Politics & Policy

This Bananas Republic

Clinton at a campaign stop in Syracuse, N.Y., April 1, 2016. (Miek Segar/Reuters)
Mrs. Clinton couldn’t get indicted if she tried.

FBI director James Comey’s explanation of the case against the case against Hillary Rodham Clinton — “Sure, she pretty clearly did what she’s accused of doing but hey man aren’t penguins cute is that a squirrel man hey check it out a squirrel!” — is a fascinating floor routine of intellectual gymnastics in and of itself, dissected in these pages by several very fine lawyers and others with much more of interest to say on the strictly legal question than I have. But it is worth considering the context.

The context is this: America is a lawless state.

Comey spelled out in some detail exactly how Mrs. Clinton broke the law before all that oogedy-boogedy about how she didn’t really break the law. That must be a source of some amusement to Tom DeLay. DeLay, you may remember, was the House majority leader, a Republican, who was indicted on charges stemming from violating a law that had not — concentrate on this for a second — even been passed at the time he was alleged to have violated it. DeLay was driven from office, politically and financially ruined, and damn near jailed before the case was laughed out of court — years later, of course. We’re hearing a lot just now about “mens rea,” the legal principle that criminal culpability requires the positive intention to do wrong. That this should get Mrs. Clinton off the hook is questionable — she clearly set up her illegal private e-mail server for the purpose of obstructing the State Department’s ordinary legal oversight — but, in any case, it was no obstacle to the indictment of DeLay on charges that he willfully violated a law that had yet to be passed. DeLay, once a pest-control man by trade, was derided as “the Exterminator” by his enemies. It should have just been the “Terminator,” with prosecutors in the present going after him for laws passed in the future.

RELATED: No Charges but Plenty of Blame for Hillary

Mrs. Clinton’s non-exoneration exoneration must be of some interest to former Texas governor Rick Perry, too. Mrs. Clinton cannot be indicted on plain evidence, but Perry was indicted on felony charges for — in case you have forgotten — vetoing a bill. Texas has a special prosecutor for political corruption, a woman who has a terrible problem with drinking and driving, and who was arrested on DUI charges and subsequently videotaped threatening to use the powers of her office, which are fearsome, to have police personnel jailed — jailed — for refusing to give her special treatment. Perry argued that this woman had no business being in charge of a public ethics office, being, as she was, the most notorious violator of public ethics in Texas at the time, which is no small thing. He said he would veto funding for her office so long as she remained the head of it, and followed through. His case was eventually laughed out of court, too, but not until he’d been obliged to open his presidential campaign with felony indictments hanging over his head, specious as they were.

The Left isn’t interested in policy; it is interested in power, and the things you can do with it, meaning rewarding one’s friends and punishing one’s enemies.

DeLay and Perry were indicted in Travis County, Texas, which is run by Democrats who like to make ritual sacrifices of the occasional Republican politician. They know that they can do this with no fear of sanction from, say, Barack Obama’s Justice Department. The Democratic party in Texas is a criminal enterprise (my friend Michael Walsh describes the Democrats at large as a crime syndicate masquerading as a political party, which isn’t inaccurate) that is sustained by corruption and old-fashioned ward politics that would have been familiar to a Chicago boss in the 1920s or a denizen of Tammany Hall. The Democrats happen to run Washington, too, which is why Hillary Rodham Clinton knows that she can violate the law, at will, for obvious personal political reasons, with very little fear of official sanction. And the fact is, the Democrats prefer their politicians a little crooked, a little dirty. It helps them, a Chavista party constrained mainly by the temperamental (rather than ideological) conservatism of the American electorate, to make up in viciousness what they lack in policy ideas appropriate to the 21st century.

RELATED: Hillary’s Banana Republic

That lack of policy ideas isn’t really very important. The Left isn’t interested in policy; it is interested in power, and the things you can do with it, meaning rewarding one’s friends and punishing one’s enemies. Barack Obama has been, in his less guarded moments, fairly plain about that. For the Left, all justice is Wonderland justice: decision first, arguments afterward as necessary. There is seldom if ever any doubt about how the so-called liberals on the Supreme Court (who are not liberals at all) will vote on any question: They will vote the way the Left wants them to. Elena Kagan, you may recall, testified in her confirmation hearings that there is no constitutional right to same-sex marriage lurking in the penumbras to be discovered. Once confirmed, she reached a little deeper and pulled one out. Conservatives can never really guess which way a Kennedy or a Roberts is going to come down on a question, but you know how the judges of the Left are going to vote. Arguments do not matter; only outcomes matter.

That’s another way of saying that the law does not matter.

RELATED: Comey and the Expansion of Cynicism

I am not entirely sure that a President Ted Cruz would have been able to turn that around, because the problem is in the people rather than in the presidency, but a President Cruz would have been better positioned to make the case and to set the example than almost any other serious presidential contender in modern American history. Republican primary voters wanted an amusing game-show host, instead.

#related#Some on the right already are arguing that the corruption of the FBI and the Justice Department in the cause of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential ambitions shows just how much we need Trump. In fact, it shows (as though more showing were needed) why he is not only a poor choice for Republicans but the worst of all the choices they were given. The country slides into anarchy-tyranny, but, hey, at least the decline in talk-radio ratings has slowed down a bit.

For now.

Banana republics at least produce bananas. Our republic simply is bananas.

— Kevin D. Williamson is the roving correspondent for National Review.

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