First we were told that a Russian hacker had broken into the Democratic National Committee’s computers and gotten hold of its oppo file on Donald Trump.
Now someone who goes by 'Guccifer 2.0,' a nod to the shadowy Romanian hacker, is claiming credit for putting the Trump file out there. Gawker and the Smoking Gun both published the report yesterday.
But what I find so amusing is that the opposition research file is hardly filled with secret stuff, the product of private eyes digging up dirt or hired-gun sleuths poring over documents. This supposed treasure trove, submitted in December, consists mainly of published articles and televised segments.
In other words, it’s all out there. You can Google it. Any reasonably sentient media consumer would know this stuff. It’s what we in the journalism racket call a clip job.
“Trump is Loyal only to Himself.”
“Trump is a Liar.”
“Trump Proposed Banning All Muslims.”
“Trump’s Business Have Gone into Bankruptcy Several Times.”
“He Has Devalued and Demeaned Women Repeatedly Throughout His Career.”
“Out of Touch/Hand-Outs for the Wealthy at the Expense of the Middle Class.”
And the sources? Wall Street Journal, AP, Politico, Washington Post, Forbes, etc.
Trump, for his part, isn’t buying the DNC explanation that this is the work of some nefarious outside hacker. “Much of it is false and/or entirely inaccurate,” he says in a statement. “We believe it was the DNC that did the ‘hacking’ as a way to distract from the many issues facing their deeply flawed candidate and failed party leader. Too bad the DNC doesn’t hack Crooked Hillary’s 33,000 missing emails.”
Now that sounds far-fetched as well. Not only is there nothing new here, but no one can absorb 200 pages at once. Why not dribble out the attacks, package them as talking points, put them in attack ads, rather than create a bogus hacking story and dump it all out there? Or dress it up with some narrative and release it as a report?
What we have here, whether it was done by Guccifer 2.0 or whoever, is a 21st-century Watergate. Instead of burglars breaking into DNC headquarters, a crime that led to the downfall of Richard Nixon’s presidency, we have cyberwarfare against DNC computers, only aimed at the de facto Republican nominee, and winding up in the now-bankrupt, sex-tape-publishing Gawker rather than the Washington Post.
Simply vacuuming up negative material on a candidate doesn’t work in today’s cluttered media environment. Trump has been awash in negative media reports since he got into the race one year ago. The trick to getting traction is by packaging some of the stuff in a way that it sticks—as the Democrats successfully did to Mitt Romney, and the Republicans to John Kerry.
Instead, the oppo file itself has become news—in a fleeting way that guarantees it will quickly become non-news.
Howard Kurtz is a Fox News analyst and the host of "MediaBuzz" (Sundays 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET). He is the author of five books and is based in Washington. Follow him at @HowardKurtz. Click here for more information on Howard Kurtz.