Comey’s Revelation a Gift for Hillary Clinton
Waiting would have created a cloud of doubt around her administration
Hillary Clinton probably has no idea what an unexpected gift FBI Director James Comey gave her this week by firing off that missive about her emails.
We know that the odds are that Clinton will likely become president anyway. And if that happens, Comey’s revelations will have accomplished two crucial tasks that helped pave the way to her having a shot at a successful presidency.
First, he will have avoided having her election clouded by a post-election revelation. And second, if my calculations are correct (and that’s a big “if,” to be sure), he will have helped preserve a narrow Republican majority in the U.S. Senate.
Now, if it sounds to you like the latter argument is counterintuitive, it is. But sometimes the things we think we can’t live without will destroy us, while the things we dread may come as unexpected blessings.
In the immortal words of Garth Brooks, “Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers.”
Inasmuch as this might be derisively labeled a “hot take” by anxious Democrats who are in “Just Win, Baby!” mode and who are too anxious to entertain such a hypothesis, I feel obliged to explain my theory.
There is a high probability that had Comey not issued his letter to Congress, it would have leaked out. Both in terms of healing America — and in terms of helping Clinton get off to a good start — the worst-case scenario would have been news that the FBI had suppressed the existence of these emails until after Election Day.
[Obama Breaks Silence on Comey and Clinton]
This revelation would have poisoned the well for many, and it would have confirmed the pre-existing narrative that the game was rigged in Clinton’s favor. Fair or not, this news might very well have created a noxious cloud of doubt around the historic election of the first female president of the United States, and it would have — in the minds of some — delegitimized the election. There would be whispers and veiled threats about impeachment hearings based on Clinton’s negligence in handling confidential information.
It goes without saying that had my theory been realized, it would have decimated Clinton’s chances of enjoying a honeymoon, and possibly a productive term in office. But more importantly, it would have further eroded any remaining confidence that Americans had in institutions like government and the media, calling into question the very efficacy of our electoral process.
Because of the Florida recount, President George W. Bush’s tenure began with a sense that he was “selected, not elected.” Thanks to the “birther” scandal, some Americans never accepted the legitimacy of President Barack Obama. Not to justify either perception (some people won’t accept any outcome, no matter how clean), but it would be preferable for America to swear in a president who hasn’t been immediately handed a scandal.
By “cleaning the barn” (to use a term popularized by former Speaker John Boehner), Comey has helped take this issue off the table — assuming Clinton wins and that no smoking gun emerges from the e-mails. (But honestly, if a smoking gun emerges, it’s better to find out sooner rather than later.) In this regard, Clinton has a much better chance of getting off to a good start.
But that might be obvious, if hard to swallow, for Democrats. The less obvious “benefit” from the Comey revelation is that it may help Republicans hold the Senate. My guess is that this story probably isn’t enough to help Donald Trump overcome the challenges he faces on the Electoral College map, but it may help reinforce the argument that GOP Senate candidates have been making for weeks now, about providing much-needed checks and balances to a Clinton administration. (Let’s be honest — she will need the help.)
[Roll Call’s 2016 Election Guide]
Post-Comey, my guess is that Republicans will now win at least two of the highly contested races they are defending (New Hampshire and North Carolina) and lose four (Illinois, Pennsylvania, Missouri, and Wisconsin). But because I’m also predicting Republican wins for the open seats in Indiana and Nevada, that means they would suffer a net loss of just three seats, which would preserve a slim Republican majority (51-to-49).
While some might despair that a divided government would equal more gridlock and dysfunction, Republican strategist Mike Murphy plausibly argued on “Meet The Press” that it would be easier for a President Clinton to actually cut a deal if Republicans maintain a slim majority, because with “a Democratic majority, [Sen. Mitch] McConnell knows they’re probably only [in the minority for] two years … and the Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders wing is going to box her in. And nothing will get done.” Ironically, Clinton might benefit from Republicans narrowly holding the Senate.
Let me reiterate: I have no doubt that Democrats in the fight of their lives will soon be lining birdcages with this column. However, they might do well to repurpose it as wrapping paper. James Comey picked the perfect gift for the woman who has it all (except, for now, the presidency) — and it’s a gift that Hillary Clinton would never, ever get for herself.
Roll Call columnist Matt K. Lewis is a senior contributor to the DailyCaller and author of the book “Too Dumb to Fail.” Follow him on Twitter @MattKLewis.