‐ We predict the morally dubious figure with an awful record in public life and much-remarked-upon blond hair will lose the election — and, unhappily, win it.
‐ To former Bill Clinton body man Doug Band we are indebted for the term “Clinton Inc.” and for his careful explanation of just what Clinton Inc. entails. He did not mean to do us this favor: His e-mail about using the Clintons’ philanthropic organizations to personally enrich the Clintons was released via WikiLeaks. But it is illuminating and entertaining reading all the same. Band puts flesh on the bones of every uncharitable characterization of the Clinton Foundation and its work, explaining in some detail his role in making the Clintons tens of millions of dollars in speaking fees, honoraria for corporate-board sinecures, honorary chancellorships of for-profit universities, and the like. It is pretty skeevy stuff: Bill Clinton, he wrote, “is personally paid by three [Clinton Global Initiative] sponsors [and] gets many expensive gifts from them.” In exchange, donors, including corporate executives, got access to the former president and, probably more relevant, to the sitting secretary of state and future presidential candidate to whom he was married. Firms such as Dow also enjoyed the benefit of having operatives of the Clinton-linked firm Teneo lobby overseas lawmakers, contacting them “on behalf of President Clinton” to see to business important to Dow executives. For a former president, this is unseemly; for a senator and secretary of state holding office, a good deal worse. Mrs. Clinton has some accounting to do.
‐ “Fact-checking” has become a genre of journalism that in practice serves to reinforce whatever thoughtless consensus of reporters is being examined. After the third debate, the fact-checkers were out in force defending Clinton against Trump’s charges on abortion. Trump had said that “if you go with what Hillary is saying, in the ninth month you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother just prior to the birth of the baby.” In her defense, reporters noted that she had occasionally said she favored restrictions on abortion very late in pregnancy and that abortions as late as Trump discussed are essentially unheard-of. Both defenses fail, because Clinton has always suggested that any restrictions would have to allow exceptions when needed to protect a mother’s psychological health — exceptions that would obviously make bans unenforceable — and because Trump was calling attention to the logic of her position, not saying that the scenario he described takes place frequently. Many of the fact-checkers also noted that abortions more than five months into pregnancy are rare. The best rough guess for the number of such abortions is around 16,000 a year, which is more than the annual number of gun homicides in this country. The press’s treatment of this exchange is what you get when you combine its reflex to protect Clinton from Trump with its even deeper reflex to protect abortion from its opponents.
‐ Also at the third debate, Clinton said she wanted a Supreme Court that stands “on the side of the American people, not on the side of powerful corporations and the wealthy” — a demagogue’s substitute for justice. She then made a list of requirements for her Court appointments, who had to agree with her views on same-sex marriage, abortion, campaign-finance regulation, and “the rights of people in the workplace.” She did not mention the Constitution once, until moderator Chris Wallace followed up by bringing up the Second Amendment. She claimed that she favored it but disagreed with the Court’s 2008 decision striking down gun laws in Washington, D.C., “because what the District of Columbia was trying to do was to protect toddlers from guns.” What D.C. was actually trying to do was ban the possession of handguns, and it did so very effectively among the non-criminal population. Neither the majority opinion nor the dissents mentioned toddlers, since the case had nothing to do with them. Trump was not in command of the subject: His first comment about the Court was to dwell on Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s criticisms of him, and most of his comments on the 2008 gun decision concerned how “angry” he thought Clinton had looked at the time it was announced. But unlike Clinton he did say that his justices would “interpret the Constitution the way the Founders wanted it interpreted,” and unlike Clinton he said nothing about the Court that was an obvious lie.
‐ “The lady doth protest too much” could have been written about Donna Brazile, who accused Megyn Kelly of being a “thief” and of “persecuting” her when the Fox News host asked whether Brazile, as vice chairwoman of the DNC, had obtained the text of a proposed question prior to a Democratic-primary debate between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders and fed it to the Clinton campaign. Kelly was following reporting by Politico, which obtained a March 12 e-mail from Brazile to a Clinton-campaign staffer with the subject line “From time to time I get the questions in advance” and quoting a proposed question about the death penalty. E-mails released by WikiLeaks confirm the original allegation and show that March 12 was not the only occasion on which Brazile gave the Clinton campaign a pre-debate leg up. Brazile has been forced out at CNN, but she’s still in at the DNC, which she took over as interim chairwoman in July after Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigned — when WikiLeaks revealed that Wasserman Schultz had done her own best to put a thumb on the scales for Clinton. If we didn’t know any better, we’d say it’s almost as if the Clintons are a corrupting force in our politics.
