Interview with Janine Wedel, Anthropologist, Author and University Professor
My guest today is Janine Wedel, an anthropologist, author and professor in the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University.
Joan Brunwasser: Welcome to OpEdNews, Janine. I'd like to discuss your recent piece: "Clinton's Latest Email Scandal And Why It Deserves Scrutiny: When the public's trust is betrayed, it only fuels a demagogue like Trump." Can you get us started, please?
Janine Wedel: Thank you for your kind invitation.
Let me say at the outset that just because I think the Clinton email story deserves scrutiny does not, by any stretch of the imagination, mean I support Donald Trump. But the choice by Hillary Clinton to use a private email server is the kind of decision that engenders distrust in government, and, as I write in Unaccountable: How the Establishment Corrupted Our Finances, Freedom, and Politics and Created an Outsider Class, civic trust is reaching crisis lows. Clinton is held to a higher standard than her opponent and that may be partially because of her gender. It is likely also because she is a former top-level government official and the public expects more from an official than a reality TV star. At the root of the problem, though, is the fact that she has violated standard procedure.
It is hard for me to square that the woman who ably dispensed with her opponent in the "debates" (more show than anything else) is the same woman who would blithely be unaware of the obvious questions that might arise when choosing to use a private server as secretary of State. Breach of security is, of course. a key concern. But the violation of standard procedure is, in and of itself, a major transgression, one that is now all too common among influence elites, my area of study. Her use of a private server came as her husband was busily shaking up the standards of philanthropy, mixing commercial interests and donations from foreign governments with altruism. His foundation has long encountered serious questions, and not just in the right-wing press.
How can the public be assured that her decisions are free from conflicts of interest? The public can't be, because transparency has been rendered impossible. Officials far, far down the food chain from Hillary Clinton are expected to avoid not just the conflict, but even the appearance of a conflict; low level functionaries must list nearly everything in which their spouses might have even a tangential interest. But these days influence elites of all political stripes are routinely personalizing the bureaucracy, pushing the boundaries to their own ends.
Perhaps Hillary Clinton was just using the server for convenience, but the public can never know for sure. Both Clintons share blame for injecting distrust once again into the system. I should also mention that now the FBI director, too, seems to have violated norms by reigniting suspicion in the email case so close to an election, while providing little detail. This too undermines the integrity of the investigation. Can people now trust that James Comey is not a partisan player? How will he work with Clinton should she win the White House?
Again none of this is to say that Trump even comes close to being a better candidate. He is manifestly unfit for public office. But one has to wonder how a candidate like this got as far as he did. The revulsion with elites in politics showing little interest in anything other than their own personal opportunity is something I have been seeing for years, addressed in both my 2009 book, Shadow Elite, and my 2014 Unaccountable, now out in paperback. The Clintons are two players who have served to undermine the public trust in subtle ways, and there are countless more. The public knows it, as I argued in that 2014 book; little did I know just how far their revolt would take us.
JB: Thank you for this very thorough introduction to the subject, Janine. Apparently, Clinton has a high-level mole in place, FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, who has been feeding the campaign updates regarding the ongoing investigation. If this is true, what do we do with that knowledge? Is this typical candidate campaign behavior? What does this say about the DoJ?
JW: I'm afraid I don't have any information or special insight into this.
JB: Fair enough. Bottom line: Are we truly between and a hard place? How about a protest vote for one of the third party candidates?
JW: While I understand the impetus for a protest vote, I think we all need to bear in mind the disastrous implications of a Trump presidency - not only in terms of its likely devastating effects on our democracy but its consequences for the rest of the world. A protest vote may be a luxury we simply shouldn't afford ourselves. Way too much is at stake.
JB: Thanks so much for talking with me, Janine. It remains to be seen if undecided voters will see things this way. Only time will tell.