It’s hard to know why our reaction has been so muted to news that should shake us to our core.
Blame the nanosecond news cycle, blame social media silos, or blame the sense that all of America is on a slow boil and we just can’t recognize just how hot the pot has gotten.
But let’s take a close look at a recent headline: “FBI Opened Inquiry Into Whether Trump Was Secretly Working on Behalf of Russia.”
Forget the government shutdown. Forget the Washington power games. It’s time to remember what we need from a president.
Federal counterintelligence agents believed there was credible enough information to open a formal investigation into whether the president of the United States was or is a Russian asset.
This is our national reality, not the stuff of an airport spy novel.
The story in The New York Times, published Jan. 11, details that in the days after Trump fired then-FBI director James Comey: “Counterintelligence investigators had to consider whether the president’s own actions constituted a possible threat to national security. Agents also sought to determine whether Mr. Trump was knowingly working for Russia or had unwittingly fallen under Moscow’s influence.”
Such an inquiry is unprecedented in American history. But given the set of facts and circumstances surrounding the president and Russia, it is — and we are astounded to find ourselves in a place in history saying this — unsurprising.
The president’s refusal to acknowledge Russia’s plain interference in the 2016 presidential election. His suggestion that the U.S. should withdraw from NATO. His decision to throw U.S. intelligence officers under the bus in favor of Russian President Vladimir Putin at Helsinki. His decision to pull U.S. troops from Syria.
A day after The Times reported that Trump was put under investigation as a possible Russian asset, The Washington Post added more grist: “President Trump has gone to extraordinary lengths to conceal details of his conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, including on at least one occasion taking possession of the notes of his own interpreter and instructing the linguist not to discuss what had transpired with other administration officials.”
This is not how presidents have historically behaved when dealing with the leader of the nation most hostile to our national interests and to the interest of democracy globally.
Putin is an enemy of freedom, an enemy of the alliances that have supported freedom and a man bent on diminishing the forces of freedom across the globe.
America is the beacon of that freedom, its historical defender and the force most responsible for its expansion around the world.
We must have clarity on who our president is, what side he is on, why has he done the things he has done. We have to accept, based on the facts in front of us, that we just don’t know.
And nothing, right now, could be more important.
Our worry is that our country is so divided in this time that we cannot stop and ask ourselves hard questions about the fearful possibility this news should raise.
Who is our leader? And whom is he working for?
Rudolph Bush is deputy editorials editor for The Dallas Morning News.