This is long.
I think it’s important
In the wake of Attorney General Lynch’s acknowledgment of wrongdoing in meeting, however briefly and innocently, with Bill Clinton, some reader comments here are redolent of the destructive distrust of government and leadership engendered by this administration and others, particularly Bill’s. Yet this attitude feeds on itself, and is to an extent a self-fulfilling prophecy. If leaders think that people expect corruption, they are less likely to shy away from it. Cynicism leads to acceptance. Of course, this is one explanation of why the tarmac meeting took place—pure arrogance and a belief that with the news media’s complicity, now virtually any degree of government dishonesty and corruption will be either effectively hidden from the public, or accepted by it.
This is untrue, still. Indeed, this episode is proof that it is untrue, though the news media did make (disgusting and ignorant) efforts to shrug off the clear appearance of impropriety represented by Lynch having a meeting with Clinton the Impeached under these circumstances. Why do I labor trying to write these essays explaining the legal and ethical context of such events if readers are so poisoned by bitterness and distrust that they can’t or won’t process them, and just default to “it doesn’t make any difference, all is shit, all is lost”? If I believed that, I wouldn’t be spending time—work time, uncompensated time—writing this stuff. I can earn peanuts directing professional theatrical productions: it makes people happy, gives actors work, and is a lot more fun, believe me.
Paranoia, suspicion, despair, and conspiratorial views of government, which are all these comments represent, are just forms of bias. Bias makes us stupid, and in this case, bias makes us dysfunctional as a people and fearful and miserable as individuals.
Readers of Ethics Alarms know that I reject this particular bias, no matter how much I deplore the wilful ethical breaches of government officials and the mucky character and untrustworthy nature of individuals like the Clintons and Donald Trump. There are good people in government at all levels, and there are lawyers, judges, members of the military, law enforcement officers and elected representatives and leaders whose professional lives are guided by the core ethical principles demanded by their professions. I know many of them personally, and can vouch for this. I continue to believe, not without evidence and justification, that even those who have strayed from the ethical path laid out for them can be brought back, if the public and society insist on it.
If I did not believe that, then I would give up, not just on ethics (which is my profession) and the blog, but also American democracy. Democracy is the one form of government that requires trust to exist.
Partyist hate and the demonization of opposing views and those who hold them, I admit, make trust very difficult. I begin with an assumption that my study of history and American leaders supports completely: no President who has ever served in the office wanted to harm the country. I know some extreme partisans (like conservative radio show host Mark Levin) and irresponsible demagogues (like Donald Trump) have accused Barack Obama of this motivation, and this alone should disqualify them from being considered serious participants in the public policy debate (and needless to say, except apparently I do need to say it and keep saying it, someone who cannot be considered a serious participants in the public policy debate cannot be treated as a responsible choice to lead the nation.) I know, and have chronicled, that Barack Obama, who is a frightening and toxic combination of an incompetent leader and an arrogant one, is the worst kind of catalyst for division and distrust that the nation could have right now. Nevertheless, this is still an ethics-driven system of government, and our leaders can and do rise to the occasion and above political expediency to act in the country’s best interests.
I just wish they would do it more often.
It is not in the country’s best interests for most of the nation to believe that a woman who placed her own financial and political ambitions above the national security of the nation and the integrity of the government she served should be rewarded with a nomination and election as President of the United States. Indeed, it is cultural poison of undetermined potency.
I understand why so many believe “the fix is in” regarding the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s astoundingly stupid and dangerous breach of e-mail policy, protocol and responsibility while at the State Department. Listening to the group I call the Clinton Corrupted—those otherwise intelligent and ethical citizens (relatives, friends, social media addicts, journalists) we all know who continue to ape Clinton’s absurd and insulting mantra that she did nothing wrong despite mountains of evidence indicating that she not only did, but did so intentionally, and to blame a Republican “witch hunt” for suggesting otherwise—can make you feel like you are trapped in “The Invasion of the Body Snatchers.”
The biased and corruption-enabling news media is greatly at fault for this scary feeling. The House Benghazi report, which I have read, makes it crystal clear and undeniable that the Obama administration deliberately misled the public and the world by repeatedly citing a YouTube video as the motivation for the attack, and that Hillary Clinton supported the lie in public while eschewing it with foreign officials and in private communications. That means that it is a fact that this administration conspired to deceive the public in advance of the Presidential election in 2012, for pure electoral advantage…and it matters. Never mind: the news media framed the entire report and the investigation as a partisan screed….and Hillary’s allies, against all logic, are trying to frame the FBI investigation the same way.
