Today I learned that Hillary Clinton is Doctor Octopus.
Or the Green Goblin. Or Hobgoblin. Maybe Venom. I’m not certain, but she has to be one of the costumed arch-villains who is always giving Spider-Man such a hard time
I say that because the web-slinger is known for his formative aphorism, “with great power there must also come great responsibility.” Yet, the announcement by FBI Director James Comey that he would not prosecute Hillary Clinton for her handling of official emails while secretary of state seems to be endorsing a different standard.
Comey says he let Clinton off the hook because – even though she was “extremely careless” in using an unencrypted, do-it-yourself, home-brew email server for government business – she didn’t demonstrate any intention to mismanage government documents. In other words, malice is a problem; utter neglectfulness, not so much. (Thank Heavens the same doesn't apply to small children.)
Notice, it’s not that there’s a law that Clinton violated but isn’t being prosecuted for. No, it’s that there is apparently no rule to the effect that, “Hey, these are government emails, so make sure they’re secure from being hacked, and make sure they’re promptly handed over to the government for proper archiving. Being sloppy or careless is no excuse.”
It turns out being careless is an excuse, and it's good enough to avoid being punished.
And it’s an excuse that government seems to be interested in preserving. At no point during the entire email server scandal do I recall anyone – Clinton, President Barack Obama, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, or any other top official – standing up and saying, “If the rules allow this kind of behavior, then the rules are ridiculously slack and need to be changed.”
Actually, the executive branch looks like it's filled with "professional" politicians and bureaucrats who didn’t bother to stop Clinton from using an unsecure server that failed to preserve government information – Congress had to break the news to the public – and who have little interest in proposing any regulations to stop it from happening again.
To be fair, these folks are probably too busy enforcing the corollary to the “power without obligation” rule; that being, “those with no power should be burdened with more responsibility that they can manage.”
And by “those with no power,” of course, I mean taxpayers who have to follow a host of rules on taxes, business and environmental regulations, labor and health insurance mandates and so forth, else they (meaning you) suffer the consequences. For those of us not lucky enough to be high-ranking government officials, carelessness – mild, extreme, extra zesty or otherwise – is no defense.
Unlike them, we have responsibilities. And government officials are there to ensure that we – but not their fellow co-workers – live up to those responsibilities. (It’s not that they have any malicious intention, mind you, it’s probably just carelessness on their part.)
That’s how the system of “government privilege” works. It’s rigged in favor of those with political clout. They don’t get constrained by sensible rules, while the rest of us have to follow more regulations than we can sensibly keep track of.
Forgive my argumentum ad comic book, but Spider-Man adopted the path of the hero when he saw that his failure to behave responsibly had horrible repercussions: that is, the death of his beloved Uncle Ben.
Meanwhile, Doctor Clintoctopus has been spared any legal consequences for her irresponsibility. I can’t wait to see how that story turns out…
Alasdair Denvil runs The Civil Debate Page.
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