Roaming Charges: a Wikileak is a Terrible Thing to Waste

Photo by thierry hermann | CC BY 2.0

Photo by thierry hermann | CC BY 2.0


+ I’ve spent the week greedily consuming the treats offered up by Wikileaks’s excavation of John Podesta’s inbox. Each day presents juicy new revelations of the venality of the Clinton campaign. In total, the Podesta files provide the most intimate and unadulterated look at how politics really works in late-capitalist America since the release of the Nixon tapes.

+ There’s a big difference, though. With Nixon, the stakes seemed greater, the banter more Machiavellian, the plots and counter-plots darker and more cynical.

+ The Podesta email tranches show the inner mechanics of a much more mundane, petty and banal political machine. Instead of shaping a campaign around an ideological movement, the Clinton operation resembles the packaging of a political mutual fund, a balanced, low-risk portfolio of financial interests, captive NGOs and dependent demographic sectors.

+ The red meat in the emails can be found in the disclosures of the internal rivalries, self-aggrandizement and sycophancy of hired guns and consultants, especially as they gravitate toward Podesta, whose chilly presence looms behind the scenes like the ghost of Thomas Cromwell.

+ The three prevailing obsessions of the Podesta emails: raising money, containing the contamination of the Clinton Foundation and screwing Bernie Sanders. There’s barely any hint of anxiety over Trump. In fact, they relish his every false move, almost as if each faltering step had been pre-visualized, if not orchestrated.

+ If possible, the press corps comes off worse than Team Clinton. Almost every reporter is revealed as pliable, servile and so lazy that they basically beg the Clinton PR shop to write their stories for them.

+ The press has reiterated this obsequiousness over the course of the last seven days with what can only be described as an orgy of coverage of the Trump sex tapes and assorted scandals. By all accounts, the Trump campaign is dead and has been for weeks. The 24/7 obsession now amounts to a kind of political corpse abuse. Forsaken in this feeding frenzy has been any serious attention at all to the Wikileaks email dump, except to echo Clinton camp assertions that they were the victims of a Russian plot to tilt the election to Trump. If so, the Russians have proved even more incompetent than we thought them to be.

+ Of course, the Russian diversion is a convenient excuse for the lapdog press having missed one major scandal after another that has been staring them in the face for months, if not years.

+ Significantly, the email dump also proves what many of us have long suspected: that there are no walls separating the Clinton campaign, its foundation and Super Pacs and the DNC itself. Those supposedly distinct entities are, in fact, all part of one vast, interconnected organization–a syndicate, if you will, that has deftly evaded campaign finance laws (created by Democrats) and rigged its own primary process to ensure a pre-ordained winner.

+ The key thing to remember about the DNC is that it has been under the complete control of the Clintons and their operatives since the 1990s. Obama never cleaned house and installed his own people, a lapse that proved fatal to his own political and legislative agenda. The Clintons’ loyalty to Obama was always paper-thin and conditioned on whether it would advance their own interests: Hillary’s pursuit of the presidency and Bill’s maniacal quest for lucrative speaking fees.

+ It was no surprise that Bill unloaded on ObamaCare a few days ago, calling it the “craziest thing in the world.” The Clintons want to efface Obama’s legacy and replace it with their own, the same way the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt smashed the images of the previous ruler and replaced it with their own visage.

+ So what follows are a few of my favorite revelations from Podesta’s inbox, starting with an email where Podesta is joking about a fundraiser on Martha’s Vineyard. John Podesta: “I didn’t think wet works meant pool parties at the Vineyard.” Another Clinton murder? Check the drain for trace evidence?

+ I can picture the invitation: “HRC Pool Party: Donate or Drown!”

+ Rightwing websites, of course, are taking this as proof, HRC, murdered Scalia.

+ Peter Berlios reminded me of the global outrage when Trump’s special friend, Vladimir Putin, used a similar expression in regard to the Chechens: “We will wet them even in the shit house.”

+ By the way, John Podesta owned 75,000 shares in Leonidio LLC, a firm linked to who? Yes, Vladimir Putin.

+ Podesta’s correspondent in this exchange is Steve Elmendorf, a longtime Democratic powerbroker who was Dick Gephardt’s chief of staff. Over the years, Elmendorf has perfected the art, crucial to any Democratic candidate, of seducing progressive sectors of the party to dutifully line up behind a neoliberal candidate. A few years ago, he explained his strategic thinking this way:

“The bloggers and online donors represent an important resource for the party, but they are not representative of the majority you need to win elections. The trick will be to harness their energy and their money without looking like you are a captive of the activist left.”

