Hillary for Prison?

The ‘lock her up’ chant has been a familiar refrain in the 2016 election campaign, although those wanting Hillary Clinton thrown in jail are being a little overzealous. With her handling of Benghazi, her private email server, and her involvement with the Clinton foundation, she hasn’t exactly been the model statesperson. However, if she is guilty of anything it is being a politician. The things an American politician does in the course of a career would get them arrested in a place like Finland. Hiding information, providing favours for lobbyists; it is legalized corruption. Hillary is just one of many. The stuff she did is the stuff everyone does — it’s the very nature of the system. To single her out is disingenuous.

Let’s consider Benghazi. This was an attack on a US Embassy which, tragically, killed 4 Americans. Then Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton was chastised for her handling of the situation, specifically for ignoring intelligence warnings and for failing to ensure adequate protection for embassy staff. For comparison, consider Beirut in 1983. A Marine barracks was bombed claiming the lives of 241 Americans. Attackers drove through an open gate, past unarmed guards, and destroyed the facility. Notice the similarities: intelligence failure, inadequate security, and loss of American lives.

That’s where the similarities end. Congress chose not to politicize the Beirut tragedy, opting instead for an investigation (one investigation) to determine what went wrong. Zero — I repeat — zero senior administration officials were subpoenaed to appear before the committee. This is consistent with standard practice and historical precedent. By contrast, 8 different congressional committees have convened investigations into the Benghazi affair, along with 32 public hearings. That’s more investigations than were held for the attacks on the Kenyan Embassy (0), the Oklahoma City Federal Building (0), The USS Cole (2), The Boston Marathon (1), and September 11 (2), COMBINED! Members of congress who repeatedly dragged Secretary Clinton before their committees must be ignorant of historical norms. Or, more likely, they’re deliberately attempting to derail her election campaign

During the course of the Benghazi investigations it was revealed that Secretary Clinton maintained a private email server for conducting official government business. This is disturbing on several levels. For one, we have a government official ostensibly trying to circumvent public records laws. Secondly, it appears that the private account was used to send classified information. Finally, some of the emails were conveniently deleted. We will never know what they contained. This practice is definitely unethical and possibly illegal. Or it would be, if the previous administration hadn’t done the same thing.

During the course of a congressional investigation back in 2007, it was revealed that Deputy Chief of Staff, Karl Rove maintained a private email server in the White House for conducting official business. When requested by congress, 22 million of the emails were summarily deleted. Hardly surprising for an administration that leaked the classified identity of an undercover CIA agent from the Vice President’s office. Any serious campaign to indict Hillary over her email practices must naturally include Rove and Cheney.

As a short digression, there a few grains of salt we must take when talking about classified information. Too much material is deemed classified. It has been a gradual trend and it is getting worse. Increasingly, material is marked classified because it is politically sensitive — not for national security reasons. To complicate matters, items that are publicly acknowledged by one agency are sometimes marked classified by another. It is ridiculous. The real crime is that high-ranking officials can leak classified information with impunity, while low level officials are prosecuted.

Perhaps the most troubling of Hillary’s transgressions is the alleged pay-for-play through The Clinton Foundation. Foreign officials would make donations to the foundation in hopes of securing access to government officials. Sadly, in Washington this sort of behaviour is commonplace. Revisiting the Bush Administrations (both of them) we can find the same conflicts of interest running throughout the twelve years. The Carlyle Group private equity firm was the direct beneficiary of American military procurement during the presidency of George W Bush. This is, of course, the same firm where his father, and former president, George H W Bush was serving as a special consultant. Sound familiar?

This is bad enough without even considering Dick Cheney. While serving as secretary of defense he orchestrated the first Gulf War, which included $8 billion worth of contracts to a company called Halliburton. After leaving office, Cheney assumed the position of CEO at Halliburton which he held until 2000, stepping down to stand as a candidate for Vice President. While in office, and still receiving deferred compensation, Halliburton was awarded a no-bid contract for work in Iraq. Pure coincidence, I’m sure.

In American politics, this pattern of behavior is the norm. The troubling part is that it’s legal. Why else would someone spend $2 billion trying to get a job that pays a mere $400,000 per year? It’s for the access — the connections. That speaks to a larger incentive problem with the American electoral machinery.

The US government suffers from an immense principal-agent problem. The people who vote in elections are not the same people who fund them. Campaigns are expensive — prohibitively so — for the average person. A successful candidate is one who can raise money from business leaders in their district. Naturally, they expect something in return. This quid-pro-quo is beyond the level of assertion — it is well documented. It is perhaps why the House Financial Services Committee — the one responsible for regulating the financial sector — has grown from 44 members in 1980 to 61 members today. It is the same reason people rob banks: that’s where the money is. If you think Hillary is guilty of influence peddling, take a look at Congress.

The corrupt practices that have brought Hillary under fire are not hers alone. Any accusations directed at her must, logically, include much of the Washington establishment. But they don’t. The obsession with Hillary is just that — an obsession. There could be a number of different reasons. It could be confirmation bias; it could easily be partisanship. Perhaps it’s rooted in the narcissism of small differences (Hillary is a conservative democrat), or it might be simple misogyny. It could also be a function of media myopia, whereby people become so immersed in fringe media that they lose their appreciation of context and history. Regardless of motivation, you can’t reasonably demand Hillary be locked up without also rounding up Rove, Cheney and a few hundred members of Congress. Or just admit you have an irrational obsession with Hillary.

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