‐ Some conservatives are so dismayed by Trump’s nomination, and the support for him expressed by almost all Republican officeholders, that they are talking about starting a new party. We sympathize with the dismay but find the conclusion half-baked. The vast majority of Trump’s supporters in the primaries were people who would have to be included in any center-right party with a hope of governing the country. A new party that excluded them would be condemned to years, even decades, as a rump. If the new party is to be open to them, on the other hand, it will face the same challenges in keeping a center-right coalition marching forward together as the Republicans have. Since there is no ducking those challenges, we may as well deal with them in a party that already exists — and, by the way, includes most of the nation’s governors and state legislators.
‐ If Trump loses, is there a TV network in his future? Son-in-law Jared Kushner has been talking with Aryeh Bourkoff, an investment banker versed in media deals. Who might run such a thing? Roger Ailes, recently let go from Fox, and/or Stephen Bannon, former Breitbart CEO, both now in Trump’s camp. One stumbling block: money. Launching a TV channel costs $200 million, which Trump simply does not have, being both cheap and much less wealthy than he lets on. Another stumbling block: talent. It takes a lot of skilled and at least presentable people to fill the daily void. A stable of has-beens and wannabes, à la RT, the Russian-government propaganda channel, would not cut the mustard. Final stumbling block: audience. Trump unquestionably has a fan base. But how many of them are already served by Fox, which has itself largely become a Trump network? Wild card: If Trump should win, would he try to make the federal government pay for it?
‐ It seems possible that Nancy Pelosi may not be a committed Madisonian. Commenting in October on the prospect of divided government, Pelosi lambasted the calls for “checks and balances” she was hearing from down-ballot Republicans. “Checks and balances,” Pelosi explained darkly, are just “code word[s] for obstruction or something worse.” That “something worse”? “Impeachment,” most likely. Back in 2006, however — as the Democrats approached the midterm elections — Pelosi had nothing but good things to say of “gridlock.” Speaking to her party’s caucus in May of that year, she explained that the Democrats hoped to win in order to bring “oversight and checks and balances.” The day after the Democrats had taken back the House, she noted that divided government prevented the Congress from becoming a “rubber stamp.” And, asked whether such talk was merely the overture to impeachment, she vehemently rejected the charge. Apparently nobody ever told her that her side might be checked and balanced.
‐ In a column, Patrick J. Buchanan defended Donald Trump’s refusal to say whether he would accept the legitimacy of the election. “The populist-nationalist Right,” he wrote, “is moving beyond the niceties of liberal democracy.” Around the world, there are many places that lack the “niceties of liberal democracy.” None of us wants to live there.
‐ The Southern Poverty Law Center put out a list of writers it deems “anti-Muslim extremists.” On the list were Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Maajid Nawaz. Hirsi Ali is the Somalian-born former Dutch MP who suffered a clitoridectomy in her youth and was driven from the Netherlands by Islamist death threats (her friend, filmmaker Theo Van Gogh, was murdered). Raised Muslim, she is now an atheist and understandably vocal in her strictures on Islamist terrorism and retrograde culture. Nawaz is an Egyptian-born former Islamist now living in Britain, where he has run for Parliament as a Liberal Democrat. A practicing Muslim, he tries to wean his coreligionists from his former ideology. By targeting (literally: Nawaz says, “They put a target on my head”) these brave voices, the SPLC shows itself to be a crackpot left-wing wind machine — and one with no sincere interest in standing up to real extremists.
‐ In a tweet, Lou Dobbs, of Fox Business, warned of Evan McMullin, the independent conservative candidate for president: “Look Deeper, He’s nothing but a Globalist, Romney and Mormon Mafia Tool.” You have to watch that Mormon Mafia. They may not leave a horse head on your pillow, but they might leave a plate of freshly baked cookies.
