Richard Goodstein is a Democratic campaign strategist, involved in the Hillary Clinton campaign. Of course, in a world where Carter Page is a Senior Foreign Policy Advisor, it’s difficult to know what that means. Is he just some rando volunteer padding his resume, did he actually get a paycheck from the campaign, or was he one of the inner cabal working to subvert the American electoral process? Who knows?
What we do know is that he’s a frequent talking head on the cable news networks, where he can be counted on to change the subject on a dime, and always reliably parrot the Democratic talking points of the day. I mention him because he’s been selling a particular talking point over the last week or so, a point that I have heard repeated by other Democrats, including a group of Congress critters in the wake of the report from the Office of Inspector General.
His contention is simple: that there was, in fact, political bias shown by the FBI, but it was in favor of Donald Trump. He’s saying that the FBI wrongfully acted in Trump’s favor by not leaking to the press that Trump and his campaign were under investigation for Russian collusion. He believes that if they had, Trump’s campaign would have been destroyed by the accusations, and Hillary Clinton would have sailed to victory.
I believe this to be patently absurd, and quite possibly the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard a Democrat say on television. And that’s really saying something. Here is how I imagine it actually would have played out.
Think back to the situation on the ground in the summer of 2016. Donald Trump had been saying for months that he expected dirty tricks, that he expected the system to be ‘rigged’ against him. What’s more, the country had just watched James Comey exonerate Hillary Clinton, after describing in great detail why she was guilty of several crimes. The reputation of the FBI was busy cratering into the ground based on treatment of her that fell far outside the boundaries of what anyone less connected than she might have expected from them, and by this time, a substantial portion of the country saw the FBI as having been corrupted.
Add Goodstein’s brilliant idea to that environment. Somewhere in August or early September the story breaks: The Justice Department and FBI, that is, the Obama Administration Justice Department and FBI have been surveilling the Trump Campaign and have one or more human assets within or among Trump campaign staff. They are looking for proof that Donald Trump and his campaign are colluding with Vladimir Putin’s government to subvert the election to install Donald Trump as president, when he is in truth nothing more than a stooge of Russia. (If you remember, this was the original collusion narrative; the one that they have long since stopped mentioning.)
At Donald Trump’s next campaign event, likely within hours of the story breaking, he responds. (I’m not going to try writing in Trump-speak; others are better at that than I am.)
“This is nothing but lies, and it shows how desperate they are. I told you they were going to try to rig the election, and here it is. This is completely unprecedented. It’s never happened before. Obama corrupted the FBI and turned them loose against me. You could see they’re corrupt from the way they let Crooked Hillary off. But where is the proof? What’s their evidence? If they think I’m some kind of Russian stooge, let’s see them prove it. Show us your evidence! Obama, Comey, Crooked Hillary… put up or shut up!”
Regardless of anything else, even if you think he’s guilty, he’s absolutely right about one thing: it’s completely unprecedented, and the country would realize this. It would have immediately blown back on Barack Obama and his administration, at the same time that Trump was doing five to seven rallies per day, with tens of thousands of people chanting “Put Up or Shut Up! Put Up or Shut Up! Put Up or Shut Up!” The FBI and DOJ would have been required to disclose their evidence, and it would need to be irrefutable, indisputable, iron-clad, hard evidence of direct collusion between Donald Trump and Russia, preferably in the form of video w/sound of Trump and Putin laughing about their nefarious plan and how they were putting one over on the stupid American voters. But all they would have had to offer would have been:
- That George Papadapolous, a low-level campaign volunteer who Trump never met had made a drunken statement to an Australian diplomat in a bar in London that the Russians had damaging information about Hillary Clinton.
- That another low-level volunteer who Trump never met, Carter Page, had previously been investigated by the FBI when they thought the Russians were trying to recruit him.
- That Christopher Steele, a former MI6 agent, had compiled a dossier of salacious allegations against Trump, and the FBI was investigating that as well.
At which point, I expect we would have seen a compression of the timeline for the details of this being revealed. We would have quickly learned:
- That the statement made by Papadapolous was no more than public knowledge at the time. We might have also learned at that time of the circumstances of his being in London, the blonde who introduced him to the Australian, and even about the Maltese professor, also an agent of MI6, who had told him that a month earlier.
- That Carter page had cooperated with the FBI in the earlier matter to prosecute one Russian, and to get two others deported.
- That Hillary Clinton’s campaign had paid for the dossier, and that it was mostly sourced to current and former Russian intelligence agents.
The blowback at that point would also have been completely unprecedented. The Never Trump movement would have evaporated overnight. How can you argue that it’s better for Hillary to be elected under those corrupt conditions? Republican turnout for the election would have been similarly unprecedented, while the Democrats’ would have been suppressed, and I believe the independent vote would have swung sharply towards Trump. The American people simply would not reward an attempt to use the powers of the executive branch to torpedo a major party presidential campaign.
Trump would have won the election far more convincingly than he did, and Barack Obama would have left office in disgrace. Trump would have come into office without eighteen months of wild accusations damaging his ability to get things done.
I hope Richard Goodstein is the Chief Strategist for the next Democrat candidate. With that kind of thinking, I believe he’s just the kind of strategist we need.