In the scribbling racket you can almost set your watch for the inevitable reaction.
Write something critical of Donald Trump and prepare yourself for an onslaught of angry emails complaining: “Well, yeah, sure, but what about that crooked liar Hillary Clinton?”
Conversely, pen a negative piece about Clinton, and just as reliable as a returning Capistrano swallow, you can rest assured of getting a full froth of: “Well, yeah, sure, but what about that nutball Donald Trump?” as if there is a perfectly balanced 50-50 equivalency of craziness on the campaign trail.
There isn’t, but not for a lack of effort.
As we approach the Democratic and Republican conventions this month, the national political discourse has devolved into a vigorous debate over which candidate to hold the highest office in the land is less of a conniving, duplicitous dolt than the other camp.
FBI Director James Comey delivered a stinging, brutal rebuke of Clinton, accusing her of carelessness in arrogantly insisting on conducting sensitive diplomatic communications through a private email server installed in her basement at home. Was it right next to Bill’s humidor?
Comey lambasted Clinton for exercising horrible judgment, raised doubts about her competence, suggested her emails quite likely were hacked by hostile interests and offered up a devastating assessment of her trustworthiness. By the time a visibly angry Comey finished with Clinton, you wouldn’t leave your bar change unattended if you found yourself sitting next to the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee in a saloon.
Think of the Comey litany of sins committed by Clinton as indictment-lite.
In any other presidential election cycle, being taken apart by the FBI director on national television as an ethically compromised politician would doom Clinton’s political ambitions. Even in the absence of criminal charges filed against her, had Clinton found herself running against Jeb Bush, or John Kasich, or Mitt Romney, or John McCain, or Ted Cruz or even The Dukes of Hazzard’s Boss Hogg, the calls for her to step aside would have been deafening. Behind the scenes, Vice President Joe Biden would be putting the finishing touches on his nomination acceptance speech.
But that didn’t happen. Hours later, Clinton was in North Carolina exiting Air Force One with President Barack Obama and acting as if the harshest thing Comey had said about her was taking issue with her choice of pantsuit.
Why is that? You even have to ask?
Clinton is the luckiest politician in the world. As bad as the past week has been for her campaign, Madam Secretary must wake up every morning and bemusedly think to herself, “I’m still running against Donald Trump, the Archie Bunker of the stump only without the calming self-possessed sense of dignity.”
Yes, think as ill of Clinton as you wish. Prevaricator. Narcissist. Arrogant. Elitist. Amoral. Calculating. And if only things had gone just a bit further, perhaps even a felon. Have a nice time.
Historians might well view 2016 as the campaign of opportunities lost. There she was — on the ropes, having just been slapped around by the FBI director. And as we all know in politics, never miss a chance to kick a bloodied opponent when he or she is down.
But Trump will always be Trump. After a few perfunctory remarks about “crooked Hillary” and a “rigged” legal system, the giant Koi of the Electoral College couldn’t help wandering off message like a beagle distracted by a Snausage to praise Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s efficiency at summarily killing terrorists without being burdened by stuff like rights, or evidence or due process.
Trump was only running true to form, overlooking the fact that Iraq had been listed as a state sponsor of terrorism prior to the 2003 invasion. Indeed, as PolitiFact recently noted, of 158 claims made by Trump fact-checked during this election season, 123 of them were either mostly false, false, or Pants on Fire false — 78 percent of the time.
To paraphrase the wise words of The Godfather’s Hyman Roth, we get the candidates we’ve chosen.
© 2016 Tampa Bay