Politics, et Cetera
A publication from The Political Forum, LLC
Tuesday, July 6, 2016
They Said It:
What was not known formerly, what is known, or might be known today: a reversion, a return in any sense or degree is simply not possible. We physiologists know that. Yet all priests and moralists have believed the opposite — they wanted to take mankind back, to screw it back, to a former measure of virtue. . . . Even the politicians have aped the preachers of virtue at this point: today too there are still parties whose dream it is that all things might walk backwards like crabs. But no one is free to be a crab. Nothing avails: one must go forward — step by step further into decadence (that is my definition of modern “progress”). One can check this development and thus dam up degeneration, gather it and make it more vehement and sudden: more than this one cannot do.
Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols, 1889.
FURTHER INTO DECADENCE.
Over the past several years, it has been the tradition of The Political Forum not to publish a newsletter in the week of the Independence Day holiday. Last year, we broke with tradition because of an important developing story – the decision by Donald Trump to enter the presidential race as a candidate for the Republican nomination. We break tradition again this year to comment on another important developing story, one not entirely unrelated to last year’s story, namely the death of the Great American Experiment.
Sadly, this is a story we expected to write – at some point – given the recent developments in the realm of American politics. We weren’t sure when we would write it, but FBI Director James Comey has made that decision for us. We now fully anticipate that Hillary Clinton will be elected President of the United States in November, thereby affirming the new American reality that the rule of law is an archaic and obsolete notion that has no place in the governance of this once-great country. The only thing standing in her way at this point, is the aforementioned Donald Trump, who claims to want to make the country great again, but doesn’t seem to know how to do so or even, for that matter, what made it great in the first place. The American people will, of course, be complicit in the destruction of the nation which Lincoln once called “the last great hope of man.” This fall, they will elect to the highest office in the land a woman who not only violated the law (on countless occasions, we’d argue), but did so willfully and knowingly, placing the nation and its national security in danger on countless occasions.
This story has many facets and will, indeed, grow, both in scope and importance, as the days, weeks, and months pass. For now, though, we want to make just a few comments. First, there can be little doubt what happened last week on the runway in Phoenix. The official story, of course, is pure BS. Physically, Bill Clinton is a shadow of his former self, a heart patient forced by his quack doctors to give up all that is right and good in the universe and to eat a vegan diet. He is frail and lifeless looking. All of which is to say that the idea that he just happened to be in Arizona last week to “play golf” in the 100+ weather is laughable. He was there for one reason and one reason alone: to explain to the Attorney General of the United States how things work in Clinton-land.
Various commenters and observers have noted that Attorney General Loretta Lynch compromised herself by agreeing to meet with Clinton. That’s true, as far as it goes, but then, it’s also true of any woman who has ever met “in private” with our priapic previous president. More to the point, we doubt Lynch had much say in the matter. She could, we suppose, have simply refused the meeting that Clinton clearly orchestrated, but she has her career, her health, and her family to think about. Bill Clinton gave her no choice in the matter.
He also gave her no choice in the matter of Hillary’s legal predicament. Anyone who knows anything about how the Clintons operate knows that this meeting was “secret” in name only. Bill set it up, and he set it up both so that she would appear compromised and so that everyone everywhere would know that he had made his position clear. Lynch may or may not be a partisan hack; we have no idea. But whether she is or not, this meeting proves nothing. This was Bill – and Hillary, by extension – reclaiming the party. It’s the Clintons Democratic Party once again. And anyone who gets in their way will pay the price.
Second, the rule of law is now officially dead in this country. In 1644, the Reverend Samuel Rutherford, published the famous book, Lex Rex, the title of which was meant to convey the idea that the law (Lex) both precedes and supersedes the king (Rex). The title was, a Dave Kopel put it in a Washington Post piece last week, a rebuke to “the royal absolutists who claimed rex est lex loquens — the king is the law speaking.” Kopel continued:
The antecedent for Rutherford’s [principle] was the Old Testament. There, the definition of the Hebrew nation is the people who live according to the law given by God. The Anglo-American ideal of “the rule of law” embodies Rutherford’s principle. The law, not the individual who heads the government, is the supreme ruler. The true source of law is not the king’s will, but God’s will. King-made “law” that is inconsistent with God’s law of natural justice and goodness is mere pretend law, not true law.
Rutherford used the Scholastic model of questions, assertions and arguments. Unlike some other Protestants, Rutherford quoted from and built explicitly on the Thomas Aquinas and other Catholics, such as the Spanish Second Scholastics Francisco Vitoria and Francisco Suárez. Like the Scholastics, Rutherford paid great attention to Aristotle and to the political history of ancient Greece and Rome.
