Chances are, Hillary Clinton did not grow up dreaming that someday she’d be a woman of whom it could be said that “no reasonable prosecutor” would indict her.
But think positive: Between the FBI’s 11-month email investigation and the eight congressional Benghazi inquiries, Clinton has now probably been examined more thoroughly than any candidate not up for canonization in the Catholic Church. How many times have you, as a concerned citizen, witnessed a famous politician felled by a terrible revelation and thought, “My God, who knew?” Not likely to be a problem with this one.
In his big announcement Tuesday, FBI Director James Comey took the now-familiar prosecutorial path of smearing the target he couldn’t nail. But the bottom line was that Clinton had used less-than-secure private email servers rather than the State Department system, which was the proper procedure, albeit possibly even less less-than-secure. Worse, she did not tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth when she was cornered.
It’s a problem for campaign strategists, but not much of a surprise for voters. We already knew that she was paranoid about privacy. Perhaps that was why some people decided, in 2008, that they preferred Barack Obama, who was promising presidential transparency. Whose administration then set new Olympics-level records when it came to rejecting Freedom of Information Act requests and persecuting suspected leakers of information to the media.
We obviously haven’t heard the last of the email scandal. Attorney General Loretta Lynch is going to be dragged before another committee next week to answer questions about that private meeting she had with Bill Clinton on an airport tarmac at the worst moment humanly possible.
The Republicans will broadcast Comey’s “extremely careless” quote from now through November.
“People have been convicted for far less,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said as he happily made the cable TV rounds after the FBI announcement.
This came between the moment in which Ryan had to distance himself from Donald Trump’s anti-Semitic tweet and the moment in which he had to distance himself from the speech in which Trump praised Saddam Hussein.
Oh yes, Donald Trump. The Republican presidential candidate who had a “university” that wrung thousands of dollars out of credulous students with get-rich-quick promises, which was linked to an extremely shady seminar program that plagiarized course materials from an old real estate manual. And which is now subject to lawsuits, some of which are being heard by a distinguished federal judge from Indiana. Who Trump slammed as a biased “Mexican,” triggering a Paul Ryan distancing of epic proportions.
Every problem with Hillary Clinton’s campaign comes attached to a reminder that the alternative is the businessman with a terrible business record and an attraction to murderous tyrants. It’s hard to imagine anything that she could do that would make her look like the worse option in this particular contest. It’s a lucky candidate who gets the chance to divert attention from her problems by giving a speech in the city where her opponent bankrupted several casinos and dodged the bills of a long line of small businesses.
But nobody wants to be remembering 2016 as the year America elected its first woman president by default. Because at least she didn’t get indicted.
Clinton can spend the next four months listing all the ways Trump would be worse. Or she can use her intelligence, experience and fortitude to turn her story around. So that when the confetti falls in Philadelphia, we’ve got something more to celebrate than a new entry in the Guinness World Records book.
A few suggestions:
▪ Send Bill home. This is an easy call. At best, he’s a reminder that she didn’t get where she’s at entirely on her own. At worst — well, plane. Attorney general.
▪ Hold a news conference every week. Clinton has not met with the press corps for an open-ended question-and-answer session this calendar year. Her strategists aren’t stupid; they know that the chances of making unwelcome news at these encounters are high. They'll keep dodging them if they simply want to make sure she can stagger across the finish line this fall. The only argument on the other side is that she’s prepared to demonstrate she’s not just better than Trump; she’s better than her own current background noise.
▪ Take a hard position, just because. Clinton has been rolling out some smart, progressive and well-thought-out proposals on issues like student loans. But it doesn’t exactly require a profile in courage to be against college debt. A brave and specific series of recommendations on, say, trade would be something else. Or a plan to fix Obamacare that would involve tough news for the pharmaceutical industry. Or pretty much any reform that would make big-money Democratic campaign contributors unhappy.
She can win without doing anything. It’s just the difference between making great history and being the lesser of two evils.