President Obama wrapped up a much anticipated press conference earlier today, where he mostly answered questions about Russia hacking the US election. Did the commander-in-chief announce a superheroic effort to bring Putin to justice and find a way to re-do the election? Nah. But he did blame the media for being gossipy sensationalists.
Obama very clearly said that he believes the intelligence that suggests Russia hacked into the DNC. He also mentioned the role of "fake news that's being released by some foreign government" and its negative effect on the political process. The US president assured the packed room of White House reporters that his administration is working hard to make sure these kinds of cyber attacks don't happen again. As for some sort of retaliation, Obama basically said, "We're writing a report."
This isn't a total surprise. While plenty liberals hoped that the president would change history by intervening more aggressively, level-headed Barry simply responded to questions about Russia's election hack with a dull shrug. Yes, evidence gathered by the intelligence community all but confirms that Kremlin-backed hackers stole emails from the DNC, and Obama even admitted that he told Putin "cut it out" with the hacking at the Group of 20 meeting in China. Apparently, the hacking stopped after that. You could see in his tired eyes that the president wasn't about to say that the hack actually swayed the election in Donald Trump's favour.
But Obama did wag his finger at the media. Those leaked emails would have just been a boring ream of private information if thirsty journalists hadn't blown every dumb detail out of proportion. Or at least that's what it sounded like the president said.
"I'm finding it a little curious that everyone is suddenly acting surprised that this looked like it was suddenly disadvantaging Hillary Clinton," Obama said sternly, "because you guys wrote about it every single day — every single leak, about every little juicy tidbit of political gossip, including John Podesta's risotto recipe."
There was a lot that was mundane in the DNC and John Podesta emails that made their way online, but then there were revelations like the one that DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz had appeared to actively promote Hillary Clinton ahead of primary rival Bernie Sanders.
A darker narrative emerged as Obama veered into the the role that fake news played in the US election, one that he implied also involved Russia.
"If fake news that's being released by some foreign government is almost identical to reports that are being issued through partisan news venues, then it's not surprising that that foreign propaganda will have a greater effect," the president explained. "It doesn't seem that far-fetched compared to some of the other stuff folks are hearing from domestic propagandists."
One could assume that these "domestic propagandists" include outlets like Breitbart, Infowars and The Blaze, but Obama isn't just pointing his finger at traffic-hungry blogs. He's suggesting a breakdown in the media's ability to separate fact from fiction and the American public's ability to keep the story straight.
Inevitably, Obama wouldn't admit that Russia got Donald Trump elected. There were no reports of hackers derailing the voting process itself, so it's not like Putin and his cronies tampered with the election results. If there had been, well, we might be talking about a do-over. At the end of the day, Donald Trump won the election because not enough people voted for Hillary Clinton in the right states.