He agreed with the Scholastics that man was by natural birth free. “Every man by nature is a freeman born, that is, by nature no man cometh out of the womb under any civil subjugation to king, prince, or judge, to master, captain, conqueror, teacher, &c.” Accordingly, sovereignty was inherent in the people, and was only conditionally granted to kings by the people.
The principles explicated by Rutherford – and passed down to him by Aquinas, the Greeks, the Romans, and the entire Judeo-Christian tradition – also formed the foundation for Jefferson’s pronouncements in the Declaration of Independence. It is ironic yet somehow fitting that the death of the American Rule of Law should come the day after the nation celebrated the 240th anniversary of its birth.
Given all of this, the extraordinary statement made yesterday by FBI Director James Comey is all the more depressing and unnerving. Comey explained at the top of his statement that he wanted to accomplish three things: to explain the purpose of the investigation, to explain what the investigation had discovered, and then to explain what the FBI had decided based on the information it had learned. The Director’s first two objectives were quickly and deftly accomplished, but his third was a case study in convoluted thinking, political manipulation, and the undermining of the rule of law. Consider, if you will the following excerpts (emphasis added):
Our investigation looked at whether there is evidence classified information was improperly stored or transmitted on that personal system, in violation of a federal statute making it a felony to mishandle classified information either intentionally or in a grossly negligent way, or a second statute making it a misdemeanor to knowingly remove classified information from appropriate systems or storage facilities.
Consistent with our counterintelligence responsibilities, we have also investigated to determine whether there is evidence of computer intrusion in connection with the personal e-mail server by any foreign power, or other hostile actors. . . .
From the group of 30,000 e-mails returned to the State Department, 110 e-mails in 52 e-mail chains have been determined by the owning agency to contain classified information at the time they were sent or received. Eight of those chains contained information that was Top Secret at the time they were sent; 36 chains contained Secret information at the time; and eight contained Confidential information, which is the lowest level of classification. Separate from those, about 2,000 additional e-mails were “up-classified” to make them Confidential; the information in those had not been classified at the time the e-mails were sent.
The FBI also discovered several thousand work-related e-mails that were not in the group of 30,000 that were returned by Secretary Clinton to State in 2014. We found those additional e-mails in a variety of ways. Some had been deleted over the years and we found traces of them on devices that supported or were connected to the private e-mail domain. Others we found by reviewing the archived government e-mail accounts of people who had been government employees at the same time as Secretary Clinton, including high-ranking officials at other agencies, people with whom a Secretary of State might naturally correspond.
This helped us recover work-related e-mails that were not among the 30,000 produced to State. Still others we recovered from the laborious review of the millions of e-mail fragments dumped into the slack space of the server decommissioned in 2013.
With respect to the thousands of e-mails we found that were not among those produced to State, agencies have concluded that three of those were classified at the time they were sent or received, one at the Secret level and two at the Confidential level. There were no additional Top Secret e-mails found. Finally, none of those we found have since been “up-classified.”. . .
It is also likely that there are other work-related e-mails that they did not produce to State and that we did not find elsewhere, and that are now gone because they deleted all e-mails they did not return to State, and the lawyers cleaned their devices in such a way as to preclude complete forensic recovery. . . .
Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.
For example, seven e-mail chains concern matters that were classified at the Top Secret/Special Access Program level when they were sent and received. These chains involved Secretary Clinton both sending e-mails about those matters and receiving e-mails from others about the same matters. There is evidence to support a conclusion that any reasonable person in Secretary Clinton’s position, or in the position of those government employees with whom she was corresponding about these matters, should have known that an unclassified system was no place for that conversation. In addition to this highly sensitive information, we also found information that was properly classified as Secret by the U.S. Intelligence Community at the time it was discussed on e-mail (that is, excluding the later “up-classified” e-mails).
None of these e-mails should have been on any kind of unclassified system, but their presence is especially concerning because all of these e-mails were housed on unclassified personal servers not even supported by full-time security staff, like those found at Departments and Agencies of the U.S. Government—or even with a commercial service like Gmail.
Separately, it is important to say something about the marking of classified information. Only a very small number of the e-mails containing classified information bore markings indicating the presence of classified information. But even if information is not marked “classified” in an e-mail, participants who know or should know that the subject matter is classified are still obligated to protect it.
