Christine Flowers, 7/8/2016 [Archive]

If Nothing Else, FBI Chief Exposed Clinton's Incompetence

By Christine Flowers

When I mentioned that I'd probably vote for Donald Trump if no viable alternative presented itself, dozens of readers begged me to stop writing such ridiculous and/or dangerous things.

While the opinion of one columnist might not create a seismic shift among voters, there is someone who could make a very definite difference in who becomes our next president.

His name is James Comey, and his day job is running the FBI. At night, he's a standup comedian and impressionist. This week, he put on a fabulous show, which left millions of America in stitches as he impersonated someone who actually felt comfortable refusing to file charges against Hillary Clinton over her emails.

One of the most hilarious moments came when he said, "Although there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case." His eyelid didn't twitch once, and he didn't even crack his knuckles. It was a fabulous impersonation of a man who was comfortable in his skin. Genius, really.

As I watched Comey explain why Clinton was going to dodge a bullet (no wonder she's in favor of gun control,) I couldn't help feeling I was viewing one of those hostage videos where they have the poor soul staring into the camera, saying how happy he was to be kneeling on the ground about to be killed. There was no escaping the fact that while his mouth was saying no, no charges will be filed, his eyes were saying yes, she's a lying and incompetent charlatan. The problem is that, in this context, it took a lot more than just the letter of the law to justify an indictment.

Of course, many conservatives don't see it that way. Most conservatives were apoplectic that Clinton was spared a prosecution, seeing it as some conspiracy among Loretta Lynch, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and Huma Abedin. They pointed to David Petraeus, who received probation and fines (through a plea bargain) after he shared classified information and bodily fluids with his "biographer." They kept posting the language of the statute under which Hillary could have been charged and which required something less than intent, namely, gross negligence. They pointed out that she had deliberately lied to the American people by saying she had never sent any classified information, when, in fact, she had, and knew she had.

They have some very strong points, there.

But I understand why Comey decided against charging her, and I really don't think it had anything to do with a backroom conspiracy. This is a unique circumstance, in which the target of an investigation is a major party's presumptive nominee.

We are four months from an election. If the charges were filed, Clinton's camp would go into full spin mode and (1) claim sexism; (2) resurrect the vast right-wing conspiracy meme; (3) complain we wanted her to stay home and bake cookies; (4) point to this as revenge for skating on Benghazi; and all sorts of other typical Hillary things that have nothing to do with the truth and everything to do with blaming others for her incompetence.

And here is where Comey, unlike yours truly, can really have some impact. By not indicting Clinton but labeling her as "extremely careless" and, essentially, calling her a liar who quite possibly allowed foreign enemies to access sensitive materials, he has shredded her faežade of competence.

Clinton has been setting herself up as the "sane" one, the woman who was a pro on the world stage.

Comey has basically shown that she is a spectacular screw-up, at least from that perspective.

There will still be true believers who won't care. But for those on the fence, Comey's unprecedented takedown could very well be a political wake-up call.

And that could make much more of a difference than any watered-down plea bargain, a la Petraeus.

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© 2016 Christine Flowers. Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News, and can be reached at cflowers1961@gmail.com.

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