by Doug Bernard
Fact: a massive bubble of dangerously hot air is slated to move into Philadelphia over the next several days, blanketing the region with overheated gas.
That this atmospheric event is occurring at the same time and place as the quadrennial Democratic National Convention is entirely coincidental.
But that’s about the only coincidence of events regarding this convention and the anticipated nomination of Hillary Clinton to become the Democratic Party’s choice to be President of the United States.
It is no coincidence that Monday night, the first day of the convention, delegates will hear from Senators Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren, and first lady Michelle Obama – all of them heroes of the party’s vocal progressive and left-leaning wings.
It’s no coincidence that this year’s convention is being hosted in Pennsylvania, given that state’s outsized importance in the Electoral College and crucial history of voting for the Democratic candidate in recent presidential elections.
And it is absolutely no surprise that just days before the convention’s first gavel fell, tens of thousands of Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails, many of them embarrassing and almost certainly obtained by hackers working with Russian intelligence services, found their way onto the Wikileaks website. DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s decision to resign in the wake of those emails is, as you might have guessed, of zero surprise and no coincidence.
Coincidence and surprise are not the friend of convention planners.
Longtime political observers will tell you that recent Democratic nominating conventions have been smoother and less bumpy affairs than those of their Republican counterparts. There’s less acrimony on the floor (witness the GOP floor fights of Ron Paul supporters in 2012 and Trump opponents in 2016), Democratic speakers tend to stick to their assigned talking points and time limits (unless your name is Bill Clinton), and the logistics are generally less likely to be upended by non-political events, such as the GOP’s struggles amid Hurricane Gustav in 2008 and Hurricane Isaac in 2012. Overall, DNC conventions tend to equal less surprise.
Which may make it odd then to seem to be arguing that the Wikileaks email bombshells were in anyway expected, let alone planned, by party officials.
But now, several days out from their public release, it appears that these emails may indeed have been highly planned to hit exactly when they did to maximize their impact on the convention. It’s just that it wasn’t planned by the DNC, but by operatives possibly working with help from Moscow.
The DNC email hack was first announced back in June by the cybersecurity firm CloudStrike. Researchers at CloudStrike identified two groups – known as APT (Advanced Persistent Threat) 28 and 29 – as the culprits. At least one of those groups has been documented by cybersecurity officials as having significant connections to the Russian government, as well as being involved in other hacks targeting U.S. assets such as the White House and State Department.
Of course, it’s one thing to forensically demonstrate a Russian connection to the DNC hack. It’s a significantly different thing to claim that they were released specifically to fracture the party and damage the campaign of Hillary Clinton.
Some – such as Defense One journalist Patrick Tucker – claim that Vladimir Putin has “weaponized Wikileaks” and is directly trying to influence the U.S. election. Others speculate any Kremlin connection may simply be coincidence, given the massive amount of hacking coming from Russia.
Coincidence or not, one thing is certain. It’s hot in Philadelphia, and likely to get hotter.