The following piece first appeared on www.Medium.com on Sunday, December 4
Photo by Jim Young, Reuters
Disclaimer: This article is about political strategy written by a Democrat for Democrats (and liberal-leaning independent voters). If you are a conservative who loathes Hillary Clinton, please consider this before leaving comments about your perceptions of her innocence, guilt, or character. That’s not the subject of this piece.
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In order to limit one very large piece of deep national, political division in a Trump era that looks to provide plenty of national, political division on its own, President Obama must grant a Presidential Pardon to Hillary Clinton for any possible, though clearly unwitting, misdeeds that may have occurred during her tenure as Secretary of State. This suggestion, when shared with friends or family, has been met with at best, curiosity, and more frequently, with defiance and claims that it makes no sense. Their reasoning is either a version of “She hasn’t been indicted for a crime” or the more resolute, “she isn’t guilty of anything.”
Further, with Mr. Trump stating on November 22 that, with regard to investigating and prosecuting Secretary Clinton, “It’s just not something I feel very strongly about,” and “I don’t want to hurt the Clintons,” one might take false comfort in thinking my suggestion unnecessary. I would argue that in this “post-truth” environment, both arguments matter little. One must be wise enough to add the phrase, “…right now” to the end of any absolute declaration by this particular President-Elect, especially given that in the same interview he refused to take such action completely off the table.
For merely putting my suggestion in writing and sharing it publicly, I will likely be accused of doing the following (exasperated dialogue added for dramatic effect):
“You’re pressing President Obama to issue a pardon NOT SOUGHT by the beneficiary!”
First of all, we don’t know that. Second, I don’t care – she should be asking, for reasons we will explore. And even if she doesn’t, neither did Nixon (that we know of).
“You’re proposing a solution in search of an actual problem!” …
If you don’t think there’s still a risk to Secretary Clinton, than you haven’t been listening. She has been repeatedly accused of crimes, multiple in number, and has endured ridiculous and humiliating bumper stickers like “Hillary for Prison,” “Hillary Lied and 4 People Died” (Benghazi) and even subjected to the official delegates to a Republican National Convention chanting, repeatedly, “Lock her up!” At one point, the bridge blocking bully himself, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, led this refrain during a prime-time convention speech that played out more like a Kangaroo Court.
Trump’s November 22 comments aside, since he made them, the recount issue sprouted, and he’s been angered by his belief that “Hillary” and the Democrats are behind the efforts to challenge ballot counts and irregularities in the upper Midwest. He’s even made his displeasure known through – surprise, surprise – Tweets that mock the Democrats for not accepting the very election results they insisted he must. So a renewed displeasure toward his former opponent has been made clear. Add to that:
- The drool coming from the mouths of people like below average mayor-turned hero in tragedy-turned bile-spitting, angry madman Rudy Giuliani, who would love nothing more than to see Clinton behind bars
- Statements of disappointment over Trump’s willingness to move on from conservative Senator-turned favorite Trump-joking nice guy/pool shark Lindsey Graham,
- Comments made to Fox News on November 30 by the baby-faced, starving-for-attention-empty suit that is Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah, who affirmed that an ongoing investigation into Sec. Clinton exists, and that there are still thousands of State Department documents for which he feels the public is owed thorough review
- And the fact that Jeff Sessions has been nominated for Attorney General (more on him later) …
… and you’ll forgive me if I find attempts to snuff out any talk of a Pardon being necessary a bit naïve.
“…and one without precedent!”
Regardless of the degree of real or perceived impropriety, the environment facing Secretary Clinton is not entirely out of character with that facing a recently Ex-President Nixon. Below is most of the text (with certain passages underlined by me), of President Ford’s Proclamation to the American people in Pardoning the 37th President:
The Great History Place – Ford Pardon’s Nixon
“…Pursuant to resolutions of the House of Representatives, its Committee on the Judiciary conducted an inquiry and investigation on the impeachment of the President extending over more than eight months. The hearings of the Committee and its deliberations, which received wide national publicity over television, radio, and in printed media, resulted in votes adverse to Richard Nixon on recommended Articles of Impeachment.
