101 Things We Learned from WikiLeaks’ Podesta Emails

US voters have been given a rare, even unprecedented opportunity to look at the machinery inside an electoral campaign and a foundation, as presented by the insiders themselves. Being afforded this privilege motivated one columnist to assert: “Those voting for Hillary Clinton, defending Clinton and supporting Clinton without reading the information reported by WikiLeaks are intellectually no different than those who criticize climate science without ever having read the science” (Denver Post, 2/11/2016). Where access to the “power elites” is typically denied to virtually anyone, thanks to WikiLeaks it is now granted to virtually everyone.

What follows is a list of the 101 stories that caught my attention during the month-long release of the Podesta emails, published by WikiLeaks. Are there only 101 things to be learned? There are likely thousands more—this is by no means a comprehensive account, but more of a personal snapshot. Ideally, one would read each single email, and try to fit them together into larger patterns to form a bigger picture. It would also be very tedious work. I have likely read no more than 20% of the total mass of emails—and even so, look at what we found. My method in producing this overview involved some triangulation: my own reading of the emails, added to key findings posted by WikiLeaks through its Twitter account, plus media coverage by the very few journalists with a dedicated interest. Of course even a complete reading would not reveal everything: not all communications between these insiders was done by email. One can imagine there would have been much more said face-to-face, at lunches, dinners, and board meetings, not to mention what was spoken on the phone.

The information below is loosely organized into broad thematic groups. These include discussion of foreign policy; foreign campaign donors; the Clinton Foundation and suggestions of corruption; media manipulation; the corruption of the political system; Hillary Clinton’s private server scandal; campaign staffers ridiculing Bill Clinton; insider criticisms of Hillary Clinton as a presidential candidate; confusion over Hillary Clinton’s political stances; the corporate oligarchy; free trade; Hillary Clinton as a member of the establishment; the employment of identity politics; religion; and, the white working class. More discussion follows at the end.

Foreign Policy: Russia, the Middle East, Canada

(1) Jose Fernandez, the Assistant Secretary of State for Economic, Energy and Business Affairs, led the media to believe that he was acting in an independent and neutral manner in signing off on a deal that would sell 20% of the US’ uranium supplies to Russia, when he represented Hillary Clinton’s State Department on the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). The Clinton Foundation accepted donations from parties that would profit from the uranium deal with Russia. Fernandez, far from being impartial, was revealed to be active in Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, and became a board member of the associated Center for American Progress, chaired by John Podesta. [Emails 2053 and 2059]

(2) While Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail has denounced Donald Trump for fictitious links to Vladimir Putin, in more private settings she offered substantial praise for Putin, repeatedly.

(3) Russia, you say? While repeatedly accusing Russia of hacking John Podesta’s email account, it turns out that Podesta was rather careless with his own information security. For example, in one email, he reveals that he lost his phone in a taxi cab. There is an email that acknowledges worries about internal leakers, with an eruption into accusations about “trust issues” within the Clinton campaign itself. Yet another email discusses the problem of leaks from Campaign staff. A tight ship it is not.

(4) “She created this mess and she knows it”—those are Huma Abedin’s words, Hillary Clinton’s closest confidante, on the tangle created by Clinton in obtaining $12 million from the King of Morocco for the Clinton Global Initiative.

(5) On Libya, Hillary Clinton’s leaked corporate speeches paint a picture of a Secretary of State who would take no responsibility for her inaction on security for staff in Benghazi, and who judged the results of the war in Libya in 2011 to be a success.

(6) On ISIS: “Contrary to Qatar and Saudi Arabia’s assurances that they do not support Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), Hillary Clinton apparently believes that they are in fact providing ‘clandestine financial and logistic support to IS and other radical Sunni groups in the region,’ according to an August 17, 2014 email”. Those two states are not only defended by Hillary Clinton as allies, she has received many millions in donations from them to the Clinton Foundation.

(7) Regarding Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as a surrogate—he was identified as follows: “Prime Minister Trudeau has been a longtime progressive ally of CAP’s [Center for American Progress, allied to the Democratic Party]…. an active and engaged partner in our Global Progress program”. Another email bore an attachment showing a photo of John Podesta whispering into Trudeau’s ear. The title of the message calls Trudeau “Mr. Canada”.

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The Clinton Foundation; Foreign Campaign Donors

(8) Bill Clinton received a $1 million gift from the government of Qatar, via the Clinton Foundation. The Clinton Foundation recently confirmed receipt of the gift. However, it was also confirmed that the gift had been received without informing the State Department as required.

