Friday, October 28, 2016

Question of the Day: Will the New FBI Probe of Clinton's Emails Matter?

The question of the day is: At this late date, 11 days before Election Day, with early voting already underway in many states, will any minds be changed by Friday’s revelation that the FBI has reopened its investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails?

Against any candidate other than Donald Trump the answer would be an emphatic, “YES!!!” But these are never-before (and hopefully never-again) political times with a Republican candidate anathema to a larger swath of the American public than the Democratic standard bearer. 

What can be said, without equivocation, is that if, as many polls now say, Clinton will be elected our 45th president, it will be a historic achievement, but one that may ring hollow for at least two possible reasons. 

First, without at least a majority of Democratic senators—it is too wild a dream to expect the House to be flipped to the Democrats— Clinton’s presidency would be stymied even more than President Barack Obama’s last six years. She would be hard pressed to advance any of her legislative agenda. She will be forced to govern by executive action, which will generate lawsuits from Congress and/or affected state and municipal governments.

Moreover, without a Democratic controlled Senate, Clinton will most certainly be tied up with investigation after investigation launched by the GOP House, regardless of the findings of the latest FBI probe. Republican congressmen are itching to file impeachment charges. As it would take 67 Senate votes to ratify impeachment, a conviction is unlikely, but the time spent defending her presidency would take its toll, especially during a period of Russian aggressiveness and the still constant threat from Islamic extremists here and abroad. 

A second reason a Clinton return to the White House would be submarined would transpire if Democrats fail to secure control of the Senate. Already three Republican senators—John McCain of Arizona, Mike Lee of Utah, and Ted Cruz of Texas—have indicated they would hold up any nominations to the Supreme Court made by Clinton. Can Majority Leader Mitch McConnell be far behind?

Their recalcitrance stems from wanting to deny Clinton the opportunity to recast the Court in a more progressive mode. While Republicans say the Court in the past has functioned for years with fewer than nine justices, they are not so coyly gambling the health and welfare of the Supreme Court against the health of aging justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer. 

It is a lurid tactic waiting for a death or retirement among the liberal leaning justices to secure a conservative majority lost when Antonin Scalia died in his sleep almost a year ago. It goes far beyond loyal opposition and their stated explanation that they haven’t acted on the nomination of Merrick Garland because they wanted to wait until the people chose the next president. 

If they proceed to deny any nominees from a Democratic president, the GOP would have hit the trifecta in undermining the validity of each of our three branches of government. It is a parlay a quarter century in the making.

Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich shut down the government in 1995 and 1996; Republicans shut it down in 2013, as well. For years Trump led a birther movement that questioned the legitimacy of Barack Obama’s presidency. By not even granting hearings to Garland Republicans have shown disdain for the constitutional process of advise and consent.

Is it any wonder, then, public confidence in government is at historic lows?