My vote, ex­plained

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - OPINION - Charles Krautham­mer Colum­nist Charles Krautham­mer is syn­di­cated by the Wash­ing­ton Post Writ­ers Group. His email ad­dress is let­ters@ charleskrautham­

I didn’t need the Wiki files to op­pose Hil­lary Clin­ton. As a con­ser­va­tive, I have long dis­agreed with her world­view and the poli­cies that flow from it.

The case against Hil­lary Clin­ton could have been writ­ten be­fore the re­cent Wik­iLeaks and FBI dis­clo­sures. But these doc­u­ments do pro­vide hard tex­tual backup.

The most sen­sa­tional dis­clo­sure was the pro­posed deal be­tween the State Depart­ment and the FBI in which the FBI would de­clas­sify a Hil­lary Clin­ton email and State would give the FBI more slots in over­seas sta­tions. What made it sen­sa­tional was the rare ap­pear­ance in an of­fi­cial ac­count of the phrase “quid pro quo,” which is the cur­rently agreedupon di­vid­ing line be­tween ac­cept­able and un­ac­cept­able cor­rup­tion.

This is nonethe­less an odd choice for most egre­gious of­fense. First, it oc­curred sev­eral lay­ers re­moved from the cam­paign and from Clin­ton. It in­volved a ca­reer State Depart­ment of­fi­cial (he oc­cu­pied the same po­si­tion un­der Con­doleezza Rice) cov­er­ing not just for Clin­ton but for his own depart­ment.

Sec­ond, it’s not clear which side orig­i­nally of­fered the bar­gain. Third, noth­ing tan­gi­ble was sup­posed to ex­change hands. There was no pro­posed per­sonal en­rich­ment — a Rolex in re­turn for your soul — which tends to be our stan­dard for pun­ish­able mis­con­duct.

And fi­nally, it never ac­tu­ally hap­pened. The FBI turned down the de­clas­si­fi­ca­tion re­quest.

In sum, a warm gun but non­smok­ing. In­deed, if the phrase “quid pro quo” hadn’t ap­peared, it would have re­ceived lit­tle at­ten­tion. More­over, it ob­scures the real scan­dal — the bot­tom­less cyn­i­cism of the cam­paign and of the can­di­date.

Among dozens of ex­am­ples, the Qatari gam­bit. Qatar, one of the worst ac­tors in the Mid­dle East (hav­ing fi­nan­cially sup­ported the Is­lamic State, for ex­am­ple), of­fered $1 mil­lion as a “birth­day” gift to Bill Clin­ton in re­turn for five min­utes of his time. Who of­fers — who takes — $200,000 a minute? We don’t know the “quid” here, but it’s got to be big.

In the fi­nal de­bate, Clin­ton ran and hid when asked about pay-for-play at the Clin­ton Foun­da­tion. And for good rea­son. The emails re­veal how foun­da­tion donors were first in line for fa­vors and con­tracts.

A gov­er­nance re­view by an out­side law firm re­ported that some donors “may have an ex­pec­ta­tion of quid pro quo ben­e­fits in re­turn for gifts.” You need an out­side law firm to tell you that? If your Sul­tanic heart bleeds for Haiti, why not give to Haiti di­rectly? Be­cause if you give through the Clin­tons, you have a claim on fu­ture fa­vors.

The soul­less­ness of this cam­paign — all am­bi­tion and en­ti­tle­ment — emerges al­most poignantly in the emails, es­pe­cially when aides keep ask­ing what the cam­paign is about. In one largely over­looked pas­sage, Clin­ton com­plains that her speech­writ­ers have not given her any over­all theme or ra­tio­nale. Isn’t that the can­di­date’s job? Asked one of her aides, Joel Be­nen­son: “Do we have any sense from her what she be­lieves or wants her core mes­sage to be?”

It’s that empti­ness at the core that makes ev­ery pol­icy and po­si­tion ne­go­tiable and po­lit­i­cally cal­cu­la­ble. Hence the em­bar­rass­ing about-face on the Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship af­ter the pop­u­lar winds swung de­ci­sively against free trade.

So too with fi­nan­cial reg­u­la­tion, as in Dodd-Frank. As she told a Gold­man Sachs gath­er­ing, af­ter the fi­nan­cial col­lapse there was “a need to do some­thing be­cause, for po­lit­i­cal rea­sons ... you can’t sit idly by and do noth­ing.”

Giv­ing the ap­pear­ance that some­thing had to be done. That’s not why El­iz­a­beth War­ren sup­ported Dodd-Frank. Which is the dif­fer­ence be­tween a con­vic­tion politi­cian like War­ren and a cal­cu­lat­ing ma­chine like Clin­ton.

Of course, we knew all this. But we hadn’t seen it so clearly laid out. Il­licit and il­le­gal as is Wik­iLeaks, it is the cam­era in the sausage fac­tory. And what it re­veals is sur­pass­ingly un­pretty.

I didn’t need the Wiki files to op­pose Hil­lary Clin­ton. As a con­ser­va­tive, I have long dis­agreed with her world­view and the poli­cies that flow from it. As for char­ac­ter, I have watched her long enough to find her deeply flawed, to the point of un­fit­ness. But for those hereto­fore un­per­suaded, the re­cent dis­clo­sures should close the case.

A case so strong that, against any of a dozen pos­si­ble GOP can­di­dates, vot­ing for her op­po­nent would be a no-brainer. Against Don­ald Trump, how­ever, it’s a dilemma. I will not vote for Hil­lary Clin­ton. But, as I’ve ex­plained in these col­umns, I could never vote for Don­ald Trump.

The only ques­tion is whose name I’m go­ing to write in. With Al­bert Sch­weitzer dou­bly un­avail­able (nonci­t­i­zen, dead), I’m down to Paul Ryan or Ben Sasse. Two weeks to de­cide.

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