Op-ed: Conspiracy theories

  • By Bob Franken
  • Saturday, July 30, 2016 6:25pm
  • Opinion

I am so confused: Was the hacking of the Democratic National Committee emails and subsequent public release by WikiLeaks right before the party convention part of some plot by Vladimir Putin to sabotage Hillary Clinton, whom he reportedly despises, and help his buddy Donald Trump? Trump has spoken warmly of Putin and has raised questions about America’s commitment to NATO.

The Democrats are trying really hard to salvage whatever narrative they can from the email dump. After all, it caused their party so much embarrassment just before its convention that DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz had to resign or be pushed out.

That’s the face-saving theory that Hillary’s people are peddling — that The Donald and The Vladimir are in cahoots. They even have many experts who say that this has the markings of dirty dealing by Russian intelligence. Conspiracy theorists are in ecstasy.

But let’s go one step further than their paranoia patrol: Could this really be the handiwork of some Bernie Sanders-supporting geek, sitting in his bedroom in his parents’ house, who put this out there to prove once and for all that the party organization — which is required to be neutral — really was conspiring against Sanders with the Clinton campaign all along. It certainly did rile up all the Bernie supporters. They were are already sorely antagonized that their guy lost. They angrily insist that there’s no way they will vote for Hillary, even though Sanders is pleading with them that beating Trump is even more important than being spiteful.

But wait — there are still more possibilities: Suppose this was some devious plot by Hillary’s operatives to put all this stuff out to create the impression that Vladimir Putin wants Donald Trump elected so Russia can dominate the United States in the new Cold War. Putin might have concluded that Trump is such a bubblehead that he can be easily manipulated. Yes, I’ll admit that this one is pretty far out there, somewhere near Area 51, but this year in politics, nothing is too loopy. After all, Trump did suggest that Ted Cruz’s father was somehow connected to the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Anything goes, it seems.

Really, as hard-fought as the Clinton-Sanders battle was, it was serene compared with the chaotic monstrosity that was the Republican primary. But Donald Trump stands at the top of that garbage heap. We got to laugh at his convention. Instead of a unity display, it was muddled disarray. The Democrats had planned to show them up. But with the email dump, their show was a downer at the start, before they succeeded by the end in turning into a rousing party infomercial. Still, there are millions of Sanders’ supporters. Even though he’s now being the good soldier by joining Hillary’s army, his troops aren’t necessarily following his orders to support her and rescue everyone from a Trump presidency. Many petulantly insist that the hack left them so hacked off that they will refuse to vote for Hillary Clinton. If so, she loses.

Obviously, this is not Hillary’s only email problem. So now we’ve heard talk of one more possibility: What if hackers from Moscow, or anywhere else for that matter, have their hands on the 30,000-plus “personal” emails that she and her attorneys deleted from the private system she used while she was secretary of state? If they contain communications that were unseemly or worse, they could be major trouble. No wonder Trump is rooting for this one: “Russia, if you’re listening,” he exclaimed at a news conference, “I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.”

Finally, let’s not forget that other conspiracy theory that’s been rattling around for quite a while, that Bill and Hillary manipulated goofy Donald to run in order to assure her victory. Frankly, I don’t think the Clintonistas are that smart. Besides, she has struggled so mightily as a candidate that Trump might beat her and have the last laugh. Or maybe Putin would?

Bob Franken is a longtime broadcast journalist, including 20 years at CNN.

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