I would be remiss not to begin my first post-election column with a mea culpa and a congratulations: In my skepticism that Donald Trump could win a presidential election, I overestimated the negative impact of his own behavior and his lack of apparent qualifications for the job, and underestimated the extent to which the election was less about him than it was about a seething righteous anger among a large sector of the American public against the entire political establishment.
While Hillary Clinton’s repugnancy as a candidate was clear to all, I also couldn’t predict (nor could anybody else) the WikiLeaks and Project Veritas revelations which cemented the view among many on the right that the entire Democratic Party operates as a form of organized crime, and among many on the left that Bernie Sanders could have won the nomination in an un-rigged process. At the end, even though I predicted that Trump would win Florida and North Carolina, I did not think he had the momentum to swing another large swing state into his column.
These are explanations, not excuses: I got it wrong and I’ve learned a lot from the experience.
Congratulations to my American Spectator colleague Jeff Lord for seeing the appeal and viability of president-elect Donald Trump before any other pundit I am aware of. A similar congratulations are due to our editor-in-chief, R. Emmett Tyrrell, whose wisdom and experience made it clear to him early on that Mr. Trump was going to be our next president. And finally, the biggest congratulations of all to Donald Trump and Mike Pence for winning what is truly, despite the use of a hackneyed phrase, the most important election of my lifetime.
The question my radio listeners are asking me more than any other is “Do you think President Obama will pardon Hillary Clinton?” First, let’s dispense with the legalities: According to my on-air conversation with Judge Andrew Napolitano, yes, Obama could pardon Clinton for federal crimes for which she has not yet been convicted, charged, or even investigated.
Now to the politics: Some suggest that Hillary “knows where the bodies are buried” and that she would use that subtle threat to extract a pardon from Obama if Obama did not generously offer to issue the pardon as a favor to her.
I dismiss this suggestion entirely for three reasons. First, no family has more bodies buried than the Clintons; whether that is a metaphoric or literal statement, I cannot know with certainty.
Second, would Barack Obama want to do Hillary a favor?
Many people believe, and I’m inclined to agree though without any actual knowledge, that the Obamas and the Clintons don’t have a great love for each other not least because without Barack, Hillary would have been president for the past eight years and now she’ll never be. (Cue applause.)
Obama’s disenchantment with Clinton must be magnified to a white-hot fury by her loss to a man the Democrats perceived (as evidenced in multiple WikiLeaks disclosures) as the weakest possible Republican candidate in an election which ensures that Obama’s “signature achievement” (in this case “signature” is an unintended synonym for “sole”) will soon be in the dustbin of history, where it belongs.
So, does Barack Obama really want to do a solid for Mrs. Clinton? I don’t think so.
And third, the truly important question, one which most pundits seem to be misunderstanding, is “What does Hillary think is better for Hillary?”
Those who suggest that a pardon is beneficial for Clinton assume that she will one day be indicted, or at least be the central subject of a serious criminal investigation. Even as an investigation of the Clinton Foundation is ongoing, if Mrs. Clinton truly believes she did nothing illegal then she doesn’t believe she’ll ever be charged with a crime. In that conclusion, she’s probably right for a variety of reasons though actual innocence may not be among them.
When a person (such as each member of Hillary Clinton’s IT staff) takes the Fifth Amendment when questioned, it is both rational and, in civil but not criminal cases, legal for a juror to make an inference of culpability. As Cicero put it, “Though silence is not necessarily an admission, it is not a denial, either.” A presidential pardon would imply an expectation by both the grantor and grantee of an eventual finding of guilt; it is an implication that would leave a particularly indelible reputational stain on Mrs. Clinton.
Starting now, Hillary Clinton will be unable to continue extorting money from foreign governments and laundering it through the Clinton Foundation due to the facts that:
Therefore, her future income and her political, business, and social desirability will derive from giving speeches (although maybe not to investment banks who no longer see an ROI in her), serving on corporate boards, and, in a challenge of hope over experience, writing a book.
Does Hillary Clinton want to be known, as she peddles what little interest and influence she has left, as the former secretary of state who had to be pardoned?
I mean no hyperbole when I say that she would then rank in the minds of Americans – not only today but in history books yet to be written – just one small notch below Richard Nixon in the putrid pantheon of pardoned politicians.
No, the president will not do Hillary Clinton the “favor” of issuing her a preemptive pardon. But if Barack Obama is as angry with her as I suspect he is, then he just might.
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