**So these last two sections don’t involve much actual reporting, but my unsolicited thoughts and opinions on our government, the media and the election. We likely have some different views, but here are my thoughts, and I hope they provide a valuable, or at least interesting, perspective**
13) If Hillary is not indicted, should the email scandal still change my vote?
This is the real question, isn’t it? And depending on who you are, everything you have just read might’ve been thrown out the window the moment you saw the picture above (sorry Ted).
There is no easy answer to this question, but we must be forced to reckon with what issues are important to us, and which candidate can deliver on those issues.
The Hillary Clinton email scandal is above all a character assessment, where she has undeniably demonstrated shades of being dishonest, untrustworthy and deceitful. And that character assessment is alive and well in the polls, but not at the ballot box. As of Tuesday night, she has virtually secured the Democratic nomination for President (absent an indictment).
But the scandal is more importantly a reminder of how powerful monetary incentives can be in guiding decision-making, even when lives are at stake. Incentives so powerful that Hillary would put her career at risk to not uncover them. The Benghazi coverup could even be seen as simply another one of Hillary’s speaking fees, but this time she was paid to stay quiet.
If Bernie Sanders ultimately does not capture the Democratic nomination – this picture above is the biggest tragedy of the 2016 Presidential nomination process. And now I understand how much that handshake meant to her. Because it meant the 8 months of investigation and evidence would be thrown out the window during the Democratic primary. And that’s precisely what happened. The evidence was so damning by the end of last September and the Republicans were so convinced this would topple her that they were saying –
The only concern is whether or not this will actually cause any problems for her presidential campaign. It’s still Fall 2015 and the election isn’t for a year (that’s of course if she makes it past the Democratic primary). The only way for this to stay in the public’s eye is for the GOP to keep hammering away on this so the public doesn’t forget.
Bernie Sanders proudly declared in the first Democratic debate in October that he wouldn’t attack Hillary for the email scandal, and said what was probably in all our minds, that we were tired of hearing about it. I applauded Bernie at the time. But I realize now what a fatal mistake that was. Because it affirmed what the Democratic base wanted to believe, that she was truly innocent and this was all a partisan attack, rather than just finding out the truth. Or at least asking a couple more questions (like our dearest Lincoln Chaffee). And so we’ve gone 4.5 months with absolutely no media coverage of a scandal that could force the presumptive nominee to bow out before the Democratic National Convention. What’s happening.
But not only did Bernie forfeit a serious challenge for the Democratic nomination by failing to capitalize on Hillary’s most glaring weakness (still got my vote), he gave up the opportunity to ask the same questions I have. If he had only treated this as a serious issue, which all the intelligence at the time was telling him to do, how powerful would his main argument have been – that Hillary Clinton only represents wealthy contributors. Even when Americans have died because of them.
Perhaps most importantly, he has robbed the nation, and Hillary, of the chance to see how she would defend herself against the exact legal playbook outlined in this article. She has not had to seriously answer any questions regarding this scandal so far. And now she will likely be interrogated on TV by someone who is a self-proclaimed lawsuit enthusiast or a former solicitor general who has won 2 cases before the Supreme Court. We’ll see how she does.
Just like we’ll see how she holds up if the GOP nominee re-hashes some of the Clinton family’s even more incriminating scandals. The most high profile being the famous Whitewater scandal of the 80’s-90’s involving fraudulent bank loans in Arkansas. Hillary was not only accused of destroying evidence at the time (seems to be a pattern here), but was even involved in a suspicious death in the process (jesus christ).
But how incredible would this story be if whether or not Hillary can run for President, or be fined/imprisoned, has to be decided by our now even-numbered Supreme Court? Not the first time the Supreme Court has chosen our President (*cough* Bush v. Gore).
But let’s also please not forget that a Hillary Clinton presidency will mostly likely be up against a Republican-controlled House of Representatives and Senate. Both chambers of Congress! If you think the Republicans were obstructionist during Obama’s presidency, wait till they spend every minute trying to impeach the new President.
