June 15, 2018 | Reading Time: 4 minutes

Women Are Still the Ultimate Outsiders

The FBI report into James Comey's handling of the email investigation proves Hillary Clinton was right.

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The banner news yesterday was the release of a long-awaited 500-page report by the FBI’s inspector general looking into former director James Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email scandal. The liberal reaction has been what you’d expect. Even some conservatives are wondering if the former secretary of state got screwed.

But for many of us, the report’s most painful revelation, the one that hurts so very much, was the inspector general’s uncovering of the fact that Comey himself had used a private email service a handful of times to conduct official business. Of all the things that Clinton had to overcome to win, the email scandal was the biggest. Of all the people involved in that story, Comey’s shadow looms largest. Yet here we are.

A quick reminder: This is the same guy who broke FBI protocol to tell the world that Clinton had been “extremely careless” in using private email rather than government email. This is the same guy who went before Congress weeks before the election to inform lawmakers that his agency had discovered new emails to examine (and that were nothing). This is same guy who, by one authoritative account, may have tipped the election against Clinton. And this is same guy who, after President Donald Trump’s fired him, had the gall to publish a memoir titled A Higher Loyalty.

This was my immediate reaction:

Before I go on, I want to say that I don’t think Comey tipped the election in Trump’s favor any more than I think any one factor effected his victory. I think a confluence of factors determined the outcome, factors complex, competing, intertwining and overlapping, and we are still trying to sort through them. That said, I think Comey’s intervention was colossal. It may have been definitive, but we can’t know.

What we do know only now thanks to this internal report is that a former FBI director widely admired for his principles played a key role in the intelligence community’s effort to inform Americans of the Russian government’s attempt to move public opinion, via social media, in Trump’s favor. Or, more accurately, not to inform.

The inspector general’s report included an email from Oct. 5, 2016, (excerpted below) that Comey wrote to former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former CIA Director John Brennan. In it, he warns against going public about the Kremlin sabotage for fearing of risking the intelligence community’s reputation. By that, he meant accusations of bias by radical conservatives in Congress who do not need a reason to accuse anyone of bias, because that’s just who they are. This email is news and it’s staggering.

It beggars Comey’s reputation as someone who puts honor and duty above political considerations. It bankrupts any meaning in A Higher Loyalty, unless loyalty was to the FBI rather than the American people the agency is supposed to serve.

Because he feared conservative attacks on the FBI, Comey:

  1. staged an unprecedented intervention that wounded Clinton and

  2. warned colleagues against staging another kind of intervention that radical Republicans would have seen as biased against Trump.

He wasn’t brave. He was scared. He wasn’t honorable. He was craven. He wasn’t principled. He was petty. Instead of acting in the country’s interest, James Comey acted in the FBI’s interest, and, in doing so, wounded the United States.

But this pales compared to Washington’s blindingly obvious double standard. Along with Comey, who else used a private email service to conduct official business? Let me count the very many ways: Reince Priebus, Hope Hicks, Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, Gary Cohn, Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, Scott Pruitt, Mike Pence. Oh, there’s more. Others hypocrites include: Scott Walker, Mitt Romney, and Jeb Bush.

Did I mention that hackers compromised White House Chief of Staff John Kelly’s phone? Did I mention that the president himself refuses to use a secured phone? (It’s too inconvenient, he says). That means there’s an approximately 100 percent chance foreign spies are listening to virtually everything going on in the Oval Office.

If others are guilty of the same sin, why did Clinton alone pay the price?

You know the answer.

In the fall of 2015, Face the Nation host John Dickerson said that given Trump’s and Bernie Sanders’ apparent popularity, it looked like voters wanted a political outsider in 2016. “That puts you in a fix,” Dickerson said, referring to her many years in the public eye and the image of her as the ultimate insider. She laughed. She said, “I cannot imagine anyone being more of an outsider than the first woman president.”    

She was panned for telling the truth. She was playing the sex card, we were told. She was playing the victim. She was doing whatever. But she was right.

It’s all right to use a private email service to conduct official business as long as you are not a woman seeking power. If you are not, you might be president one day.

If you are, well, you’ll always be an outsider.

Reader response!

GR responded to Thursday’s newsletter, Go Ahead. Get Mad. Politics Is About Conflict, in which I said politics, at its roots, is about fighting. Here’s GR:

I disagree with your assessment of politics as fighting. Politics is about the interactions among people to get things done. The conservative mindset, or temperament, seems to prefer win-lose—with the winning dominance often followed by throwing the loser a bone or two. The liberal temperament (obviously, this is my own) generally prefers win-win—with their side getting as much of what they want as they can, but generally hoping the sides can unite under compromise and move forward. This is, in part, why conservatives consider liberals to be weak and whiny.

The true merit of competition in any group or society is to see who is best at what. (Going back to Adam Smith’s example of pin makers—Wealth of Nations, chapter 1, paragraph 4—whoever is better at each different element of the whole process makes the whole of the process better for all.)

Ever since Newt Gingrich became Speaker of the House, that “win at all costs” mind-set has dominated our politics. This is why the GOP has continued to grow stronger, while the Democrats have taken countless “hits” for their seemingly conservative courses, even when in power.

Many thanks to GR! If you’d also like to get in touch, write me.

I’m at johnastoehr at gmail.


John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.

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