13 April 2016

Notes from Norm: Presidential Tell

The signs are subtle but they are clear evidence that the President intends to weigh in soon and forcefully to support the candidacy of the flailing Hillary Clinton.

The evidence of the changing nature and tone of his support has been in the President’s inappropriate defense of the Clinton national security scandal.

Which, to be honest, at issue in former Secretary Clinton’s use of a private email server is not whether she was “careless” in the use of email.

It’s whether or not she violated the law with respect to the receipt and distribution of classified national security documents.

The President’s defense of Clinton, “…there’s classified and then there’s classified..”, when it comes to Clinton’s use of a private email server is not only insulting to average Americans who have to follow the law, but it also represents the literal defense she and her campaign have been using for months.

President Obama assures us that he has not weighed in on the matter with the FBI or the Justice Department.  

But, he has.  

Remember, it isn’t a stranger that appoints the head of the FBI or the Justice Department.

It’s the President.

So, when the President says he has not weighed in with an opinion on the case with either, he isn’t being even remotely dishonest.  He’s being entirely dishonest.

The President knows that whether Clinton is indicted or not the presumption with the American people will be that she received favoritism.  Furthermore, by proactively stating that the classified information she had on her private email server wasn’t as important of classified information as it could be he is doing something else.  He is weakening the government’s argument about what is the value of classified information.

So, who gets to decide the value and importance of classified information?

In this case the President has decided he gets to.  

He has sent very strong, very public and very distinct messages to the FBI and the Justice Department that he, the President of the United States of America, has decided that his candidate of choice, Hillary Clinton, did not violate the law.

In other words the President’s public comments should actually be read this way:

“Did you hear me FBI?  Justice Department?  Hillary Clinton is innocent because I said so. And, you better, too! I’m your Boss!”

Further weakening American national security secrets the President has joined Clinton’s campaign attack against the very government he leads by stating that Clinton is in trouble only because the very government he leads is “overclassifying” information.

What a comfort to every spy and foreign enemy of America to learn that instead of enforcing the national security secrets of America, the President, and his candidate for President, Hillary Clinton, believe those secrets should be easier to get!

In poker, a “tell” is a way players communicate to other players how they are doing with their hand.  Most times it is done through a gesture or some type of tic or mannerism that gives them away.

In politics, a “tell” is a way a politician communicates to another politician what they intend to do by saying it out loud.

In this case, the President has given his “tell” to Clinton that she should know he is going to back her up on what most Americans would believe to be not only a violation of federal laws but more likely an abuse of power.

Recently I wrote that Clinton may not be indicted but that she could face an even larger problem than an indictment.  That is the historic pattern of independence shown by the Director of the FBI James Comey when it comes to standing up to the power and influence of the White House.

Comey, a former official in the George W. Bush Administration, told members of the Administration to take a hike when it came to what he believed was a clear violation of U.S. laws related to national security. He cared so much about that position he threatened to resign unless President Bush came around to his way of thinking.

Which is exactly what President Bush did and Comey rescinded his resignation threat.

The President must know this is a legitimate problem facing Clinton. To that end he is providing her with the political cover she may need whether she is or is not indicted.

If she is indicted the President can support her claim that the government (again, the government he leads) is actually guilty of being too aggressive in enforcing privacy laws.

If she isn’t indicted the President can support her claim that the government (again, the government he leads) should have better understood the difference between “…there’s classified and then there’s classified…”

Of course, for America, he might just as well be saying: There’s Hillary Clinton and then there’s the rest of America.