Americans were reminded on Independence Day of the imperfect but admirable enterprise that was this nation's founding. The Founding Fathers embraced principles that transcended their own human weaknesses and those of their posterity. They created a system in which process and law could check base personal ambition, favoritism and other low and common temptations. The idea was to put in place a system that would survive incompetent and corrupt leaders.
A day later, the public witnessed what happens when the system fails. Special people receive special treatment. Equal protection under the law turns out to be a fancy fiction.
Some people are more equal than others. Notably, the Clintons are less equal than the rest of us. An average government official who spent five years breaking the rules to frustrate the Freedom of Information Act, and who recklessly compromised classified information (more than 100 times), including top secret information (eight times), would serve time in federal prison.
But Hillary Clinton is almost certain to suffer no consequences at all. To hammer home the message that she is free, the country was treated to the nauseating sight of President Obama campaigning for her and proclaiming himself ready to pass her the baton of leadership.
Clinton broke the rules, continued to hide emails from congressional oversight after they were legally demanded, lied about it repeatedly and will now probably proceed unimpeded to the Oval Office.
The government has consistently prosecuted and obtained convictions for smaller offenses. The late Sandy Berger had to plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge after he was caught ferreting relatively old classified papers out of the National Archives. David Petraeus "mishandled" much smaller amounts of classified information and the Justice Department came down on him like a ton of bricks. Former CIA Director John Deutch was caught with a small amount of classified information on his home computer, and it took a presidential pardon to save him from prosecution.
But if you're a Clinton, you can commit much larger offenses and it doesn't matter. That's the message FBI Director James Comey sent when he issued his recommendation against Secretary Clinton's prosecution. In his Tuesday press conference, ironically, he laid out an airtight case for prosecuting the Democrats' presidential pick. The law prescribes a sentence of up to ten years imprisonment for anyone who acts with "gross negligence" when handling classified information. In the first 10 minutes of his remarks, Comey made it abundantly clear that Clinton had done just that, stating that she and her colleagues were "extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information." Yet he followed up by adding that he could find no evidence of intention and "no reasonable prosecutor" would bring charges in such a case.
This is bunk. Intention is something this law does not require. "Gross negligence" alone is sufficient grounds for prosecution because the officials to which it applies are entrusted with secrets that bring greater obligations than average citizens must bear. Precisely because of that greater risk of prosecution, high-ranking government officials who handle classified information, including Clinton, sign agreements that spell out their legal jeopardy.
For no reason other than her convenience and privacy, Clinton decided that State Department rules did not apply to her. It is an established fact that her choice to ignore the law obstructed Freedom of Information requests and congressional inquiries, and potentially placed sensitive information about U.S. diplomacy at risk. Comey seems to understand all of this, and yet his FBI has let Clinton make her own rules.
What must the public think, therefore, about the realities of their nation as it passes its 240th birthday. Many millions of them on Monday pledged their allegiance to the flag and to the great and principled country for which it stands. They ended their oath with the resounding words "...and justice for all." Yet Clinton is escaping justice, and she is favorite to be rewarded with the presidency. It should give every honest and decent citizen, who wants to be proud of their country and whose judgment is not clouded by partisanship, a terrible foreboding about the future.