I have been contemplating something the last few days, and wanted to lay out some observations in the aftermath of the Mueller Report. So give me a moment to draw some historical comparisons between 1941 and 2016 -- years when our democracy came under attack.
On Dec. 7, 1941, a totalitarian adversary launched an unprovoked surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. On that Sunday, nearly 78 years ago, without warning and without a declaration of war, more than 2,000 American lives were tragically lost in this act of war by the nation of Japan aimed at our republic. Americans united across the country, and together pushed back and defeated this autocratic regime within four years.
In 2015 and 2016, another totalitarian adversary attacked our democracy through various means of cyberwarfare. These acts by the nation of Russia were a direct assault without warning on our republic that undermined and manipulated one of our most fundamental of institutions – voting for president of the United States. It is good to remember that U.S. intelligence agencies confirmed long before the Mueller report that Russia had interfered in our elections despite President Donald Trump questioning those findings.
But instead of uniting our country, this act of war sowed incredible discord and exacerbated the divisions we see in America. Instead of systematically repelling this attack, as of today not enough has been done to prevent Russia from doing the same thing or worse in 2020.
Yes, I understand losing lives is much different than influencing our elections and damaging our democratic institutions, but they are both acts of war against our democracy. In the former, we united and were able to declare victory in less than four years; in the latter, we have fought with each other bitterly. This administration's response to Russia’s assault has been nothing short of appalling, and one might say it has been deplorable.
Consider something else: Can you imagine what we would be saying if during the fight against Japan, a presidential campaign met with representatives of Hirohito and Tojo numerous times? What if an American presidential candidate welcomed help from Japan in the run-up to Pearl Harbor and spoke kindly and approvingly about Japan after the attack? And what if high-level campaign staffers met with key supporters of Japan, hid these meetings and conversations, and then lied about them? Americans would likely see this as nothing short of treason in 1941.
This appears to be precisely what happened in 2015 and 2016 between our adversary Russia and the Trump campaign as Russia systematically attacked our democracy. Even today, Donald Trump, who as a candidate welcomed the help of Russia as they committed cyberwar on our electoral institutions, hasn’t emphatically called out Russia and put in place systems to protect our country from further attacks. In addition, just this Sunday, Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, said there was nothing wrong with getting help from Russia during the campaign. What if after Pearl Harbor, a key staffer of a presidential candidate said the same about Japan? It would be unthinkable, but that is where we are today.
Let me again say that the loss of life at Pearl Harbor and the war that followed doesn’t compare to the recent attacks of Russia, but one could argue that Russia has had a more profound and deeper negative impact on our American republic than the long term effects of what Japan did to the United States. In 1941, every race, religion and region united in common values strongly and clearly to answer the call. Today we are even more divided than we were before Russia attacked us and the White House still has not confronted our attackers.
It is time we as Americans put things in context, unite across partisan lines against the common threat that Russia poses to our institutions and hold this president and his administration accountable for what they have and have not done in relation to Russia.
And it is time to put in place safeguards to ensure that this won’t ever happen again.
Matthew Dowd is an ABC News analyst and special correspondent. Opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the views of ABC News.