As a result of certain acts or omissions occurring before his resignation from the Office of President, Richard Nixon has become liable to possible indictment and trial for offenses against the United States. Whether or not he shall be so prosecuted depends on findings of the appropriate grand jury and on the discretion of the authorized prosecutor. Should an indictment ensue, the accused shall then be entitled to a fair trial by an impartial jury, as guaranteed to every individual by the Constitution.
It is believed that a trial of Richard Nixon, if it became necessary, could not fairly begin until a year or more has elapsed. In the meantime, the tranquility to which this nation has been restored by the events of recent weeks could be irreparably lost by the prospects of bringing to trial a former President of the United States. The prospects of such trial will cause prolonged and divisive debate over the propriety of exposing to further punishment and degradation a man who has already paid the unprecedented penalty of relinquishing the highest elective office of the United States.
Now, THEREFORE, I, GERALD R. FORD, President of the United States, pursuant to the pardon power conferred upon me by Article II, Section 2, of the Constitution, have granted and by these presents do grant a full, free, and absolute pardon unto Richard Nixon for all offenses against the United States which he, Richard Nixon, has committed or may have committed or taken part in during the period from January 20, 1969 through August 9, 1974. … “
“Adverse to Richard Nixon” as Congress’s votes may have been, history still shows that only two presidents have been impeached: Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. So for what indicted crime on Nixon’s behalf was President Ford granting a Pardon? As the words, “or may have committed or taken part in” reveal, Ford was pardoning things that MAY HAVE happened. So why couldn’t President Obama do the same for Secretary Clinton? The precedent is clear.
“Well, you’re pitching an action that will hurt President Obama’s increasingly high approval rating, or worse, his legacy, as he makes his way out of office!”
President Obama shouldn’t care, as I would contend that he will be forgiven by history when the reaction to his pardon affirms my belief that he thwarted efforts certain to further divide the nation. Further, though it did play into the 1976 Presidential contest, there is no denying that “the long national nightmare” of Nixon’s Watergate scandal took its first blinks of waking up with Ford’s pardon. And here’s the difference in terms of political damage to President Obama and the Democrats. Unlike Ford in 1976, President Obama won’t be on the ballot in 2018 or 2020. He’s a cool cat – he can take the hit while solidifying support among left-leaning historians for decades. The Party won’t take a hit for something that looks to have been an independent action of an outgoing president. So why not take the target off the board? Or, at the very least, confiscate the darts? (I could have also gone with: lock up the handgun and don’t tell the petulant child and his out-of-control friends the combination?)
“Such an idea would put the Democratic establishment, the President, and Secretary Clinton in a position of de-facto admitting some degree of guilt or culpability!”
If well worded, and presented correctly, no I won’t – more on that below. Besides, the millions who think she’s guilty “of something” anyway aren’t gaining much by any perceived “acknowledgement” that a Pardon delivers. Plus, either way it isn’t as if they were magically going to vote Democratic in the next election. Let’s face it – millions of taxpayer dollars have been used by the Republicans to hold hearings intended to embarrass and raise doubt about Secretary Clinton character and competence. Even when she appeared in person and aptly defended herself as she did in 2015, is there anyone who now doubts the Republicans were effective in eroding public trust in Hillary Clinton? There is absolutely no doubt that a good segment of even non-party affiliated American voters were susceptible to the doubts raised by a Republican majority. And yes, these hearings “received wide national publicity over television, radio, and in printed media,” In today’s environment, they also were subject to added life and hyperbolic emphasis delivered through the “fake news” and memes appearing on a large swath of social media platforms.
Bottom line: those who think she’s guilty of something still will, cannot be deterred or convinced otherwise, and are not likely to evolve into persuadable voters for Democrats and progressives. So why not grant the Pardon? Face two simple facts, kids. Your older parents are never going to change, and these particular Americans are never going to like us. So by God best to protect Hillary and take this off the table.
