Yesterday afternoon, I got into a bit of a Twitter snit debate with a few people about whether or not Donna Brazile got access to debate questions before the Town Hall and then passed them along to the Clinton campaign, thereby helping rig the election. After a few back-and-forths, I stopped for a couple of reasons. The first is because...well, I was leaving soon to go to a friend's house to watch the beloved Chicago Cubs in their first World Series game in 71 years. That had priority over Clinton hacked emails. Oh, okay, over everything. (Side note: I wasn't anxious to go a Cubs Party for several reasons, but since he's a good friend and it felt rude not to go, I said 'yes,' but laid down a few ground rules -- which included the right to throttle a mutual friend who was gong to be there Happily, with a few admonitions, he was on semi-reasonable good behavior during the game. If only the Cubs complied as well.)
The other reason I stopped participating in the Tweet Snit is because...well, I couldn't quite see the point that the others arguing were trying to make.
It began with them claiming that Main Stream Big Media was in Hillary Clinton's pocket. Never mind that when I asked what what evidence they had, things got a little pissy. Eventually it got around to basically, "Well, yeah, how about Donna Brazile's email claiming she had a question in advance from CNN and sent it to the Democratic campaign??"
I wrote that I was inclined to believe her explanation since it seemed to make reasonable sense, but that honestly I had no idea if that was so, and for all I knew she was lying. (In true Twitter style, I'd keep getting back: "So, you believe whatever Donna Brazile says!!" No, I kept replying, please read what I actually said.) I was also sent techie "proof" -- involving something known as DMIK code -- that showed the hacked emails couldn't possibly have been forged. I said that, for all I knew, the proof was right, but...for all I knew it wasn't, and I preferred to see outside verification, not take the word of a blog.
This set of a stream of more angry tweets. And that's when a) I had to go to the Cubs game, and b) I stopped caring, because I suddenly realized couldn't see the point they were trying to make that had started this all.
Honestly, I don't know if Donna Brazile got a question in advance. I'd like to think not, and that her explanation seemed believable, but I don't know. The thing is -- for the sake of argument -- even if we accept the absolute worst, that "yes," Donna Brazile got a question in advance of the Town Hall and passed it along to the Clinton campaign, I still can't see their outraged point that this proved The Media was conspiring for Hillary Clinton.
To be clear, I hope no one passed Ms. Brazile a question. And I hope she didn't pass it along. That's not the way I like to see things played out, so, for me it would be wrong. I'd like to think everything was fully above board.
Yet, still, try as I might, I can't get worked up about it. And that's if The Worst really did happen.
First of all, there's a timeline to all this, and CNN's explanation that they weren't involved, pointing to the inviolate timeline, is pretty tough to contradict. So, if Donna Brazile really did get her question from someone, it could not have been from CNN and only from their producing partner, a digital cable channel and satellite TV network called TV One. Hardly big time Main Stream Media. That doesn't mean TV One didn't pass anything along, just hardly evidence of a conspiracy of The Media. (It also doesn't mean they did pass anything along -- for all we know, "the question" in question may have been laying out somewhere, and Ms. Brazile saw it that way. Or not. We don't know, and there's no evidence how she got it. Even if she got it, but for now it's just something we're assuming for the sake of argument.)
Furthermore, Donna Brazile is the temporary head of the Democratic National Committee. She's not part of The Media, having resigned her analyst jobs when she took on leadership of the DNC. I'd think anyone in that position -- or in the position of her counterpart at the RNC -- would be deeply interested to know the questions in advance. And if they got questions, would want to pass it along. No, it wouldn't be "playing cricket," But it would be playing politics. And I'd understand it, whichever side was involved.
More to the point, as the emails show, the Clinton campaign couldn't have cared less about the question. They wrote back that the question (which was about the death penalty) was not dicey for the candidate at all and that Hillary Clinton would just go ahead with her normal answer that she always gave about the death penalty whenever it came up. So, there was no benefit from getting the question in advance.
And speaking of the emails, I think it's important to always point out that they were stolen. That may not have any bearing on the content, but I think stolen material -- whatever it is -- should be looked at both with wariness and distaste. Forgetting whether it could have been forged (again, remember, we're assuming for the sake of argument that it wasn't), it was still stolen personal, private property.
(Was receiving the question itself "stolen property"? If someone at TV One did give it to Donna Brazile, they gave what was theirs. It wasn't supposed to be passed along, but someone -- again, for the sake of argument -- made chose to pass what was theirs along. Unfairly, and maybe without permission. But not stolen.)
In addition, if someone is arguing that this is "proof" of a big conspiracy of Main Street Media -- remembering that this is TV One we're talking about -- the reality here is that one question (one) out of a whole evening of questions was passed along. That doesn't make it good or right or disprove anything -- but perspective, noting it's still just one question, which is a pretty piss-poor conspiracy, I'd say. Getting one question in advance certainly helps. It just doesn't help all that much... especially when you don't even care about the question and are sticking with your standard answer. One would think that a Big Conspiracy of The Media would be able to come up with more than just one freaking question, out of an evening of questions . Most especially when this is your centerpiece of "proof" that The Media is in your pocket. One question is a pretty teensy pocket.
And that leads to a final point.
As I said, I'm not shocked that the head of the DNC would want to pass along "one" question that she got in advance (assuming she did). Since -- as I also said -- I'd think the head of the RNC would, as well. And so, this is the thing: while there's all this outrage over the one question that Donna Brazile may possibly have gotten...and as I said, I have no idea if she's telling the truth or lying about that...what I also have no idea about is if the RNC and Trump committee got any questions in advance, as well. They may not have, and we have no proof that they did. But -- a) I'm absolutely sure they were trying as hard as the DNC was to find out, and b) the only reason we don't know is that their emails aren't being hacked and stolen.
The bottomline here is that -- assuming the worst -- I don't like that anything was known in advance when it shouldn't have been and got passed along. But (as its worst) it's not an issue that even remotely demonstrates that Main Stream Media is in Hillary Clinton's pocket and conspiring for her. At worst, it shows that someone at a small TV organization passed along one question that they shouldn't have, and that the question got ignored by the recipients.
In no way am I dismissing this as perfectly fine. The general idea of getting questions in advance is not how I like the game played. It may be politics as usual, and may also be something both sides were doing -- or not. And it may not have even happened -- or did. But assuming The Absolute Worst here, it is not even in the most infinitesimal incarnation Big Outrage Proof of a Mass Conspiracy by Main Street Media that some are trying to make it. At its worst, it's that a hacked and unforged email shows someone outside the Clinton campaign acted very inappropriately and unfairly. And in the end, seems to have had zero impact on anything.
If in fact it happened, it would be a problem worth knowing and there should be ramifications for whoever did wrong. It would also be, in this campaign, one of the more superficial transgressions in a near-daily avalanche of revelations, some of which fall in the land of not just criminal but actual felony.
So, in the end, after enough give-and-take, it's become difficult for me to care one whit about anyone trying to prove that Donna Brazile's actual or fake, stolen email demonstrates there is an ongoing conspiracy with The Media to rig the election.
And that's what I was trying to write in 140-characters or less on Twitter...
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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