If our democracy truly worked and in this 2016 election we didn’t have an:
- obviously unfair Democratic primary debate schedule,
- a super-delegate system that was created at it’s inception to do exactly what it’s doing now now – to let the party select the candidate not the American people,
- an almost weekly revelation of suspected election fraud in the primary elections that have always ended up helping the same candidate,
- and most importantly, a national news media establishment that is so inextricably tied financially to this candidate that you’ve been left very in the dark about a federal criminal investigation into this candidate for the entire primary election.
If we didn’t have any of those things then I believe Bernie Sanders would have had a much better go of things with this Democratic primary.
To be fair I’m writing this in March, and Clinton just came off some big wins…it looks like she is poised to be the nominee. I don’t know how the rest of the primary will end up, but it seems like Clinton will win even though more and more are Feelin the Bern. That is absent a federal indictment. This is why this work is so important . Because in the likelihood that the FBI/DOJ let politics come before the law, the American people will not think that was so. And this is only due to a lack of information. It will only be because we have been conditioned for over a year from the news organizations that tell us what is happening in the world to believe this entire controversy is a partisan, right-wing conspiracy meant to go after Hillary Clinton.
But if, as a nation, we again accept that our justice system and national media are deeply flawed, what do we do now if the current trends hold true and we find ourselves in America’s saddest election – Donald Trump versus Hillary Clinton?
You’re not telling me to vote for Donald Trump are you?
I’m not telling you to vote for anyone.
The Democratic and Republican parties have fallen neatly across social issues (gay marriage, guns, abortion, affirmative action etc) and have completely obscured to the American people how the two are largely identical when it comes to foreign policy, trade and the economy (perhaps the topic of a future article). This is something I hope the Clinton v. Trump debates will bring out.
You may ultimately feel compelled to use your vote to at least advance particular social issues, or at least not regress on them, even if the candidate you are voting for may be worse on an issue that more materially affects your life. And that’s okay.
But I urge you to not internalize the narrative of Trump as anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-women, pro-wig etc, and use it as an excuse to not ask the important questions to Hillary on the issues. Especially in lieu of this scandal.
Does Hillary’s financial connection, and protection, of Saudi Arabia (amongst other countries) disqualify her from being able to make necessary, substantive changes to our relationship with the Saudi Kingdom (much like Wall Street)? Will Donald Trump be any more effective at making these changes? To what degree does her support for Saudi Arabia undermine her claim to be a champion for women’s rights? To consistently protect and take money from a country that won’t even let women drive, amongst other ridiculous things.
But even then, how important is changing our relationship with Saudi Arabia to our overall domestic or foreign policy goals and objectives? There needs to be much more research done on this question (it almost certainly has been), I may even be changing my perspective on the Keystone XL Pipeline or fracking if the Saudi oil chain around our necks is really this strong. But if Hillary survives this scandal, she will have gone to hell and back to not let the true nature of our relationship with the Saudi’s be known. And I don’t think she would have done that without good reason.
Let’s take this one step further.
It seems fair to assume that Hillary will not be as effective a Commander-in-Chief against ISIS if she cannot, (and importantly has not), credibly take on a Saudi King that might be funding them, right? But how important is fighting ISIS relative to other foreign policy priorities? Like Russian aggression in Eastern Europe, Chinese expansion into the South China sea, the proliferation of CBRN capabilities from small state actors like North Korea, taking action on climate change – any number of issues that Hillary Clinton is unquestionably more knowledgeable about and qualified to take on.
But can we trust that she will actually do what’s in the best interest of the country on those issues? What is the best interest of the country to her? What are her motivating factors when making decisions about these issues?
And not just these issues, what are her motivating factors when it comes to some of the more important issues – job creation (Trans-Pacific Partnership), healthcare (Obamacare), Wall Street regulation (Glass-Steagall)
These are the same questions we should be asking Donald Trump.
