Another Clinton Email Scandal, Cont'd

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

I figured our Clinton-Sanders discussion thread in Notes would have ended with Clare’s note about the “end of the [Sanders] political revolution,” but never underestimate the Clintons’s ability to attract controversy. The latest scandal within the Dem establishment is again over emails, this time with WikiLeaks revealing how DNC officials regularly discussed how to undermine the Sanders campaign. Many Atlantic readers are sounding off over the bombshell news. This one doesn’t have much sympathy for Sanders:

Everything about the emails was both stupid and wrong, but can we still give it some context? Mr. Sanders is a brand new Dem and not a particularly loyal or supportive one. His campaign and supporters have initiated about a kazillion lawsuits against the party he just joined, slamming the rules that were in place long before he used the party to run. (For goodness sake, Tad Devine [a top Sanders advisor, was instrumental in creating] the Super Delegate policy.)

Bernie does not ordinarily support many Dem candidates and has been saying for decades that they are very close to being one in the same with the GOP. He excused unseemly behavior at a state convention, and in the past he tried to get a candidate to run against Obama—the head of the Party. Even the most ardent Bernie supporter recognizes that he usually disdains being a team player in every way that traditionally sustains a political party.

The DNC needs some seriously reworking, and Debbie Wasserman Schultz [outgoing DNC chair and the national co-chair for Clinton in 2008] should indeed step aside and apologize, but acting shocked over these emails seems rather naive.

But this reader isn’t buying that argument:

Please. The emails show that the members of the DNC violated their own rules of governance.

You want perspective? Millions of people contributed to the Sanders campaign based on the representation of the Democratic Party, as memorialized in their rules of governance, that the Party is impartial regarding candidates. These emails show that this representation was deceitful and possibly intentionally deceitful. If so, the conduct constitutes fraud, which is why a class-action lawsuit is underway on behalf of the people who contributed to the Sanders campaign. (For all the Sanders supporters who contributed to the campaign and are interested in joining the lawsuit, please see this.)

Another reader, Darren, doesn’t see why the Democratic nominee should be getting heat for this:

This is a DNC scandal and not a Clinton scandal. Hillary Clinton isn’t linked directly or indirectly to any emails in question. But apparently she is to blame, as usual, because members of the DNC staff acted dishonorably in opposition to Sanders. Clinton obviously was not running the DNC or involved since she was running her own campaign while all these things happened, but somehow it is evidence that she’s lost control of the Convention which her people are running.

Notice how the Clintons kept their hands clean and kept their distance but were guilty of throwing DWS to the wolves at the same time. This is supposed to be a hallmark. The real hallmark is to have a scandal and blame Clinton for the scandal. Emails released so far point to bad management by DWS, but the only “smoking guns” are places where staffers suggested actions that DWS turned down.

But this reader couldn’t disagree more:

There seems to be no end to the scandals that surround Hillary Clinton. She is un-electable, and I think it is not too late for the Democratic superdelegates to change their minds and vote their conscience. The superdelegates have every right to throw the election to Bernie Sanders because the results were quite close and there was an analysis showing he would have won if this system were not rigged. I do not normally like to go against the will of the voters, but Bernie does have a legitimate claim given that the DNC was cheating in Hillary’s favor. At the very least there could be a revote in each state in a runoff primary.

Whatever is decided, Hillary must step down, even if she is forced to step down. She will not be the nominee. I cannot support her, since she has no chance of being president.

Disagree? Have something substantive to say about this scandal in general? Please drop us a note: Update: Another reader notes:

But HRC has named DWS [honorary chair of Clinton’s campaign’s 50-state program] as a surrogate. Fired and hired in one breath.

Another reader, Ben:

My official line is: Are You Kidding Me? Like Trump, Bernie fans
always have to blame someone else for the problems, don’t they? The
Bernie fans have never addressed WHY Bernie was unable to win more
primaries. There’s no self-reflection as to why his campaign never
gained enough traction. Somehow, Bernie and his advisers are NEVER to blame. For them, it’s always simply a fact that the system is rigged
against him/them. They can’t imagine that much of the country just
doesn’t agree with him.

I agree that it sucks that Dems were handed HRC and told “take it or
leave it.” But I don’t really think the emails prove much beyond the fact
that the DNC members are really interested in discussing politics.

Another reader, James, would agree, and he dissents over the way I characterized the email leak:

“DNC officials regularly discussed how to undermine the Sanders campaign.” That quote from your framing of reader responses is typical of the description given in press reports from left, right, and center outlets. And it’s just plain stupid. Every leaked email I’ve seen has been accompanied by this framing, and with one exception, they’ve all shown nothing of the kind.

There is one, and as far as I can tell exactly one, email in the leaks that even suggests taking an action that might affect the support for one candidate versus another, which of course is the one regarding having a surrogate press [unnamed] on his Judaic faith in a public forum. The bridge from this singular email’s evidence to “DNC officials regularly discussed how to undermine the Sanders campaign” is about four bridges too far. There is NO email that indicates such a plan was ever encouraged, taken seriously, or put into place (so, possibly, not even “discussed”).

The New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin is on the same page:

Do these e-mails strike anyone as appalling and outrageous? Not me. They strike me as . . . e-mails. The idea that people might speak casually or caustically via e-mail has been portrayed as a shocking breach of civilized discourse. Imagine! People bullshitting on e-mail! ...

[T]he real question is whether any of these e-mails really matter. Do they reveal deep-seated political or philosophical flaws? Do they betray horrible character defects? In the case of the Democrats, it seems clear that the answer to these questions is no. The vast majority of the e-mails contain normal office chatter, inflated into a genuine controversy by people who already had axes to grind.

Back to James:

Did lots of people in the DNC personally dislike Sanders or members of his campaign? Possibly. Did a vast national organization with a mandate to promote the Democratic Party as an institution, up and down ballots, in fundraising, and against an ascendant Republican party prefer, perhaps from the beginning, that the most prominent and successful available Democrat of the last 25 years be its eventual champion? It wouldn’t be the least bit surprising. And would the leaders of the DNC grow more and more frustrated, angry, dismissive, and all of that the longer the intra-party skirmishing dragged on? I’m certain they did. And why should any of this be in any way, shape, or form scandalous?

The lead of every one of these DNC email leak stories should really be: “Today’s massive leak of Democratic Party internal communications is not nearly as full of expletives as Veep would lead you to expect.”

One more reader, Irene, brings it all back to Trump:

There really isn’t that much to add except to say that, yet again, we are stepping into the land of false equivalencies as the TV networks delight in this new “outrage” and hype. Of course the DNC was full of Clinton supporters who were pretty ticked off when Sanders kept on and on, even when it was entirely clear he would never be the nominee—superdelegates or not. And they wrote nasty and indiscreet things in their emails. I am SHOCKED, JUST SHOCKED (sorry for the caps) that such a thing could happen in a political campaign.

Meanwhile, there is another campaign with a seriously mentally unstable candidate who deals entirely in fear and anger, even to the point of supporting an underling [Baldasaro] who calls Clinton a traitor who must be executed for treason, who admires and has connections [via Manafort] to Vladimir Putin and his kleptocracy, and who has been involved with shady business dealings throughout his entire career.  How are these things treated as equivalent?

And for the Bernie supporters (and I was one in the early days) who can’t give it up, I have only one thing to say: “A vote for Trump and a vote for a third party candidate both have the same effect: a vote for Trump. If you want to be honest, then vote for Trump. Don’t be shy. Admit you want a mentally unstable authoritarian who believes the answer to all our problems is Trump all by himself.”