And, it is true, Obama’s Justice Department, under the inept and politically motivated Eric Holder (who, never forget, approved outgoing President Bill Clinton’s pardon of an unvarnished fugitive criminal, Mark Rich, as a quid pro quo for acquiring a huge Clinton Library donation from Rich’s ex-wife), operated as an unapologetic partisan arm of the White House. His successor, Loretta Lynch has done little to signal that her Justice Department is more independent, and recently allowed herself to be made to look like a compliant dupe by imitating Susan Rice’s Sunday morning disinformation tour after Benghazi, and channeling Barack Obama at his sanctimonious worst by saying that terrorism must be fought “with love.”
The biased and corrupted White House reporters, like the Washington Post’s Dan Baltz (supposedly one of the fair ones) still treat suspicion that the investigation of Clinton’s e-mail/Clinton Foundation machinations is a sham as a only a GOP political ploy. Nothing more perfectly proves the complete, crippling bias of the news media. Hmmm…You’re right, Dan, why would anyone think the Obama Administration is incapable of policing itself? The Justice Department stonewalled regarding its own scandal, “Fast and Furious.” The primary suspect in the IRS scandal took the Fifth Amendment, and the IRS told Congress that her e-mails were “lost.” The head of the NSA lied to Congress about whether his agency spied on citizens, and still kept his job. Susan Rice, after her well-documented abuse of her prestige and credibility as Ambassador to the UN to carry the official Obama campaign lie that Benghazi was not a planned, terrorist attack, was conspicuously rewarded by Obama with a powerful new post.
Yes, observing this and more, there is ample reason for anyone to be suspicious and cynical. Especially since charges being brought against a pending Presidential nominee would be unprecedented, and because an outgoing Democratic administration has never before taken legal action that could cripple or end the campaign for the same party’s candidate who is counted upon to continue current policies, a scenario where Clinton is indicted seems unlikely, because it is unlikely. Anything happening that has never happened before is unlikely, by definition. Add to this the fact that Democrats blocked accountability for proven illegal acts and gross ethical breaches on the part of Bill Clinton, when he was impeached, and it would be foolish to deny that a pattern exists.
I accept all of that. However, you will recall that Bill Clinton, while escaping conviction and removal from office, had to surrender his license to practice law, because he had proven himself too dishonest and untrustworthy to be a lawyer. There are many, many unethical lawyers—both Clintons qualify—but I detect no evidence in her long career that Loretta Lynch is one of them. I believe she is an ethical lawyer, and like most prosecutors, went into the law to enforce the law, and not destroy public faith in it. She deserves that presumption. (From a comment and commenter banned this morning: “This is what happens when you have niqqers in high ranking positions. They are not only unethical, but they are too stupid to do unethical stuff clandestinely, and get caught. Lynch was a useless jigaboo when she was the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Obongo, as the HNIC, made her Attorney General for the sole reason that she is a coproderm…” Now THAT”S bias...but only a more ugly form than presuming that a Democrat can’t be ethical.) Is Lynch, like Holder and Obama, especially committed to trying to make certain law enforcement is neither tainted by racial bias nor perceived as being so? Absolutely. Has that orientation led her into policy and ethical missteps, like Holder and Obama? Yes. Does than mean that she does not fully accept her profession’s commitment to due process, equality under the law, and a duty to protect the rule of law from the rot of public distrust?
The meeting that I criticized here immediately in the strongest terms was almost certainly the result of Bill Clinton’s epic arrogance and sense of entitlement, an abuse of his position, and a terrible decision by Lynch in a situation that surprised and ambushed her. [ From The Observor: “According to this source, whose credentials were checked and confirmed by the Observer with sources inside both the FBI and the United States Secret Service, the attorney general was caught completely off guard by the meeting and the source dismisses suggestions that have been raised alleging that she waited there to see Bill Clinton or accommodated his request to see him. In fact, it seems from this source that it was Bill Clinton who was maneuvering for face time with the attorney general, because his plane had been scheduled to leave before hers arrived.”] Bill Clinton is a former President. He also appointed Lynch to her previous job. As I already wrote, the correct action was for Lynch to send him away, in essence a rebuke, but how many of you reading this can say with honesty that you wouldn’t have been caught in Clinton’s trap? I can’t say with complete confidence that I wouldn’t have been.
After this ethics fiasco, Lynch has reacted in exemplary fashion. She reacted quickly, and did not wait to see if the controversy subsided. ( Clinton 101: “Delay, delay, delay.”) She has not lied (like Hillary), nor brushed the episode aside (as the news media and White House tried to do), and even has acknowledged that the politically-charged circumstances surrounding the investigation and the Justice Department’s role in it have created doubts about the integrity of the process, tacitly implying that suspicions and cynicism are not unjustified.