(9) “Take the money!” wrote Jennifer Palmieri, regarding allowing the Democratic Party’s foreign registered agents to bring in foreign government donations to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign—in violation of the law. Clinton spokesman, Robby Mook, concurred: “I’m ok just taking the money and dealing with any attacks”. Discussion throughout the email chain involves frequent eye-rolling at the idea of an “arbitrary” ban against foreign lobbyists. The consensus seems tilted in favour of allowing such foreign influence.

(10) Indeed, a somewhat cryptic email suggested the money was taken: “Foreign govt donors: all the money is in”.

(11) One story covered foreign donors’ apparent “private jet scam” benefiting the Clintons, as spotted in this email. The Clintons did not declare such non-cash contributions on their tax returns.

(12) Chelsea Clinton also profited personally from the Clinton Foundation. According to her father’s associate, Doug Band, an investigation looked into Chelsea Clinton “getting paid for campaigning, using foundation resources for her wedding and life for a decade…”.

(13) Transparency? Foreign donors? Let’s not go there: Jennifer Palmieri, a senior member of Hillary Clinton’s campaign staff wrote: “We recommend not engaging on specific questions related to 1) donors; 2) implementation of the MOU; or 3) HRC’s knowledge of donors to the Foundation. These are rabbit holes. Press want us to go deeper into these subjects to try to get us to introduce more facts which will lead to more questions and give the story more life”.

(14) In a “governance review” of the Clinton Foundation, there was a concern over conflicts of interest and “an expectation of a quid pro quo benefits in return for gifts”.

(15) In another “audit review” of the Clinton Foundation, it was pointed out that many employees of the Foundation were unaware of conflict of interest policies.

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(16) Bill Clinton’s conflicts of interest: an aide to former president Bill Clinton admitted, “I think there WJC may have some real serious conflicts if we start to make too many rules,” adding, “we can not ignore the nexus of WJC’s life”. Doug Band, who scored business for Bill Clinton via Teneo, resented having to sign a conflict of interest policy when, “Oddly, wjc [Bill Clinton] does not have to sign such a document even though he is personally paid by 3 cgi sponsors, gets many expensive gifts from them, some that are at home etc. I could add 500 different examples of things like this…”.

(17) The Clinton Foundation acted “more like a political operation” than a charity, as discussed in detail in this article. See the original memo here.

Rigging the Media

(18) Media collusion: “Washington correspondent John Harwood sends Podesta his private approval of Hillary Clinton appearances, as if he’s on the team. Columnist Nicholas Kristof, in advance of an interview with Bill Clinton, ­emails his questions, which Podesta’s team passes around to staffers to shape Clinton’s answers. A Washington reporter gives Hillary Clinton veto power over quotations he can use from an interview. Another reporter is praised as someone who has ‘never disappointed’ in delivering stories the campaign wants ‘teed up’ for public consumption”.

(19) More media collusion: “Clinton’s campaign coordinated with the New York Times, which gave it approval on quotes for a long profile on the candidate. Times reporter Mark Leibovich ­emailed campaign communications director Jennifer Palmieri on July 7, 2015, seeking approval on the Clinton quotes. A Boston Globe editorial writer worked with the Clinton campaign to give her a ‘big presence’ in coverage during the candidate’s swing through the area amid the Democratic primary. Marjorie Pritchard, the Globe’s op-ed editor, emailed campaign chair John Podesta to tell him, ‘It would be good to get it in on Tuesday, when she is in New Hampshire. That would give her a big presence on Tuesday’”.

(20) Even more media collusion: Donna Brazile, Chair of the Democratic National Committee and a CNN contributor, forwarded a debate question in advance to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, in order to cheat in an upcoming debate against Bernie Sanders. Later, another email revealed that Brazile forwarded two more questions.

(21) Continued media collusion: regarding the State Department’s release of emails from Sidney Blumenthal, a close adviser to Hillary Clinton, her team strategized with the Associated Press (AP) to “deploy” their camp’s narrative.

(22) John Harwood, the chief Washington correspondent for CNBC told Clinton campaign chair, John Podesta, that it was “amazing” that “some people still think it’s worth burning so much interview time with person most likely to be next president on her emails”. That message was sent to a day after the Pentagon announced that it had discovered an email chain that Clinton had not handed over, despite her claims to have surrendered all of her work-related emails. In another, long and plaintive email, Harwood pleads his case to a stern John Podesta who refused to see the humour in an article by Harwood. More on Harwood’s collusion with the Clinton campaign in rigging debates has been published.

