The announcement by the Federal Bureau of Investigation that it will continue to look into the activities of the Clinton Foundation makes it now likely that the Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton will face a criminal indictment. The F.B.I’s decision was brought about by wide opposition among rank and file agents to the intervention of the Obama Justice Department which attempted to shut off further investigation. As a result, the U.S. is now facing the prospect of electing a president who might be subject to a legal indictment for the first time since Richard Nixon was nominated by the Republican Party under the impending cloud of Watergate in 1972.
R.Nixon [photo www.mentalfloss.com]
The Democratic Party had a good chance to avoid this predicament and also to defeat Donald Trump by nominating Senator Bernie Sanders. Sanders had led an insurgent movement dedicated to ending crony capitalism and the influence of money in government. Not only did the Democratic Committee pass up that chance, but it colluded with the Hillary Clinton campaign by a variety of means to sideline Sanders and deliver the nomination to Clinton.
Since then, information has come to light revealing that the DNC cooperated with representatives of the main-stream media to show debate questions to Hillary Clinton before the debates, both in the primaries and later against Donald Trump. When this information was made public, CNN expressed its “extreme discomfort” and severed its connection with Donna Brazile, the Acting Head of the DNC. Brazile in turn had been appointed as interim head of the DNC, replacing Debbie Wasserman Schultz who had been forced to resign following revelations that she colluded to eliminate Sanders. In addition, revelations have also been brought to light that the DNC engaged “consultants” who specialized in “dirty tricks” to foment violence at Trump rallies. Finally, by delegating the ongoing investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server to a close Clinton loyalist at the Justice Department, the Obama Administration is supporting attempts on the part of the Justice Department and the Department of State to shield Hillary Clinton from possible criminal indictment. These actions have confirmed the public perception that Hillary Clinton will stop at nothing to get elected and that the Obama Administration has joined the DNC in tying its reputation to Clinton’s candidacy.
Such machinations obviously have a destructive effect on American democracy. Major institutions have been politicized, including the Departments of State and Justice, while at the same time the independence of the F.B.I. is under attack. The media itself are tainted with the charge of favoring Clinton’s candidacy. Two networks are dominant, one generally supportive of Clinton (CNN) and the other critical of her (Fox News.) What private citizens believe is often determined by which television network they watch. Nevertheless, cracks have begun to appear in the camps, perhaps as various news teams have started to act in accordance with their beliefs, as a result of the changing public perceptions— for example, CNN’s severing contact with the DNC over its collusion with Clinton.
On specific issues, if I were voter in the state of Arizona and had just seen my health insurance premiums go up by 116%, I would feel that Obama Care, the Obama health insurance plan, is not worth defending in its present state. Donald Trump’s call for complete repeal has the virtue of simplicity, but as a businessman, Trump practices the known commercial strategy of initially stating his most extreme position while being willing to modify it in negotiations, so that his initial position will not be his final one. The same applies to all of Trump’s positions, including “the wall.”
It is on the question of war that I think Trump is in starkest contrast to Clinton. Clinton is an unregenerate hawk. She voted for the Iraq war, and has never really condemned it. As Secretary of State, she did much to influence Obama to intervene in Libya, and when Quadafy was removed and assassinated she fairly gloated over his corpse. “We came, we saw, he died,” she said with a laugh. On Syria, Clinton seems intent on repeating her interventionist mistakes, calling for a no-fly zone that would thrust the U.S. into the position of overt armed intervention and would risk military confrontation with Russia.
For Clinton, Russia has become the new bug-bear. All the evil in the world is attributable to Putin. But a former Secretary of State should know that it is necessary to keep dialogue open even with nations we consider to be our adversaries. In this respect, Trump seems to have a more reasoned view— focusing on the potential benefit of Russian and American cooperation, particularly with respect to Syria and the Middle East. But in the growing climate of intolerance which Clinton herself is fostering, in true McCarthyite fashion, cooperation with Russia is identified as treason.
