So now it’s all but official: No bolt from the blue will ruin Hillary Clinton’s presidential hopes.
There will be no criminal charges against Clinton because of her use of a private e-mail server while secretary of state. FBI Director James B. Comey virtually assured that result when he said Tuesday that he was recommending that the Justice Department not bring charges against Clinton in this matter. He’s leaving the final decision to DOJ prosecutors, but let’s be clear: They aren’t going to override the FBI on this. It just won’t happen. Indeed, Comey’s conclusion should have been obvious all along: “Our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case.”
All one had to do was look at the prosecutorial pattern in matters like these. As Comey noted, all such cases that have been prosecuted in the past had involved some combination of “clearly intentional and willful mishandling of classified information,” vast quantities of mishandled material, evidence of disloyalty to the United States, or efforts to obstruct justice.
Clinton’s e-mail imbroglio didn’t rise to any of those triggers.
Now, the FBI director also said that Clinton and her aides were “extremely careless” in their handling of classified information. That’s a judgment Clinton will have to live with as a candidate. If she were smart, she’d take her lumps there, apologize sincerely, promise to do better if elected, and move on. If there are those who find that “extremely careless” assessment or Clinton’s initial high-handedness about this matter disqualifying in a president, fine. But it’s time for those who reside in the reality-based world to reject the notion that Clinton is somehow guilty of criminal conduct.
Several lessons loom here.
First, Republicans need to move beyond the idea that every controversy is, should be, or can be made to be, a disqualifying scandal. In just a week or so, we’ve seen two such hail-Mary — or rather, impale-Hillary — hopes collapse.
After spending two years and $7 million, the Republican-led House Benghazi Committee’s investigation came a cropper, despite its obvious mission to unearth some — any — sort of additional Benghazi albatross it could hang around her neck.
The e-mail investigation has now concluded on a similar note. It’s also worth noting that the so-called IRS targeting scandal, which some perfervid GOP partisans had called the Obama administration’s Watergate, also came to little or nothing.
I know Republicans won’t change their tack simply for reasons of responsible democratic dialogue. That’s way too much to expect. So here’s a self-interested motive: If they continue down their current hysterical path, they risk being irreversibly grouped with the boy who cried wolf.
Now, if one gets his or her information from “Fox News’’ hosts or talk-radio bloviators, or other right-wing outlets that are apparently incapable of intelligent contextual judgment, all this will no doubt come as a huge shock and disappointment. And probably even a betrayal by the FBI director, who, let us recall, was previously described as a call-’em-as-he-sees-’em, politics-be-damned straight arrow. The true kooks will no doubt come to see him as part of a vast conspiracy intent on covering up Clinton’s high crimes and misdemeanors.
However, if you are a voter who was convinced this would be Clinton’s undoing, but nevertheless accept Comey’s verdict, it might be time to reevaluate where you’re getting your information and how you’re arriving at your own judgments.
And if you’re one of those who has retained the capacity for balanced conclusions, even in this crazy year? Well, then, Comey’s finding will strike you as appropriate, and for a simple reason.
It fit the facts.
Republicans need to move beyond the idea that every controversy is a disqualifying scandal.
And now it’s time to move on.Scot Lehigh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeScotLehigh.