Just as there are different levels of infinity (ℵ0, ℵ1), there are different levels of stupidity, as this year’s Presidential campaign is showing. I’m finding myself increasingly agreeing with conservative commentator P. J. O’Roarke, on Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me: when he endorsed Hillary Clinton:
“I am endorsing Hillary, and all her lies and all her empty promises,” O’Rourke said. “It’s the second-worst thing that can happen to this country, but she’s way behind in second place. She’s wrong about absolutely everything, but she’s wrong within normal parameters.”
Wrong within normal parameters. That says a lot about this year’s viable Presidential candidates (although I expect the Green and Libertarian candidates to see a significant increase in support, I don’t believe they will reach a level where they have electoral college impact).
Let’s look at the recent stupidities.
Let’s start with Ms. Wrong-Within-Normal-Parameters. Andy Tannenbaum’s Electoral Vote site summarizes the stupidity regarding the email issues well, noting how the FBI director said she was extremely careless and might have put national security at risk, but that he was simply following the law and she didn’t break it. Specifically, they stated:
The law does not make being careless with classified information a crime. To reach the level of an actual felony, three factors have to be present. First, there has to be an intentional mishandling of classified information. Being sloppy is not enough. Second, there has to be a large amount of classified information exposed. About 110 of her more than 30,000 emails were classified at the time she sent or received them, but almost none were marked as such. Many more were classified months or years later, a common government practice. Third, there has to be some indication of disloyalty to the United States or else obstruction of justice. Nothing like that was present in her case. The DoJ prosecutors will next have to decide whether to indict, but Comey said that no reasonable prosecutor would indict someone for what she did. Attorney General Loretta Lynch has the final say and she already stated that she would follow the FBI’s recommendation. Thus it is virtually certain that Clinton will not be indicted. There will be much partisan yelling and screaming in the coming weeks and months, but in the end, she dodged the bullet.
The LA Times makes a similar argument:
Federal law makes it a crime for a trusted U.S. official to “knowingly and willfully” disclose or transmit secret information to an “unauthorized person.” A second law makes it a crime to “remove” secret documents kept by the government or to allow them to be stolen through “gross negligence.”
Neither law applies clearly or directly to what FBI Director James B. Comey described Tuesday as Hillary Clinton’s “extremely careless” handling of classified emails that were sent through her private system when she was the secretary of State.
“It’s just not a crime under current law to do nothing more than share sensitive information over unsecured networks,” said Stephen Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas. “Maybe it should be, but that’s something for Congress to decide going forward.”
Comey made clear, Vladeck said, that “however much we might want federal law to make her carelessness a crime, nothing she did falls within the letter of the relevant federal criminal statutes.”
The Time’s concluding thought is particularly noteworthy:
Stewart Baker, a top national security lawyer in the Bush administration, called Comey’s statement “pretty damning for Secretary Clinton, even if the facts don’t make for an impressive criminal case. He suggests that she should have been, or arguably could still be, subjected to ‘security or administrative sanctions.’ What he doesn’t say, but what we can infer, is that she ran those incredible risks with national security information because she was more worried about the GOP reading her mail than of Russian or Chinese spies reading it. That’s appalling,” he said.
This shows where our incredible partisanship, and the hatred of the Republicans for the Clintons, has gotten us. My take on this mess is that, although what Clinton did was stupid, it appears to have had no significant national security affect. Further, similar classified data has been found in the emails of other Secretaries of State. More importantly, I don’t think it is a mistake that would be repeated: Clinton has been sensitized to the issue, and the staff supporting her if she becomes President are unlikely to permit the situation to be repeated. Then, of course, there is the fact that the President is the ultimate arbiter of what is classified, as the head of the Executive Branch.
Of course, the Republican side isn’t letting the issue fall, and again Electoral Vote captures it:
Meanwhile, Congressional Republicans made clear that they intend to open a new investigation into the e-mail server, with Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) promising that Comey would be called before the House of Representatives to answer for himself.
Undoubtedly, the GOP wants to keep the e-mail server in the news for as long as is possible, and Congressional hearings would certainly do that. However, those hearings would also be a supremely bad idea. Whatever damage that emailgate is going to do has already been done—those who are going to hold the server against Clinton, and those who are going to overlook it, have already made their decisions. Short of a game-changer, like an indictment, not much is going to change on that front. However, holding hearings after the FBI has made its recommendation, along with the Benghazi hearings, and the Merrick Garland obstruction, would give the Democrats a powerful argument that the Republican members of Congress are less interested in doing their jobs than they are in abusing their positions of power in service of partisan ends. One can scarcely imagine something that would do more to help the blue team in their efforts to retake the legislature.
