I’d long assumed that Vince Foster would be allowed to rest in peace. But alas, he has now been exhumed by America’s Troll.
Despite the fact that Bill and Hillary Clinton’s close friend killed himself back in 1993 — a verdict confirmed by six official investigations — America’s Troll, who doubles as the Republican presidential nominee, now insists that the death was “very fishy,” that perhaps Foster was iced in a nefarious plot. On Monday, this gem fell from Trump’s inimitably pursed lips: “I don’t know enough to really discuss it,” but “I will say there are people who continue to bring it up because they think it was absolutely a murder.”
There are people who continue to bring it up ….
This guy sure sets a low bar for public discourse. There are also people who think that we faked the moon landings. There are people who think the Clintons ran drugs at an Arkansas airport. There are people who think that their teeth broadcast coded messages from the CIA. There are people who think that vaccines cause autism. There are people who think that Barack Obama was born abroad as part of a foreign plot, people who are egged on by crackpots like Trump who vow to unearth the evidence any year now.
There are even people who speculate that Antonin Scalia was offed by a hit man: “They say they found a pillow on his face, which is a pretty unusual place to find a pillow.” So said Trump, who’s apparently one of those people.
But why is Trump exuming Vince Foster? Does he actually believe that trolling in the conspiracy swamp is a boffo political strategy? Or is this just Trump vomiting swill because he simply can’t help himself (“I don’t even know enough to discuss it,” then he does it anyway)? Whatever the reason, rest assured that Foster’s loved ones would prefer that Trump splash his mud somewhere else.
Indeed, the issue here isn’t Vince Foster at all; the Clinton White House aide’s death was ruled a suicide by the FBI, the U.S. Park Police, two congressional committes, independent counsel Robert Fiske Jr., and independent counsel Kenneth Starr. The House probe ruled Foster a suicide despite the fact that the probe’s right-wing leader, Dan Burton, staged his own ballistic test in his backyard, shooting a melon (representing Foster’s head) with his own pistol in a comic attempt to prove conspiracy. (Thus forever earning him the nickname “Watermelon Dan.”)
Kenneth Starr — he’s the guy who tied Bill Clinton to Monica Lewinsky — spent three years on the Foster case. He found nothing that even hinted at foul play. His report quoted a suicide expert who said that Foster suffered ”under an increasing burden of intense external stress, a loss of security, a painful scanning of his environment for negative judgments regarding his performance, a rigid hold of perfectionistic self-demands, a breakdown in and the absence of his usual ability to handle that stress primarily due to the impact of a mental disorder which was undertreated.”
No, the issue here is Trump. He revels in the lowest common denominator. Guided by his primal instincts, he knows there’s a market for conspiratorial idiocy. He knows that millions of Americans no longer trust their institutions (if Foster was ruled a suicide by six official investigations, then it must be a coverup). He knows that provocatively baseless remarks drive the news cycle a lot more effectively than discoursing substantively about, say, climate change or pre-kindergarten education. And he figures that since people generally question the credibility of all politicians, it gives him license to say whatever he wants, regardless of whether it’s nuts.
Politically, the big question is whether the conspiracy market is big enough to boost Trump’s victory prospects. You have to wonder whether dragging Vince Foster’s corpse through the muck will inspire a fence-sitting swing voter to say, “Yeah, I’ve been wondering about that death since 1993. Maybe Hillary had him killed. That does it, I’m voting for Trump!”
But in this era of extreme polarization, perhaps there aren’t many swing voters anymore. Perhaps victory goes to the candidate who’s most adept at mobilizing the party base. Perhaps there is a method to Trump’s madness. The spineless Republicans who just want to stop Hillary will accommodate themselves to Trump by simply ignoring his conspiratorial ravings — and the bat-crazy denizens of the base will flock to Trump because he is validating their conspiratorial ravings. Is this a great country, or what?
And if the old Vince Foster rumors aren’t potent enough to bring out the nuts, Trump can always double down. Maybe there are people out there who think the Clintons paid Ted Cruz’s father to put Foster down. Somebody oughta check that out.