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Should email scandal disqualify Clinton from becoming president?

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton gestures to the

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton gestures to the crowd at the start of her remarks during a primary night rally at the Duggal Greenhouse in the Brooklyn Navy Yard on June 7, 2016. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Drew Angerer

FBI Director James Comey on Tuesday said he recommended no criminal charges against Hillary Clinton for her use of a personal email system while secretary of state. But Comey made clear he believed Clinton had acted badly.

“Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information,” he said, “there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.”

Angry Republicans afterward said Clinton should have faced charges in the matter.

Is the system rigged? Does the scandal mean Clinton shouldn’t be president? Joel Mathis and Ben Boychuk, the RedBlueAmerica columnists, debate the issue.

JOEL MATHIS

Hillary Clinton’s decision to use a private email server was selfish, unwise and - it seems - borderline illegal. But it was also kind of understandable.

For most of the nearly three decades Hillary and Bill Clinton have been at the heart of American public life, and Republicans have hunted them with Captain Ahab-like zeal, launching years-long investigations by congressional committees and independent counsels at every sign of a misstep - no matter how big or small, real or imagined. Congressional Republicans just concluded a four-year investigation of Clinton’s activities during the 2012 attacks on Benghazi, Libya; they were desperate to pin a crime on her and spent millions of taxpayer dollars trying to do so, yet came up with virtually nothing of import. Again.

It’s in that context we can best understand the email scandal.

Hillary Clinton was widely mocked in the 1990s when she spoke of a “vast right-wing conspiracy,” but it’s not paranoia if they’re really out to get you. The personal email system was an attempt to evade GOP scandal-mongers and to avoid the scrutiny she knew they would bring to bear no matter how benign her activities.

Here’s where it’s worth noting that the Clintons have continually assisted their tormentors. Whether it’s sex in the White House or taking payments from foreign governments at the Clinton Foundation or, in this case, trying to avoid public-disclosure laws, Bill and Hillary Clinton were often careless and occasionally unable to curb their own worst impulses. They never seemed to understand that the appearance of a conflict of interest can be just as bad as an actual conflict.

So it’s both the case that the Republicans overzealously pursued the Clintons - and that the Clintons were dumb enough not to let it force them to cling to the highest standards of appearance and conduct. It’s enough to make you tear out your hair.

Fortunately for Hillary Clinton, it seems her Republican opponent for the presidency will be Donald Trump, which likely means the GOP will get another four to eight years to pursue their white whale. Lord, help us all.

BEN BOYCHUK

Hillary Clinton lied. Over and over again. That’s what she does.

Clinton lied about her private email server. She lied when she claimed she turned over all work-related emails to the State Department and the FBI. Then she lied when she insisted she hadn’t sent or received classified emails.

By maintaining a personal, unclassified email server, Clinton recklessly endangered the national security. The FBI confirmed that foreign agents hacked her aides’ email accounts. It’s likely that the Russians and the Chinese (and the Iranians and the North Koreans) got everything Clinton had, too - and in real time. That’s what they do.

Comey laid out in excruciating detail the extreme carelessness Clinton and her flunkies took with U.S. secrets. My Gmail account is more secure than the email system Clinton used. Yet Comey said “no reasonable prosecutor” would bring a case against Clinton based on the facts he has.

Since when are prosecutors reasonable?

The U.S. attorney last year, for example, went after a Naval reservist named Bryan Nishimura for mishandling classified materials in almost exactly the same way as the former secretary of state. Nishimura even admitted to downloading top-secret briefings to his personal electronic devices. He had nothing untoward in mind; he just wanted to work from home.

Nishimura was fined $7,500, received two years probation and, naturally, will never again be allowed to have security clearance.

So when Comey speaks of what a “reasonable prosecutor” would or would not do, what he really means is no prosecutor would be crazy enough to pursue charges against the presumptive Democratic nominee for president and the first woman in U.S. history to hold such a distinction.

If Clinton wins the presidency, she will be expected to swear an oath to “faithfully execute the office of president of the United States,” and will to the best of her ability, “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” But she’s already demonstrated that her fidelity isn’t to preserving the laws but to her own self-preservation.

She lies. She’ll keep lying. And she’ll get away with it - if we let her.

Ben Boychuk (bboychuk@city-journal.org) is associate editor of the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal. Joel Mathis (joelmmathis@gmail.com) is associate editor for Philadelphia Magazine. Visit them on Facebook: www.facebook.com/benandjoel

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