Among the more charming preoccupations of the modern left is its newfound interest in a mock social science that involves divining forms of “privilege” allegedly enjoyed by otherwise undeserving individuals. The Appalachian family of five in the hills of West Virginia living on a logger’s salary and food stamps might be surprised to learn that they are the beneficiaries of “white privilege,” but that is the supposedly dispassionate assessment of their classifiers toiling away at this or the other coastal opinion journal. Similarly, men, heterosexuals, those who identify as the gender of their birth, et cetera, et cetera, are also presumed heirs to a legacy of privilege that yields them unwarranted advantages. This is not a study characterized by the empiricism that typifies genuine scholarly discipline; more often, it is grievance and resentment in pursuit of a methodology that legitimizes base acrimony. What exposes this unhealthy myopia as something less than objective analysis is that so few of those consumed with identifying and condemning privilege cannot see it where it is most prominent: namely, with those who occupy positions of power. The very embodiment of unearned privilege is running for the presidency in 2016, but so few on the left seem equipped or willing to acknowledge that Hillary Clinton has been afforded leeway that anyone else in her present position would be denied.
The appearance of malfeasance that burdens Clinton’s political ambition as did Jacob Marley’s chains has lost much of its shock value if only because new revelations about her alleged misconduct are a near daily occurrence. In just the last week alone, a variety of disclosures regarding Clinton’s past and present behavior have exploded onto the headlines. Their impact has, however, been muted.
Shortly after Clinton was sworn into office as secretary of state in 2009, the IRS began an investigation into Americans who held secret accounts in the Swiss bank UBS. Clinton intervened, a move the Wall Street Journal characterized as “unusual,” and negotiated a settlement that provided the IRS with just 10 percent of the account information it had sought. In the following months, donations from UBS to the Clinton Foundation increased from less than $60,000 in 2008 to $600,000 in 2014. What’s more, the financial institution joined the Foundation to launch a multi-million dollar inner-city loan program and paid President Bill Clinton $1.5 million to participate in a handful of Q&A sessions with one of the bank’s administrators. There is no overt indication of wrongdoing here, but the Journal noted, “Her involvement with UBS is a prime example of how the Clintons’ private and political activities overlap.”
Involvement in Swiss banking activities, much less potentially shielding tens of thousands of secret American accounts from IRS scrutiny, used to be a fixation of the American left. Barack Obama’s reelection campaign and its allies spent countless man-hours creating the impression that Mitt Romney had avoided paying taxes by stashing his funds in a Swiss bank account. Vox.com writer Matt Yglesias, who wrote for Slate at the time, speculated that Romney might have been a beneficiary of the 2009 “Swiss bank account amnesty.” He speculated that this might have been one reason the GOP’s 2012 nominee declined to disclose his income tax filings. “But even though the amnesty would eliminate any legal or financial liability for past acts, it would hardly eliminate political liability,” Yglesias wrote. As Romney might say, what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. By rights, liberals should perceive Clinton’s “political liability” as even more perilous than Romney’s, seeing as she was something of an architect of this “amnesty.” And, yet, to attack her as she deserves would be to handicap further Democrats’ chances of retaining the White House in 2016. Thus, Clinton is spared due censure.
And what of the latest developments in the sprawling email scandal that has robbed Clinton of the voters’ trust? For partisan Democrats, the news just keeps getting worse.
On the heels of a recommendation to the Department of Justice from two independent inspectors general requesting an investigation into the likelihood that Clinton mishandled classified information on her “homebrew” email server, more evidence has emerged that indicates Clinton flagrantly lied to the public when she contended that she neither sent nor received sensitive information via electronic mail. This week, an investigation conducted by McClatchy reporters revealed that, of the emails that had not been destroyed and to which the IGs had access, several of them contained classified information. In fact, Clinton had allegedly mishandled sensitive documents from U.S. intelligence agencies including the National Security Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, the office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the Central Intelligence Agency. Furthermore, Clinton attorney David Kendall, a civilian apparently without appropriate clearance, is currently in possession of the 30,400 emails Clinton declined to delete on a thumb drive. Senate Judiciary Chairman and Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley requested the FBI and the DOJ investigate this potential breach of national security, but you would be well advised to not hold your breath while awaiting their compliance.
When pressed by U.S. Senate investigators on the prospect that sensitive information is not only in the hands of a civilian but is unaccounted for, Hillary Clinton campaign spokesman Nick Merrill replied merely, “the thumb drive is secure.” He declined to elaborate, according to McClatchy. Nothing in Kendall’s public biography indicates that he is cleared to handle classified information, even if it was appropriate to keep those documents on a keychain flash drive. Anyone else in this position (including former CIA Director and U.S. Army General David Petraeus) would be subject to prosecution.
And what has been the Hillary campaign’s response to this brazen and unprofessional conduct and breach of the public trust? To attack the news outlets that initially misreported the bombshell. On Thursday, the Clinton campaign made public a letter they forwarded to New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet excoriating his outlet for initially reporting that the IGs had recommended to the DOJ that Clinton herself be criminally investigated. Team Clinton accused the Times of “egregious” errors and an “apparent abandonment of standard journalistic practices.” This overwrought reaction to a minor error in an otherwise accurate story is a reflection on her candidacy; it is a transparent effort to shift the focus of this story away from Clinton and onto the reporters covering her. The left’s cheering section has predictably taken the bait.
“In sports and politics, when athletes/candidates are complaining about the refs, it usually means they are losing. And it is NEVER becoming,” Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd wrote regarding Republican candidates complaining about the biases of the political press. Surely, this admonition applies to Clinton’s effort to misdirect the focus from her misconduct onto those media outlets that report on it. Perhaps Todd believes it does, but he has not yet said as much.
The political much less legal consequences for Hillary Clinton’s actions would be dire were she anyone other than Hillary Clinton. The former secretary’s status as the anointed heir to Barack Obama, the only Democrat with the ability to win the White House and secure his legacy, and her stature as the most prominent woman in American political life affords her the kind of privilege denied mere mortals. Somehow, progressives who obsess over barely perceptible or outright invented privileges that lurk behind every dark corner have failed to see the most glaring of double standards that fester right under their noses.