Why haven't Clinton WikiLeaks emails caused more uproar?

People seem to be seeing what they want to see in the latest batch of emails, making the net effect of their release relatively minor.

Julio Cortez/AP
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, pictured here at the Sept. 26 presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., has come under fire for remarks revealed by WikiLeaks in a hack of the Clinton campaign chairman's personal account.

Hacked emails released by WikiLeaks expose Hillary Clinton as corrupt and duplicitous, like you always suspected.

Unless they don’t, and instead reveal Clinton as the thoughtful, pragmatic leader you support.

A week and a half into the WikiLeaks organization’s steady release of communications stolen (perhaps by Russian hackers) from Clinton campaign chair John Podesta, their net effect appears to be small, at least so far.

Few political minds appear to have changed as the result of their content. Clinton supporters, along with a number of mainstream media pundits, see the emails as confirmation of Clinton’s sober and perhaps too-cautious public persona. Clinton opponents view the same stuff as bombshells that expose the rot within her campaign.

Veteran Washington columnist Doyle McManus of the Los Angeles Times judges that the emails reveal Clinton as a “careful, methodical, tightly controlled politician,” for instance. He writes that they show her as someone with moderately progressive views who is ready to accept less than perfect results and even backtrack if necessary.

The emails show that Clinton did judge the Dodd/Frank financial reform bill as flawed, and that is was passed for “political purposes,” Mr. McManus writes. But they also reveal her telling financial executives to their face that more reforms were needed.

Similarly, Fletcher School of International Law and Diplomacy professor Dan Drezner concludes that transcripts of Clinton’s Wall Street speeches released in the emails show a politician who generally says the same things in private that she says in public.

'Open borders'

That’s not the Hillary Clinton her opponents see in the emails. In part that’s because they focus on different things. The conservative news site Red Alert Politics, in a post titled “More corruption and racism in Clintonland,” points to a 2008 email from a polling firm suggesting attack lines for possible use against Barack Obama in that year’s Democratic primaries.

“Obama (owe-BAHM-uh)’s father was a Muslim and Obama grew up among Muslims in the world’s most populous Islamic country,” says the email, which was sent to John Podesta, among others.

But Clinton foes also see malign intent in emails her supporters interpret in a totally different manner.

Take “open borders.” Clinton used this phrase in a paid speech to bankers in 2013. She said, “My dream is a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders.”

Some anti-Clintonites take those last two words literally. They interpret them to mean Clinton intends to stop enforcing immigration controls and otherwise erase the line that defines the US as a country.

“The term ‘globalism’ was invented for this,” said Steven Crowder on a video featured by the conservative RedState site, listing “open border” as his “number one Clinton email fact you must know.”

But PolitiFact, among others, takes issue with this reading of the words. Clinton has proposed policies for border enforcement, the fact-checking site notes. In the 2013 the speech she instead appears to be talking in an aspirational manner about the flow of business, energy, ideas, and other aspects of international cooperation.

Saying that Clinton wants to throw open US borders, as Donald Trump has also charged, is “mostly false,” rates PolitiFact.


Then there’s John Podesta’s one-word reply to a scathing criticism of the Iran nuclear deal.

Last July, aides forwarded to Podesta a slam from Sen. Mark Kirk (R) of Illinois, who said, “This agreement condemns the next generation to cleaning up a nuclear war in the Persian Gulf.”

The subject line on the email was “Re: you call it.” Podesta replied with one word: “yup”.

Clinton opponents take this as confirmation that Podesta, the chair of her campaign, thinks the Iran deal is a disaster. As they do.

“We can conclude that Podesta agreed with Kirk that the centerpiece of President Obama’s foreign policy, supported by Hillary Clinton, is atrocious,” writes Paul Mirengoff at the right-leaning Powerline site.

Well, maybe. US politics has seen stranger intra-campaign policy contradictions.

But the slightly strange “call it” subject line and the lack of context surrounding the email might also indicate that Podesta’s “yup” refers to something else entirely. Perhaps Sen. Kirk’s Iran policy was an issue for Illinois politics, since he’s perhaps the most vulnerable GOP senator up for reelection this fall.

After all, Clinton in her last months in office pushed through key concessions to keep the Iran deal on track. Podesta himself reached out to key opponents, including American Jewish leaders, to try and convince them of the importance of the deal, according to the Wall Street Journal. Would he have done that if he thought it meant nuclear war?

The bottom line: to this point the WikiLeaks effort has been overshadowed by sex assault accusations against Donald Trump and the general turmoil of the Trump campaign. No clearly damaging information has emerged from the drip of email revelations.

The drip continues, so explosive revelations could still lie ahead. But if Russia hackers are responsible for the email theft, as the US government charges, than Vladimir Putin might be frustrated with how things are going.

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