Does Hillary Clinton possess the integrity and honesty to be president of the United States? Or are those quaint and irrelevant considerations in electing a head of state in 21st-century America?
These are the questions put on the table by the report from FBI Director James Comey on what his agents unearthed in their criminal investigation of the Clinton email scandal.
Clinton dodged an FBI recommendation that she be indicted for gross negligence in handling U.S. security secrets, a recommendation that would have aborted her campaign. But Director Comey dynamited the defense she has been offering the country.
Comey all but declared that Clinton lied when she said she had State Department approval for the email server in her home.
He all but declared that she lied when she said she had only one server, and that no classified or secret material was transmitted. He also implied that she lied when she said she had used only one device and had turned over all of her work-related emails to State. The FBI found “several thousand” more.
Clinton said her emails were stored in a secure area. This, too, was false. Hostile actors and hostile regimes, said Comey, had access to email systems of those with whom she communicated.
Comey said he found no criminal “intent” in what Clinton did.
Yet, he charged her with having been “extremely careless” with U.S. national security secrets, a phrase that seems synonymous with the gross negligence needed to indict and convict.
While recommending against prosecution, Comey added, “This is not to suggest that in similar circumstances, a person who engaged in this activity would face no consequence. To the contrary, those individuals are often subject to security or administrative sanctions.”
Translation: Were Clinton still the secretary of state and were such recklessness with secrets to be discovered, she could have been forced to resign and stripped of her security clearance forever.
Yet if Clinton is elected president, our commander in chief for the next four years, and her confidantes Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills, will all be individuals the FBI has found to be reckless and unreliable in the handling of national security secrets.
We will have security risks running the armed forces of the USA.
Nor is this the first time Clinton’s truthfulness has been called into question. Twenty years ago, she fabricated a tale about crossing a tarmac in Bosnia “under sniper fire,” and running with “our heads down.” Photos showed a peaceful arrival featuring a smiling little girl.
Family members of the dead heroes of Benghazi’s “13 Hours” say Clinton told them she would see to it that the creator of the anti-Islamic video that incited the mob that killed their sons would be run down, all the while knowing it had been a planned terrorist attack.
In 1996, the New York Times‘ William Safire went over all of the statements Clinton had made in Whitewater and related scandals of Bill Clinton’s first term, compared them with subsequently revealed truth, and pronounced Hillary Clinton a “congenital liar.”
She has claimed she tried to join the Marines in 1975, and long contended she was named for famed mountaineer Edmund Hillary, who conquered Mount Everest. Only Sir Edmund climbed Everest when Hillary was 6 years old. The perfect running mate for this serial fabricator would be the Cherokee lass Elizabeth Warren.
Still, a question arises as to Comey’s motives in airing the findings of an FBI investigation. Normally, the bureau passes on the evidence it has found, along with its recommendation, to the Justice Department. And Justice decides whether to prosecute.
Instead, Comey called a press conference, documented the charge that Clinton was “extremely careless,” contradicted, point by point, the story she has told the public, then announced he was recommending against prosecution.
What was behind this extraordinary performance?
By urging no prosecution, but providing evidence for a verdict of criminal negligence in handing classified material, Comey was saying:
I am not recommending prosecution, because, to do that, would be to force Hillary Clinton out of the race, and virtually decide the election of 2016. And that is my not decision. That is your decision.
You, the American people, should decide, given all this evidence, if Clinton should be commander in chief. You decide if a public figure with a record of such recklessness and duplicity belongs in the Oval Office.
Comey was making the case against Clinton as the custodian of national security secrets with a credibility the GOP cannot match, while refusing to determine her fate by urging an indictment, and instead leaving her future in our hands.
And, ultimately, should not this decision rest with the people, and not the FBI?
If, knowing what we know of the congenital mendacity of Hillary Clinton, the nation chooses her as head of state and commander in chief, then that will tell us something about the America of 2016.
And it will tell us something about the supposed superiority of democracy over other forms of government.
Patrick J. Buchanan is a founding editor of The American Conservative and the author of the new book The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose From Defeat to Create the New Majority.