By Dave Dodson, former Wyoming candidate for U.S. Senate and faculty member with the Stanford Graduate School of Business .
The morning after Attorney General William Barr issued his summary of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, CNN reported that, “The political fight is just beginning.” The Washington Post’s lead headline read: “Republicans Cheer, Democrats challenge Mueller’s findings.” Fox News reported that Rudolph Giuliani demanded apologies from Democrats. No doubt 5,000 miles away Vladimir Putin was doing vodka shots as he read the news.
For two years we have known that a foreign government and political enemy took direct steps to interfere with our two most sacred national treasures — our voting booth and our unity — and yet rather than address those vulnerabilities we continue to play the sucker to this day. Vladimir Putin must have studied President Lincoln’s words: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
As I indicated during my campaign for U.S. Senate last year, the special counsel appointment was wrong from the start. Our national focus should instead have been investigating how to protect our election process from future interference. My friend Alan Dershowitz was right to suggest that instead of a special counsel investigation, we should have initiated a review similar to the “9/11 Commission” which examined the September 11 attacks against our country. Charged with preventing future attacks, the commission was established by President George W. Bush, chaired by a former governor, and staffed with five Democrat and five Republican statesmen — all of whom had retired from politics.
The report interviewed over 1,200 people in 10 countries, analyzed classified documents, and reviewed hundreds of thousands of pages of sensitive and classified documents. It reached conclusions about the involvement of the Saudi government and Iran and the role of Al Qaeda. The report was frank, calling Presidents Bill Clinton and Bush “not well served” by the FBI and the CIA, and it was critical of the FAA. They were not afraid to examine where we and our institutions may have done better while avoiding the temptation for partisan advantage, and the report allowed citizens as well as public officials the opportunity to understand what happened on that dreadful day and how to prevent it in the future.
In 2016 we were similarly attacked by outside forces. But instead of using airplanes as weapons, a foreign country used cybersecurity to hack into one of our political party’s private email and records. We know that Russia used espionage against Americans and then offered the fruits of that work to their preferred candidate. Democrat or Republican, interference by a foreign country during a presidential election should outrage every American regardless of which party benefited. Even more damaging, they used the weapons of social media to divide us.
Fortunately for our country, our president was found not to have played a direct role in Russia’s attack on our election process. Every one of us, regardless of political party, should be grateful for that. We must remind ourselves also that for Democrats to sulk, or Republicans to gloat, would be to once again allow Russia to chip away at our democracy, which was, of course, the goal all along.
Mistake or not, the Mueller investigation is now complete. Which means it’s now time to move on to what we should have been focused on all along.
Before our next election, we must endeavor to better understand the 2016 attack on our election process. The special counsel’s report should form the foundation for an immediate bi-partisan review similar to the 9/11 Commission. For the ongoing wellbeing of our democracy, our political leaders must come together to ensure future elections don’t face the same claims of illegitimacy.
Equally critical, this is our time to say to all our foreign enemies that we are a United States of America and we will not be weakened through attempts to divide us. That message must start with our president. Donald Trump has a historic and patriotic opportunity to protect our democracy by reuniting us as a country. His message of unity must be followed by similar entreaties by the leaders of the Senate and U.S. House of Representatives. Their message to us and the world must be a simple one: when you mess with one of us, you mess with all of us.
Dave Dodson is a faculty member with the Stanford Graduate School of Business and former Wyoming candidate for U.S. Senate.