This week, the Washington Post reported that the CIA now believes that Russian-supported hacks of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton's campaign chair John Podesta were designed to boost Donald Trump's election prospects. The FBI apparently disagrees; it believes that the Russian intervention was designed to undermine faith in the election system generally. But all intelligence agencies agree that there was Russian support for the hacks themselves.
Democrats have fallen all over themselves to claim that this means that Russian President Vladimir Putin shifted the results of the election to Trump. But there's no evidence of that. Clinton was deeply unpopular for the entire election cycle -- a January 2016 YouGov/The Economist poll showed unfavorable ratings at 56 percent; in November, that same poll found her unfavorable ratings to be -- you guessed it -- 56 percent. It wasn't WikiLeaks that destroyed Hillary Clinton. It was Hillary Clinton. Even FBI Director James Comey's announcement that he would be reopening the investigation into Clinton's emails came courtesy of Anthony Weiner's laptop, not WikiLeaks.
Republicans, in response, have noted that Democrats' hysterics over Russian manipulation seems hypocritical. After all, Democrats had no problem whatsoever with President Barack Obama offering Putin "flexibility" in 2012 in exchange for a promise to loosen his pressure tactics. They cheered when Obama told Mitt Romney that he was delusional for embracing anti-Putin politics more appropriate to the 1980s. Now, Democrats are all hot and bothered about Putin's regime -- the same regime that Hillary Clinton handed a reset button, the same regime Obama allowed to take the lead in Syria, the same regime with which Obama meekly complied after Putin's takeover of Crimea.
Republicans are right: Yes, Democrats are awful hypocrites on Russia.
Here's the problem: So are Republicans. Trump questioned whether the Russians were behind the hacks at all. That's no surprise -- he spent most of the election cycle lathering up Putin's bare chest, congratulating him for his strength and equating his murder of journalists with some unspecified American sins. Trump then nominated Rex Tillerson to be secretary of state, a man who received the Order of Friendship from Putin in 2011.
So, what are Republicans doing during all of this? Capitulating. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich calls the Tillerson pick wonderful -- the same Newt Gingrich who said in 2012 that Putin "represents a dictatorial approach that's very violent." (Of course, Gingrich now gives a lecture to the Heritage Foundation on the principles of Trumpism, so that's not much of a surprise.) Sean Hannity has accused anyone with questions about Russian hacking of simply wanting to undermine Trump. He said, "If all of these people care so much about these Russian allegations, then why didn't they feel the same way about Hillary Clinton's private server scandal?" We did! In fact, we spent years ripping Clinton apart. And now we'd like to know why Putin's hacking is all right. By the way, Hannity used to care about Russian interference and aggression. In March 2012, he called Putin a "huge problem," and in June 2013, he lamented that Putin was "laughing at the Obama admin's request to extradite Snowden back to the U.S." Now he wants Julian Assange, who is allegedly working with Putin, freed (in 2010 he wanted him jailed).
Here's the problem with the hypocrisy argument: You have to be nonhypocritical in order to make that charge. So long as Republicans are so intent on backing Trump's play that they act like hypocrites, it's going to be difficult to point out just how hypocritical Democrats are.