“But Nixon had been investigated and accused and there was a pending indictment. Isn’t this different than just having people suspect you are guilty?”
Look, any grand jury and special prosecutor selected to investigate and bring charges against Secretary Clinton is certain to be so biased that they would likely make Ken Starr seem, by comparison, like that neighbor who moved away years ago but who you suddenly miss terribly at book club. Their “discretion,” I am sure you can concede, will be the most predictable portion of this entire scenario. I’m even more certain that such a trial would be such a media circus would bring the current “culture war” that exists among our divided nation to a boiling point.
Ken Starr: Photo from FanPix.net
“But Trump is going to be so busy either succeeding or screwing up, his administration would have no time to prioritize going after Secretary Clinton.”
That’s nonsense. When has Donald Trump ever been too busy for whimsical, attention-grabbing stunts?
First, let’s assume things are going well for President Trump, and after all, he says he’s moved on (don’t forget – “…for now.”). He still has to throw a bone to the millions of Americans, some newly engaged and enraged activists, who voted for this man out of their manufactured or otherwise biased loathing of Secretary Clinton and/or the Clintons in general. They, and plenty of wealthy right wing conspirators – who donate a lot of money to Republicans and conservative causes – will insist that this witch hunt continue to completion. In addition to the names bulleted above, organized mobs also insist on moving forward with a Clinton public lynching. Fascist Website Breitbart News, upon hearing of Trump’s reversal on prosecuting Clinton, ran the headline, “Broken Promise.” Right-wing Judicial Watch is still pressing the matter, and they are a group known to be about as flexible and open-minded as a pit bull’s locked jaw. President-elect Trump, we must also remember:
- Isn’t the sole individual deciding who and what to prosecute.
- Is a guy that usually decides something based on what’s said by the last person with whom he speaks.
This “last person” may likely come in the form of third-class Attorney General nominee Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, III, whose name alone elicits visions of white sheets and rope. From a guy like Sessions, can you honestly see anything other than blatant attempts at voter suppression besting her prosecution as a matter of priority?! I don’t.
Second, it gets even worse if things are going poorly for a President Trump. If public scrutiny of his policy agenda, leadership decisions or style, or political failures becomes high – and his approval low – he and his “alt-right” propaganda machine will undoubtedly manufacture a distraction, and they’ll need a scapegoat (Good fascist movements always do!) No obvious choice leaps to mind more than a full-fledged assault on Secretary Clinton. They’ll go after her faster than you can say “base voters.”
Yes, a Pardon of Secretary Clinton would need to be executed effectively. My advice would be to simply allow Secretary Clinton’s name be listed on the list of presidential pardons with a small statement about perceived injustices that the president himself deems unfair, but feel warrants this preventative action given (something along the lines of) “the unpredictable and ever-changing political climate that seems to be making its way to Washington.” There should be:
- No televised speech
- No explanatory press conference
- No major public announcement
For this to work and at least have a shot at being played down, “also ran” news, this is the only way I can see it having a chance.
Fridays in politics and public relations in general are days where bad news and apologies are, as the saying goes, “put out with the trash,” not likely to be read with Saturday’s paper. On Friday, January 20th, President-Elect Trump will be sworn in at Noon Eastern. As one of his last official acts, President Obama should sign a Presidential Pardon for Hillary Clinton and let the news it makes get swarmed over without much fanfare when put side-by-side with Inaugural coverage and the early days of the Trump presidency.
Failure to shield Secretary Clinton from any further reproach over her scandals – perceived or otherwise – will be more than simply a missed opportunity to weaken the Republican/Trump arsenal of political mass distractions. It would serve as nothing short of a politically tone-deaf dereliction of duty in light of the abundant warnings and threats made by Republicans and their arch-conservative interest groups to hound her for the rest of her days, and an abject failure in pushing America forward beyond the nasty aftertaste of Election 2016.