James Comey, meet Lawrence Walsh. It's time you get to know him because, as far as historical reputations go, you're about to have a good deal in common.
Comey’s October surprise seems to rank as a “meh” regarding the matter under investigation. It’s also not likely to change the trajectory of the race.
Still, Republicans get to enjoy a moment of glee at the expense of the Clinton campaign (and the truth, by the way) while Democrats howl at the inappropriate behavior by the FBI Director just 11 days before the election.
I can’t quite make out what the FBI is doing here, and I join illustrious company—just about all political talking heads who are eating this up but digesting very little. The early evidence suggests the coverage yesterday of what is actually going on--they are not reopening an investigation into Hillary Clinton, for example--was mostly incorrect.
But it does remind me of another inglorious moment in unseemly interventions in a national election: Special Prosecutor Lawrence Walsh’s decision to indict former Secretary of Defense Cap Weinberger and others the weekend before the 1992 election between George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
Walsh indicted Weinberger for lying about his involvement in the Reagan era Iran-Contra scandal, which also appeared to implicate Bush.
Walsh’ previous indictment of Weinberger had been thrown out on technical grounds. His November 1992 indictment came close on the heels of a Gallup poll showing that incumbent Republican Bush was gaining ground on Democratic challenger Clinton. It’s not likely, given the fundamentals of the 1992 race, that the indictment stalled Bush’s momentum. The race did not favor the incumbent party. But tell that to Bush, who has rarely spoken about it, but when he has still clearly resents the move.
But, the indictment of Weinberger just a few days before the election was an outrageous abuse of prosecutorial authority. The federal judge who threw out the indictment, just over one month later, did so on the grounds that a newly minted JD could have easily understood: the statute of limitations had expired, and the indictment improperly broadened the original charge against Weinberger.
The indictment did serve to change the conversation during a crucial weekend before voting. It gained Walsh little regarding his investigation. Worse, the stain of intervening in a presidential race in a wholly unjustified manner will never be removed from his historical reputation.
As goes Lawrence Walsh, so goes James Comey.