When observers wondered last week about disruptions during the Democratic National Convention, they were talking about people protesting inside and outside its Philadelphia venue.
That speculation turns out to have been oh-so-20th-century.
A brief dose of chaos did arrive, but through the excited electrons of the web, apparently courtesy of Russian hackers, in the form of intercepted Democratic National Committee emails.
These documents showed pretty much what everyone knew or suspected: DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz disliked and complained about the Bernie Sanders campaign.
Her departure, which even some Clinton Democrats considered overdue anyway, was thus hastened.
Then GOP nominee Donald Trump weighed in. He said: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.”
That led the mainstream media to do something Trump & Co. seems to consider terribly unfair.
They quoted him, and then quoted others reacting to him.
Trump tried to dial it back by saying he was being sarcastic.
Critics responded he was being treasonous.
Trump’s heckling from afar had prompted a backlash. It supercharged and fed partisan reaction inside the hall in Philadelphia, an echo chamber that got better viewer ratings than the decidedly shrill RNC.
Leon Panetta, the former defense secretary and CIA chief, nearly pleaded: “It’s inconceivable that any presidential candidate would be that irresponsible.”
Navy Rear Adm. John Hutson, the Navy’s former top lawyer, said: “That’s not law and order. That’s criminal intent.”
Hillary Clinton’s campaign called it “the first time that a major presidential candidate has actively encouraged a foreign power to conduct espionage against a political opponent.”
Suddenly the question of whether Bernie Sanders supporters would come around to Clinton took a back seat to the bigger idea of Trump posing a demagogue’s threat to the U.S.
The controversy also thrust Trump’s foreign entanglements back into the spotlight, with some of those in snark mode branding him “the Siberian candidate.”
Trump said during a National Press Club luncheon in 2014 that he was in Moscow and he spoke “directly and indirectly with President Putin, who could not have been nicer.”
Last November he said of Vladimir Putin: “I got to know him very well because we were both on ‘60 Minutes,’ we were stablemates, and we did very well that night.”
The latest, from a Wednesday news conference: “I never met Putin. I don’t know who Putin is.”
The maybe-next president seems to forget people. He said he didn’t know who KKK leader and admirer David Duke was either.
Russia’s communist dictators gave way long ago to kleptocratic dictators. But during those waning days of the Cold War, President Ronald Reagan famously said: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”
Now Trump might as well say: “Mr. Putin, tear down this firewall.”
Welcome to American politics in the days of globalism.