Hillary Off the Hook (Again;) Donald Steps in it (Again)

by Heather Robinson

By now most of the country knows Hillary Clinton is off the hook, at least technically and for now, in the e-mail scandal and the related Benghazi scandal. A few thoughts.

Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly did an excellent job tonight crystallizing the basic facts involving FBI Director James Comey’s decision not to prosecute Hillary. O’Reilly took what seems a rather confusing subject, due partly perhaps to all of the legalities (what, for instance, is the difference between “Gross negligence” and “extreme carelessness”) and boiled it down. One thing is clear: Hillary shiested big time. Not a revelation, true, but the way O’Reilly’s staff juxtaposed Hillary’s past statements with Comey’s statements highlighted the incontrovertible truth that Hillary didn’t tell the truth.

First, O’Reilly showed footage of Hillary saying none of the e-mails she sent on her private server contained classified information. Then he showed Comey saying that 110 of Hillary’s e-mails on this home brew server contained classified info.

Next O’Reilly showed footage of Hillary saying she used her own server because she didn’t want to carry more than one device, and then footage of Comey saying she used more than one server and more than one device.

Finally he showed footage of Hillary saying she entirely cooperated with the investigation, and turned over all the e-mails in question immediately, then of Comey, saying the FBI found several thousand e-mails that were not among those submitted.

Appalled as I am by the Obama Administration’s handling of Benghazi, I don’t think I entirely grasped the seriousness of the e-mail scandal until now. Of course, I get that classified information needs to be handled with care and a sense of responsibility, but as a journalist and staunch defender of freedom of speech and believer in transparency in government, I’m not a huge fan of classified information to begin with. Also, as a Luddite, I wondered at times if it was possible that Hillary was just sort of, well, confused. I mean, I don’t like managing multiple devices either.

But seeing Hillary’s statements directly contradicted by the FBI director’s brought to light a simple truth. Even if one were to believe Hillary and give her benefit of the doubt, that she didn’t know she was exposing classified information to hackers, etc., there is no getting past her statement that she wanted to use just one device (and that that was the reason she wasn’t using official govt e-mail), but in fact she was using multiple devices and servers.

Meanwhile, the Donald has been declaring the fix is in, which it probably is. More troubling have been his recent Twitter escapades, including his Tweet of an image of Hillary with piles of money in the background and a six pointed star (the Star of David or, as it is incorrectly referred to, a Jewish star) superimposed. This goofiness set off a media firestorm here New York City, with a New York Observer reporter writing an opinion piece in The Observer directed to her boss, Jared Kushner (Trump’s son-in-law who owns the paper), urging him to not just “stand there in the background smiling” while The Don Tweets classical anti-Semitism. Kushner, a newsman himself, replied in his own opinion piece, that his father-in-law is not an anti-Semite.

A few thoughts about this.

Perception is a funny thing. When I read the first opinion piece, I was all fired up and agreed with its author, Dana Schwartz. The Tweet is offensive and seems obviously anti-Semitic. and big props to her for noteworthy guts in standing her ground publicly – and calling her boss out, no less. But after I read Kushner’s piece I  was also compelled to consider his points: how could his father-in-law be an anti-Semite when he loves his convert Jewish daughter, his Jewish grandchildren, and has always welcomed them? When Kushner suggests in his piece that Trump Tweeted the offensive thing without carefully vetting it because his campaign is “fast-moving,” it struck me as credible. As the entire country knows by now, Trump doesn’t carefully or cautiously weigh his words and doesn’t cautiously Tweet. One of the most distinctive features of his personality is what appears to be a total lack of self-doubt. That’s part of what many Americans love about him: more than any other candidate who has ever run for President (at least in my lifetime), he comes across as real, unscripted, and determined to tell the truth as he sees it.

Anyway, the Tweet was creepy. After reading Kushner’s piece (and kudos to him for responding with his own thoughts and an intelligent response), I am willing to give Trump the benefit of the doubt that it wasn’t intended to send an anti-Semitic message (though it does), and that he and his campaign may have rushed to get something out there and not realized its implications. at least they took it down.

But as was the case when Trump oddly, during an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, declined to disavow the endorsement of the Ku Klux Klan’s David Duke, he makes it very difficult for reasonable people to know what to make of his bizarre choices. My hunch is Trump is not a true racist or anti-Semite (and Kushner’s point that those terms are overused, watering down their usefulness and rendering us mute when real bigotry presents, is well taken), Trump still seems oddly disinclined to strongly repudiate either. That could be (and I suspect it is) because he doesn’t want to appear to be kowtowing to political correctness. But a stopped clock is right twice a day, there are authentic examples of racism and anti-Semtism, and from his position of strength over his followers, Trump does have an opportunity to clearly repudiate bona fide hatred and bigotry (such as that peddled by the KKK) and seems pretty reluctant to do so.

Not good.



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