What If Clinton Had Done What Trump Is Accused Of?

Imagine a world where Hillary Clinton was President and stood accused of the same things Donald Trump and his campaign are currently under investigation for.

New York Times columnist Bret Stephens engages in a thought experiment:

 Imagine that President Hillary Clinton had agreed to release a partisan Democratic intelligence memo over the objections of Republicans in Congress and her own top F.B.I. officials that disclosure could harm national security.

Would conservative pundits and politicians:

(a) Praise President Clinton for abandoning her old habits of secrecy and standing strong on the side of transparency in government?

(b) Call for her impeachment on grounds that she had compromised national security for shamelessly self-serving political reasons?

Imagine, next, that the Clinton campaign had named as a foreign policy adviser a little known figure with scanty business or academic credentials but with strongly pro-Putin views and curious links to senior Russian officials. Imagine that this same adviser later testified to Congress that the Clinton campaign had asked him to sign a nondisclosure agreement after a trip he took to Russia during the height of the campaign. Imagine also that senior Clinton campaign officials at first denied and later had their memories “refreshed” about knowing him.

Would conservative pundits and politicians:

(a) Agree with Clinton administration spokespersons that, while the campaign had named him as an adviser, he had no role in anything and that his links to Russia were purely incidental?

(b) Agree with Democrats in Congress that the F.B.I. had no business whatsoever in surveilling him because a political dossier might have served as one basis of suspicion, and that his civil liberties had been seriously traduced?

(c) Note that his presence on the campaign was of a piece with Clinton’s disastrous “reset” of relations with Russia under the Obama administration, and that it suggested a policy of appeasing the Kremlin at America’s expense?

Imagine, finally, that after firing James Comey for insufficient loyalty, President Clinton had asked the deputy director of the F.B.I. how he had voted in the election in an Oval Office meeting. Imagine that after learning that he hadn’t voted, she unleashed a campaign of public invective and belittlement aimed at his wife for having once run for state office as a Republican. Imagine, in this same connection, that the effort to oust the deputy director was only a warm-up to getting rid of the deputy attorney general, a well-regarded, straight-shooting Democrat who had appointed the special counsel looking into Clinton’s Russia ties.

Would conservative pundits and politicians:

(a) Applaud President Clinton for taking a belated but necessary step to clean up a “politicized” Justice Department that had interfered against her at the end of the campaign, while also agreeing that the party affiliation of an F.B.I. official’s spouse is a legitimate basis to suspect the official of disloyalty and partisan motives?

(b) Cast aspersions on the deputy attorney general for defending the work of the special counsel against the wishes of the president?

(c) Accuse the president of obstructing justice by smearing and effectively ousting upstanding public servants whose only sin was to do their jobs to the best of their abilities while, in one case, being married to a woman with political ambitions?

The answers to Stephens’ questions are all rather obvious, of course. If Clinton had won the White House in November 2016, we had begun to hear about the same sort of allegations against her and her campaign that we’ve heard about Trump over the past fifteen months, and she had engaged in the same pattern of what seems to all the world like an effort to undermine and obstruct official investigations into the matter, the Republican Party would be screaming bloody murder. There would have been immediate calls from Republicans on Capitol Hill, from conservative pundits and media such as Fox News and other outlets, and from the base of the Republican Party for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate the matter since Clinton’s own Justice Department obviously couldn’t be trusted to investigate the matter fairly. If Republicans still held on to control of Congress, which likely would have been the case regardless of the size of any Clinton victory, there would have been called for the formation of Select Committees to investigate the matter, and we’d no doubt already be talking about Articles of Impeachment being drawn up against the newly elected President just as they had been brought against her husband. Even if the GOP didn’t control Congress, they would be calling for investigations on a daily basis as would their base and the conservative media world. In fact, Stephens goes on to admit that he’d be joining in on those calls in his columns in this hypothetical universe.

We know all of this would be happening both because it would be entirely consistent with the hyperpartisan atmosphere on Capitol Hill and because of the way that Republicans acted back in the 1990s when Bill Clinton was President. Back then, Republicans spent much of the time after gaining control of the House in 1994 investigating various aspects of Bill Clinton’s Administration in a manner which formed a model for the later investigations into the Obama Administration, many of which were of course directed at Clinton herself.   Indeed, more than one person has made the observation that the strategy of obstructionism and delay that characterized much of the strategy that Republicans on Capitol Hill  engaged in vis a vis President Obama since the day he took office had its roots in the confrontations, hearings, and conspiracy theories that typified much of the Bill Clinton Presidency and which, of course, reached its peak in an impeachment spectacle that now seems to be a foolish waste of time even according to many Republicans who were there at the time. Finally, as I noted, many of the investigations that have taken place since the GOP retook the House in 2010 involved Clinton in any case, including most prominently the myriad investigations into the September 2012 Benghazi attack so it would not exactly have been a surprise if Republicans reacted in the same way to the kind of hypothetical allegations that are part of Stephens’ column.

