Perhaps you remember way back in 1986 when Geraldo Rivera hosted a two-hour television special, syndicated and broadcast live to millions, that featured the opening of a supposedly secret vault that had belonged to Al Capone. Here’s how Rivera’s website now explains the premise of the show:
What, if anything, is in the vault of notorious Chicago gangster Al Capone ? Buried beneath the Lexington Hotel, the country watched as Geraldo found out. Live on location with a demolition crew, and using exclusive details, Rivera starts with taking down the outer wall.
“Exclusive details” notwithstanding, here’s how that fiasco, called “The Mystery of Al Capone’s Vaults,” ended:
Towards the end of one of the most exciting hours in T.V., Rivera and team find an empty bottle and another wall. A disheartened team says goodbye to an empty vault.
An empty vault. An embarrassed journalist. A suckered public.
All of that reminds me of what is going on right now. American journalists, like Geraldo Rivera so long ago, have found a secret vault that once belonged to a notorious gangster. And, again like Rivera, journalists are using the slow opening of the vault to titillate the public, especially those that are hoping—and praying—to find some smoking guns inside that vault.
The gangster in this case is, of course, Hillary Clinton. And her vault is a trove of emails that, we are told by panting journalists, might—just might!—have some treasures inside that would reveal just how corrupt our gangster presidential candidate really is, when it comes to the Clinton Foundation and her time at the State Department. Just as an example of how this is sold to the public, here is a conversation I heard yesterday on MSNBC between host and journalist:
TAMRON HALL: Going back to this accusation from Donald Trump, where his quote was, “the amount of favors involved or favors done” in the emails that have been released in the latest group that we have been able to pore over, is there any indication of a specific favor beyond a meeting?
KASIE HUNT: At this point, no, Tamron, there is not. And that’s what the Clinton campaign is pointing to. In fact, the opposite basically is shown. And of course the issue here, and partly why this is such a problem for the Clinton campaign…is that this started about something else entirely, Benghazi that probe. You never know what actually might come out. This could end up being their “October surprise.”
You see? So far there is zero evidence of special favors or corruption. In fact, as Kasie Hunt admitted, “the opposite basically is shown.” But: “You never know what actually might come out.” It’s the Mystery of Al Capone’s Vaults all over again. Just stay tuned and wait for the good stuff, the stuff that might finally bring the Clintons down and make Donald Trump president, or at least make the race close, which would be good for ratings and readers. Exciting, exciting, exciting.
In the mean time, there has, literally, been nothing to see. After thousands and thousands of emails have been examined by journalists and Clinton haters—often the same folks—there is absolutely nothing resembling corruption. No “pay for play.” Nothing. Oh, there is the usual stuff of Washington, for sure, as Kevin Drum explains:
The way Washington works—in fact, the way everything works—is that people socialize; they develop relationships; and they often try to leverage those relationships to call in favors. We have laws and institutions to try to put boundaries on this kind of thing, but it’s still ubiquitous. This is just the way homo sapiens is wired.
Everyone knows what Drum says is true. Yet somehow because the Clintons—trying to raise money for a charity that has done remarkable things around the world for millions of people—are involved in it, it is different. I have said this before but it should be repeated: The Clintons are often accused by journalists of playing by their own set of rules, of going right up to the edge of what is permissible, if not going over the edge. But the truth is that journalists judge the Clintons by a different set of rules. Hillary especially is held to standards that just don’t seem to apply to anyone else in politics.
Those special Clinton standards allow journalists to frequently turn Hillary Clinton molehills into mountains while simultaneously reducing an entire range of Trump mountains into little molehills that he can overcome when he, finally, “pivots” and “stays on message,” a message that happens to be just what a lot of journalists are pushing about the Clintons and their charitable foundation.
Speaking of which, I’ll let Kevin Drum sum up what has been found, to date, in
Al Capone’s Hillary Clinton’s vault:
We might yet find a smoking gun in all these emails. But so far, the trend is clear: lots of people talked to Huma Abedin to try to set up meetings with Hillary Clinton. Generally speaking, Abedin treated them politely but told them to get lost. That’s about it.
If some of these efforts had succeeded, that would hardly be noteworthy. It’s the kind of thing that happens all the time. What’s really noteworthy about the most recent email releases is that they demonstrate a surprisingly high level of integrity from Hillary Clinton’s shop at Foggy Bottom. Huma Abedin was tasked with running interference on favor seekers, and she seems to have done exactly that. There’s no evidence at all that being a donor to the Clinton Foundation helped anyone out.
So tell me again what the issue is here?
ADDENDUM: Vox published an excellent piece on the AP story that was full of sound and fury about “possible ethics challenges” for Clinton related to her family’s foundation and her possible presidency, but the story signified exactly nothing. “There’s no there there,” as Vox pointed out. A huge example of Geraldo Rivera journalism. Shameful.