Politics & Policy


Can we finally—finally!—be done with the Clintons?

As secretary of state, Hillary Clinton schemed to subvert record-keeping and transparency rules for reasons that are probably more or less communicated by her surname: The Clintons are creeps and liars and scoundrels and misfits, always have been, always will be. They are the penicillin-resistant syphilis of American politics. The Democrats’ response to Herself’s trouble has taken three main forms: 1) What she did wasn’t technically illegal, say David Brock and other slavish Clinton retainers, even hauling out that old Al Gore classic, “no controlling legal authority”; 2) What about Scott Walker, huh? say the Democratic-party operators, pointing out that as a county executive Walker also used a private email system — and, to be honest, Walker’s response to the terrorist assault on Milwaukee County’s consulate in Benghazi has never been explained to my satisfaction; and 3) the president repeats his favorite mantra:

Wuddint me!

As Politico put it: “White House press secretary Josh Earnest took care to point out that Obama himself was unaware of any issues with Clinton’s email.” And that declaration from the president’s wildly inaptronymic spokesweasel might very well be true: The president has minions for that sort of thing. But he is responsible for the conduct of his minions, and it is impossible to believe that none of them knew about Mrs. Clinton’s “homebrew” email system, because that would require us to believe that nobody ever said, “Hey, CC the secretary of state personally on that internal memo,” or “Email the secretary of state about that meeting.” Oh, but the president, our national lightworker, he didn’t know!

One of the unfortunate facets of our increasingly religious attitude toward the presidency is that we invest the question of whether the divine imperator himself was aware of a situation with great moral weight: Not a sparrow falls, etc. Still, we call it an “administration” for a reason, and Barack Obama is the chief administrator of the executive branch. But he sits in a lofty place, and the principle of fecal gravity must be intensely attractive when viewed from such a great height.

The White House has in fact known about this for some time, since August at least. And it may be the case that Barack Obama is getting the hang of this presidency thing: His team says it learned about the problem when House Republicans requested information related to the Benghazi attack, which is a step up from learning about the IRS’s campaign of political persecution and the horrific mistreatment of American veterans and the cover-up of same — and the Justice Department’s going all Gestapo on The Associated Press, and the Fast and Furious scandal, and the NSA’s snooping on Angela Merkel — on the evening news.

“The expectation of the president is that everybody throughout his administration is acting in compliance with the Federal Records Act,” Earnest said. Not that the president or any of his minions would do anything so radical as take proactive steps to ensure that the nation’s chief diplomat is following the law.

The law does not really apply at the top — Lois Lerner and the rest of the criminals at the IRS aren’t going to jail, they’re cashing six-figure checks, with bonuses, for pity’s sake. When Obamacare hits the skids, the president just makes up new law as he goes along. Hillary Clinton runs amok with no real consequence. On the larger scale, the federal government spends a generation failing to enforce its immigration laws and, once the problem has become large enough, simply decides — presto-change-o! — that that which was a serious crime is retroactively hunky-dory.

Your life probably is not very much like that. Mine isn’t. I bought a car not long ago, and I probably had to fill out 30 different forms and get three or four kinds of government permission before I was permitted to legally operate my own vehicle. There was no “the expectation of the DMV is that everybody driving a car is acting in compliance with our rules” — they wanted proof of insurance beforehand. Get caught without it and there’s no drawn-out year-long process of the government waiting for you to get around to sorting out your affairs — they just take your car, seize your assets, or haul you off to jail, depending on the seriousness of the transgression. Exercise your constitutional right to own a firearm — it’s right there in the Bill of Rights — and there is no “expectation” that you’re legally clear to do so: You have to prove it.

It’s easy to enforce the law on people who are inclined to be law-abiding, which means those of us in the middle, mainly: We have enough to lose that there’s a real cost to breaking the rules, but we don’t have so much that we can conduct our personal and professional lives as though we had sovereign immunity. The people in the middle cannot go about their ordinary business — working at a job, driving a car, renting or owning a home, traveling — without preemptively complying with all manner of government mandates. But millions of illegals can flout the law with impunity — and their well-off enablers in Washington can flout the law with impunity, too. When the law does not apply to the lawmakers and law-enforcers, you are not being governed: You are being ruled. And we are ruled by criminals.

If you treat IRS rules the way the IRS treats IRS rules, you go to prison; if you treat federal law the way the secretary of state does, you go to prison. If you treat immigration controls the way our immigration authorities do, you go to prison. If you’re as careless in your handling of firearms as the ATF is, you go to prison. You cook your business’s books the way the federal government cooks its books, you go to prison.

Hillary Clinton is not going to prison. She’s going to release whatever emails she feels like releasing and dare any of you peons or your elected representatives to try to make her do otherwise. You’ll take what she offers, and you’ll like it.

The perverse thing is: Some do like it. The Clinton name remains golden among Democrats.

A self-respecting people would have sent this clan of scrofulous grifters and po-faced con artists into whatever passes for exile (comfortable exile, of course) in the 21st century. Instead, we are giving them a serious shot at a return to the White House.

At least this time, we’ll know to keep an eye on the silver.

— Kevin D. Williamson is roving correspondent at National Review.


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