- - Sunday, October 30, 2016


We’ve moved beyond “the October surprise.” That’s stuff for the 20th century. Now we have “October surprises,” plural. The bombing run on the 2016 campaign comes from several sources — WikiLeaks, the FBI, Judicial Watch — and who knows what’s still behind the bomb-bay doors.

James Comey’s letter to Congress, saying he had discovered new evidence requiring re-opening his inquiry into Hillary Clinton’s emails, was a bombshell of blockbuster proportions. Then came the disclosure that Anthony Weiner and his laptop, or smartphone or some other electronic device might be involved, and that suggests the blockbuster might even have nuclear consequences for the Clinton campaign.

The original White House reaction suggested that Hillary and her wise men and women had moved beyond mere hysteria, and Democrats large and small spent the weekend trying to swallow panic. Nobody knew what the FBI had found. Washington likes to think it’s on top of everything, and it was the not knowing that was so hard to accept.

Brian Fallon, the White House spokesman designated to take one for the rattled team, looked like a man who wanted to be somewhere else, anywhere else but in front of reporters, many of whom were puckered and wrinkled themselves for having been so long in the tank. They were finally demanding answers to real questions.

Mr. Fallon obviously didn’t know what to say. He tried the old college try, the partisan explanation that had worked in the past: Blame Donald Trump and the Republicans for whatever it was that was coming.

“Donald Trump himself have [sic] called the bureau’s integrity in question,” he said. “And I think it would be unfortunate if all of that reputation tarnishing that the congressional Republicans have been engaging in is what prompted this. I don’t know that to be true.”

But he was eager to say it anyway, it might fly.

“But I know it is extraordinary and unprecedented step for something like this to be conveyed 11 days before an election and to be sent to Republican chairmen who have shown no discretion for keeping anything confidential, and it had to be known that a document like this would get out. So now that it is out, the American people need to have the full facts.”

The “full facts” were likely to emerge, anyway. Mr. Comey’s motives for the 11th-hour bombshell were first read two ways: first, since the Donald had been saying for days that the FBI had cooked the investigation to Hillary’s taste and getting considerable traction and tightening of the polls with it, Mr. Comey and the FBI might be making a pre-emptive strike, to reopen the investigation and decide again that there’s no there.

Or there might be something big there, and better to discover it before someone else finds it and takes ownership, shattering the FBI’s reputation for fair dealing. It’s difficult to see how and why he would have dropped such a bombshell if he hadn’t already calculated the dimensions of the damage. It’s hard enough to march the troops up the hill and down again and preserve a reputation; it’s all but impossible to march up the hill and down again twice without looking the fool.

We can’t know much about what lies ahead, not this year. But one thing was clear at once, that October surprises are that famous gift that just keeps giving.

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