Saturday, October 15, 2016

Lock Her Up!

I differ from all the VSP's who say that it is particularly horrifying that Donald Trump expressed his intent to imprison Hillary Clinton if elected.  My feelings on the subject are more mixed.

We went through this once before when George Bush left the White House.  Some people were calling for him to be prosecuted as a war criminal, but the VSP's all insisted that it was out of the question, prosecuting political opponents is what banana republics do, and that such things don't happen in the US.  The same thing is happening now with Hillary Clinton.  Whether she committed any significant crime by sending State Department e-mails on a private server, or by deleting e-mails when they were subpoenaed I don't pretend to know.  But the VSP's all insist that only in a banana republic would she actually be prosecuted.

Indeed, the same even applies to Trump himself.  After all, his entire business career was based on fraud.  At least some of it is probably prosecutable.  But it will look like a partisan witch hunt if it happens.  This has led at least some VSP's (can't bother to look for link) to call for a preemptive pardon from Trump as well.

In short, only banana republics actually expect their leaders to obey the law.  In solid, working democracies, we have an ironclad principle that our leaders should be immune from prosecution and able to get away with any crimes they may commit in office and perhaps even before.  I have a serious problem with this.

Indeed, that appears to be a major reason the whole Hillary's e-mails story has legs -- not so much that Hillary's offense is particularly heinous, but that it represents all the ways in which our political class and ruling bigwigs seem to get away with everything while the little guy is punished.  I think there is some legitimacy to this complaint.

Of course, Trump is the last person who has any sort of standing to make it.  His whole career was based on fraud, on gaming the system, and on wealth and power meaning getting away with things the little guy can never get away with.  That was, after all, the real point of the "pussy" tape -- that his wealth and power allowed him to get away with manhandling women in a way that regular guys never could.  His response to all this is that yes, he made his career gaming the system, he knows more than anyone about how the system is played, and he is therefore uniquely qualified to put an end to it.  It is not, in his case, the appeal of a repentant sinner.  (Trump repent of anything?  Be real!) Rather, it is essentially the appeal of a bigger scoundrel saying that he can stop the smaller scoundrels.  And another article (don't remember where to look) suggests that every time the establishment makes clear that they oppose Trump, it simply reinforces the impression that they fear him because of his ability to shut down their crooked games.

At the same time, looking to Trump to restore the rule of law is sort of like hiring a wolf to guard the hen house from foxes.  We are talking about a man who threatens libel actions or anti-trust actions against newspapers that run stories that criticize him.  A man who threatened to use the power of his office to investigate a judge who ruled against him in the Trump University lawsuit.  A man suspected of bribing an Attorney General to drop the investigation of Trump University.  (And who definitely resorted to subterfuge to conceal the illegal donation).

Certainly it is laughable to suggest that his more rabid followers are motivated by a concern for the rule of law.  Already at a recent rally some began expanding the call to "lock her up" from Hillary Clinton to the People Magazine reporter who accused Trump of groping her.  And perhaps other accusers as well.  Indeed, one account even claims that Trump supporters are calling to lock up other critics in the press as well.  And, of course, Trump is insisting that if he loses the election, that will be proof that it is rigged.

So, the choice appears to be between letting our criminal justice system be corrupted by letting powerful bigwigs get away with breaking the law, or letting our criminal justice system be corrupted by using it for partisan witch hunts.  I am not sure which poison to pick.  But of this much I am certain.  If we want to restore the rule of law, Donald Trump is absolutely not the person to do it.

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