It’s been almost a year — it was February 28th, 2015 — since I predicted that Hillary Clinton would not be the Democratic nominee. (Readers can find the historic vaticination — upon which I immediately staked a bottle of whisky in a wager with our commenter ‘The One Eyed Man’ — in the comment-thread here.) Among the reasons I gave, which of course hardly scratch the surface: too old, too sick, too unprincipled, too incompetent, too dishonest, too nasty, too much baggage.
How’s it looking? About as I expected it would. Some of you may be old enough to remember the old Clairol slogan: “the closer she gets, the better she looks”; I expected that this would be precisely the opposite of what would happen with Mrs. Clinton, and I have not been disappointed. Everywhere you look her support seems to be declining; at this rate, were she to stay in the race, the only votes she’d end up getting come Election Day would be Bill, Chelsea, George Stephanapolous, our monocular commenter, and perhaps Chelsea’s father, Webb Hubbell. (Why, just now I read an Op-Ed piece by Charles Blow over at the New York Times; even the comment-section there is overwhelmingly unsupportive, if not downright antagonistic, toward the former First Basilisk. And if you’ve lost Charles Blow’s commentariat, well…)
It’s obvious that this email business is pretty serious; Mrs. Clinton had things on her private server that should only have been viewable in a SCIF — a secure facility to which access is only granted on a strict case-by-case, need-to-know, eyes-only basis. The material in question is of the most sensitive sort, with a security classification above Top Secret — the kind of stuff that, if leaked, puts human lives at risk. (We can rest assured that as a result of its having been hosted in the Clinton’s bathroom, it is now read at leisure in Beijing, Moscow, Pyongyang, and God-knows-where else.) The FBI has been investigating, but of course the FBI cannot bring an indictment; that duty rests with the Department of Justice — i.e., Loretta Lynch, and ultimately Barack Obama.
So what’s going to happen? The chattering classes have been predicting all sorts of things. Out of this welter of opinions, what has coalesced in my own mind as the most persuasive analysis, and the most likely sequence of events, includes these key points:
1) This thing will not go away. The security breach is too egregious, and the penalties for any ordinary person so severe, that even Hillary Clinton will not be able to walk away from it.
2) Barack Obama controls the DOJ, but even for a man with as little regard for the rule of law as he has, there’s too much pressure building for him just to switch the whole thing off, even if he wanted to. And are we sure he wants to? Because, after all…
3) …the Clintons and the Obamas hate each other. Any leniency that Mr. Obama might show Mrs. Clinton depends exclusively on the following:
a) His concern for his own legacy, and for the future course of the Democratic Party. Given that Mrs. Clinton will likely yank the party back toward the center relative to where Mr. Obama would like it to go, and given also that Mrs. Clinton is hardly a person of natural political talent, or of charismatic personal charm, it’s hard to believe that Mr. Obama is thrilled to see her as his heir;
b) His concern for any dirt that the Clintons may have on him. I will not speculate here about what that may be, but we can be sure that if Mr. Obama spurns and discards Mrs. Clinton, then the Clinton machine will bring its guns to bear, and that is not nothing.
4) My own impression is that Mr. Obama has the advantage as regards item 3). This opinion is reinforced by the asymmetrical toadying we’ve been seeing lately; it seems that Mrs. Clinton has been going out of her way to praise and bend the knee to the incumbent in recent weeks. We would not see this sharp uptick in ass-kissing if something were not afoot.
5) My feeling, then, is that Mr. Obama is turning away from Mrs. Clinton, and will turn loose the DOJ when the moment is right.
6) When will the moment be right? When she’s down, of course; he will want her prospects to slip as much as possible before siccing the dogs on her. So if she does poorly in Iowa and New Hampshire, then expect it sooner; if she does better than she seems likely to in those contests, then expect more damaging FBI leaks for a little while longer.
7) Does this mean that Mr. Obama now supports Bernie Sanders? No. In fact Mr. Sanders was summoned to the White House just the other day, and I bet he was told as much. Bernie Sanders is too kooky, too untethered from reality, too flighty to be a steady hand on the tiller once Mr. Obama leaves office. No, what this White House wants is someone more tractable, more middle-of-the-road, more biddable. And who is that?
8) Why, Joe Biden, of course. I predict that Mr. Biden is going to get back into this race, and soon — probably right after bad showings by Mrs. Clinton in Iowa and NH, if things go as I expect they will. And there is someone sitting in the wings, someone who checks a lot of desirable Democratic boxes, who would make a perfect running-mate — someone who has been very strangely quiet these past few months: Elizabeth Warren. At this point in this crazy political season, I think an Uncle-Choo-Choo/Fauxcahontas ticket could really have legs for the D’s, and I bet a lot of other people think so too.
Now none of this is particularly original; it’s just a distillation of my own thoughts and of what a lot of other political observers have been suggesting. But it’s what makes the most sense to me at this point, so I thought I’d write it all down.
Peter, no hurry here of course, as there are months to go yet, but I think I’d like a Highland Park 15. Nectar o’ the gods.