With respect to potential computer intrusion by hostile actors, we did not find direct evidence that Secretary Clinton’s personal e-mail domain, in its various configurations since 2009, was successfully hacked. But, given the nature of the system and of the actors potentially involved, we assess that we would be unlikely to see such direct evidence. We do assess that hostile actors gained access to the private commercial e-mail accounts of people with whom Secretary Clinton was in regular contact from her personal account. We also assess that Secretary Clinton’s use of a personal e-mail domain was both known by a large number of people and readily apparent. She also used her personal e-mail extensively while outside the United States, including sending and receiving work-related e-mails in the territory of sophisticated adversaries. Given that combination of factors, we assess it is possible that hostile actors gained access to Secretary Clinton’s personal e-mail account.
By the FBI Director’s own admissions then, what we have here are both felony and misdemeanor violations of statutes that clearly DO NOT require the explicit intent by violators to compromise classified information. Director Comey is explicit in describing the violations and in describing the lack of intent, DESPITE THE FACT THAT, UNDER THE LAW, INTENT IS ENTIRELY IRRELEVANT. As the former Assistant U.S. Attorney Andy McCarthy put it:
It is a common tactic of defense lawyers in criminal trials to set up a straw-man for the jury: a crime the defendant has not committed. The idea is that by knocking down a crime the prosecution does not allege and cannot prove, the defense may confuse the jury into believing the defendant is not guilty of the crime charged. Judges generally do not allow such sleight-of-hand because innocence on an uncharged crime is irrelevant to the consideration of the crimes that actually have been charged.
It seems to me that this is what the FBI has done today. It has told the public that because Mrs. Clinton did not have intent to harm the United States we should not prosecute her on a felony that does not require proof of intent to harm the United States. Meanwhile, although there may have been profound harm to national security caused by her grossly negligent mishandling of classified information, we’ve decided she shouldn’t be prosecuted for grossly negligent mishandling of classified information.
Given all of this, we think that it’s fairly safe to assume that the Clinton family will be restored to power in January. FBI Director Comey made it clear that Hillary is not only dishonest, but shockingly unconcerned about the security of the country. Meanwhile, Bill himself made it clear that the family is not just corrupt, but completely unembarrassed and unapologetic about it, willing to employ/practice its corruption openly. And in four months the American people will make it clear that they just don’t give a damn.
We know that there are cases that can be made that Donald Trump will, in fact, beat back the Clinton Restoration this fall and even that he will do so in dramatic fashion. Some days, we actually believe those cases – at least until reality intrudes. The fact of the matter is that Hillary Clinton is a terrible politician, running a terrible campaign, premised on a terrible idea. That said, she is running a campaign against a man with terrific political instincts, but who has bitterly divided the party he now represents, who has refused to run a competent, professional campaign, and who is quite easily caricatured as a threat to global, national, and personal security.
More to the point, Hillary Clinton enjoys all of the structural advantages that Democrats have these days, plus a few that Republicans once enjoyed. Hillary has the support of the mainstream press. She has the near-unanimous support of minority and unmarried voters. And perhaps most important, she has the support of the big money donors who see her manifest corruption as a feature, not a bug. Republicans were once the party of “big business,” but it is clear that in today’s atmosphere, and especially in this campaign, the nation’s biggest businesses – from Silicon Valley to Wall Street – are “ready for Hillary!” Last year, in a piece titled “Clinton Rules, the More Obvious the Corruption, the Better,” we put it this way:
As the late great, New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan explained some 22 years ago, American’s have defined deviancy down. Dishonesty, sleaze, and degeneracy have become the norm. Hell, it is no longer certain that being caught in bed with a dead girl or a live boy – to quote a famous phrase from Edwin Edwards, one of Louisiana’s most famous corrupt governor’s – would necessarily cost a Democrat an election bid.
Well, certainly that’s part of it. But there is a great deal more to it than just that. You see, the important story here – the one that really matters to the future of capitalism and thus to the nation’s financial health – is not that a large percentage of the voting public doesn’t care if Hillary is a “congenital liar.” After all, the legendary William Safire used that very term to describe Hillary said some 20 years ago, and yet she is still the odds-on favorite to win the White House next fall.
No, the really important story here is that Hillary’s dishonesty is in no way a political liability. Indeed, it is the very source of her political strength. To put it another way, those who support her candidacy with millions of dollars of donations do so not in spite of her bald-faced dishonesty, but because of it. To them, her corruption is her principal virtue. . . .