+ Bill Richardson is the famously irascible former Governor of New Mexico, who served as Energy Secretary and UN ambassador during Bill Clinton’s second term. The relationship soured when the governor broke ranks and endorsed Barack Obama in 2008. Richardson and the Clintons have been feuding ever since.  Indeed, Bill once described the antagonism as a “permanent” state of hostilities.

In August of 2015, Podesta took it on his own initiative to negotiate a detente between the two men. Apparently, Hillary was furious at Podesta’s impertinence. She doesn’t forgive. Podesta writes back urging her to consider the political consequences, especially with Hispanics in must-win western states like Colorado and New Mexico, where Richardson still has pull.

“I had heard that you were upset that I encouraged a call between [Bill Clinton] and Richardson to bury the hatchet. I did that at the request of Jose Villarreal who pushed me and made the point that Richardson is still on TV a lot, especially on Univision and Telemundo and not withstanding the fact that he can be a dick, it was worth getting him in a good place. Probably worth a quick call to ask him to stay stout and publicly endorse, but if it’s too galling, don’t bother.”

+ Even someone as close to the Clintons as Podesta keeps running into the couple’s aversion to apologizing for anything. After issuing a non-apology apology on her email server scandal, Podesta gripes to his number two, Neera Tanden: “No good deed goes unpunished. Press takeaway was the whine of but ‘she really didn’t apologize to the American people. I am beginning to think Trump is on to something.”

Tanden notes: “Everyone wants her to apologize. And she should. Apologies are like her Achilles heel…This apology thing has become like a pathology. I can only imagine what’s happening in the campaign. Is there some way I can be helpful here? I know if I just email her she will dismiss it out of hand.”

Podesta replies tersely: “You should email her. She can say she’s sorry without apologizing to the American people. Tell her to say it and move on, why get hung on this.”

+ Few figures in the Podesta emails come off as more appalling than Neera Tanden, whose primary mission, perhaps the only thing she is really competent at, is detecting even minor deviations from obedience to Clintonian orthodoxy. No one agitates her more than Bernie and his Sandernistas, who she seems ready to dial up a drone strike against at a moment’s notice. She’s the Lee Atwater of neoliberalism, without Atwater’s malign intelligence and sense of humor.

+ Here’s Neera in panic mode over a Wall Street Journal piece on Hillary’s email server quoting an anonymous White House as saying Clinton may have “screwed up” on the matter. Tanden gets so worked up that she seems ready to target Obama: “WH crapping on her is going to send this into orbit.”

+ During one of her speeches-for-hire, Hillary promised Wall Street tycoons that she would block marijuana legalization (don’t want to cut into those tobacco stocks). Here’s her archly worded back and forth with Xerox’s CEO, Ursula Burns, following March 2014 speech. Clinton used Wall Street lingo to express her opposition to ending pot prohibition “in all senses of the word.” Who says she doesn’t have a sense of humor?

URSULA BURNS: So long means thumbs up, short means thumbs down; or long means I support, short means I don’t. I’m going to start with — I’m going to give you about ten long-shorts.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Even if you could make money on a short, you can’t answer short.

URSULA BURNS: You can answer short, but you got to be careful about letting anybody else know that. They will bet against you. So legalization of pot?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Short in all senses of the word.

+ When served with subpoena for records on Benghazi, a seriously agitated Robbie Mook asks, “We’re not releasing EVERYTHING, right?”

+ Among the things the Clinton damage control team must deal with: “Tony Rodham hustling gold mining deals in Haiti.”

+ I wonder if they considered setting up a special squad to deal with Clinton Hustler Eruptions?

+ Mark Siegel, the former executive director of the DNC, emailed Podesta on the eve of the Convention outlining strategies to entice the “self-righteous (Bernie) ideologues” to “work their asses off for Hillary.”

+ “Let’s throw Bernie a bone,” Siegel recommends, in the form of reducing the number of super delegates in 2020 primary campaign. Perhaps “Bernie Bones” could be come a new treat at Ben & Jerry’s?

