I haven’t written much about the 2016 presidential election. Like a lot of people, I’m surprised that the USA can’t do better than Trump and Clinton. Or Johnson and Stein. Or Jeb Bush, Rubio, Cruz, Santorum, Huckabee, Fiorina, and so on. The only two candidates who seemed to be presidential material to me were Sanders and Kasich and they were both laughed aside for being unelectable. It’s all remarkable. And there may be fixes for that involving removing the public element of a primary, changing the way people vote, and campaign finance reform. But none of that matters for the 2016 election so I’ll save that for a future post.
Regardless of what has happened leading up to now, we are now down to two. Yes, two. Johnson and Stein aren’t going to get elected. If with 8 days remaining, you think that either could get elected, you have too light a grasp on reality and should close this window and open a new one seeking professional help. So let’s talk about the two we are left with.
On the one hand, we have a career politician who has very much wanted to be President since her husband stopped being President. She’s got heaps of experience and one could argue that there is good experience and bad experience. And yet, I would argue any experience is good experience because I don’t need a President who does everything by the book – I need a President who gets the job done well. But there’s no question that voters don’t find Clinton trustworthy and while you could look at any individual complaint and find a way to dismiss it or explain it away, when taken altogether, it is hard to deny that there does seem to be at least some truth to Clinton’s lack of being truthful.
On the other hand, we have a businessman and reality TV star with zero political experience, who is a known narcissist, and who is an obvious misogynist despite his claim that “Nobody has more respect for women than I do“. As conservative pundits have opined, he has no understanding of how government works or foreign policy and even more dangerous than that, he has no interest in learning – “He doesn’t know what he doesn’t know and he’s uninterested in finding out”. And on top of that, Trump has a short fuse and frequently says bad things. And coupling that with his reluctance to ever admit doing something wrong (except when apologizing for “locker room talk in a carefully scripted speech” that he obviously didn’t have any involvement in other than reading on camera), you have an individual who is nearly the exact opposite of the right kind of person to be President.
Our world continues to get smaller. Back when Kennedy was President, the world had already shrunk when Soviet missiles threatened not only the USA but also life on Earth. These days, ISIS is the most apparent enemy of the USA and our way of life. An obvious job requirement – perhaps the most important job requirement – for a United States President in 2016 is an understanding of foreign policy and the ability to effectively work with foreign leaders. Isolationism is doomed to fail. History makes that clear. Therefore, by resume alone, Clinton has my vote. Add in her ability to be unflappable in the face of absurd congressional hearings last year and when trying to have a serious political debate with Trump and it’s clear she’s very well qualified.
So what about the lying. I’ve already written above that I don’t need a President to be completely honest with me so that doesn’t bother me. And I think the question of whether the President is somebody I can get a beer with (which was the subject of prior elections) is equally stupid since I want the intellectual elite that knows more than me regardless of whether they are fun at a bar. I have my own friends for a bar and don’t need the President to be one of them.
But clearly the lying bothers a lot of people. To my knowledge, there are two recent instances of lying that seem to trouble most people. Benghazi and e-mail. I think the Benghazi issue was fairly well fleshed out in the hearings and I believe she came out looking the victor. Whether you believe she lied under oath or did nothing wrong is entirely a matter of how you felt about Clinton going into that. Personally, I’m of the opinion that there was no lying or deception having anything to do with the embassy attack or the knowledge of a threat or the preparations for anything. There may have been face-saving lying after the fact when they claimed that it was the result of an anti-Islam video rather than acknowledge that it was terrorism right away. But that kind of fibbing happens all the time in politics and it doesn’t have a material difference in results. So I don’t see anything here to be worried about. Besides that’s yesterday’s news now.