She knows and has admitted, therefore, that her department, Justice, which is duty-bound to be apolitical, is viewed as political. Her remedy for the tipping point in public distrust that the tarmac meeting created was to do exactly the right thing. She agreed to take the political aspect of the decision whether or not to charge Hillary Clinton out of the equation. She said that she would accept the recommendation of the FBI.
- The FBI is arguably the least political agency in the government. They are lifetime cops and lawyers. The FBI, you will recall, blew the whistle on Watergate and the Nixon administration. Because of its role, and the hard hit it received to its reputation when the politically-tinged tyranny of its founder and long time emperor, J. Edgar Hoover, were made public, the agency knows that its integrity must be beyond reproach.
- James Comey, the current director, is not a partisan Democratic hack (like so many Obama appointees). Comey graduated from the College of William and Mary majoring in Chemistry and Religion. He is devoted to ethics and ethics theory: his senior thesis compared the liberal theologian Reinhold Niebuhr and the conservative televangelist Jerry Falwell, emphasizing their common belief in public action. He was Deputy Attorney General under President Bush, and there is no reason to assume that he is under the thumb of either the President or Lynch.
- The FBI has a great deal of loyalty to and pride in its mission. The agency’s employees would not take kindly to being used for a political whitewash, and its final report and recommendations will either be made public by Justice, if it follows the recommendations regarding Clinton, or by a whistleblower (Deep Throat was an FBI whistleblower), if they are rejected. Of this there should be no doubt.
- Had Lynch recused herself, it would have made a whitewash easier, and eventually, distrust greater. Her Justice stand-in would be assumed to be a compliant abettor of the administration’s partisan effort to clear Clinton, and would be a less exposed target than than Lynch. If the meeting an aftermath were the complex pro-Clinton conspiracy that some are claiming (including here), a recusal would be part of the plan.
- Instead, Lynch took herself and the non-FBI Justice Department out of the equation by pledging to accept the FBI’s recommendations. Here are two incompetent and unfair reactions to that:
1) Balz: “If she sticks to her pledge simply to accept what is recommended without any genuine review and consideration, she is abdicating her role as attorney general.” Baloney..indeed, partisan baloney; better yet, ignorant partisan baloney. A superior can always delegate a decision when a subordinate is better informed and more objective. That is a legitimate management choice, and not “abdicating” in any way. Obviously, Lynch’s pledge doesn’t obligate her to accept an absurd, unjustified or unprofessional recommendation. If the FBI recommends that Clinton be exiled to Sumatra or summarily executed, I think it is fair to assume that Lynch would reject such a result.
2) Matt Drudge, who wrote in a link that Lynch was “playing word games” with “accept.” Boy, he’s a slime, isn’t he? His implication (the link was here) is that Lynch is emulating Bill Clinton in deceit, using the word “accept” to mean “I’ll take it” but not “I’ll follow it” as most would assume. Ugh. Lawyers are forbidden by all ethics codes from engaging in deceit. The fact that Bill never took that rule seriously doesn’t mean Lynch doesn’t. Moreover, that particular words game would provoke bipartisan fury. Lynch isn’t stupid.
What she really did was neither lie nor abdicate, but to announce full confidence that that the FBI is apolitical and trustworthy, and the ideal agency to carry out the investigative process and reach a result that engenders trust in the justice system rather than undermining it.
I do not know what will happen. I still find it hard to believe that Clinton will be indicted, and until I see the actual report, I don’t know if she should be.
I do know, however, that as Americans we have to fight our proclivity to be cynical and suspicious of this or any law enforcement effort, because the nation and democracy literally cannot survive it. We must assume that our leaders are doing the best they can; we must assume that the system is not rigged, and that wrongdoers will not be permitted to prosper regardless of their party, class or contacts. When our trust is betrayed, we have an obligation to demand accountability and consequences, and rather than surrender to despair and distrust, do our best to ensure that we can continue to assume the best, and not the worst, of our system, our leaders, and our national character.
We should trust Loretta Lynch and the FBI, for America’s sake.
14 thoughts on “Essay: On Loretta Lynch And Fighting Cynicism And Distrust Regarding The FBI Investigation Of Hillary Clinton”
I was going to comment on something very much along these lines, given all the toxic negativity afoot these days. You not only saved me the trouble, and did a far better job than I would have, but taught me a good bit along the way.
Great post. Thank you.
Thank-you, Charles. You and I both feel deeply about this.
Assumes facts not in evidence.
No one who was within a mile of the “redact the Orlando 911 call” gets a benefit of the doubt of whether or not they are a cretin.
