“Prestidigitation” is a word much beloved by professional authors. It is long, it has an appealing sound and rhythm, yet it is fairly self-explanatory. You get to show off your vocabulary and skill without losing the reader, which is itself a feat of… well, prestidigitation, i.e. clever manipulation of people’s impressions. Generally such trickery is performed with quick fingers; going presto with the digits, as it were. See, self-explanatory.
In the political realm, no one is considered more adept at this than the Clintons. Once upon a time it was thought that only Bill was a magician, but it turns out Hillary is a sorceress too. Scandals pile up, malfeasance and misprision and malpractice; greed prevails, corruption and avarice and cupidity; graft flourishes, payoffs and kickbacks and bribery; evasions abound, equivocations and circumlocutions and tergiversations; lies proliferate, distortions and falsifications and prevarications; but nothing sticks. There is no perp walk: the perp walks.
Right now for example, we are in the midst of a prolonged episode concerning emails sent and received by Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. When she was asked to provide those for State Department archives, it was revealed she had never used a government email account. Instead she had maintained a series of personal accounts managed by a private server. She delivered thirty thousand emails she deemed relevant to the archivist’s work, deleted thirty thousand others she “determined” were of a private character, then destroyed the server.
Now the State Department is gradually releasing to the public (and the hapless Congress) swaths of those communications. Various litigants are protesting the publication is too slow and have prevailed upon a federal judge to speed things up. All this is prestidigitation: watch the glutinous process while the gluttonous party goes on. Watch the fingers twiddling over the sanitized emails we have while you forget that she illegally made the rest disappear. They concerned yoga, she assures us. Yes, she was a diplomat who merged cultures: the Yogi meets the Magi!
The most stunning stunt of all is the three-card monte game she is playing with Benghazi. Her duplicity in that instance is a matter of record. She received clear notice on the day of the Sept. 11, 2012 attack that the embassy in Benghazi, Libya, was stormed by organized terrorist guerrillas. She collaborated with the White House to invent a cover story citing a spontaneous act of violence provoked by a film mocking Muhammed shot by an amateur American director and uploaded to YouTube. She helped spread the lie, even retailing it to the parents of the murdered diplomats. In front of the flag-draped coffins, she bravely “promised” victim Sean Smith’s mother that “we would get the guy responsible.” No, not the killer… the filmmaker!
As egregious and perfidious as that behavior is, I believe the First Lady of Prestidigitation would still prefer you to focus on this snap shot of iniquity rather than seeing the big picture of her monumental incompetence. People may forgive her the dirty tricks and disinformation; they may imagine this kind of nastiness as a strategy to deny the enemy a triumph. If we dismiss it as a street riot, we frustrate the terrorists’ attempt to impress spectators on the world stage.
The unforgivable part of the story goes well beyond the one day botch-up in Benghazi. Her tenure at State coincided with the buildup of ISIS as a massive force of Islamic military and terrorist capability. This is an entity, or a movement, that dwarfs al-Qaeda. It makes Osama bin Laden look like Dennis the Menace. It is metastasizing its way through the Middle East and North Africa, swallowing up parts of countries, beheading men and enslaving women. Obama promised to “degrade” its capacity but he gets a D grade while it increases its rapacity.
All this developed while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State, with a particularly hands-on involvement in that region. Indeed she was the loudest voice in the Administration demanding the assault on Qaddafi. “We came we saw, he died,” she gloated grinningly.
Sorry, madam, you came, you killed, but you did not see. You failed to see the monster emerging from its lair. If you want us to accept that women these days can slay their own dragons the least you can do is see them on the horizon.
Bill famously pondered what the “meaning of ‘is’ is” but Hillary was just as clueless about “the meaning of ISIS.” Presidential material? Nah. The 3 a.m. phone call did come and Hillary answered: “Sorry, wrong number.”
So the prestidigitation continues, hoping we will be hypnotized by the motion of the digits. But the moving finger writes, and having writ, moves on; nor all thy piety and wit, shall lure it back to cancel half a line, nor all thy tears wash out a word of it. (In one of the weirder moments in the Monica Lewinsky episode, Bill Clinton quoted that line from “a book a man gave me” without knowing it was from Omar Khayyam.) It is time to read the handwriting on the wall and get the Clintons’ grubby fingers out of our pockets and our politics.
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