In fact, it’s likely that Republicans would have acted this way even if Stephens’ scenario about what followed a Clinton victory had not played out. Even before Election Day in 2016, former Congressman Jason Chaffetz, who headed up the House Oversight Committee before stepping down from Congress last year, said that his committee would be investigating Clinton from Day One if she were to win the White House. The subject matter of what those investigations might have entailed are easy to imagine. Among the areas that the GOP most likely would have focused on are Clinton’s email server, her handling of classified material, and the FBI investigation into that matter, the Clinton Foundation and the question of whether or not certain entities were given political favors while she served as Secretary of State, and lord only knows what conspiracy theory may have been derived from the election results. It’s also likely there would have been yet more inquiries into the Benghazi attack because, well, it’s become something of a Republican obsession that continues to come up even though Clinton lost the election and is unlikely to run for office again.

The point of Stephens’ column, of course, is to point out the partisan hypocrisy of the Republicans on Capitol Hill who have taken to not only defending the President but also seemingly becoming willing accomplices in his efforts to undermine the investigations into Russian interference in the election and the question of contacts between the Russian government and people associated with President Trump during the campaign. To be fair, it’s also largely accurate to say that many Democrats, as well as left-leaning pundits in the media, would likely be engaging in the same activity we’re seeing from the right, but Stephen is focused here on his party and the fact that they have, as I’ve said before, largely become a party of Trump supporters, sycophants, sellouts and cowards. It’s all rather pathetic, and one can’t help but think that they will end up paying a price or all of this at some point in the future.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Congress, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Politicians, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. michael reynolds says:

    If Clinton had done one tenth of what Trump has done she never would have been elected.

    If somehow she’d been elected, Republicans would have moved to impeach within 6 weeks.

    It is not possible to plumb the depths of Republican hypocrisy. They’ve walked back every moral or ethical stand they’ve ever taken. They are both as loud and as hollow as a drum.




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  2. Monala says:

    I’ve seen similar thought experiments regarding Republicans’ response to Trump vs. Obama, vis-a-vis personal morality. Many Democrats have long since used the acronym IOKIYAR (“It’s OK if you’re a Republican”) to describe this phenomenon.




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  3. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    You don’t have to imagine; simply review history. 11 Investigations of Benghazi, alone. Had she won it would have been a complete shit-show and nothing would have gotten done. Of course, with Trump it’s a complete shit show and nothing is getting done.
    It’s amazing to me how the Republicans have sold themselves out to support Trump. The only question in my mind is who is going to hold them to account? A strong Democratic voice has to rise up and be heard. Right now there isn’t one.




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  4. Gustopher says:

    Isn’t it time for another round of BENGHAZI!!! hearings? And were they just talking about reopening the Clinton email case, or did they actually do something about it?

    Now, had Clinton been credibly accused of the things that Trump has been credibly accused of — coordinating with a foreign power to influence the elections — I would hope that she would be investigated and potentially prosecuted, whether she was elected or not.

    Had she filled her campaign with shady Venezuelan operatives, like Miguel Manifortez, and her campaign had dozens of undisclosed meetings with Venezuelan officials… I would want her to come clean. I would want a special prosecutor appointed if she was stonewalling. Protecting our democracy is more important than partisan gain.

    I am disgusted that the Republicans want to protect Trump.




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  5. Teve tory says:

    Imagine if Obama had been caught on tape admitting that he sexually assaulted women and snuck peeks at teenage beauty contestants in states of undress. Let alone paying a pornstar hush money. Jesus.




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  6. Kathy says:

    @Monala: First, Foremost and Most Important Rule of Politics: It’s wrong only if the other party does it.

    The problem is when a party takes this as its only rule.




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  7. TM01 says:

    If Hillary had colluded with Russia, the media would be burying most of the story, and Hill would be raging against The Vast Right Wing Conspiracy.

    Duh.




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  8. TM01 says:

    It’s interesting that the FBI is no longer claiming national security concerns.
    Now they claim “inaccuracies.”
    Methinks they just don’t want to be called out.




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  9. TM01 says:

    @michael reynolds:
    In their defense, at least Republicans had moral or ethical stands to begin with.