(23) CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, via his staff, sought out the Clinton campaign for questions to ask Donald Trump in an interview. The Democratic National Committee more than once advised CNN on what questions to ask Republican candidates in interviews. One email listed the questions to be put to Donald Trump. Another email consisted of DNC questions supplied to CNN to ask Ted Cruz.

(24) Arianna Huffington prefers some distance, in order to use the Huffington Postto echo our message without any perceived conflicts”.

(25) An aide to Hillary Clinton alluded to having “VERY friendly and maleable reporters” put out the Clinton narrative on the email controversy.

(26) Maggie Haberman of Politico was a favourite of the Clinton campaign: “We have has a very good relationship with Maggie Haberman of Politico over the last year. We have had her tee up stories for us before and have never been disappointed. While we should have a larger conversation in the near future about a broader strategy for reengaging the beat press that covers HRC, for this we think we can achieve our objective and do the most shaping by going to Maggie”.

(27) Another email shows the Clinton campaign directly intervening with a reporter for the New York Times working on a story about Hillary Clinton’s private server.

(28) Over for dinner at John Podesta’s home: one source found a total of 63 journalists who were wined and dined by Podesta, in total; here, one of Podesta’s own emails lists 25 who were invited to a private dinner party. In another email, 28 journalists are listed who were invited to dine at Podesta’s house.

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(29) Manipulating the media, disrespecting journalists behind their backs: Jennifer Palmieri, director of communications for Hillary Clinton, wrote “Let’s pretend everyone in the audience is a serious, on the level journalist…. The press is the most hated profession and they are all losing heir jobs to 23 yr old bloggers who make listicles about drinking games at Northwestern. Let’s give them an ego boost”.

(30) Surrogates as bloggers and columnists: According to one email, a partial list includes “Elianne Ramos, Jessica Valenti…, Jamil Smith, Sady Doyle, Aminatou Sow, Gabe Ortiz, and others”.

(31) Google’s collaboration with the Clinton campaign: “Eric Schmidt, chief executive of Google’s parent company Alphabet, is working directly with the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign”. A memo to Hillary Clinton (here and here) outlines the ways in which Schmidt can aid the campaign, and adds: “Working relationships with Google, Facebook, Apple, and other technology companies were important to us in 2012 and should be even more important to you in 2016”. Robby Mook, who works for the Clinton campaign, confirmed in an email: “I met with Eric Schmidt tonight….he’s ready to fund, advise recruit talent, etc.”. For a trip to Africa by presumably Bill Clinton on behalf of the Clinton Foundation, Google donated its plane.

Rigging the Political System

(32) Rigged polls? One email suggests that when the Clinton campaign contracts polls to then push in front of the eyes of the media, that they deliberately oversample: “I also want to get your Atlas folks to recommend oversamples for our polling before we start in February. By market, regions, etc. I want to get this all compiled into one set of recommendations so we can maximize what we get out of our media polling”.

(33) Rigged political system: one Clinton campaign adviser wrote in an email that he knew from experience how much the system was “fixed”. He wrote: “I know how the game is played and I know how the fix was in….The Democratic base, labor union workers, liberals may not understand the nuances and sophistication about how these fixes are done, but they are madder than hell because they intuit this, they know they are getting a rotten deal”.

(34) Ties to vote fraudster, Robert Creamer: despite public denials by the Clinton campaign about having any association with this figure of ill repute featured in a video expose by Project Veritas, this email circulated among campaign leaders painted a different picture: “Bob Creamer…is consulting for the DNC and is close to Robby Mook [Clinton spokesman]”.

Hillary Clinton’s Private Server

(35) About her private email server, “Hillary Clinton’s top aides privately debated whether to joke about her emerging email scandal, if they should shift some blame to former secretaries of state and how to frame, explain and defend her use of a homebrewed server”.

(36) How best to distract voters from the email scandal? That is the subject of discussion in this email linked to here.

(37) The Clinton camp discussed hiding emails received from Barack Obama on the private email server, which would also confirm that he was well aware of the private email use long before he claimed to the media, from news reports alone: “Think we should hold emails to and from potus?” This implicates President Obama in covering up for Clinton. Another email stated, “we need to clean this up – he has emails from her – they do not say state.gov”.

(38) “we are going to have to dump all those emails so better to do so sooner than later”: this message, from John Podesta, came just as the Clinton campaign was about to receive a subpoena for the emails two days later. One interpretation is that this Podesta email manifests intent to thwart the law, in the form of destruction of evidence and eventual obstruction of justice.

