Vladimir Putin just won’t go away.
The Russian president launched a campaign in 2016 — at the invitation of Donald Trump — to interfere in our presidential election. His aim was to disrupt our political discourse, to sow seeds of suspicion. He succeeded infamously.
Donald Trump benefitted from the Russian interference. The U.S. president hasn’t yet been willing to acknowledge the Russian dictator’s role in that political heist.
Now he’s at it again. He is injecting himself into the 2020 election, but in ways none of us saw coming.
We have these reports of Russians placing bounties on the lives of Americans fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan. Trump is dismissing the media reporting. He calls it a hoax. He is angry at the reporting, but is silent about the subject of that reporting.
There he is, Vladimir Putin is injecting himself into the American political process. He isn’t on the ballot, but his presence on our political landscape seems to all but guarantee that part of our voters’ calculation on for whom we cast our ballots will include Vladimir Putin.
To be clear, my mind is made up. Still, Putin’s presence in our political discourse is maddening. He has wormed and wiggled his way into our processes. Putin can declare “mission accomplished” from his 2016 electoral interference. It’s not enough, though, for Putin merely to win that first round.
He is going to interfere yet again this year, along perhaps with China or Ukraine or any other nation that has an axe to grind with the U.S. political system.
To be clear, it is confusing in the extreme for me to grasp how the Russian bounty story is going to benefit Donald Trump. To that end, Putin’s continuing presence in our political process sends a seriously mixed message.
Still, the Russian brute is there. He is part of our political discussion.
If only he would just disappear. Forever.