Thursday, May 17, 2018


There's an implausible passage in yesterday's big New York Times story about the origins of the FBI's Trump-Russia investigation:
The facts, had they surfaced, might have devastated the Trump campaign: Mr. Trump’s future national security adviser was under investigation, as was his campaign chairman. One adviser appeared to have Russian intelligence contacts. Another was suspected of being a Russian agent himself.
Do you believe that? Do you believe there's a chance that this information "might have devastated the Trump campaign"?

I don't. I realize it's 20/20 hindsight, but we now know that there was nothing anyone could say that was going to reduce the Trump vote in November 2016. His fan club thought he could do no wrong. Apart from a handful of professional pundits who occupied the #NeverTrump market niche, the rest of the GOP decided to sink or swim with Trump, and nothing that was revealed during the campaign, or has been revealed since, has made any of those Republicans waver in their support. The Russia revelations we have now haven't alienated his backers. Why would things have been different two years ago?

More plausible are these passages from the Times story:
[FBI a]gents ... worried that any overt actions against Mr. Trump’s campaign would only reinforce his claims that the election was being rigged against him.


But officials have told the inspector general something quite different. They said [FBI agent Lisa] Page and others advocated a slower, circumspect pace [for the investigation], especially because polls predicted Mr. Trump’s defeat. They said that anything the F.B.I. did publicly would only give fodder to Mr. Trump’s claims on the campaign trail that the election was rigged.
It angers me that The New York Times ran a story eight days before the election titled "Investigating Donald Trump, F.B.I. Sees No Clear Link to Russia" -- but in retrospect it's clear that Trump had a successful strategy in place whether he seemed to be under a cloud or not. If he appeared to be in the clear, as this Times story suggested he was, he could sell himself as much cleaner than Crooked Hillary. On the other hand, if the public had been told what the FBI was learning, Trump would have begun shouting "Witch hunt!" even earlier, and we'd have probably had the same electoral outcome, because his voters would have wanted to stick it to the FBI. It was win-win for Trump.

Hillary Clinton had the opposite problem. When she was cleared, Trump -- and anti-Clinton progressives, and Russian propaganda -- said she'd been let off easy. The same thing probably would have been said if she'd been cleared without a James Comey lecture. And when her case was reopened shortly before the election, that was a sign that she was guilty too (even though, of course, it wasn't). Much of the public concluded that she was guilty if she was declared innocent and she was guilty if she was accused of being guilty. For her it was lose-lose.

The "liberal media" didn't close ranks around Clinton, nor did the loudest progressives. The most influential segments of the conservative media did close ranks around Trump, as did nearly every Republican politician.

Clinton didn't know how to turn bad news to her advantage. For Trump, all bad news was part of the elitist plot against him.

So, yes, there was a double standard: We were told a lot about the investigation of Hillary Clinton and next to nothing about the Trump investigation. The treatment of them by the FBI and the media should have been more equitable.

But, electorally, it wouldn't have made a difference. Trump thrived on bad news as well as good news. Clinton couldn't benefit from either.

No comments: