Well, we don’t have visual proof, so we’ll just have to take the participants’ word for it. It was only a brief chat, but one that rescued Bernie Sanders from the embarrassment of having left the New York campaign trail to attend an obscure Vatican “rich people are bad” meeting when he could ill afford to be away. Pope Francis was feeling particularly charitable, so as he was heading out the door, he gave Sanders the gift he so desperately needed, bragging rights to say he actually did meet with the pope. Their encounter amounted to a pity gesture by the pontiff, although he put it a bit more tactfully: “When I came down, I greeted them, shook their hands and nothing more. This is good manners. It’s called good manners and not getting mixed up in politics. If anyone thinks that greeting someone means getting involved in politics, they should see a psychiatrist.”
After his brief furlough, Sanders is back in the U.S. campaign asylum, where suddenly he and Hillary Clinton are trying to match the craziness of the Republicans. Once again, Hillary and her too many advisers have managed to grossly mismanage another controversy.
This one involves a transcript of a speech she gave to a Goldman Sachs audience in October 2013, one of three for which she was paid $225,000 each. Now, you don’t make $675,000 to insult your benefactors. By various accounts, she was generous with her praise of the bankers, even though she now claims she gave them the what-for. Given that her coziness with the very people she’s currently saying she’ll rein in is a burning issue, the transcript could be embarrassing. But it would blow over.
By digging in her heels and refusing to simply release the text, she has turned this little paper cut into a serious wound. This is typical inept Clinton stonewalling. I’ve covered all the scandals that shouldn’t have been, like Whitewater and so many others. With few exceptions, the standard operating procedure has been to refuse to divulge anything, or to play word games. Sooner or later, the thinking goes, we’ll get tired of pursuing the controversy, and our small brains will be overwhelmed by their superior intellects. So we pests will go away. When it doesn’t happen that way, those of us who are pursuing answers become part of a right-wing conspiracy. That must really amuse the Republicans, who think we’re all a bunch of loopy liberals. It’s kinda fun to be hated by everyone.
At some point, Hillary will grudgingly release the transcript, probably late on a Friday night. That’s based on the foolish premise that nobody pays attention to the news on a weekend. In fact what really happens is that it becomes the hot subject to pontificate about on all the Sunday talk shows, and whatever is said will be repeated the following Monday.
It will happen this time, too. Hillary Clinton’s credibility will take another hit, and we’ll wait for the pattern to repeat itself. Actually, it probably won’t be long. My theory is that the Republican opposition research people already have gotten their hands on the thousands of emails Hillary and her lawyers deleted from the private server she used when she was secretary of state — the ones they unilaterally decided were personal. As we should know by now, nothing is actually ever disappears in cyberspace. The oppo people probably have their hands on the messages. If the emails include embarrassing material or worse, then wouldn’t that make a splendid GOP “October surprise”? That, you’ll remember, is the crushing information that comes out just in time to sway the election.
Maybe that’s speculation; perhaps there’s nothing damning in the emails. But if it does unfold the way I’ve described, remember that you heard it here first. If I’m wrong, just forget all about it. What you can’t forget is that this campaign is certifiably insane.
Bob Franken is a longtime broadcast journalist, including 20 years at CNN.