The wheel that goes around comes around, as life teaches us all, even Hillary Clinton. She was 27, a reckless and ambitious lawyer for the House Judiciary Committee, working to impeach Richard Nixon. She couldn’t imagine that she would one day be the Nixon of the Democrats, a reckless and ambitious presidential candidate forever tracking mud and grit through the house.
Sometimes history repeats itself in curious and fascinating small particulars, as if the man on the other end of “the moving finger” entertains himself by writing all those juicy single lines that can never be recalled. She was sacked for breaching the ethics that guide lawyers. Even then she wrote her own rules to live and work by, accommodating only herself.
Little by little, and then in leaps and bounds, she became Richard Nixon writ large. This would be an epic for journalists and writers who appreciate Nixonian tragedy but Hillary lives a life in politics that is not exactly charmed, but protected in an age when partisan politics is all.
Jorge Ramos, the Univision television network moderator of Wednesday night’s Democratic debate, put the cat among the lazy pigeons when he posed the question that the big names of show-and-tell television punditry avoid asking. Senor Ramos put it to her plain and to the point:
“If you get indicted, will you drop out?”
The first lady in a previous century was clearly not expecting it. Univision is not CBS, NBC, ABC or any other C, and Senor Ramos was not about to go by the unwritten rule that Democrats can’t be roughed up just any old way.
“Oh, my goodness,” she replied. “It’s not going to happen. I’m not even answering that question.” But her interlocutor persisted. Who, he asked, gave her permission to use the private email server that is the source of all her latest troubles. She didn’t answer that question, either, but retreated into the argle-bargle that witnesses are coached to use when pressed against the wall.
“It wasn’t the best choice, I made a mistake. It was not prohibited. It was not in any way disallowed and, as I have said and as now has come out, my predecessors did the same thing and many other people in the government.”
This was a misleading answer, as Hillary the lawyer understood well. Using a private email server was discouraged and as secretary of State she could bend rules. The laws governing national security are not made to measure intent, but to punish the act, and others have paid painfully for less.
The rest of the country gets it, as voters in Michigan demonstrated this week, even if the smart guys in Washington say they don’t. She would have been left for dead long ago but for the fortunate alignment of the stars that guide partisan affairs in the nation’s capital. Who else could have stumbled and staggered on, bumbling and lumbering toward the goal, surviving every perception that she gives greed a bad name.
Never has an inevitable nominee had so much scandal and titillation to survive. The Democrats spent the winter trying to recruit a challenger, but no luck. Joe Biden yearned to give her a run for her money, ultimately decided that he could never run that fast and that far, and then regretted that he hadn’t given her a run for it, anyway.
It’s safe enough for the liberal media to make Bernie Sanders the needed and convenient foil in Hillary’s way. A Socialist, uppercase and all, is a serious threat only in a boutique like Vermont, and everywhere else he’s a willing palooka with whom she can spar harmlessly. Bernie gets an occasional opening but doesn’t recognize it, and she gets away unscathed. That’s what sparring partners are for.
Nevertheless, when more than a hundred FBI agents are chasing you, you can never discount the possibility that one of them might catch you. The latest buzz in Washington is that maybe only Barack Obama can save her, with a pardon in the way that Gerald Ford saved Richard Nixon in 1973. Parallels accumulate.
Not to pardon her, as Matthew Continetti observes in the Washington Free Beacon, risks dooming the nation to “a long national nightmare” like the one President Ford saved us from, with media leaks, tell-all books, more grand juries, and indictments of her confederates. Mr. Obama might even emerge as the only hero of the fray, pleasing Hillary’s friends for saving her from the final ignominy, and pleasing conservatives for at last putting the Clintons on ice for good and proper.
• Wesley Pruden is editor in chief emeritus of The Times.