- - Tuesday, July 26, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Democrats gathered for their convention in Philadelphia know Hillary Clinton did not escape her latest bout with scandal unscathed. While Hillary once more remained one step ahead of the law, she is several steps behind the public. She could not have picked a worse time for her latest foray into the ethical morass.

With the latest CNN/ORC poll showing Mrs. Clinton hitting an all-time high of 68 percent of respondents believing her dishonest and untrustworthy, the best she can say about the FBI’s investigation into her use of a private email account while secretary of State is that she was not indicted. If ever there was damning by faint praise for a person seeking the nation’s highest office, this is it.

However the investigation hardly exonerated her, because it indicted everything else about her handling of the situation. In reaching his curious conclusion that Hillary Clinton should not be prosecuted — a huge step outside his proper role in the investigative process — FBI Director James Comey refuted all Hillary’s key assertions of her innocence.

As for her assertion that she used a single device for simplicity, Mr. Comey stated, “Clinton used several different servers and numerous mobile devices.”

Regarding Mrs. Clinton’s cooperation, he stated that despite reviewing “approximately 30,000 emails provided by Secretary Clinton to the State Department,” the FBI discovered “several thousand work-related emails that were not in the group.” Nor did her lawyers reviewing the “reportedly more than 60,000 total emails remaining on Clinton’s personal system,” do more than a cursory vetting job.



The biggest contradiction was over Mrs. Clinton’s assertion that she had not kept classified emails in her personal system. The FBI found roughly 110 that were classified at the time she sent or received them — including top-secret ones.

Even the FBI’s statement granting her legal absolution, called her judgment — if not her veracity — into question: “Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws … there is evidence that they were extremely careless … [and there] is evidence to support a conclusion that any reasonable person in Secretary Clinton’s position … should have known that an unclassified system was no place for that conversation.”

The best the FBI gave Mrs. Clinton was a verdict of innocence by reason of incompetence.

Of course, scandals are anything but new to the Clintons. Like a WWE tag-team, they have wrestled with ethics throughout their political and professional lives. Even just limiting them to some with the highest profile — from conflict of interest charges when Hillary was in Little Rock’s Rose Law Firm, to the scandal that got Bill impeached, to the selling of pardons as they left the White House, to the questions raised about the operations of the Clinton Foundation to this day — the Clintons have gone from one scandal to another.

It is therefore naive to think that Hillary’s scandal is behind her.

First, Clinton scandals do not end — they metastasize. They grow so complex and convoluted that only the most dogged can continue to pursue them. The scandals eventually degrade the pursuit — if not the pursuers, who necessarily come to resemble conspiracy theorists — and the Clintons look, if not innocent, then at least not technically guilty. In the meantime, the public has lost interest and the Clintons move on.

Second, Clinton scandals simply regenerate in different forms. However, the cause remains the same.

What the Clintons lack in a sense of shame they make up for in a sense of entitlement. In that juxtaposition lie their ability to withstand scandals that would destroy others, and also their inherent propensity to recreate them.

The email scandal is no more over than the likelihood of another Clinton scandal. Past ones, this one, the next ones — they are part of the Clinton package.

What distinguishes this one is today’s political climate. Never has the sense of entitlement that pervades all the Clinton scandals appeared worse than it does now. Unlike past scandals, this one confronts a public worn down by years of a weak economy in which voters feel themselves punished for others’ actions.

A Rasmussen poll taken following Mr. Comey’s announcement found 54 percent disagreed with his decision and just 37 percent agreed with it. Even more troubling is the breakdown by party: 79 percent of Republicans disagreeing, 63 percent of Independents, and even 25 percent of Democrats. Forty-nine percent of respondents rated Mrs. Clinton’s performance during the investigation “poor” and just 30 percent rated it good or excellent. Most damaging of all in this anti-elite climate, 81 percent thought powerful people get preferential treatment.

This perception particularly hurts as Hillary takes her place as the nominee of the party of the self-styled 99 percent. It is not surprising that she was never able to win over a large percentage of those who backed Bernie Sanders.

The anti-elite tide has propelled Mr. Sanders and Donald Trump, while Hillary has swum against it. Despite the climate, she has no choice. Mrs. Clinton’s professional resume is an encyclopedia of entitlement, with the email scandal the latest entry. Hillary may well find that it is what the email scandal symbolizes, rather than its substance, that proves politically fatal when so many others have not.

J.T. Young served in the Treasury Department and the Office of Management and Budget and as a congressional staff member.

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