Hillary Clinton's escape from any indictment for her email scandal — from any cost or consequence whatsoever — is a daunting reminder of the inexorable callousness with which those who should be our models of public spirit instead continue to gin up endless impotent rage among regular people.
It is a hard enough lesson that FBI Director James Comey spoke the truth in observing how Clinton's abuses fall below the accepted standard for criminal penalties. Rather than indictment, a senior official committing similar transgressions would characteristically face punishment in the form of "security and administrative procedures" — getting fired, getting demoted, and/or losing clearance for awhile or forever. Clinton, however, is not a garden variety senior official, but the presumptive next president of the United States, the matriarch of a family whose position atop the global elite has long squared poorly with its congenitally cavalier attitude toward what lawyers gently term "appearances of impropriety." For Clinton, "justice" looks much like this Photoshop creation:
True, from Comey's lips came an unprecedented admonishment. He reached the humiliating conclusion that "hostile actors" hacked Clinton's close associates and "possibly" Clinton herself — perhaps accessing emails that will remain a mystery, unless said hostile actors spill the beans, because Team Clinton's lawyers "cleaned their devices in such a way as to preclude complete forensic recovery." Whatever politics may or may not lurk behind Comey's calculus, he at least strove to reconcile disgust and outrage over this latest Clinton charade with the officious modesty of prevailing procedure.
From Clinton herself, by gutting contrast, emanates the familiar Michael Corleone vibe: "My offer is this: nothing." The ordeal is something simply to put behind us, Comey's coruscating words right along with it. After all, the alternative is Donald Trump, and Trump is no alternative at all. We'll accept whatever level of ethics, care, and responsibility Team Clinton sees fit to adopt, and we'll thank them for it.
This is not just bad optics. This is bad juju. Clinton's formulaic, bare-minimum apologies and her obdurate personification of the "untouchable" status quo drastically worsen Americans' sensation that fundamentally dishonorable people have seized control of their fate — in an age when Western leadership around the world is failing. At least President Obama can rightfully contend that he managed to stave off abject disaster for most of his term in office. But when we imagine a Western world led by Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, there is little but a yawning abyss of doubt and disillusionment ahead.
America lacks true leaders. No savior is coming. No American giant is commensurate with this historic moment. From our expansive and comfortable "leadership" class we get crickets. There is no fallback position. In the face of a self-imposed legitimacy crisis of jaw-dropping sweep and magnitude, none of our elites have proven themselves to be up to the task of restoring our confidence.
In a decent world, Hillary Clinton herself would not just share our crying need for a commanding change in narrative and faith. She herself would rise to supply it. In fact, her only excuse for failing to do so is that she lacks the requisite personal and moral credibility, no matter what her supporters may insist about the thoughtful and compassionate "real" person so thoroughly concealed behind the public persona. With a flailing and fatuous opponent where a person of seriousness and rectitude once might have been, absolutely nothing else is stopping Hillary Clinton from becoming anything more like the leader we need — and think we still deserve.