Can Hillary Survive?

I don’t disagree with those who are disappointed that FBI Director James Comey more or less re-wrote federal law to avoid criminally prosecuting a leading contender for the presidency, four months before the election. On the other hand, I can’t really say that I blame him. It seems to me that Comey left the judgment on Hillary to be rendered by the American people. And he certainly made it clear what the FBI thinks of the Democrats’ nominee.

I agree with Roger Simon, who writes: “Did Comey Actually Destroy Hillary Clinton by ‘Exonerating’ Her?”

He may have let her off the hook legally, but personally he has left the putative Democratic candidate scarred almost beyond recognition.

By getting out in front of the Justice Department, the FBI director, speaking publicly in an admittedly unusual fashion, was able to frame the case in a manner that Attorney General Loretta Lynch in all probability never would have.

I think that is correct. In essence, Comey said today that if American voters are dumb enough to elect as president a woman who was “extremely careless” in handling “very sensitive, highly classified information,” so that it is “possible that hostile actors gained access to” her email account, and then lied repeatedly and shamelessly about what she had done, it’s on the voters. I suspect that Comey thinks he has done what he can or should do to blow the whistle on Hillary.

What will the political impact be? By rights, it should be devastating. If the Director of the FBI made similar findings about another candidate–Donald Trump, for example–it would be considered the end of that candidate’s career. The press would be full of demands that he withdraw and allow a more fit candidate to be nominated. We are not seeing that with Hillary, of course. For her, the bar is set extraordinarily low. Anything short of criminal charges is claimed by her as a victory, and the press largely goes along with those low expectations.

Still, it is not a great platform from which to seek the presidency: Vote for me, I’m not going to the federal penitentiary! Many observers think that voters already consider Hillary to be a liar and a crook, so this won’t damage her reputation. I think that, for once, this is too cynical a view of the electorate. I expect that as the FBI’s findings continue to reverberate, reinforced–one assumes–by competent Republican campaigning, they will be an albatross around Mrs. Clinton’s neck.

If Mrs. Clinton were a skillful politician, she might be able to throw off the albatross. But she isn’t skillful. She is like Richard Nixon, determined to make a career in a field for which she is not naturally suited. (Only Nixon had more ability.) As the campaign wears on, and as she grows ever more shrill and desperate, and her health increasingly becomes a question mark, I predict that Director Comey’s denunciation of Hillary’s conduct as Secretary of State will be seen as a turning point in an election that Hillary won’t win.

Hey, I am an optimist. Check with me in November and we will see how that prediction turns out.

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