time to move past the tiresome back-and-forth and seek the truth, whatever it may be. Shaheen put it best when she said: “This outrage isn’t about partisanship. It isn’t about being a Democrat or a Republican. It’s about patriotism and defending America’s democracy, which is under attack.”
And so now we return to our imaginary classroom and the parable.
A minute before the bell is about to ring, the teacher quiets the class and asks the students to come forward. “Stand close together, as close as possible,” she says. They follow her order, reluctantly, and wait for her to speak.
“It doesn’t matter who stole it, but it is a symbol of what is best about us, what is best about all of us, together,” she tells them. “Tomorrow, we focus on how to get it back.”