There’s every possibility that the “smoking gun” Wikileaks was trying to expose actually had little to do with Clinton’s Wall Street speeches, but was instead about the boogie man of Benghazi.
Ah Benghazi… Just the mention of the name by now will cause a certain portion of the electorate’s ears to perk up, even while everyone else just shudders and shakes their head.
For those who do not remember it (or who choose not to remember it) the name refers to a coordinated attack on two US government facilities in Libya in 2012. It resulted in the deaths of four Americans, including US Ambassador Christopher Stevens. It fell on the anniversary of Sept 11, and initially appeared to be part of widespread protests about the film Innocence of Muslims. However, it was later proven to have been well planned in advance. Hillary Clinton, who was Secretary of State at the time, accepted some responsibility for the fact that security at the facilities had been insufficient to hold off such an attack. Several government investigations followed, and some are still ongoing. None have found anything criminal on the part of the Obama administration.
There was a lot of partisan division in the US government regarding Benghazi. It took a few weeks before the Obama administration could admit that the attack was a planned act of terrorism and not just a spontaneous protest. This lapse of time was seen by some to be proof of the administration’s incompetence, or (even worse) proof of a cover up. The fact that the attack occurred in the closing weeks of the 2012 Presidential campaign also meant that both sides may have viewed the incident as a bit of a hot potato which could embarrass Obama. Robert Gates, the former CIA Director and Secretary of Defense, even rose to the defense of Obama, stating that critics often had a “cartoonish” view of the capabilities of the US military to predict and respond to such attacks.
To this day, many on the far right of US politics seem to believe that Hillary Clinton is in some way personally responsible for the deaths of the Americans at Benghazi. They believe that she ignored their cries for help, or even worse, arranged for them to be killed. There’s no evidence of this, but it doesn’t stop people from claiming it. Indeed, Donald Trump claimed in the debate just this past weekend, that Clinton chose to ignore “600 requests” from Ambassador Stevens at Benghazi and instead spoke to her good friend, Sidney Blumenthal… This is at best a massive exaggeration, which tends to imply that Stevens tried to contact Clinton 600 times during the attack. Instead, there were 600 or so official messages from the embassy over the course of his posting, of which only some were requests for security upgrades.
Blumenthal’s name has come up a couple of times now. In the first debate, in response to criticism of his years-long trumpeting of “birtherism”, Trump claimed that it was Blumenthal who started the rumor that Obama was born in Kenya (Blumenthal has categorically denied this). Following the second debate, Trump doubled down and claimed at a rally that the Wikileaks emails had included and exchange where Blumenthal noted Clinton’s responsibility for what happened at Benghazi…
The trouble (or perhaps the most revealing fact) is that this was only reported by the Russian news site, Sputnik. It wasn’t picked up by the media in the US quite simply because it wasn’t true. The email Trump is referring to actually has Blumenthal quoting from a column in Newsweek, not directly accusing Clinton of wrongdoing. It does suggest that reading comprehension in the Trump camp is pretty poor, but it is certainly not an admission of guilt from Clinton or anyone close to her.
Like all of these “scandals” in the last ugly days of the campaign, there is once again smoke with no real fire. It would so far appear that the Wikileaks emails (despite promising big revelations) have implicated Hillary Clinton in… well virtually nothing. The sexual assault allegations against both Trump and Bill Clinton are credible and disturbing, but the attempt to tie Hillary Clinton into that is pretty tenuous. The rape case that she took as a public defender in the 1970s is also disturbing… but there’s no evidence that she did anything wrong or that she was unduly cruel or callous towards the child in question. There’s a lot of noise here, but not much of substance.
Which brings me back to Trump’s “scandal”. Everyone seems to have gotten upset about Trump saying that he can grope women and get away with it because he’s famous. Everyone seems to be offended that he’d try to prey on married women, even when he himself is married. But we all knew that he thought like that, and we all knew that he has a long history of adultery and divorce, so (as I said at the start) it’s really more sad than offensive. Here’s what creeped me out more about that video: the bit where Billy Bush (having just heard the conversation, which the Arianne Zucker was not privy to) “suggested” that she give them both a hug. He’s kind of prodding the situation in the hope that Trump will live up to his bluster, and offering a female human sacrifice in the process. This is not the action of a decent person… and it would appear that Bush’s job has at least become a casualty of all this outrage.
But later on there’s the saving grace. When she’s walking between them and Bush asks her who she’d rather date… and she “pleads the fifth”.
This is a message to all men. Some women talk like this. It isn’t “locker room talk”, it’s “self preservation talk”. Pleading the fifth is basically Woman-Code for “I find you both equally disgusting”… And she didn’t even have to hear the conversation in the bus. She’s clearly just uncomfortable and playing along with their lecherous flirting because it’s her job.
Again, though… it’s not a scandal. Stuff like this happens every day. There’s nothing on that tape that would appear to be out of character for someone like Trump. Indeed, there’s now speculation that part of the reason he tried to have Nancy O’Dell removed from hosting the Miss USA pageant was in retaliation for her rebuffing his sexual advances… Which also isn’t a scandal.
Perhaps is the candidates swapped places, then all of this noise would mean something. If it was Hillary Clinton boasting about groping young men, and Donald Trump apparently tying himself into knots about how to look presentable and relatable to the wider public, then there would be a reason for all of this fuss.
… I started this whole (very long) post after having sat down and watched The Producers. It was “the wrong script, the wrong director, the wrong cast… Where did we go right?” How did we get to here? How did this electoral campaign even happen? Why do the general public suddenly care so passionately about two candidates who would generally disgust most people most of the time?…
Because it’s good comedy.
But it’s not. But it is. But it’s not. In a few weeks it will cease to be comedy and become real life.
God help us all.