‐ A famous Punch cartoon shows a bishop asking his breakfast guest, a lowly curate, if he has been served a bad egg. “Parts of it are excellent,” the curate insists. Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner took the same tack in federal court, where University of Virginia dean Nicole Eramo is suing his magazine for its depiction of her in “A Rape on Campus,” a piece on the alleged gang rape of student “Jackie” at a frat party. Rolling Stone ran the story because, as then–managing editor Will Dana testified, campus sexual assault was “being discussed a lot in media and society.” As it should be — when it happens. But the supposed victim’s tale was a tissue of fabrications; the Columbia Journalism Review called Rolling Stone’s regurgitation of it a “failure of journalism.” Eramo was one of the drive-by victims (the fraternity, of course, was the main one). Yet Wenner now says, “We did everything reasonable, appropriate, up to the highest standards.” Memo to Wenner: Stick to rock criticism; since it’s all BS, you’ll stay out of trouble.
‐ An Alaska lawyer has accused Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas of having grabbed her buttocks at a dinner party in 1999. The woman, Moira Smith, made the claim in a Facebook post in October, and it was picked up by a reporter for The National Law Journal. There are many reasons to be skeptical of her story. There are no witnesses. It’s unlikely, as the dinner party’s host noted to the press, that Smith would have been alone with Thomas, as she claimed, at a small event where he was a prominent guest. Housemates of hers at the time who say she told them about the supposed incident have only hazy recollections; one declined to go on record. Her now ex-husband, who also says he remembers being told the story, is a former Obama-administration official. Smith herself is a committed Democratic partisan, whose current husband headed the Alaska Democratic party and ran unsuccessfully for Congress. Justice Thomas has dismissed the allegation as “preposterous”; his account seems more plausible than his accuser’s.
‐ Obamacare premiums are expected to rise by an average of 22 percent in the coming year, a rate of inflation more familiar to residents of Buenos Aires than to those of Des Moines. The price increases will be much higher in some jurisdictions, about 58 percent in Alabama, for example, and 56 percent in Minnesota. Some 33 states will have fewer insurance companies in 2017 than they did in 2016, and 20 percent of Americans will have only one — one — insurance company serving their local market, meaning no choice among providers. As critics of the so-called Affordable Care Act have warned from the beginning, it is not just poorly executed but incompetently designed. Its problems are fundamental: It mandates that insurers offer policies that are not especially attractive to young and healthy people, and thus guarantees that insurance pools will be older and sicker than they otherwise would be. Hence, U.S. insurance companies are hemorrhaging money on their Obamacare business, which leaves them with two choices: Raise prices or quit the business. That’s what’s happening, which is why Americans have fewer insurers to choose from and are paying higher prices. Scrap it.
‐ On one side, concerned environmentalists, American Indian activists, and, for good measure, a bunch of Hollywood actors; on the other, “Big Oil.” The protests over the Dakota Access Pipeline are a news editor’s dream. The Standing Rock Sioux of North Dakota have sued the Army Corps of Engineers for permitting Dakota Access, LLC, to dig up land that the tribe says is dotted with sacred burial and prayer sites, but consultants hired by the state’s historic-preservation office found nothing that fit that description. The tribe has asserted the existence of artifacts but failed to substantiate its claim. Public-service commissioners point out that more than 500 cultural resources have already been identified and protected through reroutes and other measures. The environmentalists joining the protest say that the local water supply is endangered by the risk of an oil spill, but oil is already transported over the Missouri River by train, which is more likely to derail than the reinforced pipeline is to burst. The Dakota Access Pipeline will send oil from North Dakota to Illinois. From there it will be connected or shipped to refineries on the Gulf and Atlantic coasts, helping the U.S. attain energy independence. That’s worth abandoning the sacred tradition at issue here, which is that of left-wing sanctimony.
