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A gift that keeps on giving

  • Published at 12:03 am October 31st, 2016
A gift that keeps on giving

Someone should have told Hillary Clinton that people her age (she turned 69 last week) are generally not tech-savvy. She and her contemporaries, like campaign manager John Podesta, should have been cognizant of certain facts:

1) The Internet revolution occurred well after their prime; therefore, they have to play catch-up. 2) Since they are not the Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerbergs of the world, their digital adventures should be of modest scope.

Hillary Clinton’s installing of seven private servers at home to receive and transmit State Department correspondence from her home, instead of exclusively using government servers at the State Department, has repeatedly threatened to derail her presidential campaign.

Extreme carelessness

She had hired private contractors to install those servers without fully comprehending how secure those would be. One is astonished to find that there were no State Department rules, or White House bans, against installing private servers at home for official work, which could potentially compromise national security.

The FBI first divulged last year that they were investigating Clinton’s emails emanating from her private servers to ascertain if national security was breached. In a press conference on July 7, FBI Director James Comey concluded that any mishandling of the emails by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did not rise to the level where prosecution was warranted.

He should have stopped there, but did not. He went on to chastise Secretary Clinton for “extreme carelessness” in handling sensitive and classified information. Democrats considered the director’s scathing comments political overreach. It is as though he was telling Clinton: “You have committed no crime, but, you are a bad woman.”

Republicans, especially those in Congress, pounced on Director Comey’s incendiary comments, and accused him of bias for not indicting Secretary Clinton for crimes.  Republican prosecution of Clinton in the media resulted in the Trump supporter’s mantra: “Lock her up!” Clinton’s favourabilty and poll numbers took a hit. By July 30, Clinton and Trump were tied in the polls (each with 50% chance of winning, according to Nate Silver).

After a flawless Democratic convention in late July, that followed a lacklustre Republican convention a week earlier, Clinton’s chances of victory soared to 89% by August 14.  Inexplicably, Clinton then disappeared from the campaign trail for weeks.

Then Russia hacked into the Democratic National Committee’s website and released through WikiLeaks unflattering information about Clinton’s campaign, especially its machinations against Bernie Sanders. Once again, Clinton’s chance of victory crashed to 50% by September 26.

Clinton’s superb performance in the first debate on September 26, when she outclassed an unprepared Donald Trump, helped her regain momentum.

The release of the Access Hollywood tape on October 7, which boasted Trump’s bawdy behavior, combined with stellar performances in the next two debates (October 9 and 19) consolidated Clinton’s advantage. Clinton sprinted to an 88% chance of victory by October 17.

In the meantime, Russia hacked the email account of Clinton’s campaign manager, John Podesta, and Julian Assange began releasing the secret workings of the Clinton campaign through WikiLeaks.

What if it transpires after the election that the emails had nothing to do with Clinton, but Trump is elected president because of the FBI-triggered innuendo?

The Machiavellian machinations of a political campaign are never pretty; neither was Clinton’s. The revelations cast a negative light on Clinton, and her chance of victory sank to 80% by October 28.

Far worse than Watergate?

On October 28, a “bombshell” landed on the lap of the Clinton campaign. Over the objection of his boss, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, FBI Director James Comey sent letters to congressmen informing them that new emails have been found which may not be directly related to the investigation of the Clinton emails.

According to TIME magazine sources, Huma Abedin, the vice chairwoman of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and her aide since 1996, had sent emails from the State Department to a laptop at home which she shared with her then husband, disgraced New York Congressman Anthony Weiner. Abedin then printed those emails and gave them to Clinton.

Anthony Weiner is a sexual predator (Abedin, a Muslim woman of sub-continental heritage, divorced her Jewish husband last August).

The FBI was investigating an allegation that Weiner was sexting a minor, a 15-year old girl, in North Carolina. The FBI impounded Weiner’s laptop. That is where they found the additional emails.

It appears that Clinton had nothing to do with it. The emails may simply be copies of emails which the FBI had already read, which Abedin emailed to a printer at her home, because the State Department printers were not good enough.

To the Republicans, this was the long prayed for “game-changer.” They claimed that the FBI had “reopened the Clinton email scandal,” acted as though this was going to put them over the top. The master of the hyperbole, Donald Trump, proclaimed: “This is far worse than Watergate!”

That did not sit well with the Republican sage, Professor David Gergen of Harvard’s Kennedy Center, who had served in the Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Clinton administrations.

“This is silly talk,” he said.  “40 people were indicted in the Watergate scandal; many went to jail. And a president had to resign. No one has been indicted in this case.”

Director Comey’s decision to inject himself into the Frey, 11 days before a contentious election, is hard to fathom. The FBI has not even looked at the emails, and the director said that they don’t even know if the emails are relevant to the Clinton case.

Clinton and the Democrats are demanding that Mr Comey, a Republican, divulge the contents of all emails so that the American voters can decide if there were any improprieties.

If the FBI does not do that, Americans will be left with the impression that Clinton is guilty, handing Trump not only a trump card, but possibly the election.

What if it transpires after the election that the emails had nothing to do with Clinton, but Trump is elected president because of the FBI-triggered innuendo?

At the very least, this could trim Clinton’s support sufficiently to help Republicans maintain control of the Senate, and the House, making it impossible for President Clinton to govern.

When Trump is the issue, Hillary gains support. When email scandals are front and centre, Hillary loses approximately 2% of her support. Currently, a poll of polls shows Clinton ahead by 4-5%, with 80% chance of victory.

If Clinton loses another 2% because of Mr Comey’s letter, she will lead by only 2-3% -- which is within the margin of error.  In that scenario, a Trump presidency is on the cards.

Diehard Clinton and Trump voters will not be impacted by Mr Comey’s actions.  Independents may be. But the independents are high-information voters who will recognise that the emails have not revealed any wrongdoing by Clinton.

It is hard to imagine that they, and the rest of America, will elect as vile a character as Donald Trump as their president.

Dr Fakhruddin Ahmed is a Rhodes Scholar.