by Alex Knepper
Some of my Facebook debate-club friends have been assailing me in recent days, owing to my repeated defenses of Hillary Clinton in light of the FBI’s highly unorthodox and surprisingly harsh public assessment of her server-related behavior. Because I wish never to speak of this psychologically-draining topic ever again, I will say my piece here — so, I say: this post is what ye shall forever refer to, should the desire emerge to examine my opinion on this matter.
My slightly-embarrassing real motive for being so defensive of Hillary over the server situation on social media — despite also having gone farther than any supporter I know in criticizing her over it! — is not so much my loyalty to her — I am a loyal person, after all, so it is natural that people would assume this — but rather that I think that what she did is really not that big of a deal. If it would disqualify her from being president in certain people’s eyes if she were negligent (in a denotative sense, not a legal one) about a few classified documents — I think it shouldn’t. And if this would land someone else in jail — someone lower down the ladder — I think it shouldn’t! I have grave and well-documented reservations about our nation’s attitude toward to-the-letter punishment and the urge to see someone be turned into an example — especially with regard to our holiest of idols, like ‘privacy,’ and the endless parade of nonsense and delusion surrounding it. Some have shown me cases of people who were fired and had their lives ruined for their mistakes. But for the most part, I don’t think that should have happened to them, either.
Some of my favorite Republican interlocutors tell me I appear to have ‘gone off the rails’ with regard to this situation, because I am insisting on defending her when I could simply choose to remain silent or defer to the easy argument that she’s simply superior to Donald Trump. But I have been supporting her for 15 months — not just since it became a binary choice between her and Trump. No: I know exactly what I am arguing — I know exactly what my motives are for supporting her — I know exactly how I feel about our society’s lust for by-the-book punishment, even when the violation in question ultimately amounts to little of consequence — and if I stand alone on this matter, so be it: I really don’t give a damn about her server, because at the end of the day the presidency is a political post and I want to accomplish certain objectives, and they matter more to me than her or any other nominee’s innermost motives and her supposedly ‘crooked’ behavior — and I know a lot of voters secretly feel the same way. Besides: if we are going to take James Comey seriously, then what Clinton did is simply not something the government prosecutes. People have gotten fired for similar mistakes — but only once in the last century has anyone been prosecuted under the Espionage Act for gross negligence, under far less ambiguous circumstances. To prosecute her would constitute special treatment — not to let her go. The presidency is a political post:let the voters decide if she is disqualified from the presidency.
I support the politicians I do because I see them as vehicles for accomplishing certain tangible goals, especially when it comes to war and peace and the big-picture direction of our culture — and I believe that leaders who produce good results are remembered as good leaders. Nobody honestly gives a damn about who the ethically cleanest president was. They want to know who won the Civil War and preserved our union — who led us through World War II — who restored American confidence in a time of doubt. And in a generation, people will want to know who handled the situation in the Middle East in a realistic way — who showed the resolve and vision necessary to achieve our objectives. Virtually none of the people insisting the server situation should disqualify her from the presidency would be voting for her even if she were ethically spotless! — So let us dispense with the notion that the right’s call for punishment is driven by a love for the law rather than loathing toward Hillary. But we don’t hear much about policy lately from Republicans, given that their nominee probably cannot even locate Syria on a world map.
Finally, a word on cybersecurity: People who think there is any such thing as truly secure cybersecurity — are simply ignorant. I am certain that people would be horrified if they knew how non-secure our federal government’s servers really are against attacks from hostile nations like Russia and China. Just last year the State Department’s own supposedly state-of-the-art security technology was subject to what it called its ‘worst ever‘ hack. This is why my only concern with Clinton’s server has been whether it was as secure as the State Department’s. (This would still leave her vulnerable to an attack!) — Otherwise, I really don’t give a damn about by-the-book rule-following required from a career bureaucrat — certainly not from a political candidate for a political post.
To be clear: she certainly did something irresponsible and imprudent. — What? How can I say this is not a big deal in one breath — and then say she was irresponsible and imprudent? Because: while the immediate and policy-related practical consequences here are meager, the political and civic consequences are quite serious, and she has put the country through a lot of unnecessary drama and anger — for her own convenience, likely for her own political convenience. That is the real case against her, here. She should have known this situation would unfold in a manner resembling this. The worst part about her conduct throughout this situation has been her pathetic and meager defense, her petty lies about the scope of her conduct, and the ugly, drudging mess she forced her supporters to endure. Let’s resist the urge to punish, but let’s hope we never see this again. At the end of the day, people need to feel their president doesn’t have such bad judgment.