I’ve been in a near constant state of bewilderment since the “October surprise” regarding Hillary Clinton’s emails broke last Friday. Just trying to get to the heart of the matter has been chore enough – for both presidential campaigns, for the media and apparently, for FBI Director James Comey himself. What’s exactly in those messages that prompted his vague letter to Congress? He doesn’t rightly know and can’t say when he will. Well then why did Comey break long-standing Justice Department protocol of “not commenting on ongoing investigations, and not taking any action that could influence the outcome of an election?” That’s not clear either.
In an election cycle absolutely chockablock with opacity, these developments have set a new bar for impenetrable murk. And for God’s sake, do we really we have to talk and think about Anthony Weiner again?
Then today we learned that CNN severed ties with longtime contributor and interim DNC Chairwoman Donna Brazile. What has this to do with Comey and the FBI’s scramble to define the cork he popped out of the dangerous innuendo bottle? Quite a bit actually, especially if you’re chafed by double standards tinged with corruption and a healthy dose of misogyny.
CNN spokeswoman Lauren Pratapas was quoted as saying, “We are completely uncomfortable with what we have learned about [Brazile’s] interactions with the Clinton campaign while she was a CNN contributor.” Those playing the media cynicism home game might wonder how it is that Corey Lewandowski, Donald Trump’s former Campaign Manager and ongoing talking point parrot, retains his association with the network. He draws a salary from CNN while remaining an “informal, unpaid” advisor to the Trump campaign. No visible discomfort from the house that Ted Turner built.
This conflict of interest has been long noted but hey, Trump equals ratings, right? Quid pro quo. The network gets constant access to the campaign dumpster fire while Lewandowski plays relevant pundit charades. They agree to overlook the smudged boundaries – and play the old “nothing to see here” card with the viewing public. Meanwhile, Brazile is accused of passing debate question tips to the Hillary camp earlier this year and is immediately condemned and dumped by the cable news network. What sets her conduct and Lewandowski’s apart? Two things: money (of which CNN stands to gain none through this controversy) and gender.
If you’re keeping count, Brazile is the second DNC Chairwoman, after Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, to find herself in hot water after the release of pilfered emails published on Wikileaks in 2016. Over on the right, RNC Chair Reince Preibus is hard at work selling out his soul, whatever is left of his party and our democracy by continuing to back the Trump campaign. But he’ll keep his job – because penis. And no one wants to read his emails.
Now we come to the narrative thread that ties Brazile’s ousting with James Comeys’ unprecedented, vague letter to Capitol Hill less than two weeks before the November 8 election. The New York Times quoted outgoing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada today, accusing the FBI Director of “a disturbing double standard.” After all, the public remains in the dark as to how and why Wikileaks obtained the trove of emails they’ve dribbled out to undercut the Clinton campaign…and who might be sponsoring, or at least encouraging, the data breaches. As Times writers Matt Apuzzo, Michael S. Schmidt and Adam Goldman report:
“Mr. Comey’s letter also opened him up to criticism from Democrats that he seemed willing to disclose every investigative wrinkle related to the Clinton investigation, but has not said anything about the scope of an F.B.I. investigation into Russian meddling in American elections. Democrats have repeatedly asked the F.B.I. to investigate Mr. Trump and his aides as part of that case. Mr. Comey has never said if he would.”
Harry Reid is willing to take it a rhetorical step further. In a letter to Comey he wrote:
“In my communications with you and other top officials in the national security community, it has become clear that you possess explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisers and the Russian government…The public has a right to know this information.”
There’s conflicting opinions about whether or not this unfolding, multi-layered scandal will ultimately hurt or help Clinton’s fortunes at the polls. What’s clear to anyone who’s not irrational or hyper-partisan beyond reason, is that something about this really stinks. One of the familiar whiffs is one we’ve been inhaling since this insane contest launched a year and a half ago – misogyny with hints of florid, corrupt bullshit. Clinton and Brazile in the hot seat, Trump, Lewandowski and Preibus on the comfortable offense? Must be nice to be a white man with Russian hackers and the FBI on your side.