+ Hillary’s closest advisor and most intimate confident is Huma Abedin. No one more aggressively enforces Hillary’s own wishes or guards her privacy. Abedin, who we must assume is speaking directly for Hillary, is adamant that Hillary continue with her strategy of avoiding press conferences. Each time Hillary answers a few questions at one of her events, the message gets lost, Huma frets. “Can we survive not answering questions from press at message events?”

Podesta swats down this notion emphatically.

“If she thinks we can get to Labor Day without taking press questions, I think that’s suicidal. We have to find some mechanism to let the stream [sic] out of the pressure cooker.”

Not a huge deal, Huma. If HRC is compelled to answer, she can just lie the way she usually does. Hillary’s a natural.

+ One email to Podesta from Hillary’s account in August of 2014 provides confirmation for what we’ve long suspected: Clinton was well aware that Qatar and Saudi Arabia are the principle funders of ISIS in Iraq and Syria:

“While this military/para-military operation is moving forward, we need to use our diplomatic and more traditional intelligence assets to bring pressure on the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to [ISIS] and other radical Sunni groups in the region.”

+ There’s a reason I started calling MSNBC MSDNC. Here we have an email from a producer of  “All In with Chris Hayes” slobbering all over Hillary Clinton in an attempt to secure an appearance on Hayes’ tendentious show:

“Hey Adrienne,

Thanks for your help in getting Karen on with Chris the other night. I have a question for you. As you guys have probably seen, we’ve been airing a ‘Hillary Clinton for Millennials’ segment on our program every night this past week.”

“The point of the segment is basically to inform young people about all of the crap and nonsense that Sec. Clinton and President Clinton (but mostly Sec. Clinton) had to face back in the 90s when President Clinton was running for office…everything from cookie-gate to stand-by-your-man-gate to Hillarycare.”

“The point isn’t to dwell on the past but the point is to talk about this amazing, intelligent woman who probably faced more nonsense back in the day because she is a woman…and she continues to have to face it. She is smarter than most men and more qualified than most men to be president.”

This kind of shameless groveling makes Sean Hannity seem like an objective reporter.

+ How to deal with the Sanders phenomenon haunted even veteran political operators on Team Clinton. Here’s an exchange from January 6, 2016 between Mandy Grunwald and Jennifer Palmieri:

Palmieri: “I liked messing with Bernie on wall street at a staff level for the purposes of muddying the waters and throwing them off their game a bit. But don’t know that it is most effective contrast for her. Seems like we are picking the fight he wants to have.”

Grunwald: “Bernie wants a fight on Wall Street. We should not give him one.”

+ Here’s an excerpt from the Clinton campaing’s press policy, cautioning against allowing coverage of the anemic turnouts at Hillary rallies: “‘Less than a 100 people at a rally? No cell phones! No press!”

+ The emails in 2015 show increasing fear that Elizabeth Warren’s freelance attacks on the big banks and investment houses will alienate the tycoons and moguls who fund the DNC. Nancy Pelosi (Net Worth: $58 million) & Co. scurry to reassure Wall Street: “Elizabeth Warren doesn’t speak for Dem Party!”

+ HRC HQ knew she needed to run against a candidate like Trump. It was her only hope of winning the election & they went to work to make it so. It unnerved some her allies, one of whom wrote Podesta: “Right now I am petrified that Hillary is almost totally dependent on Republicans nominating Trump.”

As the World Burns

+ When there’s no opposition to a war, it will go on forever. See Afghanistan, 15 years and counting. Barbara Lee was the lone vote against it then and one of the few who remember it now. The Authorization for Unilateral Military Force, which launched the Afghan War, has been involved 30 times now for other interventions. Lee should get some kind of peace prize, though not the one awarded to Kissinger, Peres and Obama.

+ Russian meddling in US elections? Yet to be proven. US role in trying to overthrow more than 50 governments worldwide in last 65 years? Fact.

+ Twelve Bush officials sign letter denouncing Trump. Get ready for the Fourth Bush Term!

+ Obama announced this week that Russia will pay a price for hacking into the DNC’s computers, implying that some kind of cyber-attack will be launched on the Kremlin. What’s Obama going to do to the person who leaked the Trump tape or Trump’s tax return? Drone them?

+ Chris Christie, now a wanted man, calls Trump’s comments on kissing and grouping unsuspecting women “completely indefensible “. This is rich coming from a man who publicly humiliates women at his press conferences and then mocked, demonized and locked up a nurse named Kaci Hickox, who had shown the humanity to actually treat Ebola victims.