But more importantly, what really are his motivating factors when he suggests we should temporarily ban all Muslim immigrants coming to the United States? Or when he says we need to secure our border with Mexico by building a wall?
These will probably be my most controversial statements in the article. When we go to ask these questions to Trump or his supporters, I urge everyone to really listen to the answers. Because even if they are not good, I bet they will sound much less racist and xenophobic than you think (why I fell in love with The Onion).
I’m not saying there are not strong racist and xenophobic elements to his proposals – his campaign has undeniably empowered the extreme elements of this country. But that requires you to believe that those are the only elements that have appealed to the over 18 states that have chosen Trump to be their Republican nominee. From states that have significant Hispanic populations like Nevada and Florida, and coming in second in Texas isn’t too bad. Even to much bluer states like Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont. And from the 20% of his supporters who describe themselves as “liberal” or “moderate.”
It’s as though we’ve forgotten that issues like border security intersect so many economic and criminal justice issues that Americans are worried about. Just like we’ve forgotten that it was Hillary Clinton who pushed the 1999 Crime Bill which has done more to create the prison-industrial-complex that has devastated poor and minority communities more than any other policy in the last 30 years.
I was LITERALLY ON one of the piers in San Francisco last summer on July 1st, 2015 – the day that Kathryn Steinle was shot and killed on Pier 16 by an illegal immigrant, Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez. He had already been deported by US law enforcement five times for seven felony convictions but re-entered each time. And there is now a bill in Congress called Kate’s Law which aims to strip cities of their “sanctuary city” status so law enforcement can prosecute illegal immigrants, which Donald Trump has supported.
You don’t think I’ve thought about what if I had been on a different Pier that afternoon? Do you think its unfair for Kate’s parents to demand that their city be tougher on crime, especially from people that have been deported for felonies from the country? Would you blame them if they ended up supporting Donald Trump over Clinton if they think he will take more substantive action on this issue; and in some way it could possibly prevent someone else’s daughter from dying? A decision they would have to make knowing all the unbelievably sexist, and racist rhetoric he has engaged in. A decision that so many Americans have made over time, even though 3 of the 5 Presidents with most regretfully racist rhetoric and action in the post-slavery era were from the Democratic party.
I’m sincerely not trying to use Kate’s death to justify Donald Trump’s platform on immigration, and I have no idea how her parents will vote. My rant is really just a call to recognize that ALL OF US desperately need to see beyond our day-to-day realities and realize that many Americans have different concerns based on the things that are happening in their communities. And we need to stop relegating ALL supporters for Donald Trump as unequivocal racists, because then we can never find common ground on issues that matter to so many Americans regardless of race, gender or religion.
I’m not endorsing Donald Trump by any means. Far from it. Because I find some of his proposals to be deeply problematic even if they are possible, extreme solutions to problems that need to be solved. But given that he will almost certainly win the Republican nomination, we’re gonna have to have a longer conversation about these stands at some point. And unfortunately, good intent behind voting for a flawed candidate does not remove the fact that you would still be voting for a flawed candidate.
But what do you do when you are put in a position with two flawed candidates?
If I vote for Hillary does that mean I also believe that urban youth are “super predators“? Does that mean I also support the public service of US Senator and former KKK member Robert Byrd? Does that mean I also support all the actions of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Boeing etc?
**There is no perfect candidate, and there is no perfect policy**
When we talk about these incredibly complex issues dealing with homeland security and immigration, rarely do we really think, or have honest conversations, about the arguments the other side is making. Our pre-conceived notions of why people may support a policy or a candidate are so strong that we never care to really ask why people feel the way they do.
I sincerely believe this inability to communicate is the reason America has been more polarized than ever, and our unbelievably grid-locked Congress reflects that. When we do communicate, it’s inevitably with people who mostly share our own views. Because we can’t possibly comprehend why someone on the other side would have the views they have. (And what role has the media played in creating this environment..you know what we read, see and hear?)
