The case against Hillary Clinton could have been written before the recent WikiLeaks and FBI disclosures. But these documents do provide hard textual backup.
The most sensational disclosure was the proposed deal between the State Department and the FBI in which the FBI would declassify a Hillary Clinton email and State would give the FBI more slots in overseas stations. What made it sensational was the rare appearance in an official account of the phrase “quid pro quo,” which is the currently agreed-upon dividing line between acceptable and unacceptable corruption.
This is nonetheless an odd choice for most egregious offense. First, it occurred several layers removed from the campaign and from Clinton. It involved a career State Department official (he occupied the same position under Condoleezza Rice) covering not just for Clinton but for his own department.
Second, it’s not clear which side originally offered the bargain. Third, nothing tangible was supposed to exchange hands. There was no proposed personal enrichment – a Rolex in return for your soul – which tends to be our standard for punishable misconduct. And finally, it never actually happened. The FBI turned down the declassification request.
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In sum, a warm gun but nonsmoking. Indeed, if the phrase “quid pro quo” hadn’t appeared, it would have received little attention. Moreover, it obscures the real scandal – the bottomless cynicism of the campaign and of the candidate.
Among dozens of examples, the Qatari gambit. Qatar, one of the worst actors in the Middle East (having financially supported the Islamic State, for example), offered $1 million as a “birthday” gift to Bill Clinton in return for five minutes of his time. Who offers – who takes – $200,000 a minute? We don’t know the “quid” here, but it’s got to be big. In the final debate, Clinton ran and hid when asked about pay-for-play at the Clinton Foundation. And for good reason. The emails reveal how foundation donors were first in line for favors and contracts.
A governance review by an outside law firm reported that some donors “may have an expectation of quid pro quo benefits in return for gifts.” You need an outside law firm to tell you that? If your Sultanic heart bleeds for Haiti, why not give to Haiti directly? Because if you give through the Clintons, you have a claim on future favors.
The soullessness of this campaign – all ambition and entitlement – emerges almost poignantly in the emails, especially when aides keep asking what the campaign is about. In one largely overlooked passage, Clinton complains that her speechwriters have not given her any overall theme or rationale. Isn’t that the candidate’s job? Asked one of her aides, Joel Benenson: “Do we have any sense from her what she believes or wants her core message to be?”
It’s that emptiness at the core that makes every policy and position negotiable and politically calculable. Hence the embarrassing about-face on the Trans-Pacific Partnership after the popular winds swung decisively against free trade.
So too with financial regulation, as in Dodd-Frank. As she told a Goldman Sachs gathering, after the financial collapse there was “a need to do something because, for political reasons … you can’t sit idly by and do nothing.”
Giving the appearance that something had to be done. That’s not why Elizabeth Warren supported Dodd-Frank. Which is the difference between a conviction politician like Warren and a calculating machine like Clinton.
Of course, we knew all this. But we hadn’t seen it so clearly laid out. Illicit and illegal as is WikiLeaks, it is the camera in the sausage factory. And what it reveals is surpassingly unpretty. I didn’t need the Wiki files to oppose Hillary Clinton. As a conservative, I have long disagreed with her worldview and the policies that flow from it. As for character, I have watched her long enough to find her deeply flawed, to the point of unfitness. But for those heretofore unpersuaded, the recent disclosures should close the case.
A case so strong that, against any of a dozen possible GOP candidates, voting for her opponent would be a no-brainer. Against Donald Trump, however, it’s a dilemma. I will not vote for Hillary Clinton. But, as I’ve explained in these columns, I could never vote for Donald Trump.
The only question is whose name I’m going to write in. With Albert Schweitzer doubly unavailable (noncitizen, dead), I’m down to Paul Ryan or Ben Sasse. Two weeks to decide.
The Washington Post Writers Group