An “October surprise” in the 2016 presidential election has
occurred, and as always, it was unpredictable.
Some did predict other possible “surprises” such as new
very damaging “wikileaks” about Hillary and/or Bill Clinton,
a new scandal about Donald Trump, or a dramatic event
affecting U.S. foreign policy. But it was none of the above.
Instead, it was the revival of an issue which was thought no
longer pertinent, that is, the criminal investigation of Hillary
Clinton’s previous public service. That issue had become a
sleeping volcano after FBI Director James Comey publicly
declared he was ending this investigation weeks ago.
At that time, Mr. Comey was applauded by Mrs. Clinton, her
campaign and most Democrats for “good judgment,” and
was criticized by Mr. Trump, his campaign, and many
Republicans for “covering up” alleged wrongdoing by the
Democratic nominee. Mr. Comey subsequently made it
explicitly clear that he thought Mrs. Clinton had shown very
bad judgment in some of her actions, but it was also clear
that he was not willing to take any action just before the
presidential election in which Mrs. Clinton was one of the
two major party nominees.
End of story, yes?
Not exactly. In the days and weeks following his decision to
end the investigation, Director Comey and the FBI itself came
under extraordinary scrutiny as various “leaks” and other
new information became public and cast a darker and darker
shadow on Mrs. Clinton’s previous actions. Rumors abounded
that various figures at all levels of the FBI organization were
unhappy with Mr. Comey’s decision.
Historically, James Comey is a Republican with a strong
reputation for honesty and integrity. For this reason, President
Barack Obama appointed him to be FBI director. In this post,
he works under the attorney general of the United States,
Loretta Lynch, another appointee of President Obama. No
matter what an FBI investigation produces, the final say about
whether or not a prosecution takes place is up to the U.S.
For this reason, perhaps more than any other, Mr. Comey’s
decision was widely accepted by the public. It was understood
by everyone that it was an inevitable fact of life that a
Democratic attorney general working for a Democratic
president who was actively campaigning for his Democratic
successor would not prosecute this case.
I have no idea what is on the newly discovered e-mails which
prompted Mr. Comey to reopen this investigation, but the timing
of it leaves only one reasonable conclusion --- that what is on them
is VERY serious material. There is no other possible reasonable
explanation I can imagine.
I want to stress that Hillary Clinton has not been charged with,
nor been convicted, of any crime. She is, in one of the most vital
principles of U.S law, innocent until proven guilty. At the same
time, recent leaks to the media involving her e-mails, her use of
her computer server, and her actions involving the charitable
foundation co-founded with her husband, the former U.S.
President Bill Clinton, have cast considerable doubt about her
judgment, ethics and character.
She has now been placed in a similar position to that of
then President George H.W. Bush in 1992 when he was running
for re-election. Days before the election, his former cabinet
member Casper Weinberger was indicted. At that point, his
opponent the Democratic nominee, Bill Clinton, and his
campaign made a major issue of this October “surprise,”
and many historians consider this event cost Bush his
The Clinton campaign is complaining that Director Comey has
defied the instructions of the attorney general in re-opening the
Clinton investigation. Of course they are! What choice do they
have? But the bigger question is what would move Mr. Comey to
take the action he has. An intelligent and savvy man, he knows
what he has done and the probable impact it will have on the
election only days away.
Alexander Butterfield was a loyal figure in the inner office of
President Richard Nixon. Under oath in 1973, before a
congressional committee, he revealed the existence of tapes
made of President Nixon’s private conversations in the Oval
Office. After subpoenas made those tapes public, it led to the
unprecedented resignation of a president of the United States.
History has not treated well those whose comments on those
tapes revealed wrongdoing. Mr. Butterfield is a minor, probably
unheralded, but nevertheless a genuine American hero.
That notorious incident in U.S. presidential history produced
figures of honor and dishonor. FBI Director Comey knows his
days in his present job will end in a few months (with the
inauguration of a new president), but he knows his reputation
will become the captive of history --- and his conscience will
not leave his side as long as he lives.
As I have suggested previously, the 2016 presidential election has
been an relentless inferno. Without question, the two major party
nominees are the least admired in modern history, The campaign
has been filled with scandal. pomposity, negativism and in
virtually every aspect, the least common denominator.
At the end, perhaps appropriately, we have had two tide-turning
events. One was an off-the record private tape and the other is
an unresolved criminal investigation. That the leadership of this
Republic will be decided under these clouds should be the
lament of all voters, regardless of their political views.
But that is where we are, one week from election day.
Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.