1. It’s Wednesday, July 6, 2016.
2. Eid mubarak to all who celebrate. I hope your Ramadan brought you peace and your holiday to mark its end is joyous.
3. British politicians are spending the day rehashing the 2003 Iraq War. It’s almost as if it’s a distraction from the Brexit problems of the past two weeks.
The catalyst for the rehash is the report from an independent inquiry into the United Kingdom’s involvement in the conflict. The report, seven years in the making, is named for Sir John Chilcot, who chaired the panel.
The report’s key finding should come as no surprise to Americans: Britain went to war on the side of the United States before all peaceful options to resolve the conflict with Saddam Hussein were exhausted.
Basically, the war – which killed 179 Britons along with more than 4,000 Americans and anywhere between 150,000 and 500,000 Iraqis – was unnecessary and begun in haste on the basis of faulty intelligence.
The Prime Minister at the time, Tony Blair, comes in for scathing criticism for acquiescing to President George W. Bush’s push for war and not presenting all options to his cabinet at the time. Blair, in comments today, says he takes “full responsibility for any mistakes without exception or excuse.”
But Blair defends the idea of toppling Saddam Hussein, saying the world is better off without him and that his death is the not the reason the Islamic State exists.
4. In that, Blair might have a problem with the guy who is 15 days away from accepting the Republican presidential nomination.
Last night, when he could have just made headlines attacking Hillary Clinton for her e-mail problems (I’ll get to that in a bit), Trump couldn’t help himself. He started talking about all the ways America is losing, including on terrorism.
And then he started talking about Saddam Hussein.
“He was a bad guy — really bad guy,” said Trump at a rally in Raleigh, N.C. “But you know what? He did well? He killed terrorists. He did that so good. They didn’t read them the rights. They didn’t talk. They were terrorists. Over. Today, Iraq is Harvard for terrorism.”
So basically, in Trump’s dystopia, it didn’t matter whether Saddam mistreated his people. The deprivation of rights didn’t matter. His attempts to attack Israel didn’t matter.
Saddam killed terrorists. He didn’t have no stinkin’ Miranda rule. Just kill ‘em first, ask questions later. What Trump thinks a leader does.
I’m skeptical that anyone in Trump World is likely to bring up the Chilcot Report. Its problem is that it is too grounded in the real world to impact Trump and his sycophants. He’d agree that we shouldn’t have gone to war, but wonder why there’s a need for a postmortem.
The idea that we work together to avoid making mistakes again seems alien to someone who thinks he has the answers to everything.
5. In her first years after law school, Hillary Rodham worked as an adviser to the House Judiciary Committee during its impeachment inquiry of Richard Nixon. So it’s likely she would have been well aware of all the catch-phrases of the Watergate era.
One was “modified limited hangout.” It was something that John Ehrlichman, Nixon’s assistant for domestic affairs, well, modified from the phrase “limited hangout” meaning the revelation of a little of the truth in order to preserve the secrecy of other information. It’s a phrase that appears in the March 22, 1973 transcript from the infamous tapes Nixon made that pretty much sealed his fate.
Now she’s Hillary Rodham Clinton, 22 days from her presidential nomination speech at the Democratic convention in Philadelphia. But before that big moment, she has to forego the “modified limited hangout” or worse, to use another Watergate word, “stonewalling” when it comes to her use of a private e-mail server as Secretary of State.
When FBI Director James Comey announced yesterday that the bureau wasn’t recommending criminal prosecution of Clinton in the e-mail matter, that was the only good thing he said. Everything else – everything – severely questioned her judgment and prudence, two things you would think are important traits in judging a President of the United States.
Because she was already committed yesterday to campaigning with President Obama in North Carolina, it was hard for Clinton to address Comey’s remarks.
But she needs to take a few days and then come up with a way to respond. She needs to reassure the nation that she understands what she did wrong, why there was no malicious intent and what she’ll do in the future to ensure that she and others won’t repeat the mistakes.
My first thought was a one-on-one interview with someone whose journalistic chops are unimpeachable. This means someone such as Judy Woodruff or Gwen Ifill at PBS. It can’t be Oprah. Or Ellen.
What might be better though is a news conference. A no-questions-barred throwdown with the folks who cover her regularly and even those who don’t. She should be prepared to answer any and all questions about the e-mail flap and anything else that comes up.
The key word here is “all.” There’s a lot of mistrust of Clinton. Her unfavorable ratings would be the worst in the history of presidential candidates if it weren’t for her opponent.
So she should answer anything and everything. For as long as it takes.
She should watch “The West Wing” episode from the final season when Alan Alda’s character, a Republican senator whose support of nuclear power runs up against a fatal accident at a southern California plant, exhausts reporters by going on for hours answering questions and puts the controversy aside.
That’s fiction, but it worked in real life for Gov. Chris Christie after it was revealed that aides deliberately fouled up traffic in Fort Lee, N.J., as political retribution. Christie took responsibility for the incident, announced the dismissal of aides tied to the scandal, and answered questions for nearly two hours. He diffused talk of his leaving office, voluntarily or not, and minimized the damage at least temporarily.
6. That’s what Hillary Clinton needs to do, and she needs to do it sometime before July 25, when the Democrats begin meeting in Philadelphia. If she needs to take her time to do it right, then take it.
But do it. No “modified limited hangout.” The whole enchilada, another cliché that’s modified Watergatian.
The next President of the United States is either her, a woman whose qualifications are otherwise impeccable, or a guy who wishes he could treat opponents the way Saddam Hussein did. She can’t lose.