When the October WikiLeaks surprise finally came, Donald Trump couldn’t exploit it. He was too busy talking about Bill Clinton’s sexual history and explaining away his own crude behavior.
Trump’s flawed campaign strategy and ineptitude as a candidate are now helping Hillary Clinton duck scrutiny on matters for which she should be held accountable. That would be assorted revelations from a deluge of WikiLeaks-released e-mails — not what Clinton might have said decades ago about or to women who accused her husband of sexual harassment or assault .
So far, no one is reporting anything close to a smoking gun from the WikiLeaks dump of Clinton campaign e-mail. But media accounts of some of the internal correspondence do raise legitimate questions about policy shifts, and the extent of communication and cooperation between the campaign and the Department of Justice regarding its investigation of Clinton’s private e-mail server. Concerns expressed about the Clinton Foundation are also worthy of follow-up.
Staff hand-wringing over optics and tactics fascinates fellow operatives. Yet even as it chortles away, the political world also knows how embarrassing a lot of private communication looks once it’s shoved into the public realm. From the political right come charges that the e-mails show media collusion with the Clinton campaign, but there are no such worries about Sean Hannity’s collusion with Trump.
The Clinton campaign has not formally verified the authenticity of the e-mails. But John Podesta, the Clinton campaign chairman, is blaming Russian intelligence officials for the hacking. The Obama administration has also put out word that it believes the Russian government is behind it, in an effort to help Trump win the election. If electing Trump is Vladimir Putin’s goal, the Russian leader must be screaming “nyet!” as he watches his candidate’s repeated blunders.
Trump attacked gold star parents and continued fat-shaming a former Miss Universe. Then, by dragging Bill Clinton’s accusers from long-ago Arkansas days to last Sunday’s debate, he turned Hillary Clinton into a relatable human being. In other words, Trump did for Hillary what she has had trouble doing for herself. If Trump believed Hillary Clinton would crumble, he and voters instead saw a strong candidate who more than held herself together under very adverse debating conditions. Trump also wanted to remind voters of Bill Clinton’s inappropriate behavior. Did he forget that voters old enough to remember elected Clinton despite headlines about his sexual history? And, then reelected him? The former president left office with an approval rating of 66 percent, even after his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
Meanwhile, Trump’s insistence during the debate on labeling his own remarks about grabbing women and forcing himself on them as mere “locker room” chatter kept that story going. It’s also leading to new headlines about how he strolled in on naked beauty queen contestants. Trump’s attacks on fellow Republicans have commandeered the rest of the campaign news coverage, and his rabid talk at rallies complete the portrait of a man who looks unhinged rather than presidential.
I’m not wishing for any revival of Trump’s fortunes, just pointing out the obvious: Hillary Clinton is very lucky to be running against him. If she faced an opponent like John Kasich or Jeb Bush, she would be forced to answer more questions about those e-mails.
With Trump, it’s all locker room talk, all the time, because that’s all this reality TV star posing as a presidential candidate knows how to do.Joan Vennochi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @Joan_Vennochi.