Today’s news regards e-mails and servers. Not a sexy topic, but okay, maybe there’s something relevant in this discussion that might help people learn whether Clinton can be trusted to be President. For technical reasons that I won’t go into here (because this post is tagged as “Politics” and not “Technology”!), there is something to be said for having your own e-mail server and I’ve thought about doing it myself. In my case it is more to do with determining how messages are stored, while in the Clinton’s case, I’m sure it was more about privacy. Either way, it’s about control and it’s not a wrong thing to do. The wrong thing would be doing government work that needs security measures and archival capability on such a private server. And it does appear that she did that to some extent. But does her decision to use the wrong e-mail account seem like a calculated way to subvert the government’s ability to keep track of what she wrote? Or is it more likely a woman in her late 60s using technology that is new to her in a less than perfect way? If you have worked with a senior on setting up and using e-mail as I have, the notion that Clinton wasn’t fully familiar with how messages work with a server probably rings true. Again, this probably comes down to a prejudging of Clinton and if you thought she was a nefarious scoundrel before e-mail issues, you probably felt like the e-mail issues corroborated your view. While if you didn’t have negative views before, you probably are like me and feel that she screwed up and the messy response was again an attempt to save face.
Now, this weekend, new news is out about Clinton’s e-mails again. What now. Well, it appears that in investigating Anthony Weiner for his continued addition to sexting (can somebody finally make it so that guy has zero access to a smartphone – or any Internet connection, for that matter?), the FBI discovered that his laptop may have actually had some of his wife’s, Huma Abedin’s, e-mail on it and that e-mail may have come from Clinton. The potentially newsworthy possibility is that there are e-mails there that are among those that the FBI didn’t get to see from Clinton’s own server. But there are many problems here.
First, the FBI announced it was investigating Weiner’s laptop looking for Clinton e-mail before even having a warrant to search the laptop for such e-mail. Which either implies that any public announcement of the investigation is way premature or that they already did the digging before they got the warrant? Either way, you could argue violation of the Hatch Act.
Second, this is supposedly Weiner’s laptop, not his wife’s. For Weiner to read his e-mail, he could have opened up a web browser and read his e-mail through webmail, never actually downloading any mail to his computer for any account. Or perhaps he did have an e-mail client on his computer in which case, he could have used it to download e-mail to his computer. But it would have only needed to have been his e-mail. Why would Abedin’s be there too? Okay, so a married couple does sometimes use the same computer for e-mail, yes. But it seems really unlikely that this power couple would have had only one device to use for e-mail. Maybe they each had their own but maybe Abedin occasionally used Weiner’s too? Or maybe it was her laptop before it was his and they didn’t wipe it clean before reassigning? The questions are therefore: to what extent was this particular laptop used by Abedin for her e-mail, in what way was the laptop used for e-mail (webmail versus e-mail client), and for what duration was this device in use.
Third, hasn’t Abedin’s e-mail already been looked through? If the FBI wanted to see all of Clinton’s e-mail, presumably they checked accounts of those who were likely to have been included on Clinton’s sent and received messages and certainly Abedin would have been at the top of that list. So Abedin’s e-mail on a heretofore unknown device would only be of interest if there was some suspicion that the e-mail previously analyzed was incomplete or that messages had been deleted from the devices and servers of Abedin’s account and therefore that there new messages to be found on Weiner’s laptop that have not previously been investigated.
Summing up the most recent e-mail situation: the FBI is now investigating Weiner’s laptop to see if it contains messages from his wife’s account that were downloaded on that computer by an e-mail client and that otherwise would not have been previously analyzed by the FBI through either Clinton’s e-mail or Abedin’s other devices or server. All of that sounds really unlikely which makes the annoucement of the investigation by the FBI head even more puzzling.
Anyway, even if you wanted to assume the worst case scenario, and messages were found on Abedin’s account that hadn’t been found before and those messages contained secret information that came from Clinton’s private server account rather than the state.gov one and those messages were therefore in violation of government policy, the most you could blame Clinton for is being careless with e-mail. That’s a far cry from the manipulative devil that her opponents would have you believe she is.
And that’s why, even if you were to consider the worst that the FBI e-mail investigation might discover, Clinton is still a far more qualified and better applicant for the job than Trump.
Oh and policies? Shmolicies. They don’t matter for the 2016 presidential election. Trump’s policies are inconsistent rhetoric whose only goal is to get him elected. And Clinton’s are at least more consistent and less rhetorical while still having some room to wiggle to gain Sanders supporters. But the truth is that much of the wackadoodle nonsense that Trump wants to do (e.g. have Mexico pay for a wall in the Rio Grande) could never happen so it’s irrelevant. I’m focusing on job qualifications more than I am specific policies since the qualifications won’t change but the policies are eminently malleable.