(39) “If there is a release of the 55K, are there others that are not being released? [Reply:] Definitely”: this email also shows intent to not fully comply with the request for emails to be provided to the State Department.

(40) Other speculation is that the Clinton campaign had the assistance of an official within the Department of Justice, that was sending them advance “heads up” of likely developments with the email investigation. That official is Peter Kadzik, described as a close partner of John Podesta and the Clinton campaign. Podesta wrote about Kadzik in an earlier email: “Fantastic lawyer. Kept me out of jail”. One editorial commented that this degree of cronyism casts doubt on the idea that the FBI could investigate independent of political pressure from within the DoJ.

(41) In another “heads up,” a contact within the State Department alerted the Clinton campaign to an upcoming story on Hillary Clinton’s email being developed by the New York Times, and coordinated the State Department’s response to reporters with the campaign.

(42) It is not fine to have had information that could have been classified at the time, Hillary Clinton’s own campaign staff maintained: “We should not think it is fine to find something that ‘should have been classified at the time.’ Our position is that no such material exists, else it could be said she mishandled classified info”.

(43) Fed up with Hillary Clinton’s erupting email scandal, Neera Tanden complained: “Do we actually know who told Hillary she could use a private email? And has that person been drawn and quartered? Like whole thing is fucking insane”.

(44) “At least we now know why Cheryl didn’t want her to run”—this is about another top aide to Hillary Clinton, Cheryl Mills, Chief of Staff at the State Department, who was apparently distressed enough about the scandal that she viewed Clinton’s campaign negatively.

(45) Hillary Clinton’s fake regrets about her private server—Neera Tanden wrote this about Clinton: “her inability to just do a national interview and communicate genuine feelings of remorse and regret is now, I fear, becoming a character problem (more so than honesty)”.

(46) John Podesta and Hillary Clinton communicated, via her private email server and his unsecured Gmail, about sensitive intelligence matters. They exposed sources on the ground in Iraq and Libya, in a violation of laws regulating such communication. Some found that the exchange contained “highly classified [classifiable] information”. This transpired after Clinton ceased to serve as Secretary of State.

(47) Once out of government, Hillary Clinton was still asking John Podesta (still in government) to share intelligence with her on fighting occurring in Libya.

(48) Hacking? Let’s not go there: John Podesta warned against raising the issue of possible foreign hacking of Hillary Clinton’s email: “Reluctant to go there. Makes it seem like she consciously went to the home server for security reasons which would fall apart under scrutiny”.

(49) On one of Hillary Clinton’s closest confidential advisers on sensitive matters of foreign policy and national security—Sidney Blumenthal—John Podesta could muster only scorn in one email: “Sid is lost in his own web of conspiracies. I pay zero attention to what he says”.

About Bill Clinton: An Object of Ridicule

(50) Accusations against Bill Clinton for sexual assault, are still very much a matter of current discussion among Clinton campaign staff such as John Podesta.

(51) A Clinton campaign adviser asked: “How is what Bill Clinton did different from what Bill Cosby did?

(52) Mocking Bill Clinton: in private, members of Hillary Clinton’s team ridiculed an email message from Bill Clinton which had this subject line about his wife apparently: “The person I most want to spend time with”. In response, Jennifer Palmieri wrote: “seriously? this is the worst subject line ever in an email from Bill Clinton”.

About Hillary Clinton as a Candidate for President

(53) No illusions about Hillary Clinton among her campaign staff—they are aware that she is seen, even by influential Democrats, as imperial, rich and spoiled. Others close to the campaign saw her as “running 100% negative” against Bernie Sanders—with an expectation that Clinton would pay a high price in the general election.

(54) Wall St. supports me due to 9/11? Hillary Clinton’s campaign staff agonized over controlling her speech, and showed little trust in her judgment: “If she says something three times as an aside during practice (Wall Street supports me due to 9/11), we need to assume she will say it in the debate, and tell her not to do so”.

(55) Bad judgment? Neera Tanden wrote this about Hillary Clinton: “Hillary. God. Her instincts are suboptimal”.

(56) Low energy? Neera Tanden also wrote this about Hillary Clinton: “That excitement thing you were worried about does seem to be a problem. She does need to rev it up”.

(57) Crooked Hillary? And here is Neera Tanded again confessing this about Hillary Clinton: “I have dealt w/ my fair share of Hillary scandals. I have had experience w/ her going to a point where she is toying w/ legal niceties to make sure every i is dotted, but actually secretly measuring if the velocity is moving up or down on the scandal”.

