So Hillary Clinton jeopardizes national security and goes scot free. What’s next?
Ever wonder how we got the expression “scot free”? It refers to a peculiarity of Scottish law that allows an obviously guilty person to escape the penalty prescribed by statute.
The great English writer Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), one of the most learned and civilized gentlemen who ever lived, had a remarkably primitive reaction when he was informed of this particular legal quirk. He told a Scottish friend that if it allowed the murderer of a man’s father to escape hanging, the man might reasonably say, “I am amongst barbarians, who … refuse to do justice … I am therefore in a state of nature … I will stab the murderer of my father.”
After examining FBI Director Jim Comey’s statement on why Hillary Clinton should not be prosecuted for putting the nation at risk, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that this country has been reduced to the state of nature described by Dr. Johnson. Either we are no longer under the rule of law or, at the very least, there is one law for the politically powerful and another law for the rest of us.
In his statement, Mr. Comey documented Mrs. Clinton’s multiple and flagrant lies about her use of emails and her treatment of classified information. He held that she and her aides had been “extremely careless” in their handling of this sensitive data. And he said that the FBI investigation had found “evidence of potential violations.”
Yet he concluded, incredibly, that “no reasonable prosecutor” would bring an indictment against her, because the FBI did not “find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information.”
I say “incredibly” for two reasons: First, because the federal statute that Mrs. Clinton was accused of violating makes it a felony for anyone entrusted with lawful possession of information relating to national security to allow it, through “gross negligence,” to be removed from its proper location and disclosed. “Gross negligence” does not require an intent to violate the law; it merely requires…well, shall we say “extreme carelessness”? If there’s a difference between “gross negligence” and “extreme carelessness,” Mr. Comey did not explain what it might be.
Second, in the same statement, Mr. Comey said “[This] is not to suggest that in similar circumstances, a person who engaged in this activity would face no consequences. To the contrary, those individuals are often subject to security or administrative sanctions.” In other words, if an ordinary government employee had done what Mrs. Clinton had done, he or she would face severe consequences. Mr. Comey said as much in his testimony before Congress a couple of days later.
And all this occurs just a week after Mrs. Clinton’s husband had a little tete-a-tete with the Attorney General on the tarmac of the Phoenix airport. “Bad optics” as they say in Washington.
The upshot is that once again Hillary Clinton thumbs her nose at the law and walks. She’s avoided criminal charges, but this time there may be a political price to be paid for her brazen disregard of the rules.
An ABC News/Washington Post poll taken shortly after Mr. Comey issued his statement reveals that 56 percent of Americans disapprove of his recommendation not to bring charges against Mrs. Clinton, while just 35 percent approve.
At the same time, 58 percent of respondents said that the email controversy will not affect the way they plan to vote in November. As for the rest, 10 percent of respondents said that the controversy would make them more likely to vote for Mrs. Clinton; 28 percent said less likely.
Let’s think about that 28 percent for a moment. There are people in this country who hate Donald Trump, but who might consider voting for him if they are pushed far enough.
For such people, Hillary Clinton’s kid-glove treatment by the FBI might just be what pushes them over the edge. They may not tell the pollsters. They may not tell their friends and neighbors. But when they enter the privacy of the voting booth on November 8, they may well decide that Donald Trump—sleazy, offensive and dangerous as he is—may be counted on to do at least one good thing if he is elected: He will throw a bomb under Washington’s smug elites. He will let them know once and for all that they are not superior to the rest of us and that they are not safe from the righteous outrage of the American people.
Back in 1981, just after Ronald Reagan had been inaugurated and the Republicans had assumed control of the Senate, I returned to Washington to take a job on Capitol Hill. Shortly after I arrived, I bumped into an old college friend whom I hadn’t seen in over ten years. I knew him to be an ultra-liberal and an extremely partisan Democrat. I asked him what he thought of the results of the last elections. He shrugged philosophically and replied, “The country needed an enema.”
I think it needs another one.
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