Before Democrats burn James Comey in effigy, they should think about how the FBI director came to have an outsized influence in the election in the first place.
It’s not something Comey sought or welcomed. A law-enforcement official who prizes his reputation, he didn’t relish becoming an object of hate for half the country or more. No, the only reason that Comey figures in the election at all is that Democrats knowingly nominated someone under FBI investigation.
Once upon a time — namely any presidential election prior to this one — this enormous political and legal vulnerability would have disqualified a candidate. Not this year, and not in the case of Hillary Clinton.
The country has clearly lowered its standards in this election, and Donald Trump’s madcap candidacy provides evidence of that almost every day. But Hillary’s nomination was itself an offense against American political norms and an incredibly reckless act. And the Democrats were supposed to be the party acting rationally.
Clinton effectively locked up the nomination in June and wasn’t cleared of criminal wrongdoing by the FBI until July. What if she had been indicted? Would Democrats have run her anyway? Would they have substituted in a 74-year-old socialist who had lost the nomination battle, or someone else who hadn’t even run? Any of these circumstances would have been unprecedented, but Democrats risked it.
They did it, in part, because they could never bring themselves to fully acknowledge the seriousness of the e-mail scandal and, relatedly, the ethical miasma around the Clinton Foundation. They considered it all another desperate trick of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy.
Clinton henchman David Brock demanded that the New York Times retract its initial report of Clinton’s exclusive use of a private e-mail account in March 2015. A parade of Democratic operatives pooh-poohed the whole thing, from Clinton spokesman Karen Finney (“a politically motivated series of attacks”), to James Carville (“not going to amount to a hill of beans”), to Howard Dean (“hooey”).
When they first got together on a debate stage last October, Bernie Sanders, the only man who had a chance to stop Clinton, pleased the crowd with a ringing denunciation of interest in her e-mails.
Democrats bought the just-so stories offered up by the Clinton campaign. The FBI investigation was just a “security review.” The FBI wasn’t investigating Hillary, but only her server. Anything to deflect from the seriousness of the matter.
While Democrats willfully looked the other way, they put James Comey in an impossible position. An indictment would change the course of American history. That was all on him. He ultimately blinked. But he also put on the record the recklessness of Clinton’s practices as secretary of state in an attempt to create public accountability.
Comey’s conduct is open to criticism, but there is no way to please everyone when handling an investigation with such high political stakes. His notification to Congress last weekend is another case in point. All that can be said is that if Democrats didn’t want the FBI to have any part in the election, they could have considered that before handing Hillary Clinton their nomination.
Trump may be a deeply flawed candidate, but he caught a wave of popular fervor; Hillary, with her astonishing vulnerabilities, is a production of the Democratic elites who did everything to get her over the finish line.
Just how vulnerable is she? If it weren’t for the new trove of Huma Abedin e-mails, the blockbuster news this week would come via a Wall Street Journal report that the FBI is investigating the Clinton Foundation — although Fox News reported the same thing at the beginning of the year, and Hillary, of course, dismissed it as an “unsourced and irresponsible claim that has no basis.”
The e-mail scandal and Clinton Foundation will dog Hillary until Election Day and, should she win, into her presidency. For this, she has no one to blame but herself — and her irresponsible enablers.
— Rich Lowry is the editor of National Review. He can be reached via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. © 2016 King Features Syndicate