Clinton’s Halloween electoral surprise

The Thinker by Rodin

Yes, it was pretty surprising last Friday when FBI Director James Comey seemed to reopen the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails. Agents apparently found emails on a device used by former congressman Anthony Weiner, you know Mr. Sexting that may be related to the FBI’s probe of Clinton’s private email server. It surprised me on many levels:

  • That Comey thought this was worthy of announcing. None of the emails were actually from Clinton or originated on her server.
  • That they were found on Weiner’s device. My guess is that his wife at the time, close Clinton confidant Huma Abedin needed to do some remote office stuff, and borrowed his computer.
  • That Comey went ahead and made the announcement in spite of being warned by many in the Justice Department and from people on his own staff not to do so.
  • That he was apparently unmindful, or did not care, that doing so would open him to a violation of the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from interfering with elections.

In any event, it was a well-timed Halloween surprise, and maybe that October surprise against Clinton that apparently Wikileaks didn’t get around to. It managed to dominate the news all weekend. It predictably had Republicans both outraged and cheering an anticipated political effect. A poll suggested that Trump was now leading Clinton in the crucial swing state of Florida. And of course Donald Trump was busy making false comparisons, ludicrously saying this was “worse than Watergate”. Umm, in what universe is the possibility that there might be some unknown and classified email related to the Clinton email investigation remotely similar to a constitutional crisis? It isn’t of course, but it does feed the Republican narrative that the secretive Hillary Clinton recklessly propagated classified email on insecure servers.

The real question is whether this will affect the election in eight days. Some polls show a tightening of the race. If you look at the polls though the tightening is easily explained: Republicans who had qualms about Donald Trump are coming home. The same is true with Democrats, which is why Green Party candidate Jill Stein’s modest numbers are also dropping. So the polls are now showing Clinton with a 3 to 5 percent advantage over Trump, kind of where we were six months ago.

Undoubtedly there are some truly undecided voters out there and this may push them closer toward Trump and away from Clinton. There are so few of these though that it really makes little difference and by themselves they can’t sway this election. It does make some swing states less swingy, possibly erasing Clinton’s advantages in Ohio and Florida. What it doesn’t look likely to do is fundamentally change the dynamics of the race. To change it a whole lot of Democrats have to dump Hillary and that’s unlikely to happen. And that’s unlikely because this is a national election and turnout is likely to be high.

Trump can hope this demoralizes Democrats so they don’t vote but more likely it will enthuse the anti-Clinton Republicans who otherwise can’t stomach Trump and were planning to sit this one out. He’s also pretty clearly hoping that he can get his people to show up in minority neighborhoods to intimidate Democratic voters. BTW, by openly calling for this a federal judge may keep in place a consent decree against the Republican National Committee in place since the early 1980s when Republicans last tried this tactic. It is scheduled to expire next year.

So there is small chance that this will do much to change Hillary’s election, but it may make the electoral win smaller. It may energize Republicans and demoralize Democrats, suppressing the vote in legal ways, which could have some bad consequences for Democrats, perhaps not winning the Senate and making fewer gains in House races. This would make it much harder for President Hillary Clinton to govern.

However, all the absentee and early voting already underway mitigates this. By some estimates 20% of voters have already voted. If you are worried about intimidation at the polls, early voting is the way to avoid it, as many minority voters are discovering. Comparing early voting patterns this year with 2012 generally shows more Democrats are voting early than Republicans. Among them: me. I voted last Tuesday because I will be traveling on Election Day.

Clinton was always unlikely to trigger a wave election. A week ago it was looking that way because Trump kept digging his hole further, leaving him with only core supporters voting for him. A wave may still happen, but now it’s looking more like a 5-8 point Clinton win, still very impressive, assuming there are no more newsworthy events to rock either campaign. Clinton should easily top 300 electoral votes. I suspect she will be closer to 350 than 300. We’ll see soon enough.

Weiner is guilty of being a male

The Thinker by Rodin

I told former Representative Chris Lee when he abruptly resigned in February that he would not be at the back of the line of unfaithful politicians for long. Perhaps I should claim an award for precognition but really, it’s a no-brainer. Philandering (almost always male) politicians are a dime a dozen, and every couple of months at most another one gets caught. The latest, of course, was Rep. Anthony Weiner (NY) who was exposed by the puritanical and anally obsessed conservative Andrew Brietbart for the political sin of posting pictures of his, well, wiener on YFrog, which is a sort of Twitter server optimized for linking Twitter content to pictures.

Like Chris Lee, Weiner does not appear to have done anything actually illegal. Unlike former executive of Prince Georges County Maryland, Jack B. Johnson, Weiner won’t be going to prison for accepting more than $400,000 in bribes. Rather, Weiner is guilty in the court of public opinion of “emotional infidelity”, general stupidity and the egregious misuse of Twitter to badly seduce women over the internet. He did this by sending pictures of what appears to be his erect penis masked behind some briefs (and allegedly more explicit pictures) to one or more women not his wife over the Internet, none of whom he actually met. Weiner apologized to his wife and family and says he plans to stay in Congress. No other member of Congress will come within a hundred feet of him, of course, probably because they are afraid they will get cooties. Washington’s neo-Puritans, of course, are calling for his head. Thou shalt have no member of Congress who cannot successfully mask his or her sexual urges for someone other than their spouse because, as we all know, one moral slip means you cannot do your job.

