“To be clear, this is not to suggest that in similar circumstances, a person who engaged in this activity would face no consequences. To the contrary, those individuals are often subject to security or administrative sanctions.”
Has a double standard ever been made plainer than that? When the FBI director stands up and says, “Yes, other people would face consequences for these actions but this one individual will not,” it’s hard not to wonder on the state of justice—hard not to consider whether a system that nakedly benefits the powerful elite to which Secretary Clinton can claim membership would ever find fairness for the powerless. Hillary Clinton’s non-indictment lays another stone in a foundation of anger and dissatisfaction that’s not just underpinning this election cycle but perhaps building toward something worse down the line.
That this election cycle feels different is not earth shattering revelation. But it doesn’t feel surprising. This anger has been bubbling, in fits and starts and among disparate groups, for years. The Tea Party. Occupy Wall Street. Black Lives Matter. Sanders supporters. Trump supporters. Everyone’s angry. If I’m looking at this from atop an ivory tower the one thought that gives me solace is that while everyone is angry at people in power, they’re angry and different people in power for different reasons. And what’s more—these are not groups of people likely to work together. Not without a little persuasion, anyway.
The lack of an indictment for Hillary Clinton is one of those rare events that pulls together a lot of otherwise disconnected anger. Writing for the reliably right Townhall.com, Kurt Schlichter—convinced that Hillary Clinton is guilty of multiple felonies—assaults the very idea that rule of law still exists in this country. Meanwhile, Glenn Greenwald—who believes that the FBI’s decision was correct and who never thought Clinton’s actions rose to the level of criminality, slams the decision not to indict by placing it in the larger context of a secrecy obsessed Washington and stating in no uncertain terms that anyone not named Hillary Clinton would long ago have been hauled off in leg irons for this activity:
But this case does not exist in isolation. It exists in a political climate where secrecy is regarded as the highest end, where people have their lives destroyed for the most trivial—or, worse, the most well-intentioned—violations of secrecy laws, even in the absence of any evidence of harm or malignant intent. And these are injustices that Hillary Clinton and most of her stalwart Democratic followers have never once opposed—but rather enthusiastically cheered. In 2011, Army Private Chelsea Manning was charged with multiple felonies and faced decades in prison for leaking documents that she firmly believed the public had the right to see; unlike the documents Clinton recklessly mishandled, none of these was classified.
To be sure, Greenwald is not a champion of the American left. But he finds the decision no less an indictment of the state of the rule of law than does Schlichter who seems to be foaming at the mouth over a Hillary Clinton he perceives to be guilty. Keeping in mind that Black Lives Matter has been railing against a systematically unequal criminal justice system for almost two years—a cause taken up belatedly by the Sanders campaign—it doesn’t take a genius to see where the disparate angry voices begin to intersect.
Having not gone to law school, I have no idea whether or not Clinton should be indicted. Andrew McCarthy seems to think she should have been and explains the relevant statute that involves gross negligence. McCarthy’s argument combined with the meeting between Bill Clinton and Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Secretary Clinton’s comments that she’d consider keeping Lynch on a sattorney general, and the prosecution of a navy sailor for an arguably similar offense that lacked intent paints a picture of a process that was rigged from the start. Comey’s unusual press conference—detailing violations and blowing holes in Clinton’s public defense—before recommending no consequences for her actions only adds fuel to the fire.
I’ve begun considering what the 2020 election will look like if Hillary Clinton wins this election. The Trump and Sanders campaigns brought a lot of disparate fringe anger much closer to the political center and focused all of it on the wealthy, the punditry, the powerful, and the political. Meanwhile the clear favorite to win is a career politician who is distrusted on a basic level by approximately half the country, is running on a platform of maintaining the Barack Obama status quo, and who may or may not have committed felonies depending on one’s interpretation of a lot of circumstantial evidence. A short term gain for Hillary Clinton may be a long term loss for the country if all the FBI did was validate the public’s belief that the powerful live and rule without consequences.