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  10. Moosebreath says:

    As usual, Krugman nails it:

    “One key lesson of 2017 was that everything liberals have said about right-wing hypocrisy was true — in fact understated

    (snip)

    And of course the law-and-order right is fine with demonizing and trying to destroy the careers of dedicated law enforcement officials if the pursuit of justice happens to threaten Republicans”

    Read the whole twitter chain.




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  11. MarkedMan says:

    This isn’t even a thought experiment. The idea that Clinton would do any of these things is ridiculous. Clinton is so far removed from Trump that it’s a category error to compare the two. Trump is a pathological liar (meaning he literally does not differentiate between truth and falsehoods). Clinton was shown to have much better than average fact-check scores throughout the election. Trump is shiftless and lazy. He lies around in bed at 6:30 in the evening eating cheeseburgers, watching Fox News and, of course, tweeting. Clinton is famously hardworking and relentless, in fact she is often mocked for over-preparation. I could go on and on. But basically Trump is a stupid, impetuous buffoon who is unable to control his sexual urges or his frequent angry outbursts. He has no morals and lies constantly and his selfishnesses and satyr-like behavior has resulted in a string of broken homes and damaged children who he ignores unless he needs something. He is, quite simply, the perfect stereotype of those people he holds in contempt, the black and brown and poor people of the US and the world, except for his skin color and money.

    The simple truth is that the press and the public have no real behavioral or ethical expectations of Republicans, but demand extremely high standards of Democrats.




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  12. Monala says:

    @TM01: Republicans with ethical standards? Bwah-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!!!!




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  13. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @TM01:

    If Hillary had colluded with Russia, the media would be burying most of the story

    Interesting theory not borne out by the facts.
    Negative news coverage of Clinton in 2016 outweighed negative stories about Trump by a considerable margin.
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/erik-wemple/wp/2017/08/25/studies-agree-media-gorged-on-hillary-clinton-email-coverage/?utm_term=.5c87c1f7536b
    You are another one of these Trump-sycophants who has very strongly held opinions based upon complete bullshit, which of course renders your opinions complete bullshit..




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  14. reid says:

    This is an excellent article, and one only a conservative could write. Not that it matters. The people he’s calling out are mostly unreachable, which is why we’re stuck with Trump. Still, kudos to Stephens.




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  15. James Pearce says:

    ” Imagine that President Hillary Clinton had agreed to release a partisan Democratic intelligence memo”

    I have, and this is largely responsible for my endless tirades against Dem weakness.

    Republicans refused to hold hearings on the Garland nomination and Trump got to seat Gorsuch. Meanwhile, Adam Schiff is begging for Paul Ryan’s help in blocking the Nunes memo.

    And that’s why they win and we lose.




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  16. Andy says:

    And the sun rises in the east.

    Of course conservative pundits would treat a Democrat differently. Double standards and partisanship go hand-in-hand. It’s built into our brains to think this way – we always at least want to give those on “our” side the benefit of the doubt. It’s a simple fact of human nature.




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  17. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @Andy:

    we always at least want to give those on “our” side the benefit of the doubt.

    This is way beyond that.




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  18. Matt Bernius says:

    @TM01:

    In their defense, at least Republicans had moral or ethical stands to begin with.

    If you don’t have the integrity to take moral or ethical stands when they actually matter (in particular to police your own), then whatever morality or ethics you supposedly started with wasn’t ever worth anything.




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  19. michael reynolds says:

    @TM01:
    Had you actually had morals or ethics you’d not have abandoned them overnight. Republicans are racists, misogynists, aszholes or morons, or some combination of those.

    It is absolute nonsense to equate us with you. We stand with all the people you want to rip-off or crap on. We defend the people you attack. We have not stopped, nor will we, because unlike you, we do have actual morals and actual ethics.




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  20. al-Ameda says:

    if Hillary was elected? It would not have to be any of things Trump is accused of.

    For one thing, Trey Gowdy would not be resigning, and neither would Darrell Issa.
    They both would involved in the Impeachment Proceedings against Hillary Clinton.

    Honestly, I truly believe that she might actually have been impeached by now. I do not think that she would have been convicted, so the investigations would continue until Republicans could come up with something that would persuade 60 senators to convict her.




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  21. James Pearce says:

    @michael reynolds:

    We stand with all the people you want to rip-off or crap on. We defend the people you attack. We have not stopped, nor will we, because unlike you, we do have actual morals and actual ethics.

    I want to hire an actor to record these lines.

    Then I’ll edit them over that footage of Hillary Clinton being held up by the Secret Service as she stumbled into that van…..

