FBI Director James Comey said it best today when he declared that no respectable prosecutor would have filed criminal charges against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for allegedly mishandling classified and/or sensitive emails from her private server. To me the real issue was never about illegality. From the beginning the actual message that emerged from all the investigations was whether or not Mrs. Clinton was playing by the rules or was, at least in spirit, flouting the simple rules of engagement that other Secretaries of State and other elected officials must live by.
Mrs. Clinton’s denial of wrongdoing has been consistent even if the rationale has been changing. Wasn’t what she did no different from her predecessor Colin Powell? Well, no, not really. Well there was nothing actually classified in those emails? Wrong again. Seriously, no one else is really talking about it except the press? But who is a presidential candidate “talking” to except the press? Certainly not the carefully screened (and screened off) devotees who attend her events.
By not recommending criminal charges against Mrs. Clinton, the FBI did the right thing legally – but handed the Republican Party, especially its presumptive nominee Donald Trump, a huge gift today. Not like the GOP planned it, but their party now carries the banner of all those Americans who honestly believe that the “system is rigged”. Under normal circumstances, Mr. Trump would hardly be the one to talk. He brags about gaming the system through bankruptcy. He will not tell voters how much (or how little) he pays in taxes. He is proud of the “deals” he has made regardless of how many people may have been hurt in the process.
But Mrs. Clinton cannot take up the mantle of morality or ethics in the face of Mr. Trump. She vows to curb Wall Street but will not reveal what she tells them behind closed doors – for exorbitant fees no less. She actually has not even come up with a solid enough rationale why she wants to be President. It is her turn? That is what her husband told Americans two decades ago. She carries the banner for all women? Younger women don’t see her that way. Her foreign policy is supported by the most hawkish folks in Washington. She has the experience? Can you name a major piece of legislation that carries her sponsorship? Is there a “Clinton Doctrine”? A major treaty? She now apparently eschews the Trans-Pacific Partnership that she initially so proudly negotiated.
Who is she? For many Americans she is known for her denials of wrongdoing. And her husband, who fares well for his successes in the White House while still getting poor marks for his personal behavior, seems to be hurting her and him with voters as he did eight years ago.
So for Donald Trump and all those angry voters, the “damned emails” issue did not go away on Tuesday. It actually became an anthem and rallying cry as the party gathers in two weeks. At a time when many delegates are trying to find a way to dump Trump at the convention in Cleveland, his candidacy was fortified by appearances. To many who hate Mrs. Clinton and the Democrats, today was energizing. To those who don’t really like either Mr. Trump or Mrs. Clinton, the questions they have about Mrs. Clinton raised even more doubts. For that struggling middle class that everyone pays lip service to, the question continues: why do we have to play by the rules and she doesn’t?
July 5, 2016 offered no reason for the Democrats or the Clintons to cheer.