Now, let’s look at Mr. Wrong-in-So-Many-Ways. Here is someone who keeps making new stupidities — again, not at the criminal level (perhaps), but at the appalling level. Over the last few days, we’ve had Trump posting an antisemitic image in a tweet on Clinton, and the subsequent identification that the image came from a white supremacist website. Electoral Vote summarizes the concern well: “Even if he got the image in a completely non-problematic fashion (say, a retweet from a supporter), it still shows an incredible lack of awareness on the part of the candidate. A lack of awareness that does not line up well with the sensitivity demanded of the leader of the free world.”
Speaking about leadership, today’s revelation has Trump praising the leadership of Saddam Hussain (the equivalent of praising Hitler). Here’s the quote from the LA Times: «“He killed terrorists. He did that so good,” Trump said at a rally in North Carolina on Tuesday night. “They didn’t read them the rights. They didn’t talk. They were terrorists. It was over.”»
Trump, of course, has his own email issues that have made the news, which (of course) have been overshadowed by his stupid statements. In particular, he was accused in early June of destroying email evidence. As the article noted:
In 2006, when a judge ordered Donald Trump’s casino operation to hand over several years’ worth of emails, the answer surprised him: The Trump Organization routinely erased emails and had no records from 1996 to 2001. The defendants in a case that Trump brought said this amounted to destruction of evidence, a charge never resolved.
At that time, a Trump IT director testified that until 2001, executives in Trump Tower relied on personal email accounts using dial-up Internet services, despite the fact that Trump had launched a high-speed Internet provider in 1998 and announced he would wire his whole building with it. Another said Trump had no routine process for preserving emails before 2005.
Then again, there’s the issue of Trump and (sigh) child rape in the past:
An anonymous “Jane Doe” filed a federal lawsuit against GOP presumptive nominee Donald Trump last week, accusing him of raping her in 1994 when she was thirteen years old. The mainstream media ignored the filing.
In fact, as both the article linked above and another article highlights, this appears to be a pattern of behavior. Of course, then there’s the whole issue of Trump University and the Trump Institute, and how Trump exploited people for personal gain.
Shouldn’t these be subject to the same scrutiny and investigation that the email non-issue of Clinton has had? Where are the Congressional inquires into Trump University, Trump Institute, and the rape charges? Where are the investigations into patterns of hate speech, sexism, and racism? Where are the investigations into the deletion of emails in legal cases?
This brings us back to the question of what are normal parameters, and how wrong is wrong? The mistakes we’ve seen from Clinton are mistakes that are likely not to re-occur, given the checks and balances provided through Congress and the heightened sensitivity of White House staff. We certainly have not seen statements that reflect misunderstanding of foreign policy or demonstrate lack of sensitivity at anything close to the racism or sexism demonstrated by Trump. In fact, the general impression is that Clinton enjoys public service and wants to give back to the country through it — that’s where her life has been devoted. Trump, on the other hand, clearly puts his mouth or typing-fingers in gear long before there is any connection to the brain — and that is dangerous in the leader of the Free World. He has also clearly done what is necessary — racist or not — to get personal gain.
Wrong-within-normal-parameters. Clinton may not be the perfect candidate, but of those who have the potential of obtaining sufficient electoral voices, she’s the best shot we’ve got. Or, as WWDTM put it: “Wrong within normal parameters. I’ll take it.”
To put the issue another way: In an ideal world, both of the major parties would have run viable, intelligent, and appropriate candidates who held reasoned views of the issues. None (or precious few) of the candidates in the candidate pool achieved that (yes, that includes Bernie). Further, both parties are stuck with presumptive nominees with significant problems, and do not have the option of going against the will of the majority of the voters to go with a different candidate (and yes, that includes Bernie). This country needed strong candidates from both parties — candidates that would make strong Presidents were they elected. Instead, the Democratic side let the oversize donkey that was Clinton fundraising and history scare off other moderate potential candidates (or they didn’t look ahead sufficiently to groom any, being distracted by the fights with the GOP. The GOP was no better, permitting candidates that appealed to the wacko, evangelical, and ultra-conservative and isolationist fringe to lead, as opposed to finding a moderate Republican who could have broad appeal. As a result, we don’t have that honest, moderate, slightly to the left Democrat; we don’t have that honest, moderate, slightly to the right Republican.
We have Donald and Hillary.
Wrong-within-normal-parameters. Sometimes, that’s the best that you can do.