Whatever happens Tuesday — and I’m confident Donald Trump will lose (the election, but not his perch as guru of modern Republicans) — The Comey Letter has entered permanent historical legend. The FBI Director’s decision to drop a hand grenade into presidential politics will be studied and argued over for decades. Did it swing the final vote? Did it drive down turn out? Was it a vital element in swaying down ballot votes to Republicans?
Don’t expect any definitive answers on any of those, ever.
What will be easier to assess is the internal culture of the FBI. Since Comey’s letter was leaked eight days ago we have learned, through actual reporting, not cheap punditry, that the FBI, particularly retired agents associated with the New York field office, have been in rebellion mode for quite some time and that Comey had “concerns” (i.e. we was afraid) they would further undermine his authority by leaking their “evidence” of serious corruption on the part of the Clintons to Republicans. Hence, his decision to alert Congress that the FBI had something more on the great Clinton email scandal … without actually yet having anything or even knowing if there was ever going to be anything.
But here’s my favorite part. That FBI culture. As the story has accumulated detail over the past week (with more certain to come) we see the FBI having essentially the same internal dynamics as the average police force, most of the military and the bedrock of Trump’s support. Namely, it’s an overwhelmingly male universe with a militaristic attitude toward perceived enemies, which is to say, “If they’re not on our side, they’re against us and need to be neutralized.”
From the Politico story linked above: “According to numbers from August, 67 percent of FBI agents are white men. Fewer than 20 percent are women. The number of African-American agents hovers around 4.5 percent, with Asian-Americans about the same and Latinos at about 6.5 percent. If Trump were running for president with an electorate that looked like that, he’d win in a landslide. ‘The bureau does tend to be more conservative than people you see in the general populace. It’s a natural outgrowth of the demographics. … That’s just math,’, said retired agent Emmanuel Johnson, one of several African-American agents who sued the FBI for racial discrimination in the 1990s. ‘What’s troubling is you look at the same population groups they were having trouble [recruiting] 20, 30, 40 years ago and they’re having the same trouble today’.”
Despite being better educated and better trained than your average say Chicago or St. Anthony, Minnesota cop, the picture of the FBI revealed as a result of Comey’s letter is that of yet another group of public employees roiling with the same antipathies and hostilities of a lot of middle-age and older mostly white American males. A subset of the population eager to embrace as fact anything that confirms their righteous, embattled protectors-of-God’s-one-truth view that the only explanation for the expansion of liberal ideas, from Black Lives Matter, to ethnic tolerance to genuine equality for women is … corruption … on the part of the most prominent and successful liberals on the landscape, the Clintons*.
The head-slapper in reporting on the FBI New York field office was the basis of their outrage over the (liberal Obama) Justice Department’s refusal to launch a DefCon Four attack the Clinton Foundation. Multiple sources says it was a book, “Clinton Cash” written by Republican think-tanker/consultant Peter Schweizer. The book comes with a gloss the usual anti-Clinton screeds lack. Schweizer is associated with the Stanford-based Hoover Institute. But he is also associated/funded by the Koch brothers and Steve Bannon, CEO of the truly unhinged Breitbart website and Trump’s current campaign supervisor. The Bannon-produced campanion movie was widely mocked as a howler of overwrought distortion.
Said TIME magazine: “The film carefully curates reality in way to boost anti-Clinton voices. For instance, discussion of Bill Clinton’s role in post-2010 Haiti earthquake completely ignores that George W. Bush also helped raise cash in the wake of the disaster, nor does it acknowledge that one character, the founder of Canadian TD Bank’s sister corporation, TD Ameritrade, also funded Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s super PAC. The film doesn’t mention other reasons why Hillary Clinton may have made particular decisions, leaving the viewer with a narrow understanding. And it blurs the line between Bill and Hillary Clinton’s actions, treating them as essentially the same person.
“Visually and sonorously, the film more closely resembles a Bond film, with pictures of the Clintons and their associates stained with blood-like red ink. At other times, the film suggests that checkbooks are filled with blood money. And the music that plays over grainy images of the Clintons—and mushroom clouds—matches. It won’t win an Oscar for subtlety, but it makes a point.”
This sort of thing is standard politics, something the Clintons are well accustomed to. What’s different is when the FBI starts treating flagrantly partisan hysteria-mongering as though it were actual evidence. (As usual, the “full story” can’t be told until the Clintons are “properly investigated”, never mind the 25 years the same crowd has been investigating — with persistent futility — everything from Arkansas land deals to cattle-futures trading.)
Schweizer’s book got more than average play in the mainstream press, likely due to the enormous lift it was given by right-wing radio, which treated it and hyped it to its audience (of primarily middle-aged-to-elderly white males) as a cross between the Codex Seraphinianus and the Bible.
Again, that’s democracy and free speech. Hysterical insinuation comes with the territory. What’s bad news — really bad news for the credibility of the FBI and the trust the public puts in it — is when people hired and trained to deal with hard evidence, demonstrable, provable facts, shuck all that, revolt against the system they’ve sworn to uphold and force a nervous, insecure boss into breaking standards observed even by a cross-dressing whack job like J. Edgar Hoover.
*Only in 2016’s Breitbart/TReaParty hysteria would the Clintons be considered “liberals”.