Hillary Clinton is a liar? You bet. And her testimony last week confirmed this, to the delight of her supporters, who not only do not care about her e-mail cover up, but view her efforts on this front as corroboration of her willingness to go to great lengths for the good of the team. Indeed, not only does her duplicity confirm for them her worth as a political player, it also distracts from the real Clinton scandal, that being that there is stunning overlap between those in Big Business who support Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and those who have made her and Bill multi-millionaires through the Clinton Foundation.
Over the next several months, you should see a few things. First and foremost, you should see the big money from big businesses pouring into the Clinton campaign. You should see similarly big money from big businesses and foreign nations pouring into the Clinton Foundation, which is and always has been an arm of the Clinton Family Business. You can also expect that Clinton’s campaign promises will virtually mirror those of her donors. Last week, Hillary released her “high-tech” plan, which numerous commentators noted reads like a “Silicon Valley wish list.” Likewise, you can expect the Big Banks to get their own “wish list” – although probably not until after the convention and after the Bernie-bots have, at long last, been dispatched. Hillary is for sale. They know it. She knows it. And she doesn’t care who else knows it. And if you don’t like it, well . . . who cares? Whaddya gonna do about it?
What all of this means going forward is a mixed bag. Long time readers know that we have spent the better part of the last quarter century warning about the destructive capacity of corruption. Corruption destroys a society. It destroys the social, economic, and political health of those bodies it inhabits. But it does so slowly, over the span of years, even decades, which is part of the reason why people become inured to it, why they convince themselves that it is no big deal.
In the meantime, the immediate crisis will pass. The regime will do whatever its supporters demand, while the entire process of government will continue, apparently uninterrupted. Indeed, the state, the markets, the economy, even the world at large may react positively, believing that a potential crisis has been averted, and that the subsequent approval of the powerful and well-connected will lead to greater near-term stability and prosperity. Mark our words: anyone who is expecting a Hillary-related crash will all but certainly be sorely disappointed. The Big Banks will rally. And why shouldn’t they? The rule of law is not their concern – or at least not their immediate concern. Their “guy” – or gal, in this case – has been cleared and is now ready to do whatever they ask of her. Happy Days are here again.
The people will react likewise, taking it all as a sign that the Restoration is the only thing that can save them and their otherwise unhappy lives. In the preface to the 1979 edition of her classic The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt explained that open and brazen criminality is not sufficient in and of itself to cause a people to turn on a regime/government. Indeed, the opposite is often the case:
No doubt, the fact that totalitarian government, its open criminality notwithstanding, rests on mass support is very disquieting. It is therefore hardly surprising that scholars as well as statesmen often refuse to recognize it, the former by believing in the magic of propaganda and brainwashing, the latter by simply denying it . . . A recent publication of secret reports on German public opinion during the war (from 1939 to 1944), issued by the Security Service of the SS . . . is very revealing in this respect. It shows, first, that the population was remarkably well informed about all so-called secrets – massacres of Jews in Poland, preparation of the attack on Russia, etc. – and, second, the “extent to which the victims of propaganda had remained able to form independent opinions”. . . . However, the point of the matter is that this did not in the least weaken the general support of the Hitler regime. It is quite obvious that mass support for totalitarianism comes neither from ignorance nor from brainwashing.
To be clear: we are in no way comparing Hillary to Hitler or her prospective administration to the Third Reich. Any such comparisons would be ridiculous and overwrought.
The point here, rather, is to note that there is likely very little to be gained by simply repeating the charge that Hillary is a “criminal” or that her dubious exoneration destroys the constitutional order. The people will not care unless and until it affects them personally – which will likely not happen for many years, if not longer. The Pax Romana that followed the end of the Roman Republic lasted some two centuries. As long as Hillary hews tightly to the political agenda that seems to be the most popular – particularly in the face of a non-traditional opponent – her own manifest criminality will not cost her more than a handful of votes, if that.
In time, of course, the bill for this corruption will come due. Neither Hillary nor Bill will pay it, of course. The American people will. Until then, enjoy the ride. The republic is dead. Long live the principate.
Copyright 2016. The Political Forum. 3350 Longview Ct., Lincoln NE 68506, tel. 402-261-3175, fax 402-261-3175. All rights reserved. Information contained herein is based on data obtained from recognized services, issuer reports or communications, or other sources believed to be reliable. However, such information has not been verified by us, and we do not make any representations as to its accuracy or completeness, and we are not responsible for typographical errors. Any statements nonfactual in nature constitute only current opinions which are subject to change without notice.