We must forgive Mark Twain for his error when he declared that “history never repeats itself but it often rhymes.” After all, he’d never met the Clintons.
If Twain were alive now, he would be astonished at how the headlines over the e-mail scandal roiling the presidential race are virtual repeats of the family’s 1990s saga in power.
The headlines are also an omen. A restoration of the Clinton presidency would be a restoration of the national and moral chaos they invariably create.
They can’t help themselves. They are corrupt and corrupters, the Typhoid Mary of politics.
Whether by nature or nurture, they are programmed to ruin. Friends, allies, institutions — all are stained by their touch.
And always, the Clintons blame somebody else. Now it’s FBI Director James Comey’s turn to embody their all-purpose bogeyman, the vast right-wing conspiracy. Somebody, sometimes everybody, is out to get them, unfairly of course.
The victim card is a Clinton family heirloom, but there are major problems playing it over Comey’s sudden reopening of the e-mail probe.
Clinton created the mess with her incredibly stupid decision to use a private server as secretary of state. Virtually every major issue dogging her, including her reputation for chronic dishonesty, was started or exacerbated by that decision, including the current one.
Even as her top aides remain mystified about why she did it, the result fits the family pattern now that Huma Abedin, her most loyal “body” person, is on the hook. It was, by all accounts, the FBI’s criminal investigation into Abedin’s pervy husband, Anthony Weiner, that led to the new cache of suspect e-mails found on a computer the couple shared.
Still, Clinton is understandably panicked because the timing of Comey’s announcement could cost her the election. Her demand that he release everything immediately is also understandable, even as she knows it is impossible for him to release potential evidence before it is examined.
Her attacks on him play well to her base, and her media handmaidens are amplifying the complaint that he has gone rogue. But, as usual, there is less than meets the eye here, for Clinton could solve the problem herself without Comey doing anything to help.
She could simply order Abedin to hold a press conference and answer any and every question about the newest batch of e-mails. Let reporters ask Abedin directly: What’s in those e-mails? Did any contain classified material?
Why didn’t you turn that computer over to the FBI during its initial investigation? Did you lie to the FBI about having work-related e-mails on it?
Also, did Weiner have access to classified material? Was the computer ever hacked?
The potential upside is huge. If Abedin can answer “no” to all the key questions about classified material and her own conduct, Clinton could credibly declare Comey’s announcement much ado about nothing.
She could even hold her own press conference to answer questions and conclude by saying: We have been as transparent as we can be, and we are not afraid of a new investigation because we have nothing to hide.
Now, back to reality. Clinton reality.
Hillary won’t do any of that because the potential downside is also huge. My guess is she fears the worst, and may secretly subscribe to the idea that Comey wouldn’t have acted in such a bold and controversial way without some conviction that he had stumbled on a potential bombshell.
And Clinton, a former litigator used to playing defense, probably already knows what’s in the e-mails. Or perhaps she has concluded that, if indeed there are thousands of them, as is being reported, at least some are bound to re-fuel suspicions that she and her team are guilty of mishandling national secrets.
Then, instead of putting the issue to bed, any substantive discussion, including an Abedin press conference, would actually fan the fire just as voters are going to the polls.
Moreover, even if Abedin’s answers would help Clinton, taking her public would be effectively betting the presidency on her performance. Abedin’s always worked behind the scenes, and has little experience in front of a camera, not to mention a forest of them that would assemble for such an extraordinary event.
To top it off, this professional crisis is coming as Abedin’s personal world is in turmoil. Weiner is a certified creep, but he is still the father of their young child, and now faces the possibility of federal prison.
Against that backdrop, what if Abedin were to stumble or crack in public? What if she has a lawyer who advises her to say nothing because she might also be a federal target and risks incriminating herself by speaking publicly?
The stress for everybody involved must be enormous. The race with Donald Trump was tightening even before this, and now Comey’s wild card scrambles the prepared end game and closing arguments.
All of which points to Clinton’s most likely strategy: say nothing while trying to make the issue about Comey’s unorthodox move. A hint of it came Friday evening in her first public reaction.
After falsely accusing him of sending his congressional letter only to Republicans — congressional Democrats also got it — Clinton dodged a direct question about whether she had spoken to Abedin. Instead of saying yes or no, she avoided it entirely.
According to reporters, Abedin was on the campaign plane, but disappeared when it landed. And she hasn’t been seen since; hence the “Huma in Hiding” headlines.
We’re likely to see more of those headlines in coming days. It’s the Clinton way, where truth is always the enemy.