(58) Staging: Hillary Clinton appears to be a kind of Hollywood production in one email, which describes a dedicated lighting crew assigned to illuminate her features at public events.

(59) Staging 2: Borrowing from an event produced for Justin Trudeau, Clinton campaign staffers discuss how to stage a fake town hall so that it does not appear to have been staged. Robby Mook asked: “Will press think it’s ‘staged’? Or is there a way to structure it so they won’t think that?

(60) Hillary Clinton was described by Neera Tanden as difficult to work with and in need perhaps of some violent release: “Have her beat the shit out of a punch doll (or maybe a staffer)…so she would be warm and charming in the interview. During the height of the primaries when she was doing morning show after morning show she would be relatively unpleasant”.

(61) Hillary Clinton’s campaign was seen by insiders as lacking any vision or principles beyond acquiring power, as discussed in this article covering the story. In an email, one insider stated: “Our team is all tactics and has no idea of how to lift her up”.

(62) Hillary Clinton expressed frustration with being fed meaningless, poll-tested scripts: “HRC just called me and expressed a fair amount of frustration with how things are going. She said we’ve given a series of very good policy speeches and in between we just keep giving her poll-tested lines that don’t work, like make the middle class mean something”.

(63) Clinton campaign staff were, for their part, completely unsure as to whether Hillary Clinton had a core message: “do we have any sense from her what she believes or wants her core message to be?” adding, “it is still not clear what her singular message is”. The campaign staffer pleads: “I’m trying to get a little more aspirational about where we’re going”.

(64) Surprise pick of Tim Kaine for Vice Presidential running mate? Though a farce was perpetrated for the media during the summer of 2016, as if a process of vetting candidates and making hard decisions was underway—in reality the matter was already settled over a year before, in July 2015: “HRC has personally told Tim Kaine he’s the veep”.

Hillary Clinton: Left? Right? Moderate? Progressive?

(65) “It worries me more that she doesn’t seem to know what planet we are all living in at the moment”—this is what Neera Tanden wrote about having to defend Hillary Clinton as a progressive when Clinton turns around and labels herself a “moderate”. John Podesta added: “I pushed her on this on Sunday night. She claims she didn’t remember saying it. Not sure I believe her”.

(66) “Her natural place is to the right of POTUS,” when it comes to issues of mass surveillance, according to Jake Sullivan, a senior policy adviser to the Hillary Clinton campaign. There is no hint of being a “progressive” here, or even a “moderate”.

(67) On Bernie Sanders: one adviser to the Clinton campaign argued, “Make love to Bernie and his idealistic supporters, and co-opt as many of his progressive issues as possible,” while Philip Munger, a “philanthropist” instead said that Hillary Clinton was “going to have to kneecap him. She is going to have to take him down from his morally superior perch”.

(68) On Bernie Sanders’ speech writer, Neera Tanden of the Clinton team had only this to say: “He’s a fucker”.

(69) On Bernie Sanders’ supporters and other members of the US “left”: John Podesta called Sanders a “doofus”. Regarding Lawrence Lessig, John Podesta called him an “everyday American pompous law professor,” and then Neera Tanden added: “I fucking hate that guy. Like I’d like to kick the shit out of him on twitter”. Tanden also referred to some writers tied to her Center for American Progress as “crazy leftists”. Tanden then referred to the base of the Democratic Party, and those supporting an increase in the minimum wage to $15 per hour, as “the Red Army”. Hillary Clinton thought Sanders’ positions on Wall Street were “naive”. Hillary Clinton also complained that, “Bernie Sanders is getting lots of support from the most radical environmentalists…. because he’s out there every day bashing the Keystone pipeline….I’m already at odds with the most organized and wildest. They come to my rallies and they yell at me and, you know, all the rest of it. They say, ‘Will you promise never to take any fossil fuels out of the earth ever again?’ No. I won’t promise that. Get a life, you know”.

(70) The Clinton campaign was euphoric that with a mere phone call from Hillary Clinton to the Fast Food Workers national convention, that she won their support: “It worked!

The Corporate Oligarchy

(71) The oligarchy: regarding corporate support, one email shows the Clinton campaign strategizing on how best to court the support of billionaire technology entrepreneur, Fred Wilson.

(72) Regarding the billionaire Edgar Bronfman, John Podesta is asked in one email if he was looking for money from him. Podesta’s reply was simple: “Always”.

