I just heard what seems to be the closing argument from Donald Trump and his supporter Paul Ryan. In so many words, if Hillary Clinton wins, we’ll throw so many investigations her way that nothing will ever get done and it will be nonstop tension and drama.
Back in March 2015 I wrote this post about what I called my quiet dread at the prospect of another Clinton presidency. I have fond memories of the 90s but have no desire to live them again. As I wrote in that piece, the Clintons both have a codependent and toxic relationship with the national political press. Hillary is tight with information, creating suspicion which leads to bad news stories, investigations, on and on. The emails story is really the epitome of the ‘Clinton scandal’. At the end of the day, simply no there there. But why were we here in the first place? Why use a private server in your own home. Republicans spent the 90s practicing opposition by investigation. It was endless and exhausting. But both Clintons had a habit of giving them just enough to work with.
Some readers have called me out for referring to ‘the Clintons.’ After all, Hillary Clinton is running for president, not Bill. I take the point. But they share a large number of longtime advisors, habits of dealing with what has often been mercilessly terrible press coverage and so forth. One encouraging sign I’ve seen of late is that Hillary made the decision to staff this campaign with a newer set of staffers who lacked a lot of those bad habits – the contrast with her 2008 campaign is really palpable. I hope she continues on that path in staffing an administration. This is actually the one thing I’ve learned from all those Podesta emails. A lot of the younger staffers see how a lot of the older staffers Clinton brings from the 90s create trouble for themselves with excessive secrecy. It’s not an easy pattern to break out of. As they say, even paranoids can have enemies. And a lot of the paranoia of Clinton and her longtime staffers is driven by the fact that they do have a lot of enemies.
As I wrote in that post 18 months ago, Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton were not blameless for all that 90s drama. Certainly, Bill wasn’t when it came to his personal indiscretions. But by and large, Republicans in the 90s realized they usually could not win on policy and made a conscious decision to practice opposition by scandal and investigation. This latest turn of the email case is really just another example of this. What Trump and Ryan are arguing now is little different from the Republican strategy of creating legislative gridlock and then running against governmental paralysis. It’s just pure gall and dishonesty. It would be funny if they weren’t in a position to put the country through it again.