How Political Machines End

Ross Douthat, writing in the New York Times ruefully writes “I simply do not believe that the Obama Justice Department is going to indict the former secretary of state and Democratic front-runner for mishandling classified information, even if the offenses involved would have sunk a lesser figure’s career or landed her in jail.”  The observation is almost tantamount to arguing that the rule of law no longer exists; that the political class can literally do whatever it wants.  What is worse, he argues the electorate has accepted it, a point he makes in the succeeding paragraph.


Because absent an indictment— or, I suppose, an email showing her deliberately accepting payola from Vladimir Putin — the email affair, no less than the shady Clinton Foundation dealings, looks like the kind of scandal that Clinton supporters have long conditioned themselves to justify: An inappropriate and self-interested episode, clumsily covered over, but at once murky and slow-dripping enough for Democratic partisans to shrug, say, “LOLBenghazi” and move on.

George Orwell, in a moment of despair, predicted a future where the bad guys would permanently rule the roost.  “If you want a picture of the future,” he wrote, “imagine a boot stamping on a human face—for ever.”  But history proves that Orwell’s future never happens.  In actuality Hitler shoots himself in his bunker, waiting for Steiner.  Stalin, after whom Orwell modeled Big Brother — not to mention his whole empire — dies surrounded by jeering enemies, who themselves  kill each other shortly afterward. Even Putin’s new USSR ends with Russia sending itself into bankruptcy.

China’s no longer ten feet tall because it’s too corrupt.  Greece can’t even competently accept a handout.  Brazil’s left wing president is facing huge crowds calling for her resignation because she’s ruined everything.  For Venezuela’s socialists, the consumption of the last rolls of rationed toilet paper are finally convincing the masses they are not the head, but the ass of history.  Castro is reduced to cadging a handout from Obama to support his global revolution, proving that he can’t run a country but he can outsmart the man from Chicago.


The bad guys win for season, but they always fail in the end because the boot stamping on the human face eventually rots and gives its wearer toenail fungus.  A system that is arbitrary — not to mention capricious —  soon destroys itself through inefficiency and/or sclerosis because it has no feedback mechanism.   The leadership degenerates into a geriatric Soviet politburo, the Castro brothers double act, a Robert Mugabe beyond parody or the Democratic presidential line-up.

Speaking of that illustrious cohort, one supporter of the party wrote “how I see it. …Technology is about to propel us into a new era. We NEED the brightest minds to lead us. We need people that can capture all the potential the FUTURE holds! That is not the current Republican party. I hope they change, but as of right now my vote is with the Democrats.”

The future. That would be a party whose aspirants: Biden, Clinton, Gore and Sanders have a combined age of nearly three centuries. Recently John Kerry announced that he was going to sit out he 2016 presidential elections because he had plenty of time to run in subsequent elections.

Kerry refused permanently closing the door on a greater role in domestic politics after next year.

“Well, I’m not saying forever and ever,” he told Mitchell. “I feel young enough to be engaged in America’s political process and debates over time, but not right now.”

Kerry 2020. At least by then most of his Swiftboat accusers will be gone from old age. But it’s not just the sclerosis. What proves most damaging is the fawning mediocrity with which they surround themselves. The Hillary email server scandal is not only nasty but stupid, as incompetent if not more so than the guardianship of the Office of Personnel Management classified records by Katherine Archuleta, whose proudest boast, even as Chinese hackers made off with everything from under her nose, was that she was the “first Latina” to occupy the office.


The same kind of brilliance was on display when Hillary sought to deflect criticism over her server by making light of it. “By the way, you may have seen that I have recently launched a Snapchat account,” she said. “I love it — those messages disappear all by themselves.” Ross Douthat was right on target with his “LOLBenghazi” line.  Everything’s a joke; not in the least the jokers themselves.

Sclerosis and stupidity ultimately rot the stamping boot from within. Wise leaders usually understand that the rule of law and democratic debate are ultimately for their protection since they prevent the onset of excess. In that sense, a republic is less about completely eliminating governmental corruption than creating a sustainable spoils system. A country works when it has an unending series of petty grifters in office.  It’s when the grifters start thinking they’re great men that the trouble starts.  “Don’t get too greedy, don’t be too stupid” are words to live by.  It’s about remembering that limits, like highway guardrails, mark the boundary of the cliff for a good reason.

James Taranto argued in the Wall Street Journal that if Hillary had remained in the Senate she might have been president.

“Hillary Rodham Clinton has decided to give up her Senate seat to become secretary of state in the Obama administration, making her the public face to the world for the man who dashed her own hopes for the presidency,” the New York Times reported on Nov. 22, 2008.

Well, that was a mistake.

Maybe even the mistake of a lifetime. You’ve probably heard that Mrs. Clinton is seeking the presidency again. As in 2008, she is the inevitable Democratic nominee but her prospects are looking shaky. This time virtually all of her problems, except those having to do with her character and political talent (or lack thereof), can be traced to her decision to leave the Senate and join the Obama administration.


Had she remained on the sidelines she could have been a blank screen on which every voter could project his or her hopes.  All of her weaknesses, both of character and ability, might have remained concealed in the blustering atmosphere of the Senate had she not, by joining the administration, become tarred with its scandals and exposed her painful limitations.

The turnover of administrations; a rough working of the law; a sort of, kind of justice are not only good for the body politic but also are good for the politicians. It protects them from themselves. It keeps them from leaving the well-trodden paths of common wheeling and dealing and venturing into the perilous wilderness of Hope and Change.

You may want to stamp the boot upon the human face, but remember: you’re going to need a hell of a pedicure afterward.

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