This might be remembered as the year when they gave an election and nobody came. The millions stayed home, the champagne went uncorked, and everybody lived in semi-misery ever after.
Partisans for neither party will defend their candidate. Hillary Clinton’s supporters, except for the yellow-dog Democrats who would vote for a child-molester if he were running as a Democrat, will agree that she’s a crook and a money-grubbing shrew who never misses an opportunity to enrich herself at the expense of God, country and everybody else. She would steal the teeth of a dying man if she had a pair of pliers to pull the gold fillings.
Donald Trump’s partisans, but for his true believers who mistake rant for reason, won’t try to refute the ample evidence that the Donald is an uneducated lout with a gift for the insult, eager to throw brickbats at irrelevant targets who once offended him.
But one of these worthies will take the oath to protect and defend us all next January. It’s enough to make a saint sneeze, a cat bark and the dog choke on the cheese.
This is the election to test the theory, long held by the observant that God looks out for little boys, drunks and the United States of America. Little boys grow up and drunks sober up, but this year the United States of America may be pushing its luck. It’s certainly challenging fortune and trifling with the grace of God.
Good men will puzzle a long time over why and how James Comey, the director of the FBI charged with investigating Hillary Clinton’s abuse of the nation’s most important security secrets gave the lady the pass she doesn’t deserve.
Donald Trump called the Comey decision proof that the investigation was “rigged,” and the “nation of laws” actually has two sets of laws, like an accountant’s double-entry books, with one set of laws for you and me and another set of laws for the high and mighty. Bill and Hillary Clinton write their own. They always have.
The law that Hillary flouted is on the books as “18 U.S.C. section 793 (f),” and it’s so simple that even a dropout from a mail-order law school can understand it. This law makes it a felony to mishandle classified information either intentionally or “through gross negligence.” Mr. Comey’s evidence is nothing short of devastating.
Anyone listening to Mr. Comey’s 14-minute recital of Hillary’s official misbehavior, describing her “gross negligence,” thought the FBI director was building to an announcement that he would recommend to Attorney General Loretta Lynch that she seek a criminal indictment of a woman he had just described as a wanton criminal. When he freed her with a soiled bill of health you could hear jaws drop and eyes roll from coast to coast.
Why had James Comey, who had steadily built a reputation for integrity and legal skill, first as a lawyer and then as a U.S. attorney, deputy attorney general and finally as the director of the FBI, so sacrificed his reputation in behalf of a woman that he clearly holds in such contempt? Lawyers and judges and learned pundits went quickly to work to figure it out.
Some, like Michael Mukasey, the former U.S. attorney general and before that the chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, were puzzled. “What is supposed to happen in a matter like this,” Mr. Mukasey wrote in an essay in The Wall Street Journal, “is, as the director mentioned, a ‘prosecutive’ decision — i.e., a decision made by prosecutors. It is not an investigative decision. Investigators are supposed principally to gather facts.” Mr. Comey, in other words, forgot his place.
Pundits raised the questions on every reader’s mind. Charles Krauthammer, the syndicated columnist for The Washington Post, observed that Mr. Comey summed up Hillary’s misbehavior as “extremely careless,” and asked the question obvious to everybody but Mr. Comey, “how is that not gross negligence?”
He suggested a plausible explanation for what Mr. Comey was trying to do. He reckoned the FBI director was taking as precedent Chief Justice John Roberts’ “tortured, logic-defying argument upholding Obamacare.” The chief justice imagined that his responsibility was to be faithful to the Supreme Court’s public standing, and thought the issue was too momentous for the court to resolve.
It’s an interesting theory, and it’s true that fear can make a strong man weak and forget that his faithfulness should be to the Constitution, not the court. Fear is not what anyone wants in the nation’s top cop, but something frightened James Comey. It’s a strange year. There’s nobody to vote for when hope dies.
• Wesley Pruden is editor-in-chief emeritus of The Times.