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clinton faces indictment

Hillary's Bataan Death March—Robert Nelson

Could the party's “presumptive nominee’s” email problems lead to a political death march for Democrats in July?

On April 8, 1942, the United States’ forces stationed on Luzon, our Philippine colony, surrendered to another colonial power, the empire of Japan. Gen. Douglass MacArthur, the US commander in the Far East, had fled the colony to Australia a month before. The remaining Filipino and American prisoners of war were forced to march 65 miles in harsh conditions to POW camps, where they remained under brutal conditions for the rest of the war. The name “Bataan” has since come to symbolize the depths of depravity following defeat.

Bataan was invoked again by journalists to describe the conditions at the Brooklyn campaign headquarters of then-Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton in the wake of an improbable and unexpected finding by the inspector general (IG) of the State Department. The State Department’s own watchdog found its former boss, Secretary Clinton, clearly violated the rules and procedures of her own agency. Clinton posed “significant security risks” by her decision to use a private email server for professional business while she was secretary of state.

The IG’s report promises to be the centerpiece of the Republican attack on the Democrats in the fall election if Secretary Clinton grabs the party’s presidential nomination.

The IG’s report promises to be the centerpiece of the Republican attack on the Democrats in the fall election if Secretary Clinton grabs the party’s presidential nomination.

Clinton’s situation is similar to General MacArthur’s in the spring of 1942. She is surrounded. The results of an impending FBI investigation are a harbinger of another shoe about to fall.

Some of Clinton’s mass media friends attempt to link these developments to the continuing assault by what she once called, “… a vast right wing conspiracy.” The problem with this defense lies in the very nature of the IG process.

Most agencies of the Unites States government have inspector general offices. The IGs operate independently within each agency to investigate waste, fraud, mismanagement and abuse of federal resources. IGs have wide investigative latitude. The State Department IG is a direct appointment of the president of the United States, Barack Obama, hardly part of a vast right wing conspiracy.

Inspectors general are the go-to guys for redress when federal employees spot illegal behavior. In a perfect world they are the guardians of decency and good process.

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Most federal employees and contractors rarely expect an IG to fault the boss at the top. The relationship between IGs and the managers they scrutinize is often too cozy. For example, at Pasadena’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the IG offices are located on a different floor but in the same building as the top management. They ride the same elevators. They eat in the same cafeteria. They literally breathe the same air — or “conspire” together each day. Most JPL employees, who want to keep their jobs, know better than to turn to the IG for help if the offender is among the top brass. Yet, the State Department’s IG, appointed by President Obama, found serious improper behavior on Secretary Clinton’s part.

Some of Clinton’s mass media supporters were caught flatfooted by the IG’s findings on the private use of an email server for State Department business. The New York Times, which has endorsed Clinton, editorialized, “Contrary to Mrs. Clinton’s claims that the department had ‘allowed’ the arrangement, the inspector general also found that she had not sought or received approval to use the server.” The Times warned ominously, “Donald Trump, her Republican rival, will be merciless in swinging the inspector general’s report like a cudgel.”

The New York Times’ Maureen Dowd raised the Bataan analogy last month in her widely read column. Dowd said, “Hillary’s Bataan Death March is making Republicans reconsider their own suicide mission with Trump.” She speculates that they are thinking, “Maybe Teflon Don could pull this off.” The widely respected columnist Jeffery Goldberg of the Atlantic echoed Clinton’s Bataan analogy a week later on “Face the Nation.”

When MacArthur was surrounded in the Philippines, President Roosevelt understood the political loss he would suffer if the Supreme Commander of our colonial forces in the Philippines were to be captured. MacArthur was ordered to move with his family to Australia. The surrender of the colony was left to Generals Edward King and Matthew Wainwright.

The Democrats have until their convention in July to get Clinton out of harm’s way. The option of a brokered convention is one solution. Assuming the Clinton supporters would never accept Senator Sanders, the superdelegates may attempt to find a “compromise candidate” acceptable to both the Sanders and the Clinton camps.

Obviously this compromise would have to be a widely accepted “parent figure.” Adam Nagourney of The New York Times has pointed to Jerry Brown as someone who can be attractive to both camps. Other possibilities include Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden.

robert-m-nelson

In times of crisis a senior figure brings tranquility. Will the Democrats find compromise in Philadelphia?

Robert M. Nelson

Republished with permission from The Pasadena Weekly.