Monday, July 25, 2016

The DNC email controversy seems to be nothing but bullshit

I read some of the emails from the wikileaks DNC file and, is it just me, or is this one giant nothingburger? There are a lot of emails of DNC people getting exasperated with the Sanders campaign for not dropping out when it became clear that he had no real chance of winning... and that's about it. ABC news identifies the four "most damaging' emails and I think only one is even remotely damaging. Here's the list:

1. Debbie Wasserman Shultz referred to Sander's campaign manager with some mean names in an internal DNC email discussion.

2. DNC CFO Brad Marshall, contemplated having someone ask Sanders about his religious beliefs, because being an atheist could harm him in some states.

3. DNC National Secretary Mark Paustenbach asked the DNC Communications Director if they could push a narrative that the Sanders campaign was disorganized. The Communications Director rejected the idea because the chair of the DNC had ordered them "not to engage."

4. Shultz lamented that Sanders never has been a member of the Democratic Party and does not really understand the party.

#1 doesn't matter (there's no reason that the head of the DNC can't have feelings about some of the people in a campaign and mention those feelings in a private email). #3 shows that the DNC was committed to its neutrality stance, and #4 is an opinion that is arguably true (until he ran for President, Sanders did not identify as a Democrat).

The only one that I think is at all damaging is #2, the one about using Sander's religion. And yet, the DNC did not put out any statements about Sander's religion. Nor did any DNC plant try to put Sanders on the spot with an embarrassing question about his religion. There's just this email (dated May 5, when the contest was already, for all practical purposes, over) floating an idea that no one apparently pursued.

#2 happens to be the email that is getting the most attention. And some people are misreporting that it suggested using the fact that Sanders is Jewish as a weapon against him. But that's not what the email says. If you read the full text, I think it is clear that Marshall was floating the idea of using atheism against him, not Judaism. Here is the full email:
It might may no difference, but for KY and WVA can we get someone to ask his belief. Does he believe in a God. He had skated on saying he has a Jewish heritage. I think I read he is an atheist. This could make several points difference with my peeps. My Southern Baptist peeps would draw a big difference between a Jew and an atheist.
The email clearly suggests that while Sanders has "Jewish heritage" (which is already public knowledge anyway) he really is an atheist and that Southern Baptists "draw a big difference between a Jew and an atheist." To me, it looks like what he is saying is Southern Baptists might accept a Jew, but they would have more problems with an atheist, so Marshall asks whether "we can get someone to ask [Sanders about] his belief" in the hopes that he will reveal his atheism and damage his candidacy. The proposal was not a Jew-based attack, it was an atheism-based attack. As a Jewish atheist myself, I think Marshall is correct that Judaism is a lot more acceptable to a broader segment of the population than atheism. The anti-semitism charge I have seen in a few of the news accounts are not supported by the actual email. I would buy an anti-atheism charge, except that no one took Marshall up on his idea, so it ended up being little more than an idea that never went anywhere. So even this one arguably damaging email is not all that damaging.

Wikileaks released a total of 19,252 emails, so obviously there are a lot more than these four, and I haven't read the vast majority of them. Maybe there are other bad things in there somewhere. But if the four highlighted by ABC News as the "most damaging" really are the most damaging, there is nothing to this scandal.

ADDING: And is it really breaking news that the DNC favored Clinton throughout the primary? They didn't even try to hide it. I didn't need leaked emails to tell me that.