FORT WAYNE – When emptying out the basement of my Mom’s house after she died, we found a partially rotted chest of items meant to help our family survive a Russian nuclear attack.  It was from the 1960s, a period when all sides took Russia seriously.
    
In 1983 President Ronald Reagan had the temerity to call the Soviet Union the “evil empire.”  Liberals back then were upset that Reagan had such hostile views. In fact, Democrats and liberals in general were rather Trumpian about Russia. They wanted closer trade ties, more exchanges, and closer cooperation with Russia, not saber-rattling opposition.
    
Current liberal protestations have the “I’m shocked, shocked” resonance of the scene in Casablanca. Democrat electors requesting CIA briefings illustrate precisely why the people in Trump orbit have discredited the CIA.  Democrats have turned it into a branch of the DNC.
    
Do Democrats who blame alleged Russian email leaks for Hillary Clinton’s defeat realize how ridiculous they sound? Hillary Clinton, in spite of warnings, set up an email server to get around the official system. She not only exposed her political emails but also classified material to being hacked. Then, while under subpoena to turn her e-mails over to Congress, she brazenly destroyed thousands of them. The Clinton campaign and its supporters have no ethical standing to complain. Zero.
    
The Democrats also continue to be in denial that the contents of Clinton’s emails are relevant. Many voters felt the content illustrated why she brazenly disregarded government procedure and defiantly erased so many once caught: She was guilty. And then the Democrats abused power by politicizing the FBI to seemingly whitewash her actions. Having the attorney general meet former President Clinton at an airport was more than just stupid politically, because it did long-term, direct credibility damage to the perceived integrity of the FBI when Americans were paying near maximum attention.
    
I believe WikiLeaks people should be put in jail. I believe that if Russia, or whoever else, meddles in our election they should have sanctions strengthened not weakened. But by tying this to the blame for Hillary’s loss, and then demanding a select committee so they could pursue partisan gain, the Democrats have turned it into a circus rather than a bi-partisan, serious investigation.  
    
Then there is the ridiculousness of the liberal Democrats as defenders of the CIA and our intelligence services. President-elect Trump should be receiving daily intelligence briefings.  Foreign policy and American safety is the primary Constitutional responsibility of the president.  The people elect the president, not his staff or cabinet, so he needs to be in the intelligence loop more than any other person in this nation.
    
But the liberal Democrat whining is absurd. The Hill pointed out that President Clinton had such a chilly relationship with CIA director James Woolsey that in 1994, when a man crashed a Cessna on the White House lawn, the joke was that it was Woolsey trying to get a meeting with Clinton.  
    
Democrats systematically gutted HUMINT (i.e. intelligence based upon human sources) which definitely has flaws but, as anyone who takes the issue seriously realizes, major breakthroughs at a minimum depend upon at least some human intelligence. Post-Woolsey, the CIA political direction steadily distanced the CIA from the dirty work of actual hard, albeit complicated, evidence, as opposed to desk-driven educated guessing.  
    
The left that is so appalled about Trump skipping his intelligence briefings includes many of the same people who quoted or wrote largely paranoid conspiratorial movies, TV shows, and books about the CIA. Democrat politicians and the liberal media spent the entire Iraq War period dissing our intelligence agencies. But apparently when those same agencies partially conclude something negative about Trump then suddenly they are to be relied upon without question.  
    
That said, President-elect Trump hasn’t exactly covered himself in glory during this protracted debate either. Trump apparently has little clue how intelligence actually works. It is as though he actually believed all those left-wing critics about the CIA and our intelligence agencies.  Perhaps he watched and read too much of the liberal media.
    
The pre-Iraq War intelligence briefings illustrated the complexity of intelligence gathering. The only way to have been 100% certain of Iraqi deployable large-scale chemical and biological weapons would have been to have potentially millions die. Prevention is harder. The small White House briefing I participated in by Secretary Rice and the CIA consisted of primarily Democrats and most were prominent senators. The questions were tough, and the answers made it clear that it was 80% this from these sources, 20% this, 50% that. Trump’s style seeks clear answers – yes or no – but life does not work that way. If it did, he wouldn’t have gone bankrupt so many times. In foreign policy, bankruptcy is not an option.
    
It is also clear that foreign powers, including Russia and China, are trying to destroy us. Attempting to influence elections is one key way to toward that goal. It is a genuine threat to our nation. Trump is far too weak in his understanding the threat that strong armed, totalitarian leaders pose to us. His seeming blindness could damage this nation as badly as did the starry-eyed confusion of the last group regarding, for example, an “Arab Spring.”
    
The way I read his CIA comments and skipping intelligence briefings is this: Once his people, Trump people, are in charge of the agencies, he will listen or at least trust his chosen people. It isn’t as if he hasn’t selected General Flynn as his national security advisor, who formerly headed the DIA, and Rep. Mike Pompeo as a solid new director of the CIA. In other words, he doesn’t trust the Obama holdovers, with some justification.  
    
It is also a legitimate, rising concern that Trump and some of his appointees believe that Vladimir Putin is someone you make business deals with rather than someone who wants to bury us. His critics using the real threat as an election pout has blurred the true challenge ahead.

Souder is a former Republican congressman from Indiana.