Occasionally though a politician finds himself with his pants down publicly and manages to hang on anyhow. Bill Clinton did it, even though it was pretty clear that he was guilty of perjury. I too might have perjured myself rather than admit I had an oral affair with a buxom and comely office intern half my age. (I might have bragged about it in the shower room, however.) Clinton was impeached anyhow, but not convicted. His bar license was taken away from him, but he left office happily, established charities, worked for international peace and made tons of money as a speaker and author. In fact, he left office with some of the highest approval ratings of any president, in spite of his sins. It turned out that Americans judged their president more by whether they had a job and their standard of living increased than about a minor bit of philandering and lying about sex. So my advice to Andrew Weiner: if you were as effective as they say you are, hang in there anyhow. You may be guilty of emotional infidelity (what exactly is that anyhow?) and, like Chris Lee, bad judgment likely due in part to your sky high testosterone levels, but your work in Congress until now has been excellent.

I will not claim that I am holier than Andrew Weiner. I can truthfully state that I have not sent pictures of my privates over the Internet. Why would I feel the need to do so? It helps for me to be married, of course, but my experience with women is they are much more interested in the whole person than your junk, so if you really want to seduce a woman on the Internet, do it with your words, not pictures of your crotch. Also, I suspect I am not as “gifted” as Weiner.

However, if I was gay, then I might have sent such a lewd photo because guys, regardless of their sexual orientation, find penises professionally interesting. We find pictures of penises in relation to other mostly naked people arranged in a prurient fashion particularly interesting. Unlike ladies, we don’t need a mirror to see our private parts. If we didn’t touch our private parts multiple times a day, we would soil our clothes. If I was gay and hunting for a hot date over the internet, and I might be able to close the deal for a meeting with a picture of my privates, I might have done it. I certainly would not have done it using my real name, however.

Andrew Weiner is guilty of stupidity, something that happens to otherwise intelligent men more frequently than we would care to admit. It is likelier to happen particularly when our testosterone levels are high, or our spouses are on their periods or (like many spouses) they just aren’t in the mood to fool around, which sometimes can go on for months. Insurance actuaries can attest that high testosterone causes otherwise sensible teenage boys to wrap their cars and themselves around telephone poles, and even the smart students do it, but perhaps less often. In middle age, high testosterone sometimes makes men like Andrew Weiner send pictures of their engorged underwear to very unlikely romantic prospects electronically over the Internet. In earlier generations these guys acted more like Andy Capp, hung out at the local tavern and pinched the bums of the local wenches. We’re so much more discreet about it now that we have the Internet thing. We’ve come a long way, baby.

Weiner is a reasonably handsome guy, but he must have realized that his chances of scoring a home run were about one in a thousand. What this did for him, at least for a short while, is scratch his chronic itch in what likely seemed to him to be a relatively safe way. You may catch an Internet virus sending that photo to a distant potential paramour, but Norton Antivirus will kill it. You sure won’t catch a STD. Weiner’s action was still stupid but as any guy with sufficiently high hormone levels knows, your probability of doing something stupid increases with elevated testosterone levels. That’s just a fact. Ask any guy, but those who claim otherwise are probably guilty of being sanctimonious liars.

Here’s the thing though: even when your hormone levels are high, a guy can still exercise reasonable judgment about other things as long as they are not sexual. You still can multitask. You can still ask a probing question in a committee hearing. You can even do stupid stuff like Weiner did and still love your spouse. Now I know what you women will probably say: he does not love me if he does stuff like this in the first place. Duh! Yes, it is possible that he does not love you and he has mentally left the marriage. It’s much more likely that he still loves you, but loves you on his terms, not yours. Most likely it was either you or society which imposed either explicitly or implicitly what those terms were going to be. To a guy, except for those so deep into the bowels of religion that they cannot recognize their own legitimate feelings anymore, this duality is all perfectly consistent, particularly when your hormones are surging.

One of the virtues of middle age in men is that your hormone levels tend to surge less often, so you are less likely to do overtly stupid stuff like Weiner did. Still, the likelihood remains as long as you are a male. We didn’t ask for it, but we men are programmed to be overtly sexual. Masking it in any way is somewhat unnatural. We control it, to the extent we can, by having an excellent sex life with our spouse (which rarely happens) and by daily mindfulness. But it’s sort of like being an ex-smoker asked to never smoke another cigarette again. You can follow strategies to reduce the likelihood of smoking, but the craving will always be there.

Many of you will disagree with me, particularly if you are a female, but I assure you there is a huge Alleluia Chorus of guys out there too shy to leave comments singing “Ahem”. Yes, what Weiner did was hurtful to his spouse and family, but it was not illegal. From the standpoint of fitting into polite society and advancing in a social hierarchy, which is very important to politicians, it was extraordinarily stupid. Yes, if he meditated on it long enough he probably could have prevented it. Still, Weiner is basically guilty of being a guy with an active endocrine system. Give him a break for a first offense.