Just when you thought the Trump campaign couldn’t get any stranger…it did. Russian hackers doing the bidding, either explicitly or implicitly of the Putin government appear to have hacked the Democratic National Committee. 20,000 e mails have been offered to Wikileaks, which has dutifully released them into the public domain, though Julian Assange claims the source isn’t Russian.
So far, the material exposed has proven that the DNC staff, undoubtedly following orders from the boss, Deborah Wasserman-Schultz, had rigged the primary campaign for Hillary Clinton. But aside from one explicitly offensive e-mail, in which a staffer appeared to believe if the DNC could get Bernie to admit he was an atheist, rather than a practicing Jew, it would scuttle his campaign–there’s been more smoke than fire.
That’s not to say that there might not be more to come. Likely, whoever hacked the DNC server plays to dish out the material in dribs and drabs like Chinese water torture. The best (or worst, depending on your perspective) may be yet to come.
We also don’t know the totality of what the Russians hacked. Did they also gain access to Hillary’s private e-mail server? The FBI claims this is unlikely, though they concede that the Russians did try (and failed). But there remains the distinct possibility that this data dump is but the tip of the iceberg.
All this raises a whole host of issues. Most critical among them is: how could a major American political party do such a terrible job of securing its servers from infiltration? Buzzfeed’s Sheera Frenkel wrote a piece a few months ago quoting cybersecurity experts warning that both parties had woeful security protections. The latest Wikileaks e-mails reveals one blundering bloke ridiculing Frenkel for her claims. Now who looks the fool?
Of course, Wasserman-Schultz had to go. But she should’ve gone long ago. The fact that she remained confirms that the primary system was rigged for Hillary. It also speaks volumes about how a Clinton presidency would behave in similar circumstances: batten down the hatches, circle the wagons, protect our own at whatever cost. See outsiders, even those in your own party, as the enemy.
The Clinton campaign is trying to turn the scandal into an indictment of the seamy Russian hackers. They’re circulating incriminating material in the media focussing on Donald Trump’s inside connections to the Kremlin hierarchy. All this, while not insignificant matters, divert attention from the equally, if not more important issues. Like: why was the DNC all-in for Hillary when it was supposed to be an honest broker between all the candidates? Why did DNC staff, including Wasserman-Schultz lie about their allegiances, saying they were not siding with the Clinton campaign?
If I believed that this data dump was the last of it and that there would be no more damaging material emanating either from the DNC or Hillary’s own e-mail servers I might be inclined to let this slide. If it was a one-off episode it might not make more than a ripple in the overall campaign. But everyone knows there is more to come. What it is is an open question. Is it going to be even more damaging? Or will it be more like the latest release of DNC voice mail messages asking for Michelle Obama’s office phone number?
Trump continues to astound. Today, he beseeched those same Russian hackers to gain access to Hillary’s missing 33,000 e-mails and release them to the public as well. Given that this seems to be one of Trump’s main charges against the Democratic nominee, his request for the assistance of Russian hackers would appear to be a flagrant violation of decades, if not centuries of U.S. election protocol. That is, our elections are fought domestically. We don’t brook foreign interference in electoral politics. There is a proud tradition going all the way back to George Washington’s speech warning against foreign entanglements, that America is fiercely independent and guards its sovereignty jealously.
Presidential candidates simply do not appeal to outside interests to save their campaign. If they do, their campaigns are sunk. But as I wrote above, this is a tradition. And Trump’s campaign is designed to break the mold, perhaps all the molds of presidential politics.
It’s extremely difficult to tell whether Trump’s habit of breaking the china wherever he goes and whatever he says, will cause him to pay a price with the electorate. So far, he seems far beyond Ronald Reagan’s Teflon president. Rather, he’s the candidate who succeeds more the worse his mistakes are. Democrats keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. When will this election revert to form and when will Trump’s campaign finally fall to earth like a busted balloon. It may never happen. And that’s what’s scary.
Not that I’ve changed my mind about Hillary’s candidacy. I remain as firmly convinced as ever that she is not trustworthy, not progressive, not genuine. She is a retread who offers us distant memories of a nostalgic past (Bill Clinton’s presidency), which aren’t so splendid. While Obama was a disappointing president, he did a number of things well. Not the things that were most important to me. But things that were important for the nation. I have no such hopes for Clinton. None.
The watchword of the Democratic convention is “competent,” as in “Hillary is the most competent candidate.” If there’s a more boring word in the English language I don’t know it. At least in the context of a presidential campaign. Give me dreams, give me hope, give me a vision of a better future. But competence? What’s it good for? What does it even mean? That the trains will run on time?
While Obama didn’t end the wars he inherited and promised to end, at least he didn’t start any new wars. I’m convinced that Hillary will pursue military solutions with abandon. Her belligerent comments about Iran make me fear we might attack it during her term. If not Iran, then Syria remains a likely second choice.
I’m not even convinced that keeping Trump out of the White House is enough to justify a vote for Hillary. I’m just sick and tired of voting for the lesser of two evils. If I felt Hillary was benign, I might see a reason to break down and vote for her. But I don’t see a Clinton presidency as benign.