(73) “I’m also starting to worry that if this story gets out, we are screwed”: this came from Doug Band, regarding the work of his consulting firm, Teneo, in collecting personal payments for Bill Clinton along with donations to the Clinton Foundation from a wide range of corporate heavyweights in the banking, mining, and chemical sectors. Powerful corporations used Teneo as a vehicle to purchase influence with the Clintons, blurring the line between for-profit and not-for-profit philanthropy. A memo detailed some of these many connections, and is discussed further in this article. Thus rather than give money to the Foundation for purely charitable purposes, the intent that is more likely is that such donations were designed to secure insider access. That this was a scandal was not lost on Chelsea Clinton, who complained about wrongdoing on the part of Teneo in an email. Bill Clinton is shown, in the same email, as deriving huge monthly payments for service to a company that went bankrupt.

(74) John Podesta’s former sister in-law, Heather Podesta was revealed in one report to be both a Clinton campaign fundraiser and a lobbyist for a military contractor, Raytheon, achieving access to both the State Department and White House. Regarding an event celebrating her as a top Washington influencer, organized by the French-American Foundation, John Podesta and his wife exchanged an email which mocked the event as “croissants with cruella”. Other emails showed that Heather Podesta was one of the Democratic Party’s top “foreign registered agents”.

(75) John Podesta threatened to quit the Clinton campaign, in protest over comparisons being made by Clinton staffers between his brother Tony and Heather Podesta. Tony Podesta was being asked to support the “Hillary Victory Fund,” a joint fundraising campaign between Clinton and the Democratic National Committee. Apparently some members of the Clinton campaign were pressuring Tony Podesta to act like his former wife Heather, in “hitting up” his clients for campaign contributions, since he’s a “lobbyist”—something which Tony Podesta seemed to resent.

(76) In one of her private speeches, Hillary Clinton defended Wall Street against attacks, and called on the big banks to take a role in legislating their own “regulation”: “You guys help us figure it out and let’s make sure that we do it right this time”.

(77) Hillary Clinton boasted that, while a Senator, she represented the interests of Wall Street.

(78) Is Hillary Clinton in favour of reinstating the Glass-Steagall Act to break up the big banks? According to Neera Tanden, all of the campaign’s rhetorical twists and turns amount to an “artful version” that “still gets us to no”.

(79) Even at the risk of darkening the shadow over the launch of her campaign, Hillary Clinton insisted that Bill Clinton proceed with a scheduled speech to Morgan Stanley, as scheduled, rather than postpone it.

(80) Hillary Clinton more than just admitted to relying on Wall Street money to run her campaign, she encouraged wealthy donors to use their funds to exercise control on candidates who might risk toying with nationalist and populist ideas. In a contradictory argument, she also supported the idea of a billionaire businessman running for office, since he would not be beholden to special interests. Some other key extracts from her private speeches to banks are available in this document.

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(81) Strengthening bribery laws was seen as “REALLY dicey territory for HRC [Hillary Clinton],” according to campaign member Neera Tanden of the Center for American Progress.

On Free Trade

(82) In another speech to bankers, Hillary Clinton declared: “My dream is a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders”. She also pronounced herself in favour of free trade agreements, saying she was against any form of protectionism.

(83) In a speech for Canada 2020, Hillary Clinton openly praised the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) (p. 56)—one of dozens of occasions on which she has done so.

(84) Obama revised the US’ assessment of “human rights” in Malaysia to ensure that country would form part of the TPP: “Obama just readjusted Malaysia’s tier on the human rights list in order to move TPP thru with Malaysia attached”.

(85) In a draft statement that supposedly was meant to oppose the TPP, one of Hillary Clinton’s speechwriters wrote: “goal here was to minimize our vulnerability to the authenticity attack and not piss off the WH [White House] any more than necessary”. Meanwhile a communications consultant exclaimed about the draft: “This is so full of compliments, I can barely tell that HRC [Hillary Clinton] is opposing the deal”. Another concluded: “the reality is HRC is more pro trade than anti and trying to turn her into something she is not could reinforce our negative around authenticity. This is an agreement that she pushed for and largely advocated for”.

(86) “she was told by the Secretary [Clinton] that the only reason she opposes TPP is to get ‘labor off her back’ and that once she is elected President she will reverse position” (p. 3): Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D., Texas), an early Clinton campaign surrogate, privately told supporters that Clinton had no intention of opposing the TPP free trade deal once she was president, according to a memo circulated after a meeting with AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. Emails from the Clinton campaign demonstrate a consistent pattern of attempts to obfuscate Clinton’s support for the TPP.

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(87) Hillary Clinton does not oppose the TPP as such: “I still believe a strong and fair trans-Pacific trade agreement is both possible and necessary, just as I did when I was Secretary of State”.

