Thinking about the unthinkable

Last update: Sunday 6/12/16

Although President Obama met with Senator Sanders moments before he formally endorsed Secretary Clinton the other day, the senator refused to concede the nomination. Why? Perhaps, as the pundits on cable, network, and print media have repeatedly decreed, the senator is merely attempting to maximize his primary vote counts and thereby maximize his impact on the Democratic convention and the platform on which its nominee will have to campaign. Perhaps. However, an alternative possibility has been haunting me for the last few weeks.

Consider the possibility that Senator Sanders knew that the ongoing FBI investigation is far more serious than we have supposed. Last month I expected the Inspector General’s report to chastise the Secretary for mishandling her emails, but I was surprised by the blistering tone of its denunciations. Then I was surprised by last week’s casual announcement that the FBI had classified its investigation as “criminal” — meaning that there is a possibility that the FBI might file criminal charges against the Secretary.

Now suppose that Senator Sanders was not surprised by either of these developments because he had been alerted to their possibility months ago by whistleblowers inside the State Department and inside the FBI. Given the possibility that Secretary Clinton’s nomination and/or subsequent campaign might be derailed by these investigations, it would make sense for Senator Sanders to prolong his own campaign for as long as possible.

Secretary Clinton made another of her infamous unforced errors when she tried to make light of the Inspector General’s denunciations — even as millions of alert citizens like myself were reading the IG’s report. Her ill-advised efforts to “spin” the report’s denunciations make me all the more fearful that the FBI report will be far more damaging.

This morning a friend forwarded an online USA Today article to me that conjectured that President Obama might pardon Secretary Clinton if the FBI charged her with a crime. It further conjectured that his pardon would not save her campaign, so the Democratic Party would have to turn to Vice President Biden as the only viable substitute who could unite the Party’s Clinton and Sanders wings. I think both conjectures are plausible … but I think the odds of their success would depend on when they occurred.

  • If the FBI charges the Secretary with criminal activity before the Democratic convention is over and if she withdrew her nomination in a graceful manner (providing appropriate leaks about the President’s impending pardon), this gambit would give Senator Sanders the opportunity to persuade enough of the Secretary’s followers to support his nomination. If he failed, then Vice President Biden could become a compromise nominee.
  • But if the FBI charges the Secretary after the Democratic convention is over, I think we will be in a very bleak place with no obvious way out.

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