    To my eyes, “both sides” are morally and ethically challenged. “Both sides” are convinced they’re the good guys and the other side are the bad guys. Indeed, the big difference between the sides isn’t “liberal” versus “conservative” or even “good and moral” versus “bad and immoral.”

    It’s that one side shamelessly and diligently looks out for its interests, and the other side doesn’t. Guess who is who.




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  22. Pete S says:

    @TM01: No, try to keep up. The FBI is stating that the memo is full of “inaccuracies” (a way too polite word for lies) that cannot be corrected without breaching national security.

    It seems to be a working assumption of the FBI that protecting national security is still a consideration for everyone except House Republicans and the Trump Administration, who really couldn’t care less. This gives me more confidence in the investigative abilities of the FBI than anything else I have heard for some time.




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  23. michael reynolds says:

    @James Pearce:
    What in the holy fwck does Hillary stumbling have to do with anything? Have you had a stroke?




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  24. becca says:

    IOKIYAR.

    That is a well-worn acronym.

    The problem we face is that the GOP has gone full mafioso. Candidates are cultivated from the most craven, but also slavishly loyal. No one else could be this shameless in front of God and all. B- movie bad guys, the lot of them.

    My own view is that the GOP has managed to suppress the vote by any means necessary for years, and were our elections honest, they would not be in power. They are quite the minority, after all. Years ago, Brit Hume remarked how unpopular the GOP agenda was to most Americans, surprised by their success at the polls. This was on Fox, btw. How are you supposed to achieve the “Permanent Republican Majority” promised by Turdblossom, if no one but the plutocrats and evagenitals are buying your product?

    You steal elections, of course.




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  25. James Pearce says:

    @michael reynolds:

    What in the holy fwck does Hillary stumbling have to do with anything?

    Nope, just wondering aloud whether trying to fool voters makes you moral and ethical.

    I’ll even go further than that and say that Democrats are not super-moral or super-ethical, and are, in fact, flawed imperfect people just like anyone else.




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  26. becca says:

    @James Pearce: You’re a weird combo of Harvey Ellis and Eeyore, you know?

    Which makes for a real obnoxious centaur, if you think about it.




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  27. dmichael says:

    @James Pearce: Is there something about our system of federal government that you actually understand? Your criticisms of Democrats are tiresome because they reflect a fundamental misunderstanding. Republicans control not only all three branches of government but also the Supreme Court. Schiff’s calling out the gutless Ryan is everything he CAN do. I already know your response (should you choose to express one here): The Democrats should not have lost any of the elections.




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  28. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @TM01: If the GOP had any moral or ethical standards they would commit mass seppuku. The evidence says they don’t, and for the record the evidence says you don’t either.




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  29. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @James Pearce:

    To my eyes, “both sides” are morally and ethically challenged.

    @James Pearce:

    I’ll even go further than that and say that Democrats are not super-moral or super-ethical, and are, in fact, flawed imperfect people just like anyone else.

    Oh jeebus, holy crappola on a cracker. Way to move the goal posts. DEMs are not perfect, I don’t think you can find anyone here who will say anything even close to that. But you started out asserting DEMs are just as bad as GOPs.

    So… Come up with an equivalent state of affairs from the past 50 years with the roles reversed of DEMs committing sins equivalent to what the GOP is now engaged in.

    I won’t hold my breath.




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  30. James Pearce says:

    @becca:

    You’re a weird combo of Harvey Ellis and Eeyore, you know?

    I’m a weird combo, alright, but it’s Cassandra and the Hound from Game of Thrones.

    Harvey Ellis? Who’s that?

    @dmichael:

    Schiff’s calling out the gutless Ryan is everything he CAN do.

    Excuses, excuses. If that’s all Schiff can do, we don’t need him.

    We need someone else.

    The Democrats should not have lost any of the elections.

    Even when they win, man…..even when they win, it’s still just -shrug- “Well, that’s all I can do.”

    And their voters are like, “Well, at least you tried. Here’s another term.” People are counting on them, vulnerable people, and they act like they have all the time in the world.




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  31. James Pearce says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    DEMs are not perfect, I don’t think you can find anyone here who will say anything even close to that.

    Well this is kinda close:

    “We stand with all the people you want to rip-off or crap on. We defend the people you attack. We have not stopped, nor will we, because unlike you, we do have actual morals and actual ethics.”

    (This part got moderated, so apologies in advance if this shows up twice.)

    @becca:

    You’re a weird combo of Harvey Ellis and Eeyore, you know?

    I’m a weird combo, alright, but it’s Cassandra and the Hound from Game of Thrones.

    Harvey Ellis? Who’s that?