Hillary Clinton: Member of the Establishment

(88) In a speech to Goldman Sachs, Hillary Clinton stated: “I’m kind of far removed [from the struggles of the middle class] because the life I’ve lived and the economic, you know, fortunes that my husband and I now enjoy”. She also acknowledges “growing anxiety” in the US that the “game is rigged”.

(89) A campaign consultant admitted that there was a need to test some messages that included “acknowledgement of [Hillary Clinton] being part of the system,” because “reform of money and politics is where she is taking the biggest hit, Sanders drawing the biggest distinction and she seems most reactive”.

(90) In another private speech, Hillary Clinton said she needed to have “both a public and a private position”. She defended keeping “backroom deals” a secret from the public.

Identity Politics

(91) The Clinton campaign organized potential vice presidential picks into “food groups” such as “Hispanics, women, white men, African-Americans, military, businesspeople or philanthropists and the Bernie Sanders/Democratic socialist wing of the party”.

(92) On Barack Obama, in 2008 a Democratic Super PAC poll tested characterizations of Obama based on his Muslim heritage, and his past use of cocaine.

(93) Basket of deplorables? John Podesta stated in one email that Hillary Clinton “has begun to hate everyday Americans”. (There is a little debate as to whether he meant the phrase, “everyday Americans”.)

(94) Using moms: In combating Bernie Sanders on gun control issues, a Hillary Clinton campaign staffer asked, “are there any NYC moms/stories around gun violence that we could include”.

(95) Deploy the “brown and women” pundits—Neera Tanden offered this advice to defend Hillary Clinton in the media: “the brown and women pundits can shame the times [the New York Times] and others on social media. So cultivating Joan Walsh, Yglesias, Allen, perry bacon, Greg Sargent, to defend her is helpful”.

(96) An active interest in “transgender bathrooms”: The senior policy adviser for Hillary for America, Ann O’Leary, kept the Clinton campaign abreast of news and arguments in support of transgender bathrooms, by circulating news roundups such as the one linked to here.

On Religion

(97) A display of religious bigotry: after mocking conservative Roman Catholics, members of Hillary Clinton’s campaign “mused” about how to foment a “Catholic Spring” to subvert the church and its teachings in the US.

(98) John Podesta participated in occult rituals known as “Spirit Cooking,” at the home of Marina Abramovic, many of whose artistic pieces have obvious Satanic undertones. Abramovic also tags her name with “666” in Twitter, and carved a pentagram in her stomach. In Abramovic’s book, Spirit Cooking, what is described is a spell that involves the mixing of “fresh breast milk with fresh sperm milk”. Is it just “art”? Abramovic is perfectly clear on this question: “If you are doing the occult magic in the context of art or in a gallery, then it is the art. If you are doing it in different context, in spiritual circles or private house or on TV shows, it is not art”.

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On the White Working Class

(99) White working class voters are remembered as an afterthought by the Clinton campaign, which first made sure to have a campaign advertisement featuring an unnamed Latino, and another featuring Morgan Freeman: “Best ads for the campaign was one the Latino kid ad and Morgan freeman. Is there an ad of that quality for white working class voters?

(100) Speaking at a private fundraiser, former president Bill Clinton mocked white working class voters: “And for a significant part of the base, which are the basically the non-Evangelical white working class people, who have become alienated by the Democrats for cultural reasons and because of their, they have an IV hooked up to FOX News all the time, really”. Clinton also made light of working class concerns about the impact of illegal immigration on the job market.

(101) The white working class cannot be ignored and put off forever—a Clinton campaign adviser, addressing the contents of a New York Times article, “Who Turned My Blue State Red?” which focuses on “poor white” voters, had this to say in response: “the overwhelming challenge for Democrats is to give hard attention to the demographic discussed, which once was and still should be part of our coalition, but whom we’ve ignored or shunned, and certainly have failed to connect with—and to the red states in which they predominate and where we’ve recently had almost zero electoral success. The latter we can’t afford to concede indefinitely.”

Discussion

Given this view of the interior of the Hillary Clinton campaign and the workings of the Clinton Foundation, having access to information that is usually occluded, offers a lot of useful insights. These insiders do not work with any overt reference to any sort of shared political manifesto—their ideology is something left unspoken, between the lines. They are ultimate situationalists, or transactionalists, who privilege events over process, always with a keen eye on strategic gain. They are highly reactive. They are crisis managers of the crises they themselves often create. Between each other, there are moments where arrogance is displayed, and even mutual suspicion and anxiety. Staffers threaten to quit the campaign over insults, or over suggestions that some might be leaking information.

