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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Fearless prediction: no legalistic deus ex machina will descend to save the nation from the dread specter of President Hillary Rodham Clinton. No cigar-smoking duck like the one on the old Groucho Marx program, no Kenneth Starr-style “independent” prosecutor, no criminal indictment over her “damn emails,” no how, no way.’

Ain’t gonna happen.

Voters who can’t bear the thought of the former first lady, U.S. Senator, and Secretary of State taking the oath of office in January 2017 are going to have to do it the old-fashioned way: defeat her at the polls.

Those impassioned Trump supporters holding “Hillary for Prison” signs are sure to be disappointed. Again. Played for suckers by a scandal-mongering news media that declared open season on Clinton 25 years ago. And haven’t laid a glove on her yet.

Which doesn’t exactly make her Mother Theresa. But it does lend credence to former New York Times editor Jill Abramson’s somewhat surprising column in The Guardian to the effect that, when push comes to shove, “Hillary Clinton is fundamentally honest and trustworthy.”

Surprising because from 1992 onward the New York Times has been de facto World Headquarters of what I’ve always called the “National Bitch Hunt.” However, after spending years probing Clinton’s “business dealings, her fundraising, her foundation and her marriage,” Abramson’s been forced to conclude that said investigations all came to naught.

And whose fault it that? Why Hillary’s, of course. “Some of it she brings on herself,” Abramson thinks “by insisting on a perimeter or ‘zone of privacy’ that she protects too fiercely. It’s a natural impulse, given the level of scrutiny she’s attracted, more than any male politician I can think of.”

Well, some might argue that the years-long scrutiny of Bill Clinton’s zipper is comparable. However, being wrongfully labeled a “congenital liar” in the Times 20 years ago certainly might teach a girl to play her cards close. If not, being accused in a dear friend’s suicide (Vince Foster), might tend to make her, oh, a tad mistrustful of the press.

But enough ancient history, although few of the 40 percent of Democrats who tell pollsters they don’t trust her know it. Abramson is also right to say that Hillary “was colossally stupid to take those hefty speaking fees, but not corrupt. There are no instances I know of where Clinton was doing the bidding of a donor or benefactor.”

Even as somebody aware that Bill and Hillary Clinton have donated roughly $18 million in speaking fees to charity, I find the sums Goldman, Sachs paid her preposterous. But payola?

As the late Molly Ivins put it: “As they say around the Texas Legislature, if you can’t drink their whiskey, screw their women, take their money, and vote against ’em anyway, you don’t belong in office.”

But back to Hillary’s emails. From the onset of the Clinton Wars, it’s been my experience that when the corrections and retractions reach critical mass and the “investigative” articles start to read like Henry James novels—i.e. diffuse and impenetrable—the end of a given “scandal” episode is near.

Last July, the New York Times got things started with an anonymously sourced exclusive claiming that federal investigators had initiated a “criminal” probe into whether Secretary Clinton had sent classified documents on her personal email server. Almost everything important about the story was false. It wasn’t a criminal investigation, nor was Clinton a target.

Rather, it was a bureaucratic exercise to settle an inter-agency dispute about which messages to release—as Clinton herself had requested. The Times was so laggard about making corrections that Public Editor Margaret Sullivan thought readers “deserve a thorough, immediate explanation from the top.”

They never got it.

Now comes the Washington Post with an interminable 5000-word narrative anchored by an “eye-popping” claim that according to “a lawmaker briefed by FBI Director James B. Comey,” a small army of 147 FBI agents was at work deciding if a crime had been committed.

That one fell apart overnight. Last time I checked, NBC’s sources said maybe a dozen agents are involved—an order of magnitude fewer than the Post claimed.

Meanwhile, the American Prospect turned to former Homeland Security classification expert Richard Lempert. Currently a Michigan law professor, Lempert pointed out that there are two big problems with the idea of charging Hillary.

First, we don’t have ex post facto laws. You can’t classify something tomorrow and charge somebody with leaking it yesterday. If you could, working for the State Department would be like inhabiting a cubicle in Orwell’s Ministry of Truth. Nobody would ever be safe.

Second, the job of Secretary of State’s entails considerable powers: “Not only was Secretary Clinton the ultimate authority within the State Department to determine whether…information should be classified, but she was also the ultimate authority in determining whether classified information should be declassified.”

Another ballyhooed scandal goes up in smoke.

Photo: REUTERS/David McNew

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