    @dmichael:

    Schiff’s calling out the gutless Ryan is everything he CAN do.

    Excuses, excuses. If that’s all Schiff can do, we don’t need him.

    We need someone else.

    The Democrats should not have lost any of the elections.

    Even when they win, man…..even when they win, it’s still just -shrug- “Well, that’s all I can do.”

    And their voters are like, “Well, at least you tried. Here’s another term.” People are counting on them, vulnerable people, and they act like they have all the time in the world.




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  32. Lit3Bolt says:

    @James Pearce:

    “Both sides do it” is false equivalence.

    False equivalence is morally vapid and cliché, and a sign of an apologist without options.

    The fact you refuse to draw distinctions is as equally as damning as any partisan behavior you abhor. It just means you are a secret partisan for the other side. You may imagine yourself as enlightened human being, but you’re just really aping it because you have no convictions and just mimic the current oppositional conventional wisdom.

    “Teh Dhimmicrats do it too!” is the laziest, ahistorical analysis for these times. All you do is whataboutism and ButtehDemocrats and BlacksCanBeEvilDontYouKnow. You have nothing else to offer, and will never read a book contradicting your beliefs. ‘

    Lazy entitled Boomer.




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  33. James Pearce says:

    @Lit3Bolt:

    The fact you refuse to draw distinctions is as equally as damning as any partisan behavior you abhor.

    I draw distinctions all the time. I’m just not impressed with the left’s smug sense of self-satisfaction.

    Seriously, what do we have to be so satisfied about?

    Lazy entitled Boomer.

    I was born in 76.




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  34. An Interested Party says:

    Schiff’s calling out the gutless Ryan is everything he CAN do.

    Excuses, excuses. If that’s all Schiff can do, we don’t need him.

    Perhaps he should have assassinated him? Blackmailed him? Waved a magic wand and sent him off to Ayn Rand Fantasy Land? The choices are endless…




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  35. James Pearce says:

    @An Interested Party: Why don’t you just do what the Republicans would do to Hillary? Stow the BS about being the moral and righteous ones and get your hands dirty.




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  36. An Interested Party says:

    Why don’t you just do what the Republicans would do to Hillary?

    So Dems can impeach and remove a president while they are in the minority? Who knew? Talk about BS…




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  37. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:

    It’s amazing to me how the Republicans have sold themselves out to support Trump.

    They didn’t have to sell anything. They didn’t even have to rent out anything. What Trump is portraying is who the Republicans are! Moreover you and Doug and Joyner and
    Reynolds are only preaching to the choir. The Republicans don’t care! Conservatives don’t care! Racists and bigots don’t care. Flock–almost 40% of the population think he’s doing a good job! YOW!




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  38. James Pearce says:

    @An Interested Party:

    So Dems can impeach and remove a president while they are in the minority? Who knew?

    No, the proper answer is nothing.

    There is nothing the Dems can do but wait until November and hope for the best.




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  39. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @TM01: And thank you for proving my point!

    Does anybody really believe that you sold your soul? Does anyone even believe that you even have one? And do you realize how stupid you sound when you say “at least they HAD moral or ethical standards”–as in THEY DON’T ANYMORE? But you are the perfect Trump spokesperson–you’re not even a capable troll.




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  40. An Interested Party says:

    Why don’t you just do what the Republicans would do to Hillary?

    There is nothing the Dems can do but wait until November and hope for the best.

    Due try to make up your mind while you’re busy bashing the Dems…




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  41. al-Ameda says:

    @James Pearce:

    I draw distinctions all the time. I’m just not impressed with the left’s smug sense of self-satisfaction.
    Seriously, what do we have to be so satisfied about?

    Where are all of these smug, self satisfied lefties?
    I don’t see those millions, where are they?




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  42. James Pearce says:

    @An Interested Party:

    Due try to make up your mind while you’re busy bashing the Dems…

    Perhaps this is how we’ve gotten to this spot, where the other party controls all three branches of government and most statehouses, and the Dems “can’t do anything” until the election that’s just going to, through little to no effort, give them seats because Trump and the Republicans are so obviously awful and the Dems are so obviously awesome.

    The inability to even hear criticism. We’ve already established the Dems aren’t perfect. For the last two years at least, they have a near-perfect record of losing*.

    * And this is where I’ll be reminded that Doug Jones won in AL. Yeah, because Trump got elected to the presidency, Jeff Sessions is our AG, and his opponent was a fricking child molester. Doug Jones isn’t proof of some Democrat Renaissance. He’s proof that the Dems can only “win” by losing.

    @al-Ameda:

    Where are all of these smug, self satisfied lefties?

    California mostly.




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