‐ Forty-three years after the Tennessee Valley Authority broke ground for the Watts Bar 2 nuclear plant, TVA president Bill Johnson stood in front of the project, outside Knoxville, to mark its completion, finally. “You can hear that turbine rolling,” he said in a ceremony last month. “It’s a great day.” On its long and winding road to becoming operational, Watts Bar 2, the first new reactor in the United States in 20 years, was beset by construction delays, cost overruns, a drop in the demand for electricity, and a series of high regulatory hurdles implemented after the meltdown of Three Mile Island in 1979 and Chernobyl seven years later. But if the rush to caution was understandable, it now leaves the Left in an untenable position. The environmental lobby favors renewable sources — solar, wind, and hydropower — but at their current rates of growth, it will be 2060 before they produce as much electricity as nuclear power does now. Nuclear plants are not politically fashionable, but they emit no greenhouse gases and they get the job done now, lighting homes and offices and entire cities on an industrial scale. Job well done, TVA.
‐ Little by little, the Internet has been insinuated into our lives, to such an extent that we barely notice now how much we rely upon its services. Until things stop working, that is. In late October, Americans on the two coasts were reminded of this fact after a possibly stateless collection of hackers took square aim at one of the Web’s backbones: the domain-name-services (DNS) provider Dyn. Given how widely distributed the Internet’s core infrastructure has become, it would be difficult for any actor to cause serious damage by attacking content providers directly. But, by targeting a few key DNS providers (think of DNS as the Web’s phonebook — the system that translates comprehensible website addresses into the numbers needed for routing traffic), a team of skilled wreckers can cause havoc. And so, briefly, one did: For a while, Twitter was down, as were Reddit, Airbnb, Netflix, and Amazon Web Services. The scale of the onslaught surprised even industry insiders, many of whom were quick to record just how vulnerable the Internet can be. Alas, it seems that we are at the beginning, not the end, of this trend.
‐ New York Democrats made a pretty good run at shaking down Chevron for a few billion dollars with the fraudulent Ecuador case, which ultimately was thrown out after a federal court decided it was an exercise in racketeering. Now, New York Democrats have turned their attention to Exxon in a case that is every bit as corrupt and flimsy. Exxon has long been critical of proposed climate-change policies and of some of the research underpinning them, and it has donated to like-minded groups. For this, New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman hopes to hang a fraud case on Exxon, and in these endeavors he is being assisted by several other Democratic attorneys general, from California to the U.S. Virgin Islands. But he does not have much to go on and so has organized a pure fishing expedition into Exxon’s records and communications with outside groups, demanding years’ worth of records — millions of documents — including exchanges between Exxon and its auditor, PricewaterhouseCoopers. Exxon is based in Texas, where the law privileges auditor–client communications in roughly the same way as attorney–client communications. No such law exists in New York, and the state supreme court has ordered Exxon to submit to the fishing expedition. Exxon complains that Schneiderman is “simply searching for a legal theory, however flimsy, that will allow him to pressure ExxonMobil on the policy debate over climate change.” This is the criminalization of political dissent, and it is corrupt.
‐ New York is a city of renters, but even those who own their own homes do not really own them: Governor Andrew Cuomo does. New York has passed a law imposing fines up to $7,500 for the “crime” of advertising a short-term New York City rental through online services such as Airbnb. Just as New York’s Democrats worked to insulate the city’s overpriced and consumer-hostile taxi cartel from Uber-based competition, they now want to protect Manhattan’s $500-a-night hotels from Airbnb-based competition. Services such as Uber and Airbnb perform a very useful function: They help people turn their property into capital, using their cars and their homes to make money, generating extra income without having to take on the expense — and financial risk — of starting a business from the ground up. This threatens politically connected industries that have long been protected from competition, and those protected cartels have a great deal of clout, particularly in places such as New York City. Airbnb has sued and is in negotiations with the city. Airbnb deserves to prevail, but what really is at stake here are the 45,000 New York City properties listed through its service: That’s 45,000 choices consumers either will have or will see taken away, and 45,000 money-making opportunities for residents of the city. Apartment buildings and co-ops can set their own rules and police their own short-term rental practices without Cuomo’s oversight. And the Holiday Inn over on 48th Street could use the competition.
‐ Every year, the Cuban dictatorship proposes a resolution in the U.N. General Assembly, condemning a U.S. law: the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act of 1996 (the Libertad Act). And every year, the United States votes against the resolution: except this year, when “we” abstained. When the Obama administration abstained. Administration officials were jubilant, saying the abstention was in line with their new policy of openness toward the Castro regime. (It is somewhat surprising that the U.S. didn’t vote for the resolution.) The very next day, the General Assembly voted the Cuban dictatorship onto the U.N. Human Rights Council, where, we must admit, it will fit right in.
