Recent events have evoked a memory for me, a memory of a lesson in how life works in the real world. One day in the late ‘80s I was patrolling with a partner near the Los Angeles Coliseum, where a rock concert was about to begin. The streets surrounding the venue were choked with traffic as late-arriving concertgoers sought out the few parking spots left to be had. Traffic was at a standstill on a side street just south of the Coliseum, so frustrating one driver that he chose to drive down the wrong side of the street and pass all the stopped cars, among which, sadly for him, was the police car piloted by yours truly.
In due course my partner and I were in conversation with this driver, a man in his mid-20s. It was readily apparent that he had over-imbibed, and after the customary field sobriety tests he found himself handcuffed and in the backseat of our car. We were left with the matter what to do with his car and his passenger, his wife as it happened. If she had been sober, we could have released the car to her and sent her on her way, perhaps to enjoy the concert after scalping her husband’s ticket. But she was at least as drunk as her husband, so we had no choice but to call for a tow truck and impound the car.
So incensed was the woman at hearing this news that she began to berate her husband for ruining what she must have imagined would be an enjoyable evening. As happens with many intoxicated people, her mood suddenly shifted, as she apparently thought that sweet-talking us would spare her husband from arrest and their car from the hook. She continued in this vein until the tow truck appeared and its driver set to hoisting the car. At this, she turned angry once again and proceeded to give me a solid slap across my face. And in due course, she, too, was in handcuffs and seated with her husband in the backseat of our car. And off to jail they went, he for drunk driving, she for battery on a police officer.
It was some days later that I got that lesson in how life works in the real world. The detective who handled the battery case was a woman whom I had trained when she was a rookie, and I asked her if the case had been filed with the city attorney’s office. It had not, she said, and she went on at some length with a nonsensical explanation of how the decision not to prosecute the woman had been reached. And as for the drunk-driving husband, I never received a court subpoena for his case, which I found odd as DUI cases were almost always good for at least one day of on-call court overtime.
I smelled a rat. I inquired further with another detective, who told me that the father of the woman who slapped me was friends with a high-ranking member of the LAPD, who had let it be known that he wanted to see the case dropped. And so it was, albeit with some legalistic rationale conjured up for the paperwork. And unless the woman’s husband pled guilty at arraignment, an exceedingly rare occurrence, it’s safe to assume his case was made to disappear as well.
The couple, you see, were connected, and despite their manifest guilt of the crimes alleged, they were immune to the consequences that would befall people in similar circumstances but whose father or father-in-law was not friends with a high-ranking member of the LAPD. I was advised by a trusted mentor to let it go, for I would be crushed like a bug if I raised a ruckus.
And by the way, the advantage of being connected was not lost on that detective who had lied to me about why the case was dropped, the one I had trained in her first assignment on the streets. She went on to become a high-ranking member of the LAPD herself, climbing the ladder with the help, one presumes, of the man whose daughter and son-in-law were granted a pass for their misdeeds.
As I said, I was reminded of this incident as I listened to FBI Director James Comey explain how it was that Hillary Clinton was clearly guilty of at least two violations of federal statutes but would nonetheless be spared from prosecution. We’ve heard much about Mr. Comey’s reputation for integrity, a reputation I acknowledge but with two caveats: 1), in Washington, D.C., it doesn’t take much integrity to be a standout, and 2), no one, and I mean absolutely no one, reaches Comey’s level in the federal bureaucracy, or any bureaucracy for that matter, without being known as a team player. So he did his part, sparing Mrs. Clinton from her turn in the dock for the sake of what in his judgment is the greater good. When it comes to being connected, no one can match the Clintons.
But in rendering his decision, Comey made a curious comment. After laying out in detail that Mrs. Clinton’s conduct in using her unsecured email server met the elements of two federal crimes, he said that “no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case.” Andrew McCarthy, who formerly served as a prosecutor in the Justice Department and is “reasonable” by any definition of the word save for those favored by Mrs. Clinton’s acolytes, offers a dissenting opinion when he says Comey’s decision “makes no sense.”
I defer to McCarthy’s judgment in the ways of the federal justice system, but though I did not rise far in the LAPD (I was not connected), I did serve for some time as a detective and am familiar with the process of investigating a case and presenting it for prosecution. A case might have defects that give a prosecutor pause (they all shudder at the mere thought of a not-guilty verdict), and added persuasion can sometimes be required before a prosecutor will accept it. But it is all but unheard of for an investigator to present an ironclad case and then argue against prosecution.
But these are the Clintons we’re talking about, people who for many years have aroused previously unplumbed depths of cynicism, so nothing in this should surprise anyone.
There are, however, people who are not cynical about the Clintons. These are the people who were reading Mrs. Clinton’s electronic correspondence which she made accessible through her quest for secrecy. It did not occur to her that in keeping her email away from the prying eyes of those pesky oversight committees she made it available to anyone with the will and the means to hack into her various servers. In one of my police assignments I was schooled in electronic surveillance methods by former special forces operators who had practiced those methods overseas. To anyone knowledgeable in this arena, it is inconceivable that Mrs. Clinton’s email wasn’t being read in real time for her entire tenure as secretary of state. For all practical purposes, the United States had no secrets during that time.
Mrs. Clinton’s defenders will point to Comey’s statement that the FBI found no evidence that her email was successfully hacked, but this is only because her laxity in protecting it made such evidence impossible to detect. You might discover you’ve been burglarized if you come home to find your door kicked in or a window broken, but if you’ve left your door unlocked, and if the thief has been careful in his selection of the loot, you might never know you’ve been victimized.
But in the Clinton email mess, even as she claims vindication in the face of clear evidence of her guilt, we have all been victimized, for we are less safe. If she is elected president, I fear we will all learn a harsh lesson on how things work in the real world.