Last Night: An Orchid-Worthy Analysis of Hillary’s Email; an Endorsement for Gary Johnson?

Politico goes deep on Hillary Clinton's emails with analysis of the FBI report and the Chicago Tribune editorial board endorses a third-party candidate.

Last Night: Analyzing Hillary's Email and Gary Johnson


Another installment in our ongoing effort to monitor how politics is covered on prime-time television (and, occasionally, other major media).


Stop the presses! A reporter read a report!!

Bunches of orchids to Politico and reporter Garrett M. Graff. Graff actually took the time to examine the recently released 250-page FBI file of the Hillary Clinton email fracas, providing the most extensive analysis of the situation yet. Graff doesn’t fully exonerate Clinton. She was far more cavalier about her emails than someone in her position should have been, in part because she didn’t know how to use a computer and didn’t know how to log in to her own email! But short of full exoneration, he does report:

Together, the documents, technically known as Form 302s, depict less a sinister and carefully calculated effort to avoid transparency than a busy and uninterested executive who shows little comfort with even the basics of technology, working with a small, harried inner circle of aides inside a bureaucracy where the IT and classification systems haven’t caught up with how business is conducted in the digital age. Reading the FBI’s interviews, Clinton’s team hardly seems organized enough to mount any sort of sinister cover-up. There’s scant oversight of the way Clinton communicated, and little thought given to how her files might be preserved for posterity — MacBook laptops with outdated archives are FedExed across the country, cutting-edge iPads are discarded quickly and BlackBerry devices are rejected for being “too heavy” as staff scrambled to cater to Clinton’s whims.

It should go without saying that Graff shouldn’t have been the only reporter perusing and analyzing these pages, but disgraceful as it is, that appears to be the case. And since it is, Graff’s reporting should be getting much wider circulation. At the very least, every single reporter who has ever discussed Clinton’s emails should practically memorize it.

Among the many revelations: “At State, FBI agents later found, there was ‘no restriction on use of personal email accounts for official business,’ but employees were cautioned about security and records retention concerns.” And: “Officially ‘discouraged,’ sure, but according to many that the FBI interviewed, the State Department’s culture uniquely embraced — and its poor information systems actively seemed to encourage — employees turning to private emails to conduct business.”

And: “The government’s classification system wasn’t necessarily a bright line; sometimes information was technically classified that a reasonable person could argue wasn’t necessary.”

And: “Rather than appearing to be actively covering up Clinton’s paper trail, Clinton’s staffers — harried as they were and pulled in multiple directions by seemingly daily world crises — seemed simply uninterested in the details of record keeping, either for Freedom of Information Act purposes or for the Federal Records Act, which governs official papers. Nor did they appear particularly curious even about Clinton’s own email setup.”

And finally, once again: “Indeed, what comes through time and again in the interview notes of the FBI’s email investigation is — far from a sinister careful cover-up to avoid transparency and hide Clinton’s communications — just how disorganized and uncoordinated the technical details of her system actually were.”

If Clinton were to lose the election, it would rest in no small measure on her emails, though as Graff thoroughly documents, the alleged offenses are minimal. You won’t read that elsewhere in the media. But you can and should read it here.

Endorsing a terrified high school student

Onions to the Chicago Tribune for its endorsement of Libertarian Gary Johnson.

Sliced red onions

Onions (Photo: Darwin Bell [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons)

In their terror at the prospect of Donald Trump becoming president, some conservative newspapers just as rock-ribbed Republican as the Tribune have stated that their concern for the country is greater than their dedication to the GOP, and have endorsed Hillary Clinton for president. (See The Cincinnati Enquirer, The Arizona Republic, The Dallas Morning News, and The San Diego Union-Tribune.)  The Tribune’s decision, on the other hand, to endorse Gary Johnson — the Gary Johnson who looks and acts like a terrified high school student who gets called on by the teacher and didn’t do his homework — is a travesty. New York Times’ columnist Gail Collins may have said it best: “Recently, people have begun to give Johnson the attention he’s been demanding incessantly for the last year, and it turns out — he’s an idiot.”

A chilling account of a Trump rally

Orchids to Washington Post reporter Jenna Johnson. Johnson filed a story Saturday night from a Trump rally in Manheim, Pennsylvania, the news of which was unfortunately buried under The Times’ revelations this weekend about Trump’s taxes. But the rally might, in the end, be far more significant, and if you haven’t read Johnson’s account yet, you should. It will chill your bones.

Purple orchids

Orchids (Photo: Ramesh NG [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons)

Other outlets covered the rally by focusing on Trump’s contention that Hillary Clinton may not have been “loyal” to Bill. That is how most stump reporting works. The reporter plucks out a lede and then cranks out a few hundred words. What Johnson did is something more. She covered the whole speech, contextualized it, and what she gives her readers is the chronicle of an unhinged rant — a stream-of-consciousness breakdown that references not only Hillary’s loyalty to her husband, but also the decline of Hollywood movies; how much he loved doing The Apprentice; Hillary’s sanity (“She could be crazy”) and adding that Bernie Sanders was “Crazy Bernie” too; the need for a posse of Trump voters to patrol “certain areas” on Election Day; the black voters who would flock to him because they live in neighborhoods “worse than war zones”; and Bill Clinton’s impeachment (because “everyone forgets”). At one point, he asked for a prayer for the five Amish schoolgirls killed by a gunman 10 years earlier and said nonsensically, “But when I tell you about what I just did, that is a special group of people.”

Last week, I said Michiko Kakutani’s review of Ullrich Vollmer’s new Hitler biography may be the best indictment of Trump’s candidacy yet. Johnson’s reporting may be the best description yet.

All dressed up as intellectuals but nothing to think

Onions to a group of conservative “scholars and writers” who proclaimed their devotion to Donald Trump as the candidate who can “restore the promise of America.” Of course, you may ask: The promise to do what? Remember when we heard that true conservatives, much less conservative intellectuals, would never endorse Trump? Well, think again. We always knew that on the far right ideology trumped decency. Now we see that rank partisanship trumps ideology. There are no surprises in the bunch. They are the usual suspects who dress up antipathy to compassion in the clothing of intellectualism, but still. . . Donald Trump?

Their cover is blown.

Neal Gabler

Neal Gabler is an author of five books and the recipient of two Los Angeles Times Book Prizes, TIME magazine's non-fiction book of the year, USA Today's biography of the year and other awards. He is also a senior fellow at The Norman Lear Center at the University of Southern California, and is currently writing a biography of Sen. Edward Kennedy.