‐ In 1988, the European Parliament established the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, named after Andrei Sakharov, the great Russian physicist and human-rights advocate. The Sakharov Prize has gone to many worthy recipients, including people who are ignored by other organizations. Guillermo Fariñas, the Cuban dissident, is one such example. This year, the prize has gone to two young women who campaign against the sexual enslavement of Yazidi girls and women by the Islamic State. They are Nadia Murad and Lamiya Aji Bashar, and they themselves escaped such slavery. Their stories are harrowing. Of the prizewinners, Martin Schulz, the president of the European Parliament, said, “I cannot put into words the courage and the dignity they represent.” Neither can we. But we are grateful they exist, and that they have been acknowledged by this prize.
‐ Sixty years ago, at the height of the Cold War, a handful of Hungarian intellectuals and students gathered in various institutions in Budapest, and then on the streets of the city, to air their discontent with the Communism that Stalin and the victorious Red Army had imposed on them. When prominent Communist politicians, among them Prime Minister Imre Nagy, suggested possible reform, the incipient protest movement suddenly burst into open revolution. Led by two senior officers, Béla Kíraly and Pal Maléter, the Hungarian armed forces backed Nagy and revolution. It was the turn of the hated Communist secret police to be persecuted and sometimes lynched. Yuri Andropov, a future general secretary of the Soviet Communist Party and at that time an attaché in the Soviet embassy in Budapest, persuaded Nikita Khrushchev and the Politburo in Moscow to take a hard line and stop at nothing. Pretending to concede to the revolutionaries, the Soviets first lured Maléter into a meeting where they arrested him, then invaded the country in strength. Promised safe passage abroad, Imre Nagy was in fact seized, tried, and executed. Janos Kádár, an archetypal Soviet stooge, replaced him and was never forgiven for it. By the time the revolution had been bloodily suppressed, some 3,000 freedom fighters and about 700 Soviet soldiers were dead. At least 200,000 Hungarians fled while they could, 35,000 of them to the United States. Taken by surprise, the Eisenhower administration proved helpless in the face of Soviet perfidy. The Hungarians, however, preserved their honor in a way that will resound throughout their history.
‐ A survey at Yale University found what most sane observers already knew: that the college’s atmosphere is anything but collegial for those who hold conservative views. The Yale Daily News, the student paper, found that 75 percent of respondents agreed that Yale is not a “welcoming” environment for those with conservative views. How is it that conservatives could feel intimidated at a university that literally spends millions on inclusion and diversity?
‐ Prager University was instituted in 2009 by Dennis Prager to educate Americans about U.S. history and conservative values through a series of free, five-minute videos. Recently, that admirable mission has been hampered by YouTube, which has “restricted” at least 15 of the PragerU videos, meaning that any viewer with filtering turned on — for example, parents trying to prevent their children from stumbling upon explicit content — won’t be able to watch them. A YouTube spokesman told the Wall Street Journal that the restriction process is “based on algorithms that look at a number of factors, including community flagging on videos,” meaning that the videos could be taken down because liberal users repeatedly flagged them for their conservative content. The censored topics include “Did Bush Lie About Iraq?” “Why Did America Fight the Korean War?” and “Why Don’t Feminists Fight for Muslim Women?” Perhaps PragerU’s next video series should be on the value of robust debate in a free society.
‐ Jordan Peterson, a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, posted a video to YouTube in which he decries a proposed Canadian law that would criminalize the failure to address someone by his or her — or hir or zir, etc. — preferred pronouns. U of T administrators soon began sending him warnings to cease and desist. They called his views “unacceptable, emotionally disturbing, and painful.” More than 200 faculty signed a letter denouncing his comments, which they say violate the Ontario Human Rights Code. The dean of U of T now says that the university will host a debate at which Peterson and an advocate of the ever expanding table of speech rules can go at it. The drama so far has unfolded according to the established script: Peterson in his video tells of a colleague who thought that perhaps the term “flip chart” was unacceptable because — who knew? — “flip” is a derogatory term for “Filipino.” The embattled professor is defending his right to freedom of speech, of course, but also to freedom from enforced silliness and from the legal and professional jeopardy that now attend the refusal to play along.
