Vladimir Putin announced a massive cut to U.S. embassy and consulate staff in Russia on Sunday. (Courtesy photo)

Vladimir Putin needs a time-out

Russian intelligence operatives are driving around, presumably doing reconnaissance on our nation’s telecommunications infrastructure. These and other nefarious activities have been going on for a while, according to intelligence officials quoted in a June 1, Politico article, “Russia escalates spy games after years of US neglect.”

We now know more about the lack of action by the Obama Administration to reign in Russian espionage that was happening long before the November 2016 election. “I feel like we sort of choked,” was how one unnamed source in a Washington Post piece described the administration’s handling of knowledge that Russia had been meddling in domestic affairs, including our most sacred ritual as a democracy: elections.

It has been reported that the Obama Administration didn’t take action against Russia over the years because it didn’t want to harken back to the “Cold War” days, and more recently, it didn’t want to be seen as influencing the election. With Hillary Clinton a “sure bet,” the prudent thing to do was stand down …

But had Clinton won, wouldn’t the far-right have carried on with Donald Trump’s prediction that the election was “rigged” no matter what — and that it was all Barack Obama’s fault?

What if a bipartisan panel of respected intelligence officials and current (or former) politicians were assembled to recommend action, at least the reasonable people might understand? (Don’t reasonable people also understand those working in counter-intelligence and collecting evidence of espionage are not partisan hacks? They have friends and family they want kept safe.)

Don’t get me wrong: I can only imagine how eight years of being blamed for everything wrong in the world could condition someone toward hesitance. Nobody is perfect. But where were the adults in the room? Were were the moms?

Anyone who has spent time around small children knows that, if not curbed, bad behavior tends to slide. Boundaries are tested. It’s pretty normal. Even adults do it.

Ask parents who buy the Elf on the Shelf. You know, that cute little onesie-wearing pixie doll that parents put on the mantle between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The kids can’t touch him, and he watches their behavior and reports back to Santa.

The Elf doesn’t chirp “cut it out” or give dirty looks, because the kids would laugh at the Elf. (Heck, they might even get a kick out of an empty scold and up the ante.)

If the kids toss your toothbrush in the toilet, color on the walls and play with matches, Santa nixes the Big Wheel, the Star Wars Storm Trooper Blaster and even the Playmobil airport Security Scanner with pretend metal detector, luggage X-ray machine and probing play figures (That is a real toy, by the way).

It works on some kids. But pretty much everyone agrees that giving bad behavior a pass is no way to curb it — and moms know this best.

So why are we employing intelligence officers — our own “elves” — to collect this information if Santa won’t play hardball with Russia’s Christmas list, like continued unfettered annexation of oil-rich neighbors and the ability to sell their ill-gotten gains? No one wants to start a war, but if you keep rolling over, eventually you are going to lose. And you might not even recognize what is happening.

Why did it take so long to send these agents packing? This isn’t about being hawkish and invading foreign nations on dubious grounds or being the world’s police. It’s about protecting the home turf and kicking attempted intruders to the curb.

Somebody did try to do something about it before it was too late. According to the same Politico piece, Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Congressman Adam Schiff released a statement, against the administration’s wishes, on the discovery of interference in September 2016. Does it surprise me that our senator, who is rumored to make calls when she is in The City to get various departments to take care of messes she sees on our streets, takes charge while others stand down? Heck no. She may not be mayor anymore, but Feinstein still wants her city to clean up before breakfast.

She led San Francisco in a time of crisis, after the assassinations of Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone. She is as battle-tested as they come. Maybe not everyone knows her story.

So when I see calls for Feinstein to retire because she doesn’t pass purity tests like single-payer, I have to wonder: If our communication networks go down, and orders to your local pharmacy don’t happen, does it really matter who pays for your birth control pills? Because that is the world we live in today. And as far as I can tell, Feinstein appears to be one of a few people who understands what Vladimir Putin has been up to and has the seniority to put him in a time-out.

It’s true. Feinstein doesn’t suffer fools. (That’s an old-fashioned saying, so I’ll update it for millennials: She doesn’t fall for sock puppets.)

Sen. Feinstein, we need you in charge, because many people in charge who want to keep us safe seem to lack certain instincts and influence that you have. Please stay, for now, at least until the bad guys are kicked to the curb.

Maureen Erwin is a Bay Area political consultant. Most recently she led Sonoma County’s Measure M, which will create the largest GMO-free growing zone in the U.S.

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