A dou­ble stan­dard on pro­to­col

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - OPINION - Jonah Gold­berg The Na­tional Re­view Jonah Gold­berg is syn­di­cated by Tri­bune Me­dia Ser­vices.

The word of last week­end was “pro­to­col.”

In de­cid­ing to tell Congress about a new trove of emails that may or may not con­tain clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion and may or may not re­late to Hil­lary Clin­ton, FBI Di­rec­tor James Comey broke Jus­tice Depart­ment pro­to­col both by re­leas­ing in­for­ma­tion close to an elec­tion and by re­veal­ing de­tails of an on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion. It was a “stun­ning breach of pro­to­col,” for­mer At­tor­ney Gen­eral Eric Holder du­ti­fully in­sisted.

Tim Kaine in­voked pro­to­col more than a half-dozen times Sun­day in his in­ter­view with ABC’s Ge­orge Stephanopou­los. “It is just ex­tremely puz­zling,” the Demo­cratic vice pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee said. “Why would you break these two pro­to­cols?”

“Puz­zled” was the run­ner-up word of the week­end; Kaine used it re­peat­edly, as did Clin­ton’s cam­paign man­ager Robby Mook. “We are so puz­zled right now,” Mook told NBC’s Chuck Todd.

Well, let’s try to solve this riddle. Comey’s re­gret­table de­ci­sion is much eas­ier to un­der­stand once you re­al­ize it is one small piece of the larger puz­zle. He made a bad choice — though prob­a­bly the least bad choice of those avail­able to him — pre­cisely be­cause all of the rel­e­vant ac­tors in this sor­did mess have been break­ing pro­to­col for years.

Clin­ton broke all kinds of pro­to­col by set­ting up her stealth server and then ly­ing about it not only in pub­lic but also, I would ar­gue, to Congress. She broke pro­to­col when her aides smashed phones with a ham­mer and erased emails after they were sub­ject to a con­gres­sional sub­poena.

Bill Clin­ton broke pro­to­col when he met with At­tor­ney Gen­eral Loretta Lynch in se­cret while his wife was still un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the FBI. Lynch, smart­ing from her breach of pro­to­col with the for­mer pres­i­dent, widened the breach by re­fus­ing to re­cuse her­self and in­vest­ing in­stead in the FBI di­rec­tor the author­ity to de­cide whether or not to pros­e­cute Hil­lary Clin­ton.

Pres­i­dent Obama broke pro­to­col when he told “60 Min­utes” that Clin­ton — with whom he had cor­re­sponded over an un­se­cure email chan­nel — did noth­ing to en­dan­ger na­tional se­cu­rity long be­fore the in­ves­ti­ga­tion was even con­cluded.

And, of course, the Demo­cratic Party broke not a for­mal pro­to­col but one hell of a rule of thumb by nom­i­nat­ing a woman who car­ries more bag­gage than the cargo hold of the Queen Mary.

“There is a very good ar­gu­ment — I would say, an ir­refutable ar­gu­ment — that Comey should never have pro­nounced that the Clin­ton emails in­ves­ti­ga­tion was closed (in fact, it would have been ap­pro­pri­ate if he had made no pub­lic state­ment about the in­ves­ti­ga­tion at all),” An­drew McCarthy, a for­mer fed­eral pros­e­cu­tor, writes in Na­tional Re­view. “But hav­ing made that pro­nounce­ment — which, again, Mrs. Clin­ton was thank­ful to have and which she has cease­lessly ex­ploited — he was obliged by law-en­force­ment prin­ci­ples to amend it when it was no longer true.”

And that gets to the heart of it. Comey, by his own hand, as well as with the en­cour­age­ment of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, the me­dia and the Clin­ton In­dus­trial Com­plex, found him­self perched atop an enor­mous moun­tain of crap. Any ef­fort to get off the fetid sum­mit was bound to leave him soiled.

That is what Clin­tons do. They do not care about the breach of pro­to­col, only the reach of pro­to­col. Every­one should be stick­lers for the rules, ex­cept the Clin­tons and their hench­men. That was the story of the Bill Clin­ton ad­min­is­tra­tion, from the fir­ing of the White House travel of­fice through the nu­mer­ous mon­eyrais­ing scan­dals, the im­peach­ment drama and the pres­i­dent’s dis­as­trous last-minute par­dons.

They force their al­lies to sell off bits and pieces of their cred­i­bil­ity de­fend­ing the in­de­fen­si­ble, while in­sist­ing their crit­ics are the only ones with bad mo­tives.

We knew it was com­ing when Clin­ton said Fri­day night that Comey sent his let­ter to the “Repub­li­can mem­bers of the House.” That was a dis­tor­tion. He sent it to the rel­e­vant chairs, plus the rel­e­vant rank­ing Democrats. But that is stan­dard pro­to­col in Clin­ton world: De­stroy the mes­sen­ger.

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