For the second time in less than a week, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, has reacted to WikiLeaks tranches of hacked Clinton campaign emails with a strategic shrug.
“The job of the progressive movement now is to look forward, not backward,” Sanders told NBC News in a statement Wednesday. “No matter what Secretary Clinton may have said years ago behind closed doors, what’s important today is that millions of people stand up and demand that the Democratic Party implement the most progressive platform in the history of our country.”
It was similar to Sanders’s reaction to the first WikiLeaks dump, on Friday, which included excerpts of off-the-record speeches Clinton had given to banks and business groups. The excerpts, compiled by Clinton’s campaign in an ironic attempt at scandal prevention, revealed what Sanders had spent many futile months of the Democratic primary demanding. The senator spent months telling audiences that they needed to see what Clinton told Wall Street, a charge that helped him build an advantage over Clinton on the question of trust. But it was a poor substitute for what Clinton said, from praise of Lloyd Blankfein to sympathy for how banks got “100 percent of the blame” for the 2008 crisis to an acknowledgment that Dodd-Frank was flawed.
“I’d have rather had the speeches,” former Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver said this week, in a conversation after the second presidential debate.
But Sanders, who is continuing to stump for Clinton and Democratic candidates, has not convinced all of his supporters to move on. In many progressive media outlets, the WikiLeaks emails are fodder for ongoing and outrageous stories. The Young Turks, a Los Angeles-based progressive video news network, has hammered the WikiLeaks story, with its reporter Jordan Chariton scooping that now-Democratic National Committee chair Donna Brazile may have provided Clinton with a question ahead of a CNN town hall. (Brazile was a contributor to CNN at the time, a role she left after she took the reins of the DNC from Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.)
Chariton also confronted John Podesta, the Clinton campaign chairman whose email account was hacked, in the spin room after the second presidential debate. He kept film rolling as Podesta blew him off. “I’ll go get the transcript,” said Chariton. “I’ll send it to him. Wait — he has it in his email!”
WikiLeaks stories have also mushroomed across the Intercept, the news site founded by Glenn Greenwald, and employing two reporters — Lee Fang and Zaid Jilani — who once worked under Podesta at the Center for American Progress. But in other camps of the left, the WikiLeaks stories are usually dismissed, criticized for lack of context, or condemned. MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, who has defended the right of Podesta and Clinton campaign staff to keep their email private, has been asked to defend that position by reporters like Chariton.
So far, the WikiLeaks emails have not produced what ardent Clinton critics expected — information that could implicate Clinton in something illegal, and end her campaign. (The hunt for such material inspired InfoWars, the pro-Trump conspiracy news site, to run a disastrous live show when Assange announced what might be coming.) But stray emails have fed into the worries that diehard Sanders supporters had all year. In a hacked March email, former DNC official Mark Siegel proposed a rule change that would eventually be adopted.
“Why not throw Bernie a bone and reduce the super delegates in the future to the original draft of members of the House and Senate, governors and big city mayors, eliminating the DNC members who are not State chairs or vice-Chairs?” he asked. “Frankly, DNC members don’t really represent constituencies anyway.”
A version of that change was adopted at the Democrats’ eventual rules committee meeting — and celebrated by supporters of both Sanders and Clinton. But the post facto hack of Siegel’s email has spawned stories in right and left media about how the Democratic establishment suckered Sanders. At a rally this week, RNC committeewoman Sharon Day told Trump supporters that the Democratic National Committee had effectively “stolen” the 2016 primary.
In polling, which has found Clinton in command of the presidential race, there’s no evidence of Democrats peeling off because of WikiLeaks. But the stories have reignited bad feelings between Sanders’s diehards and the Clinton campaign. National Nurses United, one of the few left-leaning unions that has not endorsed Clinton, is now less likely to in the wake of a hacked email that revealed a Clinton adviser saying that NNU was “sanctimonious” in its attacks on Clinton.
“Bernie and Bernie’s base may be in two different places about this,” said RoseAnn DeMoro, the executive director of NNU. “What the Clinton people called sanctimonious was our effort to act on progressive policies. What they should do is act like adults, and say yes, we sent these emails. Instead they’re trying to start a new cold war. She’s going to win this election overwhelmingly. Why don’t they just accept responsibility? It’s the same paradigm as Trump.”
(c) 2016, The Washington Post · David Weigel