‐ The Left has discovered a new type of malaise: fear of having sons. A New York Times writer says that upon the birth of his son, he dreaded having to counter “a sports and gaming culture that exalt[s] alpha domination (and aggressive male reflexes); and a tight-lipped John Wayne ethos that breeds alienation and, too often, depression. . . . All of the dread and loathing I’d always felt about the limiting script of traditional masculine norms came flooding back.” And raising boys isn’t just really, really hard; it’s boring, too. As another enlightened dad explains, “I’m much more interested in the challenge of helping a girl or young woman transcend sexist conditions.” He comes out, however, for overcoming this fear: “Men like me abdicate our responsibility by letting other men — the ones who don’t always encourage the broader, deeper humanity within males — raise boys.” We fear that these men are not especially well suited to raising either boys or girls.
‐ In-N-Out Burger, often rated as the nation’s best hamburger chain, has its share of avid fans, but few of them can be as devoted as Joshua Adkins of Arizona. He was on the run from the police, who were chasing his car through Phoenix in helicopters. Head for the hills? Perhaps — but first things first: The fugitive spotted an In-N-Out, pulled up to the drive-through window, placed his order, and coolly waited several minutes for it to be filled. In-N-Out officials did not disclose what he ordered. Soon afterwards, Adkins ditched his car in a residential neighborhood, took off on foot, and was quickly apprehended. It may be a few years before he is available as a pitchman.
‐ The University of Oklahoma’s seven-time-national-champion football team has played under the nickname “Sooners” for over 100 years. What is a “Sooner”? Well, sooners were those scallywags and rascals who jumped the gun to settle Oklahoma Territory during the late-19th-century Land Runs. (“Boomers” were the settlers who waited, lawfully, for the starting-pistol shot before moving in to stake a land claim — hence the iconic OU fight song, “Boomer Sooner.”) Now, Indigenize OU, a campus student group, says the nickname should be changed, because it could make Native American students feel unwelcome at the university. Tell that to Sam Bradford, a winner of the Heisman Trophy and a Cherokee Nation citizen, or Sam Claphan, an OU All-American and a 1994 inductee into the American Indian Athletic Hall of Fame, or Key Wolf, a Chickasaw, the first Indian to take the field for Oklahoma — in 1905 — or any one of the dozens of Indian players who have proudly suited up for Oklahoma teams over the years. Most Okies are comfortable with, and proud of, their state’s long and complicated association with its Native American people: Indeed, the state’s name is itself a blend of two Choctaw words, okla and humma, meaning “red people.” The citizens of the Sooner State, Native American or not, don’t want their history memory-holed. We doubt anyone will bully them into it. Boomer Sooner.
‐ During his long Supreme Court career, Justice John Paul Stevens often expressed sympathy for the downtrodden. Now, perhaps, we know why: He is a lifelong Cubs fan. In an interview with Mark Walsh of Scotusblog, the retired but still active judge recalled his first visit to Wrigley Field. It was the famous 1929 World Series game against the Philadelphia A’s, in which surprise starter Howard Ehmke, who had spent the previous month scouting the Cubs in person, pitched a 3–1 victory and struck out 13 batters (“a tragedy for a young fan,” Stevens recalls). The justice also remembers Babe Ruth’s storied home run off Guy Bush in the 1932 World Series, though he shows admirable judicial restraint by declining to issue a definitive decision on whether the Babe actually called his shot. As we go to press, this year’s Series is headed to Game 7. We wish Justice Stevens — who has lived long enough to see both Wrigley’s outfield fence and the U.S. Supreme Court get overrun by ivy — many more happy years of following the Cubs.
Yes, She Is Guilty
FBI director James Comey, who had already earned a footnote in American political history by exonerating a presidential candidate of a serious national-security breach, earned a second one by taking his exoneration at least temporarily back.