The picture we have is of a segment of the power elites: grifters, fee takers, fund raisers, consultants, advisers, and some of them millionaires in their own right. However, ultimately, they are also dependent, and thus vulnerable. They are not rooted in any form of independent, material production. Their conditions are always contingent, and therefore uncertain. The real power behind them is that of the corporate oligarchy. These insiders are thus part puppets, part puppeteers. They are gate keepers, who create some of the gates they keep.

These members of the elite love to engage in exploitative identity politics (is there any other kind?). They do not appear to think of themselves as members of society, but as one clique among others, part of a tapestry of clubs and tribes. They are a segment, and they love segmentation. They also love to label, such as labelling supporters as “food groups”. These campaign insiders are themselves part of a food chain, with those lower down sending them a steady stream of CVs and emails about wanting “to help Hillary any way I can”. John Podesta himself is the target of constant begging for donations to other campaigns and causes—he never seems to reply to those emails, however.

The situations of the suffering become visible to them only when they need to score points—like having a good “mom story” about “gun violence”. Their mission is not to “solve” social and economic problems; instead, it is about how to best leverage and employ the human effects of those problems. They never express any sort of angst about the state of their country.

Clinton campaign insiders are constantly traveling: there are countless emails about taking off, landing, taking a taxi, being on a train. They appear high up enough, or mobile enough, to seem untouchable. Being called to account drags them back down into the deepest of doldrums. Accountability is, at best, a headache for these senior consultants, advisers, and campaign directors. Their tactics are primarily about PR: deception, covering up, deflection, distraction, and misdirection.

podesta-risottoBesides travel, a ton of the emails consists of messages about meals, cooking, dinner parties. John Podesta even has the courage to invite five of New York’s top chefs and restaurant owners to his home for a dinner he cooks—talk about having a high opinion of your abilities. There are numerous emails about cooking risotto. Risotto matters a lot to Podesta, who recently mocked Julian Assange’s refuge conditions by boasting of the lobster risotto he was enjoying. Mockery and sarcasm should not be mistaken as cheerfulness however—there is very little sense from these insiders of any joy, any passion or enthusiasm. Some of them have a serious problem when it comes to taking a joke.

We learn what the reality of political post-liberalism looks like: the not-so-indirect ties to terrorism; the lust for destabilization; and the constant readiness to subvert challengers. If nothing else did it, these emails should put an end to the inexcusable myth of kind and inclusive liberals. Instead what looms large is the power of banks, of the impact of financialization on politics. The Clinton campaign is almost reducible to an adjunct, an auxiliary, of corporate lobbies. Routinely, contempt is manifested toward workers—in these emails, we hear the voice of the 1%. They take pleasure in fooling others, like the fast food workers, or the AFL-CIO.

Impressively, there are even loud echoes of Donald Trump’s characterizations of Hillary Clinton, and his accusations, in these emails: her bad judgment, poor instincts, she’s confused and short-circuited, no enthusiasm, and corrupt. The main difference is that it is not coming from Trump, but from those closest to Clinton.

These insiders also extensively manipulate journalists, as we read in the emails. But then they mock journalists as hapless, desperate twits behind their backs. Their many hangers-on are treated as dispensable. Professional suck-ups, some reveal private disgust. If you have not yet read Victor Davis Hanson’s “The Clintons — At the End of All Things,” which really presents the best possible conclusion to this story, then you should.

7 thoughts on “101 Things We Learned from WikiLeaks’ Podesta Emails

  1. Were the buzz-words “transparence” and “accountability” ever current in the Land of the Free ?
    They were briefly in the uk, but it seems that my skepticism regarding the Establishment and its surreptitious undermining od democracy is fully justified. Wikileaks only confirm what many strongly suspected over the years
    What is most deplorable is the condescension and arrogance of the “left” (well, “center-left” , as Clinton has been labelled) and the vacuity of their politics.
    A sort of mirror-image of the populist Right ( I probaby should say “center-Right” ) which, however, swept the day by being a bit less cerebral, and maybe a bit less duplicitous than the Democrats.
    Clinton’s ony chance to save her honour was to withdraw in favour of Sanders. Her machine just might have succeeded then, instead of plunging the whole party into ignominy ; true friends of democracy need to tell the Democrat machinists that they have been recklessly betrayed.
    Above all, faced with the evidence of skullduggery, Sanders’ supporters could take the lead in re-orienting their discredited party into something like a credible opposition to Mr. Trump.

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