In 2008, I supported, voted for and cheered the election of Barack Obama. Not only was I enthusiastic about Obama but I was resolutely against Hillary Clinton, believing she was but the most recent iteration of American politics as usual.
In 2008, Americans were faced with the choice, both during the primaries and during the general election, between those who supported the illegal invasion and war in Iraq and those who opposed it – faced with the choice of continuing failed strategies in the Middle East or, hopefully, finding a new path forward.
A choice between Hope and Change on one hand and politics as usual on the other.
At one point, I remember, just after the N.H. primary, I told a friend that if Clinton won the nomination I’d probably vote Republican because her selection would mean that America hadn’t yet become aware of how much they needed a transformative rather than a transactional leader – a statement made, obviously, before John McCain embraced Sarah Palin as his running mate.
In the end, America made the right choice and elected Obama – it was the transformational moment many hoped for.
Yet all that promised to be transformational about his presidency was seen as a threat by Republicans. For eight years the GOP strove, mostly successfully, to emasculate the new promise of America.
Just 18 months ago the 2016 election season seemed tailor-made for the GOP – a slam dunk, as former CIA Director George Tenet would say. Not only had the Democrats been in power for eight years but years of Republican dog-whistles and fear-mongering, combined with a relentless campaign of demonizing not only President Obama but also Secretary of State Clinton, had reduced the appetite of many Americans for another Democratic president.
Then along came Donald Trump.
Along came the opportunity for the Republican Party to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory – and snatch it they did, even though they knew they’d likely be facing a vulnerable Democratic nominee, vulnerable both on issues of policy and personality.
So they chose a candidate even more vulnerable on issues of personality and temperament – and ignorant of policy as well – a candidate so flawed he falsely believes that Saddam Hussein was a successful slayer of terrorists.
And they overplayed their political hands, first at Benghazi and now on the Clinton email “scandal.”
Was what Clinton did with her emails and private server reckless, careless and wrong? When she said “zero” classified documents passed through her server was she wrong? Did she risk exposing state secrets?
Yes. Yes. Yes.
Yes, but there’s neither evidence she compromised national security, unlike in the cases of CIA directors John Deutsch and David Petraeus, nor is there evidence that Clinton’s State Department emails ever went outside the chain of people for whom they were intended. Nor is there any evidence that there was any intent to do either.
Further, of the 30,000-plus emails turned over by Clinton only three were actually marked, in part – and incorrectly – confidential; 110 others, in 52 email chains, were not classified although they should have been.
Another 2,000 emails – not classified at the time Clinton was Secretary of State – have been retroactively classified and, of the “several thousand” work-related emails recovered by the FBI, three were classified though not marked as such.
FBI Director James Comey testified, during a statement that rightly excoriated Secretary Clinton and the State Department for the reckless way State emails were handled, that the FBI investigation of Clinton’s handling of emails and the use of a private server wasn’t a prosecutable case, and the attorney general concurred.
Today, Republicans are outraged, claiming that Clinton is being treated to a different standard than others.
Is that true?
Probably, most likely.
Republicans are surprised?
They’re surprised in an America where hedge fund traders pay less in taxes than do their secretaries, where white justice is different than black justice, where rich criminals with high-powered lawyers get different justice than do indigent offenders with public defenders.
Where VIPs and celebrities get different treatment at customs and immigration than do common folk and where people living in public housing are profiled differently, educated differently and have different access to opportunity than do people who live in luxury penthouses.
Where hashtag memes have become necessary to highlight disparities in justice and equity, where special-interest lobbies get more face-time in Congress than do victims and ordinary citizens.
Don’t waste my time, Republicans and Trumpistas, arguing how Hillary has manipulated the system. That’s what happens in an America where you built a system to be manipulated – built by people that today manipulate it – and today that includes Clinton and Trump.
In the end, our choice may be between an imperfect woman who has spent her life in public service, who is competent, smart, poised, knows the world and is capable of being commander in chief from day one, and an imperfect man who has spent his life in service to himself, who is ignorant of the world, a misogynist, race-baiting, xenophobic, nativist, narcissist oligarch whose supporters range from anti-vaxxers to anti-Semites, whose every reflection on policy shows how madly he misunderstands the world he wants to rule.
While Clinton is less of a progressive, and less inspirational, than I’d prefer in my president, she certainly poses less strategic risk to the world, less divisive risk to America and less personal risk to me, than Trump.
In a Hadith narrated by Anas ibn Malik, a man once asked Prophet Muhammad, “ ‘O Messenger of God, should I tie my camel and trust in God, or should I untie her and trust in God?’ The Messenger of God, peace and blessings be upon him, said, ‘Tie her – and trust in God.’ ”
I trust in God, I trust my neighbor, and I trust my neighbor to reject the politics of exclusion and prejudice and tie her camel to the tent post of reason and security.