+ Instead of being subjected to condescending Western philanthropy, Haiti desperately needs to be allowed to chart the course of their own reconstruction. Be sure to read Mark Schuller’s important piece in this week’s CounterPunch.

+ Where’s the feminist outrage over the noxious Jeffrey Goldberg being tapped as the new editor-in-chief of The Atlantic? Judy Miller got run out of the reporting biz for her yellow journalism. Goldberg gets promoted for his! Sexism?

+ With Jeffrey Goldberg helming the Atlantic and Hillary heading for White House, everything is aligning for next big bang war. Good morning, Teheran!

+ Glenn Beck is tortured by a simple question: should he or shouldn’t he vote for Hillary Clinton? When he comes to a resolution perhaps can make his announcement live on Rachel Maddow Show? All together now, follow the bouncing bombs…

+ It took Nixon to go to China, and Donald J. Trump to destroy the GOP from the inside-out. Credit where credit is due. The Donald is fragging the entire GOP establishment, from Paul Ryan to John McCain, as his campaign goes down in flames.

+ Those freaking out over Trump’s joke about jailing Hillary have never shown the slightest angst about her policy of assassinating people, including American citizens, by drone without trial, hearing or indictment.

+ Trump didn’t rise from the swamps of the GOP. He is a monster created, promoted and advertised by the media. Even now they feast on him.

+ Of course, if Trump didn’t exist, the Clintons would have had to invent him. In a way, they did, elevating Trump as the “pied-piper candidate.”

+ Here’s the revolting Curt Schilling, another Pervert for Jesus.

+ Bernie Sanders took off enough time this week from campaigning for Hillary to broadcast this platitude: “When the Founding Fathers were writing the Constitution, I’m pretty sure they weren’t thinking ‘Let’s make sure billionaires can buy elections.'”

But Bernie your old buddy Howard Zinn would have told you that is exactly what the Founding “Fathers” were thinking, which is why they only permitted white land-owning men to enjoy the franchise and doubled down by allowing the southern land barons to keep, breed and sell their slaves to buy elections.

+ The Democrats’ decision to reduce the entire closing chapter of the campaign to a rather prudish emphasis on sexual politics represents a retreat from the party’s frail commitment to tolerance and sexual liberation. Of course, it also protects Hillary from having to grapple with her entangled record on trade, economics, criminal justice and militarism. Just wait for the renewed attacks on rap music, heavy metal, and “Game of Thrones.” Will Tipper Gore be named Culture Czar?

+ Few people know where more of the Clintons’ skeletons are buried than Ken Silverstein, the founder of CounterPunch and one of the best investigative journalists around. As pre-Halloween treat, he unearths a few here regarding the Clinton foundation’s deplorable escapades in Colombia. Silverstein quotes a Colombian union organizer as saying:

“They are doing nothing for workers. I don’t even know what they are doing in this country other than exploiting poverty and extracting money.”

+ Every President needs an Axis of Evil to justify their existence (and those all important defense contracts). Here’s Hillary’s. Read it and bleed.

+ Still, people see through her. Latest WSJ/NBC poll from Ohio, taken after the Trump sex tape and the St. Louis debate, shows HRC still below 50%…with WOMEN voters!

+ Someone sent me a link to a story claiming nervously that while Russia Prepares for War, the US Sleeps. Sleeps? Making Russia prepare for war (and sink billions it doesn’t have into a weapons production that will never come close to rivaling the Pentagon’s armory of mass destruction) has been the point of US foreign policy toward Russia for the last 60 years. Putin is walking blindly into same quagmire that doomed the Soviet Union. (See Andrew Cockburn’s indispensable The Threat. The book may be out of print, but it’s central thesis isn’t.)

+ When Human Rights Watch isn’t clamoring for a humanitarian cruise missile intervention or sabotaging the peace deal in Colombia, it can actually produce some compelling documents, such as this important report on the human toll of the war on drugs. The gist of the report is that every 25 seconds someone is the United States is arrested on simple possession of drugs for their own personal use, totaling more than 1.5 million arrests every year. Each day, there are more than 137,000 people in the US in prison or jail on possession charges, with tens of thousands of others under detention, house arrest or some form of probation.

+ The truly deplorable Joy Behar slimes Bill Clinton’s accusers as “tramps.” I guess that means they should feel grateful that Bill mauled them.

