The letter from James Comey to Congress has appeared to upend the entire presidential election in its final days. After spending most of October hammering Donald Trump’s personal qualities, the news that the Anthony Weiner investigation turned up tens of thousands of e-mails relevant to the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s e-mail server and handling of classified information has turned the tables in more ways than one. It also exposed a parallel investigation into the Clinton Foundation, one which had been rumored for months but not publicly confirmed. In response, Team Hillary and Democrats have gone to war with Comey and the FBI, accusing him of Hatch Act violations and attempts to, er, rig the election.
Did they learn nothing from Donald Trump?
Let’s pause for a moment to consider the realities of the October 28th letter. All Comey did was to inform Congress of new evidence and “investigatory steps” into checking it out. At that point, Hillary and her fellow Democrats could have easily brushed it off as nothing more than a pro forma notification without any real meaning, and that they were confident that it would result in no more action than Comey took in early July. In fact, one Democrat understood the need to downplay the issue and keep it from becoming a media narrative — the one who beat Hillary in 2008. Through Josh Earnest, Barack Obama tried to de-escalate the issue and get it out of the headlines:
Earnest said he would “neither defend nor criticize” what Comey has communicated to the public about the investigation, citing the White House’s desire to avoid the appearance of influencing the matter.
“The president believes that there are a set of significant institutional responsibilities that officials at the Department of Justice and the FBI must fulfill,” he said. “The good news is the president believes that Director Comey is a man of integrity, he’s a man of principle, and he’s a man of good character.”
Had Hillary followed that example, the letter might well have been relegated to the back pages of most newspapers by now. Instead, fellow Democrats began demanding Comey’s resignation, threatening Congressional hearings, and accusing him of unethical behavior and attempting to influence the election. This latter charge is utterly ridiculous, though; if that’s what Comey wanted to do, he would have announced a recommendation for a grand jury review in July and forced the Department of Justice into an embarrassing retreat. In fact, that’s precisely what the evidence called Comey to do, but he clearly didn’t want to get put in the middle of an election at the time.
Instead of helping to bury the story, Hillary and her allies have kept it alive and even boosted it with their hyperbolic accusations and claims of victimhood in rebuttals. (Obama’s suggestion of sexism in holding Hillary accountable might have been the nadir.) Not only have they kept the story alive, they have also given American voters an extremely disturbing preview of a Hillary Clinton administration, untethered by ethics and ready to bury anyone who attempts to hold them accountable in even the mildest possible form. Small wonder that voter enthusiasm has dipped dramatically over the past week.
Where have we seen this before? Oh yes, right — Donald Trump. For months, Team Hillary easily baited Trump into political arguments over their attacks on his personal qualities. His lack of discipline allowed the media to keep stories like the Khans, Alicia Machado, and the Access Hollywood tape at the top of the headlines for days rather than hours. Belatedly, Trump appears to have learned his lesson; he’s not taking the bait this week, but sticking to his own message and hitting Hillary directly. That amounts to a rather stunning role reversal in the election’s final week, and one that might cost Hillary the election.
As I write in my column at The Week, all this crying over Comey is nonsensical — and deeply hypocritical. Democrats knew the risks in nominating Hillary, just as Republicans knew the risks in nominating Trump:
Put simply, these complaints from both sides amount to nothing more than shifting of blame from where it belongs — the candidates themselves, and the voters who nominated them. Trump has spent most of four decades in the public eye, offering controversial commentary and questionable actions in both his business and personal life. While the media has clearly calculated against Trump, the problems in this case were well known to anyone who paid attention to Trump over the course of his very public life. His detractors within the GOP warned all along that these stories would come out in the final stretch of a general election campaign. Voters chose him despite those obvious liabilities.
The same holds true for Clinton — perhaps even more so, considering the public track record of the Clintons over the past quarter-century. Even before the email story broke, reports of pay-to-play connections between the Clinton Foundation and State Department had begun seeping into the media by early 2015. By spring 2015, plenty of reporting on both made it clear that Clinton would be vulnerable to potential investigations — and sure enough, the FBI began an investigation into the emails in July 2015, six months before the first primary vote was cast. As it turns out, the FBI has run a parallel investigation into the Clinton Foundation as well, despite Justice Department pushback, but the probe into the emails was well known to Democrats.
As for the timing of the new evidence, the fault for that also falls on Clinton. Had she complied with the Federal Records Act while serving as secretary of state, none of this would have happened in the first place. Had she turned over the server immediately without deleting any of the messages on it, this story would likely have concluded in 2015. Had Huma Abedin turned over the laptop that her estranged husband used (possibly to sext an underage girl) at the beginning of the probe, the FBI wouldn’t have had to wait until September to discover a trove of emails that hadn’t been disclosed.
Rather than acknowledging where the fault actually lies, Democrats and Republicans would rather cry and blame everyone but their own nominees and themselves.
To put it more simply: There’s no crying in baseball. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of it in politics this cycle, and all of it ridiculous.