I wasn’t a huge fan of Chris Christie last night — nor am I a huge fan of Chris Christie on any other night (or day). But the reaction to the “lock her up!” chant seems at least as excessive as the chant itself. Julia Ioffe, for instance, tweets:
The crowd chants "Lock her up!" and Christie says, "I'm getting there."
Since when do Americans advocate jailing political opponents?
— Julia Ioffe (@juliaioffe) July 20, 2016
Now, I do think the way Christie blended Clinton’s political “crimes” and her actual (or alleged) crimes was problematic. We don’t — or shouldn’t — criminally prosecute politicians for political or policy blunders. We should, however, prosecute them when they commit actual crimes. I think Christie, with ample egging from the crowd, blurred these lines.
That said, the notion that this is totally unprecedented in American politics strikes me as bizarre. First of all, and just for the historical record, Woodrow Wilson not only advocated jailing political opponents — he jailed political opponents. Just ask Eugene V. Debs. FDR had a fondness for prosecuting his political opponents, too. And, again, not rhetorically but literally.
More recently, during the Bush years, Democrats routinely talked about the need to criminally prosecute various members of the Bush administration. Joe Wilson, a brief darling of liberals and an enduring asshat, wanted to see Karl Rove “frog marched” out of the White House. Oh, and during the Reagan years there was a good deal of criminalizing policy differences as well.
But the relevant analogy is to the Nixon years. There was a lot of talk during Watergate about the need to prosecute members of the Nixon administration. One reason for this rhetoric is that partisan Democrats hated Nixon with a blinding passion. But another reason why this rhetoric was so prevalent: Because Democrats had a good case.
I don’t know enough about the relevant statutes to answer the question definitively that Hillary Clinton belongs behind bars for her secret server. But I do believe it is entirely reasonable to believe that she should have been charged and prosecuted for what she did. (I also believe that the way the Clintons ran their foundation warrants investigation by law enforcement.)
The problem, I think, for many liberals in the media is that they simply don’t care about Hillary’s server, her foundation or her myriad failures like Benghazi. So they think anyone who takes these things seriously has to be unreasonable. If you start from that unreasonable premise, it’s easy to see why so many liberals were horrified by the spectacle last night.