Wednesday

December 13th, 2017

Insight

If nothing else, FBI chief exposed Clinton's incompetence

Christine M. Flowers

By Christine M. Flowers Philadelphia Daily News/(TNS)

Published July 12, 2016

The Closing of the American Mouth

Some people seem to think that I actually matter. They message me in response to a particular column with either angry criticism or “atta girl!” euphoria, assuming that whatever I’ve written will have some impact on other readers. I am often amused by these emails, because the truth of the matter is that I can’t even cajole my 7-year-old nephew to stop sticking french fries in the dog’s nostrils. Clearly, my persuasive heft isn’t all that hefty.

“Voting Trump to save court from Clinton,” The Lima News, Sunday, Page 5D), dozens of readers begged me to stop writing such ridiculous and/or dangerous and/or lunatic things.

It surprised me to see that people would take my very personal explanation about why Hillary Clinton could never win my vote (hint: the idea of her Supreme Court imprint is more chilling than an air-conditioned igloo) as a shot across the bow of the Trumpian Revolution.

After painstakingly explaining that I could not really stand the man and that I would vote for him only if Evita Rodham Clinton were the default option, many people jumped over the “I could not really stand” part and accused me of wanting to destroy the country by persuading weak-minded shut-ins to pull the lever for the Donald.

If I had that kind of power, I’d be running a small banana republic somewhere instead of toiling away at my immigration practice and spitting out the occasional column. I’m not “all that,” in pundit terms. As some of my less creative detractors have called me, I am Ann Coulter without the Adam’s apple, national platform and good hair. I annoy, I nudge, I suggest, I insult, I plead, but I don’t think I make a difference one way or another.

So to Abner, who wrote to tell me I was giving him nightmares at the thought of the souls I may have won for Trump, I’d point him to my Twitter handle, which, at last count, had 360 followers. Kim Kardashian West can breathe easy.

There is, however, someone who can make a very definite difference, just not the one most conservatives hoped he would. His name is James Comey, and his day job is running the FBI. At night, he’s a standup comedian and impressionist. Last week, he put on a fabulous show, which left millions of America in stitches as he impersonated someone who actually felt comfortable refusing to file charges against Hillary Clinton over her emails.

One of the most hilarious moments came when he said, “Although there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case.” And his eyelid didn’t twitch, and he didn’t even crack his knuckles. Fabulous impersonation of a man who was comfortable in his skin. Genius, really.

As I watched Comey explain why Clinton was going to dodge a bullet (no wonder she’s in favor of gun control), I couldn’t help feeling I was viewing one of those hostage videos where they have the poor soul staring into the camera, saying how happy he was to be kneeling on the ground about to be killed. There was no escaping the fact that while his mouth was saying no, no charges will be filed, his eyes were saying yes, she’s a lying and incompetent charlatan. The problem is that, in this context, it took a lot more than just the letter of the law to justify an indictment.

Of course, many conservatives don’t see it that way. Most of my GOP Facebook friends were apoplectic that Clinton was spared a prosecution, seeing it as some conspiracy among Loretta Lynch, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and Huma Abedin. They pointed to David Petraeus, who received probation and fines (through a plea bargain) after he shared classified information and bodily fluids with his “biographer.” They kept posting the language of the statute under which Hillary could have been charged and which required something less than intent, namely, gross negligence. They pointed out that she had deliberately lied to the American people by saying she had never sent any classified information, when, in fact, she had, and knew she had.

They have some very strong points, there.

But I understand why Comey decided against charging her, and I really don’t think it had anything to do with a backroom conspiracy. This is a unique circumstance, in which the target of an investigation is a major party’s presumptive nominee.

We are four months from an election. If the charges were filed, Clinton’s camp would go into full spin mode and (1) claim sexism; (2) resurrect the vast right-wing conspiracy meme; (3) complain we wanted her to stay home and bake cookies; (4) point to this as revenge for skating on Benghazi; and all sorts of other typical Hillary things that have nothing to do with the truth and everything to do with blaming others for her incompetence.

And here is where Comey, unlike yours truly, can really have some impact. By not indicting Clinton but labeling her as “extremely careless” and, essentially, calling her a liar who quite possibly allowed foreign enemies to access sensitive materials, he has shredded her facade of competence.

Clinton has been setting herself up as the “sane” one, the woman who was a pro on the world stage.

Comey has basically shown that she is a spectacular screw-up, at least from that perspective.

There will still be true believers who won’t care. But for those on the fence, Comey’s unprecedented takedown could very well be a political wake-up call.

And that could make much more of a difference than any watered-down plea bargain, a la Petraeus.

Christine M. Flowers
Philadelphia Daily News
(TNS)

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Christine M. Flowers is a lawyer and columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News.

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