There’s something for everyone in the 12,073 released pages of John Podesta emails.
Now into its second week, WikiLeaks’ daily releases of emails — allegedly stolen by Russian hackers from Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair personal account — are confirming what everyone thought they knew about Hillary Clinton.
For Donald Trump fans, they show the Democratic nominee is corrupt; for Bernie or Busters they show she’s beholden to Wall Street; for Clinton supporters, they show she’s as thoughtful and substantive in private as in public.
For everyone else, there’s an unprecedented look inside a powerful political network, with all its messy complexities and contradictions, thanks to what will likely become a seminal primary source for students of political campaigns for years to come.
WikiLeaks is still sitting on over 50,000, which means they could keep dribbling them out at the current pace every day until Election Day and still have some left over.
If nothing else, the constant drip is a distraction — and the possibility of some explosive revelation yet to come will haunt the closing 22 days of the campaign.
But barring some major new revelation in yet-to-be released documents, few minds are likely to be changed. Instead, the emails essentially serve as political Rorschach test for how one felt about Clinton before reading them. It’s a textbook case of what psychologists call confirmation bias. Given a giant heap of evidence, people will naturally choose to consume only the pieces that reinforce their existing beliefs.
Clinton’s coziness with Wall Street was well known and her only crime in discussing the need for “private and a public position” during political negotiations was giving voice to what is universally true in politics.
That doesn’t mean the emails are valueless, nor that Clinton will be spared political repercussions; the daily releases are starting new fires that need to be dealt with.
But the intended audience of the exposure may not be voters alone, and may instead be the several thousand people doing the day-to-day work of trying to get Hillary Clinton elected in and around her campaign.
While some WikiLeaks flare ups have played out in public, more have occurred out of sight among the professional Democrats whose private trash talk and gossip about each other has now been exposed.
Bernie Sanders and Bill Richardson have had to release public statements forgiving slights against them revealed in the emails, while countless private apologies have undoubtedly been meted out as well.
“The goal of this is to create dissension between everyone,” Center for American Progress President Neera Tanden, one of Podesta’s most frequent correspondents whose emails offer unusually candid criticism of Clinton, told Politico.
The newspaper reported, for instance, that Chelsea Clinton is “hurt” that Podesta didn’t defend her in a spat with Clintonworld frenemy Doug Band, and that morale is down at the campaign’s Brooklyn headquarters as some staffers pore over the releases.
Clinton has been here before, when she was secretary of state and WikiLeaks released a trove of U.S. diplomatic cables.
“So out come hundreds of thousands of documents. And I have to go on an apology tour. And I had a jacket made like a rock star tour. The Clinton Apology Tour. I had to go and apologize to anybody who was in any way characterized in any of the cables in any way that might be considered less than flattering,” Clinton recalled in a private speech, whose transcript was ironically released by the latest WikiLeaks dump.
Meanwhile, the emails, available to anyone, contain an immense amount of uncensored personal information that provides zero insight to the public. The inclusion of private information seems intended to purely damage these individuals, or at least will have that effect.
The archive contains intimate personal notes from Podesta’s wife and son wishing him a speedy recovery from surgery, sharing Thanksgiving travel plans, discussing recipes, thanking him for a birthday card, or just checking in. “Love and miss you,” Gabe Podesta, an Air Force officer, wrote in one email wishing his father a happy Fourth of July.
In another email, Podesta and his wife consider seeing a new David Mamet play. “[T]his show is receiving uniquely scathing reviews — on one hand would be interesting to see what the controversy is about, but on other it may not be worth the money for all of us?” Mary Podesta asks.
There are resumes of college students looking for jobs — complete with home addresses and phone numbers — along with condolence notes, Podesta’s reading assignment for the Georgetown University class he taught, and photos of newborns sent by former staffers.
Others contain Social Security numbers, credit card information, frequent flier numbers, personal cell phone numbers, addresses, birth dates, and, of course, email addresses.
And now the world knows exactly when Ari Rabin-Havt planned to meet with the Rabbi officiating his wedding (4:30 p.m. ET on Thursday May 22, 2008), thanks to an email planning a conference call with Podesta.
"Busted: WikiLeaks caught me doing phone calls while getting married in an election year,” Rabin-Havt, a former Harry Reid staffer who now hosts a show on Sirius/XM radio quipped, adopting the gallows humor of many Democrats with exposure to the hack.
The Pentagon Papers these are not, for a myriad reasons.
They were not stolen by a conscientious whistleblower who took great personal risk to expose obvious malfeasance, as Daniel Ellsberg and Edward Snowden did. They were, according to two U.S. intelligence agencies, likely stolen by hackers directed by “Russia's senior-most officials” with the intent to “interfere with the US election process.”
A closer analogy may be the documents that helped the Washington Post expose the FBI’s COINTELPRO program, which spied on political groups. Those documents were stolen by a group of activists who broke into an FBI field office, not whistleblower. But stealing official government documents is different from stealing emails from a campaign operative’s personal account. And political activism is different from foreign espionage.
The analogy the Clinton campaign prefers is if Woodward and Bernstein had reported on the contents of the documents stolen from the Democratic National Committee by the Watergate burglars, instead of the burglary itself.
Trump’s campaign has seized on the disclosure with the candidate declaring, “I love WikiLeaks” last week on the stump, while his headquarters churns out press releases on the latest discoveries.
The latest was a line from the transcript Goldman Sachs speech contained in the emails in which Clinton calls people who fear immigrants “un-American.”
“Hillary Clinton has only contempt for the working people of this country,” said Trump policy director Stephen Miller Sunday night.
Clinton (and President Obama) have been calling Trump’s hardline immigration policy “un-American” for nearly a year on TV, debate stages, and camp stops. But everything is more exciting when it comes from exposed internal documents.