Merriam - Webster presents two definitions for the adjective "noble":
- Belonging to a hereditary class with high social or political status; aristocratic.
- Having or showing fine personal qualities or high moral principles and ideals.
The etymology of the word would show the second definition developing from the first - in part because in past eras the "one per cent" were provided with liberal educations and taught manners as a condition for their acceptance in the ruling class, and in part because they controlled the flow of information about their behavior. Leadership rested on power, but also on a bit of carefully managed moral validity. One might assume that nobles were noble.
No more in 21st Century America - at least as reflected in this presidential campaign. The "race to the bottom" is accelerating with the presumptive Democratic nominee being officially recognized as an "extremely careless" liar, and the presumptive Republican nominee careening from one offensive comment to another.
If there were any doubt about whether Lady Liberty still was blindfolded it was erased on July 5, when FBI Director James Comey announced that he would not seek an indictment of Hillary for her behavior which appeared to violate espionage statutes on the grounds that she had not demonstrated intent (which is not required in the law) and it would be inappropriate to use the 1917 Espionage Act under which "gross negligence" would be adequate. Most of the House Oversight Committee questions were political, but Trey Gowdy made the compelling point that, even if specific intent were required, prosecutors regularly view pervasive false exculpatory statements as evidence of consciousness of guilt and intent. Comey acknowledged that Hillary had lied when she had claimed that:
- Classified information had not been sent or received on her e-mail system;
- No messages marked as classified were sent or received;
- She had used the private server for the convenience of having just one device;
- All work-related materials were returned to the State Department;
- No work-related e-mails were deleted from her personal account;
- Her lawyers read every e-mail in the process of ensuring that a liberal interpretation was used
in determining what was to be turned over to State.
By normal legal standards Hillary Clinton demonstrated specific intent, which Comey relied on and which is beyond what is called for in the statute, and the FBI should have sought prosecution for violation of laws protecting classified information. Beyond that one can conjecture what Attorney General Loretta Lynch thought after conversations with President Obama and Bill Clinton, whether she shared her views and intentions with Comey, whether Comey looked to the lesser evil of Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, or if he just thought it would be damaging for the country to have the presidential nominee of one of the major parties be indicted during a run-up to an election. What is clear is that he held Hillary Clinton to a lower standard than called for in the law and which would be applied to virtually any other citizen. Ignoble behavior is legally - and probably politically - acceptable from the nobles in 2016.
The Republic will survive. It survived William Henry Harrison, Warren Harding, and Andrew Johnson. It survived the personal corruption of Lyndon Johnson and the progressive incompetence of Barack Obama. It can survive preferential treatment of the political aristocracy - without people being particularly surprised. It could even survive the increasingly unlikely election of the boorish lout Donald Trump. The real problem is not with the leaders, it is with the potential loss of nobility among the people.
The greatest immediate damage lies in the "little people" who make up the security establishment. What happens to the FBI agents who have spent the last year observing first hand the lawlessness of the Democratic presidential nominee, only to see a different standard applied? What happens to the people of the National Security Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the National Reconnaissance Office who see their top secret work exposed to foreign hackers with impunity? How do our intelligence and military leaders recruit the foreign nationals who have seen their predecessors abandoned when convenient? What happens to the CIA interrogators who know that Lynch's predecessor wanted to prosecute them, or the members of the military who saw the President and his inner circle abandon an ambassador and his defenders under fire, and then lie about the cause? These folks need a hug from the American people.
The door is open for a generation of cynical nihilists. Maybe this was inevitable after the disappointment of the vacuous promise of “hope and change”. Maybe this runs in cycles and the bottom is being hit. Maybe in the next presidential cycle the public will be ready for a leader with nobility. A good starting point would be equality before the law.
And continuing on the theme of justifiable cynicism, this week's bonus video is chilling discussion of Google's manipulation of search results in favor of Hillary Clinton.
bill bowen - 7/8/16