President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are trapped in binds of their own design. Since entering the White House, the Obama administration sought to present itself as the all-purpose antidote to every manner of malady, the majority of which they blamed on the Bush administration. Chief among those was the presumption that Russia and the United States again found themselves at odds only because the 43rd President needlessly antagonized Moscow. Their remedy was to outsource the role of superpower to the Kremlin and to provide Russian President Vladimir Putin with unreciprocated policy concessions. Today, faced with a GOP nominee who is conspicuously friendly toward Russian interests, the administration is wallowing in the bed it made for itself.
The Trump campaign is presenting Democrats with an environment rich with easy targets, particularly when it comes to Russia. On Sunday, the New York Times published an exhaustively reported dispatch detailing the extensive financial ties between Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and the Kremlin-linked clients with which he’s worked over the years. Among the more disturbing revelations in that exposé was the disclosure that Manafort’s name was on a hand-written “black ledger” promising a $12.7 million disbursement for his work in aiding the Kremlin-backed party of ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. It’s not clear if Manafort recouped this payment but, by failing to register as a foreign agent to comply with the 1938 Foreign Agents Registration Act, Manafort’s behavior will and should be a campaign issue.