By Rex Huppke
I want you to stand in front of a mirror.
Now I want you to imagine Barack Obama is 40 days into his presidency, and that during his campaign he repeatedly and inexplicably praised Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Next imagine that late in the campaign and in the weeks that followed the election that brought Obama into office, American intelligence agencies determined conclusively that Russia had hacked the Republican National Committee and released thousands of stolen emails that were damaging to Obama’s opponent.
And that Obama’s campaign vigorously denied any contact with Russian officials before or after the election.
Then, imagine that not long after the inauguration, Obama’s national security adviser was found to have lied about having contact with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
He, in fact, spoke with the ambassador in December, the day the outgoing president issued sanctions against Russia for interfering with the election.
The adviser was fired.
Questions persisted. More evidence began to surface that people connected to Obama had been in contact with the Russians during the campaign.
Imagine that President Obama continued to deny there was any issue and brushed off reports as “fake news,” criticizing the intelligence community for leaking information to the press.
As calls for an investigation into the Obama campaign’s connections to Russia grew louder, news broke that Obama’s new attorney general had been less than honest during his confirmation hearing when asked if he had contact with the Russians. He said he hadn’t, but it turns out he had met twice with the Russian ambassador, one of those times during the Democratic National Convention.
Imagine the attorney general said his meetings were part of his work as a senator, but then news came out that the trip to the convention was paid for through the then-senator’s campaign fund.
Under pressure, Obama’s attorney general finally recused himself from investigations into issues surrounding the campaign and Russia.
Now imagine at this point, which again is in Obama’s first 40 days as president, you learn that the fired national security adviser actually met with the Russian ambassador at Obama’s house in Chicago, along with Obama’s son-in-law. (You also have to imagine that Malia Obama is married and that a staffer in Obama’s White House recently tried to push Malia’s clothing line in a nationally televised interview. I know this is hard, just keep that imagination going.)
Next you learn that an Obama campaign official who made a change to the Democratic Party platform during its national convention, a change Russia would like — the only change that candidate Obama’s campaign requested — also met with the Russian ambassador during the Democratic National Convention.
Imagine all of these things. And remember that President Obama and members of his campaign all said specifically and repeatedly that there had been no contact with Russia.
Now look into that mirror in front of you.
If this were true, would you think there should be an independent investigation into contacts between the Obama campaign and Russia? Are you angry?
If you answered yes to either of those questions and you don’t feel the same way right now about the connections between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia, you need to ask yourself: What is the difference between these two men?
Now look in the mirror again, long and hard. Because you have one last question to ask yourself.
And I think you know what it is.
Rex Huppke is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Readers may email him at firstname.lastname@example.org