+ Perhaps Trump was just besotted with too much Fitzgerald. After all, he does live in a penthouse as big as the Ritz: “Hard to sit here and be close to you and not kiss you.” (Tender is the Night). Nah…

+ The Washington Post frantically conspired to kill off Nate Parker’s incandescent new film on the Nat Turner slave revolt, Birth of a Nation. After weeks of unrelenting negative publicity, the box office results were meager. The Post couldn’t help but gloat, publishing a stupid little piece by Caitlin Gibson titled: “The Big Debate Over ‘Birth of a Nation’ is Over: Audiences Just weren’t that Interested.

+ Imagine the Post’s verdict on the greatest American novel: “The big debate over Moby-Dick is over. Only sold 500 copies upon release. Likely never hear from that author again…”

+ The concerted effort to destroy Parker and his film reminds me of the sabotaging of Welles’ Magnificent Ambersons (where a third of the footage was actually dumped in the Pacific Ocean) and John Huston’s fiercely anti-war film of Crane’s Red Badge of Courage, which MGM studios mutilated, cutting the film from its original 2-hour length and adding maudlin voice over narration (See Lillian Ross’s Picture for the gory details.)

+ The announcement that Bob Dylan has won the Nobel Prize for Literature induced much carping from uptight academics about the alleged degeneration of the award. How dare they honor a rock singer? My question is what took them so long? The crusty Nobel committee should have recognized the role of popular music at least 35 years ago and given the prize to Bob Marley. Even Dylan would probably admit that Smokey Robinson should have been in line ahead of him.

+ Still Dylan deserves the recognition. He’s the greatest white blues singer and probably the best songwriter of the rock era. My favorites from across the decades: Masters of War, Highway 61 Revisited, Just Like Tom Thumb Blues, Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again, I Want You, All Along the Watchtower, The Man in Me, Forever Young, I Shall be Released, If You See Her Say Hello, This Wheel’s on Fire, Tears of Rage, Hurricane, Precious Angel, Blind Willie McTell, Julius & Ethyl, Heart of Mine, Don’t Fall Apart on Me Tonight, Dark Eyes, Everything is Broken, Love Sick, Not Dark Yet.

+ But I hope he tells the committee to shove it, as did Jean-Paul Sartre. If not, I trust he will stay in character and mumble Dylanesque obscurities to a mystified audience.

+ Wikileaks reports that Keith Richards was on the short list for Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Robbed!

Make It or Break It

As you know, we’ve just about completed the third week of our annual fund drive. The old thermometer is inching upward, but not assertively enough for us to meet our make-it-or-break it goal by the end of next week. We simply must pick up the pace of donations. So far more than 2700 CounterPunchers have responded to our pleas, but that’s out of two million readers a month!

As an inducement for you to donate, we’re offering two irresistible deals. For the last 10 years, a very generous and committed CounterPunch supporter has offered a challenge grant to our readers: he’ll match every contribution of $100 or more with his own money. And we’ll add a second incentive by pitching in a digital copy (e-pub, pdf, et al) of my new book, Bernie and the Sandernistas: Field Notes From a Failed Revolution, before it is even in the stores. This soon-to-be-classic screed is worth all of the paper it isn’t printed on!

Honestly, we really need your donation, whatever you can afford. If we don’t make our target, we’ll have to cut back our operations. Do you want that to happen, just on the edge of a treacherous new era?

So, if you like what we do, donate now.

Booked Up

What I’m reading this week.

1) Porn Panic: Sex and Censorship in the UK by Jerry Barnett.

2) His Bloody Project: Graeme Macrae Burnet.

3) Every 12 Seconds: Industrialized Slaughter and the Politics of Sight by Timothy Pachirat.

Sound Grammar

What I’m listening to this week:

1) It’s Hard by The Bad Plus.

2) Must Be Free by Lee “Scratch” Perry

3) Keep Me Singing by Van Morrison

4) Dancing With Bad Grammar by LA Salami

5) Spirit by Amos Lee

When the Sea Pirates Came

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.: “1492. As children we were taught to memorize this year with pride and joy as the year people began living full and imaginative lives on the continent of North America. Actually, people had been living full and imaginative lives on the continent of North America for hundreds of years before that. 1492 was simply the year sea pirates began to rob, cheat, and kill them.”

Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch. His most recent book is An Orgy of Thieves: Neoliberalism and Its Discontents (with Alexander Cockburn). He can be reached at: or on Twitter @JeffreyStClair3