She was following orders, made to look foolish, and, as in this case, made a correction. Following Presidential orders can be perilous, and bonds of party and race make it even harder to resist. She quickly corrected, as in this case.
So I can repeatedly do something both unethical and mind-shatteringly stupid, so long as a make a good-sounding apology?
I didn’t know that was how all this worked.
She could have (should have) responded with “Are you a moron? Do you have any possible grasp as to what that will cause??” when told to redact, but she didn’t. She gleefully did as she was told.
And you somehow think she won’t do it again for Hillary’s criminal charges?
Where do you get “repeatedly”?
I second this. Bravo. We need the courage and faith to insist during chaotic times, that our flag still be there when fogs lifts.
“Cynicism is an attitude or state of mind characterized by a general distrust of others’ motives. A cynic may have a general lack of faith or hope in the human species or people motivated by ambition, desire, greed, gratification, materialism, goals, and opinions that a cynic perceives as vain, unobtainable, or ultimately meaningless and therefore deserving of ridicule or admonishment. A common misapplication of this attitude involves its attribution to individuals who emote well-thought-out expressions of skepticism. Such miscategorization may occur as the result of either inexperience and/or a belief system in which the innate goodness of man is considered an important tenet or even an irrefutable fact. Thus, contemporary usage incorporates both a form of jaded prudence and (when misapplied) realistic criticism or skepticism.”
“Skepticism is generally any questioning attitude towards unempirical knowledge or opinions/beliefs stated as facts, or doubt regarding claims that are taken for granted elsewhere.”
I think “cynic” is fast becoming as over-used a word/weapon as “bigot” or “racist” for shutting down discussion. My Catholic high school graduate college room mate shared with me, his Catholic high school graduate college room mate, one of his teacher’s observations that Catholic kids tended to be cynics because they had a lot more than most kids to be cynical about. So I will admit I lean toward cynicism.
But I think I’m more a skeptic. And having lived through the first Clinton rule, how can I not be skeptical (and at times cynical) about the impending Clinton Restoration?
However, just because I’m skeptical of everything the Clintons do or say and anything done or said by anyone they come in contact with does not mean I think every government employee is corrupt or corruptible or incompetent. Do I think being skeptical renders me biased or stupid? No. I think America is the best thing going, as are electoral democracy and capitalism. Do I think people are basically good? Maybe, maybe not. There are lots of good people but there are also lots of bad people. Do I think absolute power corrupts absolutely? Yes. Should citizens of a modern day participatory democracy be skeptical of what their elected officials tell them? Sure as hell looks that way.
Trust me. You’re a cynic.
Maybe so. I’ve been told that at least since high school.
Not to change the subject, but birth order was a popular topic/theory a decade or so ago. I’m a second born. You’re clearly a first born, non? I think it makes a big difference. Firstborns are typically fairly authoritarian and in favor of the current order of things as they stand to inherit (to put it in short hand) and are in charge. Secondborns are less enamored of the situation generally. At a minimum, they have first born siblings to deal with. I think birth order is a big determinant in outlook. I wonder how the commenters here break down in terms of birth order.
Firstborn. Though don’t generally think of myself as conservative.
Sounds right to me, Charles. I don’t think firstborns are necessarily conservative politically or socially. I bet George Soros is a firstborn or only child. Maybe more “in charge” and “authoritative” cover it. Maybe even “definitive” or leaning toward decisive and see things in black and white. For example, Jack said in passing in his McDonnell SCOTUS opinion post: “McDonnell’s successor is notorious flim-flam artist and Clinton bag man Terry McAuliffe, who makes the McDonnells look like the amateur grafters they are.” Which I think is spot on as to McAuliffe and perhaps McDonnell (I don’t know enough about McDonnell to have an opinion). But to say that of a sitting governor (and esteemed confidant of one and perhaps soon two U.S. Presidents) and a former governor who has been cleared of all charges by the highest court in the land, is not cynical? Where’s the bright line? You and Jack see one fairly effortlessly in this case as well as many others. I don’t.
Absent something being reveal to the contrary, I think your analysis is solid and reasonable. I have no trouble accepting that AG Lynch was not a party to this beforehand. However, the recent and confirmed reports that Clinton delayed his departure, presumably to facilitate this “happenstance” confab, reeks of Clintonian opportunism. Coupled with HRC signaling that she is interested in retaining Lynch as AG (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/04/us/politics/hillary-clinton-president.html?_r=0) makes me absolutely questioning and suspicious of what the Clintons were trying to do. Given Lynch’s retained ability to step in, despite her pledge that she will not, Hillary should not be making any comment about Lynch’s potential position or retention in her administration.