For weeks before an election that could have hiked the minimum wage, reformed immigration and revitalized our crumbling infrastructure — at once boosting the economy and strengthening the nation — all the media could focus on was Ebola.

The death toll among those contracting it here?  Zero.*

(November would also have been a chance for the 92% of Americans who favor universal background checks to vote for representatives who’d pass them; the vast majority who favor ENDA to vote for represenatives who’d pass it; and student-loan holders to vote for representatives who’d allow them to refinance at today’s low rates, as homeowners do.)

Ebola consumed mindshare that would better have been devoted to a logical discussion of the policy choices the election represented, but we seem to choose our leaders largely on how tall they are and how much we’d like to share a beer.

War?  Peace?  Investment?  Austerity?  You make my head hurt even trying to think about such things!  I just like the candidate’s hair.

Plus, everyone’s lying to us anyway, so why even try to figure out whose policies would be best?

But actually, not everybody’s lying to us.  It’s not equivalent on both sides.

George W. Bush told a multi-trillion dollar lie to get elected — “By far the vast majority” of his proposed tax cuts would go to people “at the bottom of the economic ladder.”  He and Dick Cheney told us they would go to war in Iraq only as a last resort — and somehow, 70% of the people who voted to reelect them came to believe Iraq had a hand in attacking us on 9/11.

Even if it were true that Al Gore claimed he invented the Internet (he never did) . . . even if it were true that he should have gone across the street to make some fundraising calls (there was “no controlling authority” and the cost to the taxpayers of the phone calls was, in any event, infinitesimally trivial) . . . what difference does it make?  

The important thing Al Gore has long been saying is that we, as a species, face catastrophe if we don’t address climate change.

And on that point the opposition works actively to mislead.  So much so you could write a book about it: Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming.

So let’s consider for a moment the seemingly co-equal controversies of the last few weeks: Hillary’s emails and the 47 Republican senators’ letter seeking to undermine the President’s negotiations with Iran.

  • One involves war and peace — things that make a meaningful difference in average American lives.  (Ask any family struggling to get by because we spent a trillion dollars in Iraq that we failed to spend here; ask the family of any vet suffering from PTSD.)
  • The other involves a ninth taxpayer-financed Republican Congressional investigation into Benghazi.  (The first eight found no wrongdoing; including the the most recent to release its findings.)  The Secretary’s emails relating to Benghazi — the only ones the Republicans claim they’re after — make zero difference in average American lives.

WRITING THE AYATOLLAH

The New York Daily News dubbed the 47 Republican signers “traitors.”

Jonathan Capehart reports for the Washington Post that retired Major Gen. Paul D. Eaton prefers a different characterization:

“I would use the word mutinous,” said Eaton . . . “I do not believe these senators were trying to sell out America. I do believe they defied the chain of command in what could be construed as an illegal act. . . . a gross breach of discipline.  . . .

“I have no issue with Senator Cotton, or others, voicing their opinion in opposition to any deal to halt Iran’s nuclear progress. Speaking out on these issues is clearly part of his job. But to directly engage a foreign entity, in this way, undermining the strategy and work of our diplomats and our Commander in Chief, strains the very discipline and structure that our foreign relations depend on to succeed. . . . The breach of discipline is extremely dangerous, because undermining our diplomatic efforts, at this moment, brings us another step closer to a very costly and perilous war with Iran.”

This is a big deal.

THE EMAILS

This is not.

Critics argue the Secretary should have used two separate email accounts, even though it wasn’t then required by law.  But what difference would it have made if she had?  Would those critics have trusted her to assign Whatever-They-Think-She-Is-Hiding to the proper account?  One presumes they would have demanded her private emails even if she had kept two separate accounts.

And what exactly do the Republicans think she is hiding?

If it’s nothing specific, why not subpoena the private emails of all elected and appointed officials?  Some of them have doubtless done something wrong — or at least emabarrassing — that we could uncover if we went through all their emails.

(And what about texts?  Hand-written communications?  Diaries?  Phone conversations?  Private thoughts?  Would we go after them if we could?  Why is it only emails that matter?  And why do we think it’s okay Lindsay Graham doesn’t send any?  What’s he trying to hide by avoiding the one form of communication easily subpoenaed?  Should we start investigating all those who don’t use email?  Their aides?  Their spouses?)

Or should we perhaps save our investigations for important things where there’s credible evidence of possible wrongdoing that needs to be investigated?  Like four days of massive traffic jams blocking access to the George Washington Bridge.  Who ordered that and why?

What’s the similar mystery Republicans feel bound to unravel with Secretary Clinton?  They say they’re only after Benghazi emails.  Do they think that after eight investigations, and against all reason, it will turn out she secretly wished the four fallen Americans harm?  (Here’s how she eulogized them, by the way.)

Others hope to find some kind of impropriety involving gifts to the Clinton Foundation.  But really?  Is it in any way credible that as Secretary of State — or President — she would put some foreign government’s interests ahead of our own because it had given $50 million to help the Foundation fight AIDS or repair Haiti or combat childhood obesity?  Really?

You will recall that Bush/Cheney defied requests even for the list of attendees, let alone transcripts, of the secret White House meetings held to formulate energy policy.  Any chance Cheney had a conflict of interest with Haliburton?  That Bush was favoring the oil industry to enrich his friends?  That he protected Enron, even as it was bringing consumers to their knees manipulating prices?

Somehow this seems more ripe for review than the Clinton Foundation’s receivingforeign support for its humanitarian work around the world.  How would that have hurt American consumers?

To a reader who wrote to express outrage over the email “scandal” I replied:  “What is it you suspect Hillary of DOING?????  Are you still upset the Clintons lost $35,000 in a failed real estate deal called Whitewater?  Or that someone in the White House travel office may have gotten a raw deal?  Does that overshadow, for you, the eight years of peace and prosperity and progress the nation enjoyed under the last Clinton administration?  What of the Clinton Global Initiative that (like the Carter Center) has helped millions upon millions of people – real, living, breathing, individual people?  Is the important thing to focus on here not all the good the Foundation has done/is doing, but, rather, that you just don’t like Hillary?”

Sorry, but I get a little steamed.

Even the New York Times got some of it wrong initially.

As Media Matters reported:

. . . The Times‘ earlier allegation that Clinton may have violated federal law was undercut by a subsequent report published over a week later explaining that oversight of email guidelines [were] “vague” at the time Clinton worked at the State Department . . .

. . .  Contrary to [its] initial assertion that Clinton’s aides were required to preserve her records at the time, the Times later reported that the system for preserving emails was not put in place until after Clinton left the State Department . . .

. . . In their original report, the Times claimed that Clinton’s use of private email was seen as “alarming” and a “serious breach” by officials, quoting a former director from the National Archives who claimed it was “difficult to conceive of a scenario” where such practices would be justified . . . [But] the Times later clarified that “there has never been any legal prohibition” against the practice and that “Members of President Obama’s cabinet” use a “wide variety of strategies” to handle their emails . . .

And does anyone remember she really didn’t want this uber-gruelling job?  That she was living the comfortable life of a popular senator, respected on both sides of the aisle, before the President asked her, repeatedly, to serve?  Should that not perhaps by 99.8% of the story?  Will the Republicans conduct 56 investigations into the four tragic deaths at Benghazi as they’ve held 56 votes to repeal Obamacare — or could they just, conceivably, give it a rest and move on?

 

*In Africa, American efforts helped keep the epidemic from going global.  Americans of any all political stripe should feel proud of the Administration’s response — and of our having paid the taxes to fund it.

Tomorrow or soon: TED!

 

 

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