Comey announced in July that, while Hillary Clinton’s use of a homebrew server was “extremely careless,” “no reasonable prosecutor” would charge her with violating federal laws. Reading, writing, and storing tens of thousands of e-mails, a number of them classified, in easily hackable Internet space was reckless and dumb, but not intentional. So Comey said the FBI was “completing” its investigation and handing the ball to the Justice Department, which — given that Mrs. Clinton was aspiring to serve President Obama’s third term, and given that Obama had dissembled about communicating with Clinton on her private e-mail account — did nothing.
On the eve of Halloween, Comey told the FBI and Congress that “recently” found e-mails impelled the bureau to reopen its investigation. The new e-mails came to light in the course of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s investigation of sex-mad former congressman Anthony Weiner. Weiner’s computer held a staggering 650,000 e-mails by and to his estranged wife and longtime Clinton aide Huma Abedin.
Comey’s prior conduct forced his own hand. He bent the rules in July to speculate publicly on matters of prosecutorial discretion: The FBI’s job is to ferret out potential perps, not to issue clean bills of health. But having assured the world that Hillary was in the clear, he now felt compelled to say that she might not be. How would he have looked if something damning had turned up on the Weiner machine after the election?
Comey’s desperate tacking flushed out the hypocrisy of both parties (never in short supply). Donald Trump, who in July called Comey “very, very unfair,” now praised his “guts.” Democrats, who honored him, now want him in the dock — literally (Senator Harry Reid accused him of violating the Hatch Act).
But neither political hypocrisy, nor Comey, nor even the seemingly unkillable Weiner is the main event here. Hillary Clinton is the only author of this mess. To shield the dodgy business of the Clinton Foundation, for which she continued to do favors even as secretary of state, she set up her own server. In using it, she exposed classified information to hackers. When caught, she lied about it, and required her minions to endorse her lies.
We have heard a lot about how Donald Trump, having degraded the norms of politics, will degrade the rule of law if elected. So he would. But Hillary Clinton has been doing it for years, most recently as secretary of state. Too bad there is no reset for elections.
No, It’s Not Rigged
At the final presidential debate, Donald Trump refused to commit to accepting the election results, saying, “I’ll keep you in suspense.” That pronouncement followed weeks of declaring the election “rigged” by everyone from the mainstream media to the Clinton campaign to Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim. Trump contends, too, that electoral theft is happening “at many polling places.”
Those who paid attention to the Republican primaries will recall this tactic. Back then, the conspiring parties were the Republican National Committee, the congressional “Establishment,” and various conservative media outlets, which Trump accused of trying to “steal” the party’s nomination from him. This time, Trump is suggesting that the entire electoral mechanism by which Americans choose their president has become illegitimate.
As a factual matter, this is, of course, bunk. The electoral process, from bottom to top, is managed by citizens and governed by a dense body of election law. Vote-counting is heavily scrutinized by party officials and independent monitors, and irregularities are subject to legal challenge. The voting equipment is tested prior to Election Day and carefully monitored before, during, and after. None of this is to say that voter fraud does not exist, or that errors don’t occasionally affect vote totals. But to “rig” an election at the national scale would require logistical know-how seen only in Hollywood capers. To think that the same Clinton campaign that had trouble putting away Bernie Sanders has now arranged to steal an election on a continental scale defies logic — to put it mildly.
There is no doubt that the press hates Donald Trump with a passion, and it shows. Unfortunately, media bias is a persistent feature of our system. Shrewd Republican campaigns don’t just complain about it, but work to make themselves less vulnerable to it. Trump has constantly taken the bait from the Clinton campaign and ensured, through his tweets and riffs at rallies, that damaging controversies get more coverage rather than less (although even the best-run campaign would be hard pressed to cope with multiple allegations of unwanted advances and groping by the candidate).
Some of Trump’s defenders point out that irregularities in close elections can deserve scrutiny: Think of Al Franken’s win over Norm Coleman in the Minnesota Senate race of 2008, or the Florida recount in 2000. That’s different, however, from predicting that any Trump defeat will be the result of corruption. Hillary Clinton is spectacularly unfit for the office of president of the United States; had she a different last name, she would almost certainly be facing felony charges for endangering state secrets. If she becomes president, it is Trump who will bear most of the responsibility.