However bitterly this election has been fought, the outcome it may not actually be decisive. Whatever the outcome, the victorious party may attempt to subject its opponents to criminal investigation, and its success in doing so will be determined by its ability to control the Congress. The institutions of government are strongly politicized. Thus if Clinton wins and the Republicans retain one house of Congress, the gridlock in Washington will continue. If Trump wins and the Republicans keep Congress, gridlock will end and the Republicans will be in control. If that happens, look for an investigation to be freely pursued to indict Clinton.
Donald Trump himself is not immune from criminal prosecution, for example over the fact that the now defunct Trump University allegedly defrauded students. But the possibility of Trump being under indictment seems more remote. The Democrats would need a majority of the House toimpeach Trump and the votes would not be there if the Republicans remain in control as now seems likely.
But the shadowy activity of the Clinton Foundation provides a far more fertile field for criminal investigation. Even if Clinton wins and the election is not contested—two important caveats—the recent announcements from the F.B.I. now make it likely that Hillary Clinton will be not be safe from criminal indictment even upon entering the Oval office.
For me, as an American, I am not happy to elect a president who is subject to criminal indictments. I had that experience in 1974, and I am not eager to have it again.
Though Trump’s statements and many of his alleged actions have indeed been reprehensible, I think they are less dangerous than the widespread culture of corruption that is the aura surrounding Clinton. Trump’s reckless though apparently unpremeditated statements about women, Mexicans and other immigrant groups are deeply disquieting, but their inherent danger pales in comparison to that of electing someone who seems physically unable to tell the truth. To speak moderately is a skill you can learn. But being honest is not a skill to be learned or taught.
U.S President John F. Kennedy, 1963 (AP Photo)
Whatever the immediate outcome of this election, the task of rebuilding America will be a long one— it will last longer than one president’s term in office and perhaps longer than a generation. Under a Trump administration, the U.S. has a chance to make a start. The Clinton cronies will be dismissed from office, and the task of restoring the independence of our institutions can begin. On the contrary, a vote for Clinton guarantees essentially no change.
Lyndon Johnson and Richard Russel [photo www.wikiwand.com]
I have never in my life voted for a republican candidate for president. The first vote I cast was for John F. Kennedy in 1960. I voted for Lyndon Johnson in 1964, which I thought was a vote for peace, only to see it be used as a mandate for an enlarged American involvement in the Vietnam war. I lived through the trauma of seeing the peace candidate Robert Kennedy assassinated on the eve of being nominated as the democratic candidate in 1968, and later that fall I held my nose and voted for Johnson’s vice-president Hubert Humphrey. I have voted for every Democratic candidate for president since 1960, except that I voted for Ralph Nader in 1996 instead of voting to reelect Bill Clinton. (I sensed something was going wrong even then.) But in the whole of the previous century I have never seen anything like the violation of the law that has been perpetrated by the Clinton Establishment in the years since Bill Clinton’s presidency.
Speaking of third parties and protest votes, I find Jill Stein of the Green Party most closely reflects my position on most issues, including climate change and foreign policy, particularly the unthinking American support for Israel. Dr. Stein herself offered the leadership of the Green Party to Bernie Sanders if he would abandon the Democrats and bring his supporters with him. But third party movements in America have never amounted to anything but protest movements, with the possible exception of Teddy Roosevelt’s in 1912. Bernie Sanders turned down Dr. Stein’s offer, no doubt estimating correctly that he was no T.R. If I were younger, I might vote for Stein in the hope that if the Green Party could get 5% of the vote, it could establish itself as a political party and begin to grow. But that goal is too long-term for me now. I want to see change come to my country in my lifetime. I don’t think America or the world can afford to wait.
I think the greatest obstacle to change in America is the unholy influence of money in politics. Donald Trump has enough money so that he doesn’t need to sell favors. That was the reason I voted for John F. Kennedy in 1960. Voters will not need to be afraid of what Trump will say to investment bankers or that he will say one thing to them behind closed doors and something different to the public. Most importantly, under Trump I think there is less danger of our getting into a general war than there would be with Clinton. Those are the reasons I will vote Republican in 2016.
Elias Kulukundis, New York, November 3, 2016