“Not necessarily criminal”

At least 85 of 154 private individuals who met with Hillary Clinton when she was Secretary of State had given money to the Clinton Foundation, which paid salaries to members of her family. So, more than half, then. This doesn’t include meetings with officials of the federal government or of other sovereign governments who may have donated. Presumably such people – including the Crown Prince of Bahrain – would have had a good basis for meeting the Secretary of State anyway. At least sixteen foreign governments donated to the Clinton Foundation, and emails have emerged showing that the Foundation put in a request on behalf of the Crown Prince, describing him as “a good friend of ours”.

How do Clinton’s supporters address this? Bill Clinton says he doesn’t know what’s wrong with creating jobs or saving lives. Umm, but that’s not the question. What we have here is favors being granted by the Secretary of State to people who had given money, indirectly, to her family.

Liberal Washington Post columnist, Ruth Marcus, says the Secretary of State’s conduct was “not necessarily criminal”. Well, that’s all right then. But if that is the best that her strongest supporters can come up with there is a major problem with this candidate.

How would this work as a slogan: “Vote Clinton. She’s not necessarily criminal”? Or how about “Vote Clinton: it is entirely possible that she’s less dishonest than Donald Trump”?

And here’s the rub. This candidate who, according to her supporters, is “not necessarily criminal” is actually the second worst candidate who is seeking the presidency this year.

Some readers may recall that your columnist endorsed Gary Johnson last time around. In 2012, both the Republican Party and the Democratic Party had very much stronger candidates than they do this year. This column did not endorse Johnson because there was even the slimmest chance he would be elected. And in dismissing his chances, there was no need for any caveats. If, in 2012, this column had declared that Gary Johnson had no chance “unless one of the major candidates is indicted” readers would have thought me crazy.

In 2012, and in every prior election, the notion that one of the candidates would have been indicted for a federal crime would have seemed absurd.  But this year, Clinton narrowly escaped indictment for her handling of classified documents and is now under suspicion of corruption. Donald Trump is being sued over the collapse of his business venture, “Trump University”, and criminal charges could yet emerge from that investigation too.

This, then, is the strongest recommendation for Gary Johnson. It is not something that would have marked him out as particularly special in any previous election cycle. It has never in the past been what marketers call a “unique selling point” and should not be this year either. But it is. The best case for Gary Johnson is that there is absolutely no reason to suppose that he is a criminal.

It is a pretty minimal hurdle of integrity in an election. It is not actually a recommendation for a candidate, except by reference to others who fail to clear that hurdle. But this year you can vote for someone who is not a crook, if you skip the two main candidates.

ql

Quentin Langley lives in New York and London and teaches at the University of Bedfordshire Business School

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