We don’t like our politicians. We’re pretty sure they’re all bald-faced liars. We don’t respect them. We don’t trust them. We’re certain their narcissists. Some may even be sociopaths. They’re horrible. All of them…we’re pretty sure.
But we tolerate them though. Because after all, someone has to represent us. And none of the rest of us are willing to go knock on doors and convince people to give us money and support because we’re self proclaimed transcendent leaders. So we’re stuck with those that will. And that’s a special brand of person.
When we’ve got proof of dishonesty, corruption or grossly poor judgment though, the democratic process burdens us with responsibility. Because as a society, we’re only willing to suffer closeted criminals and liars. Not ones that do it in broad daylight. Like the kids at the eight year old pool party. You know what’s going on in there. None of them have gotten out to use the restroom for hours. But as long as no one admits they did it, or you don’t see them do it, you’ll let your kids swim in it. But the minute you have proof, it’s everyone out. You can’t, in good conscience, turn a blind eye. That’s how it works.
With politicians and eight year old pool parties, we’re satisfied with a surprisingly thin veil of deniability. But we still need one. When we don’t anymore, it signals something. And when we insist that someone else, the media, maybe government perhaps, remove that thin veil in order to inform our democratic opinions that frankly, we ought to have anyway, it signals something too.
Yesterday, FBI Director James Comey announced that his organization would not be recommending criminal charges against Secretary Clinton. After months of investigation, they did not believe that their findings met the burden of intent or negligence to press charges. Now the world is ablaze with outrage. So here’s what I have to say about that decision.
I served in the military for most of my adult life. I understand the regulations and consequences in question the way that someone who spent a few decades following them has to. I’ve seen this go both ways. I’m not going to bite the hook on the accounts of our now wronged service members who did the same things and suffered worse fates-they didn’t by the way, unless they too were Secretary of State running a private server out of their mansions. I can rattle off names of people I know personally who didn’t go to jail or even have charges brought against them. Like I said, it can go either way. It’s not that I agree or disagree with the outcome. It simply doesn’t matter to me.
It’s not that I don’t care. I’m just not looking for the ref to stop the fight. Or for anyone else to do my job for me.
Director Comey, in a thorough and candid review of his organization’s activities told me what I already knew. Secretary Clinton was “extremely careless.” He told me that the way that two years of the Benghazi committee told me that the Secretary misjudged the threat to our people there. Which was something I also already knew. Since they were dead.
The tone and contents of the rest of Director Comey’s presentation left little to the imagination. If she were holding any government position, presently, she would face administrative action. Which means, that at a minimum, she would have been reprimanded. And it would have been reasonable to expect that she could have lost her job. That was also something I already knew.
Here’s the uncomfortable truth. Secretary Clinton is not presently holding a government position. She’s applying for one. One that doesn’t require a security clearance or even a background check. One that requires only the following criteria: That she is a natural born American citizen. That she is over 35 years of age and lived the last 14 years in our country. That she has never been convicted of a crime for which her sentence explicitly states that she’s legally prohibited from running for office-which is not a common outcome for mishandling of classified material. And that she not have previously held the office of president for longer than eight years. And this last one is really the trick. About 70 million people are going to have to endorse her as the leader of the free world.
Those are the qualifications to be president of the United States of America. Which means, uncomfortable as it may feel, both Secretary Clinton and Mr. Trump are qualified by their standing in the first qualification criteria to seek the last. Indictment or not.
Our broad acceptance of candidates is on purpose. Because it ensures, that more than anything, the people have the final word. And the outrage that I’m seeing right now is signaling something broader than the specifics of the decision of whether or not to press charges against Secretary Clinton.The American people want to be taken off the hook for what we’ve brought on ourselves.
For a few years now, the Republican party has been facing the cold reality that the changing demographic of the American population is beginning to make the math of winning a presidential election impossible. And they’ve ignored it. Instead of crafting a different message or selecting diverse leadership, they’ve sat back and thrown hay makers at the opposition, hoping for a knock out. Hoping, it wouldn’t ever come to a vote. And when that failed, they lost control of their base. That base then selected a candidate who’s been standing on the ten meter platform pissing into the political pool for years-his supporters cheering him on as he did because they hate who’s swimming in it now.
On the other side of the aisle, the failure was different but just as acute. They had their candidate. And they got lazy. And pushed everyone out of the way. And she got caught. Now they’re paying the price. And yesterday, they saw their last chance for a do-over sail off over the horizon.
And now we’re all very angry. When perhaps we should have been angry when Joe Biden refused to run. When Jim Webb got pushed out of the race. Or when no one voted for John Kasich.
So, if you must, stay outraged at the decision that doesn’t matter. Become episodically confused that intent is actually a part of a determination of criminality. Be vague about the difference between losing your job and going to jail when you compare what has happened to others. Find a way to tap into the most basic, primal reptilian parts of your brain to decide how you feel about it. And in doing so, continue to focus on the part of this discussion that doesn’t matter at all. That’s exactly the type of thinking that left us with these two bum candidates.
Consider these names while you do it though:
Jim Webb. Jeb Bush. Joe Biden. John Kasich.
While we were yelling at each other, those four men wandered away from the race. They couldn’t buy a vote. Jeb spent $5,200 for each one he got. Jim Webb dropped out during the second commercial break of the first debate. No one would give him money. They gave it to an 80 year old democratic socialist instead. Because democratic socialists can generate some serious good outrage. John Kasich was the last adult standing. And no one gave a crap. We had options. But we were stupid. And screaming about the death of accountability brought on by the evil administration is staying stupid. Its our accountability that’s truly in question.
We’re getting exactly what we deserve. Now it’s time to deal with it. Leave the FBI and its Republican, career law enforcement director alone. He’s not the problem. We are.
My list of folks that I’d rather be talking about right now are above. Yours may be different. But chances are, you’re not thrilled with your current choices. And as your meme induced rage starts to subside, and you start to wander into a moment of clarity, even for just a second before the next one streams across your phone and you become compelled to share again, ask yourself, where did all the outrage get us? Where did all our fear get us?
When you spend your time with a much less thoughtful version of yourself, you should expect much less thoughtful outcomes.
And this is what they look like.