In my short 22 years of living, the emotion I’ve seen lacking the most in people when discussing politics, on both sides, is empathy. We rarely understand HOW OTHER PEOPLE FEEL but we are great at understanding HOW WE FEEL. And that’s because we all experience reality differently – based on where we were born, how we were raised, who we were raised around, and the opportunities/experiences that were given to us because of that. Because of things that we may not have chosen. But now you are intelligent enough to choose what you believe. And what you think others believe.
Maybe the fact that Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam, supports Donald Trump (very interesting video) highlights how complicated these issues are even amongst Muslims. He obviously does not speak for all Muslims, and may not even represent most of their views – he is in fact an incredibly controversial figure. But he is an influential person with a controversial opinion, and his opinion is formed through a different interpretation of reality than our own. (And just maybe it’s the fact that we have yet to have a serious discussion in twelve GOP primary debates and nine Democratic primary debates about how any Presidential candidate is proposing a legitimate solution to properly screen and vet refugees from Syria, many of whom may be bringing fake passports and fake documentation, amongst other gaps in our vetting process, has something to do with Farrakhan’s opinion) – read this, and this to get better answers on this issue
If I have learned anything from researching the Hillary email scandal – it’s that we want to believe the narrative we are told about one side, because we don’t want to be told the way we understand reality is wrong.
Let’s ask more questions to Donald Trump, Louis Farrakhan, and others, as to why they see the world the way they do.
This brings us back to Hillary Clinton.
When we really ask Hillary about her motivating factors, we should listen earnestly because she is a complex figure who exists beyond this one-dimensional view as a Wall Street puppet. This is a genuine sentiment I’ve gotten from watching so many of the political debates and town-halls, from talking to people who remember her much more clearly in the 90’s than I do, and from just hearing what people across the spectrum have said about her intellect, work ethic and public service.
Let’s not forgot that it was Hillary Clinton who:
- As First Lady – originally took on health insurance companies to create the largest expansion for children’s health insurance
- As Senator – did more than anyone to rebuild New York after 9/11; writing and passing the most comprehensive first-responder aid, mental health support and economic recovery package as well as laying the groundwork for comprehensive immigration reform with the DREAM Act
- As Secretary of State – Created the first global sanctions regime against Iran which brought them to the negotiating table for the historic Iran deal, helped negotiate the cease-fire in Gaza, secured the ratification of the new START treaty to reduce US and Russian nuclear stockpiles, was a central figure in the finding and killing of Osama-bin-Laden etc etc etc
But this article serves as reminder for everyone to ask themselves – what were Hillary Clinton’s motivating factors when asked by Congress why 4 Americans were killed in Benghazi?
I sincerely don’t believe Hillary Clinton intentionally did anything to endanger the lives of these 4 Americans. And I don’t think there is anyone more remorseful for their deaths than her. She is a flawed person, like everyone else.
But her greatest flaw is entrenching herself in a system that rewards action (or inaction) with monetary compensation. And this is a reality that people face with their elected officials all over the world, many so much worse than the United States.
This is why the email scandal is so fascinating, because it reveals what those flaws are, and the tension between being a public servant and a private citizen. Esteemed journalist Bob Woodward said it best.
“Again, it’s the volume: 60,000 emails and Hillary Clinton has said 30,000 of them, half, were personal and they were deleted. Who decided that? What’s on those emails? I would love to have all 60,000, read them. It would be a character study about her personal life and also what she did as secretary of state. And step back for a moment. The big question about Hillary Clinton is, who is she? Is she this secretive hidden person or is she this valiant public servant? Look at those 60,000 emails and you’re going to get some answers.”
Unfortunately we are in a system where action is not possible unless there is a monetary incentive for it. Action for the sake of public service is wistful idealism, and it will take a long time for that system to get there, if ever.
But there is an argument to be made for why having the support of industry and businesses is necessary to craft good legislation, and can be used for the public good, and that Hillary’s seemingly damning ties may be just as much valuable in helping Americans as they seem detrimental.
Let’s hear that argument.