I am reserving most of my surfeit of post-election bad feelings for Donald Trump and the Republican Party, but my leftovers go to Hillary Clinton, who despite herself -- and because of herself -- was a lighting rod for the catastrophic mess in which the U.S. finds itself today, not to mention the enormous stress and feelings of foreboding that so many Americans feel as they labor through a mind-blowing present and confront a deeply uncertain future.
Let me hasten to add that Clinton, to a great extent, was a victim of circumstances.
There was the relentless right-wing noise machine that dogged her for decades, not to mention the institutionalized misogyny and double standard for working women that a man aspiring to be president would never have to endure. Clinton's dedication to good works is legendary among people for whom there is no higher calling than public service. Those she has allowed to become close to her invariably describe someone who is warm and deeply caring.
But as a hugely important New York Times story this past weekend reveals -- not so much in its devastating conclusion that James Comey may have thrown the election because of the very different ways the FBI investigated Clinton and Trump than in the briefly noted backstory of Clinton's failures -- America would not be in such dire straits today had she not kept giving her enemies fresh ammunition.
It is easy to conclude from The Times story that Comey was biased toward Trump, but that is a cop-out.
Yes, the Russians did what they did, with a big assist from WikiLeaks, and Trump did what he did, with a big assist from millions of ignorant voters, while there was a failure of leadership of enormous proportions in the Obama White House as the gravity of Russian election meddling and probability of collusion by the Trump campaign became shockingly obvious in the weeks before the November 8 election, which as the pollsters said despite getting a lot of other things wrong, was Clinton's to lose.
History will show that Clinton's propensity for self-inflicted wounds, as well as some very bad luck, was gasoline that helped fuel the fire that The Times story so compellingly recounts. These wounds included a penchant for secrecy that was driven, most certainly in part, by her right-wing tormenters that nevertheless resulted in her questionable use of a private email server and squirrely email practices, shadowy family foundation activities and enormous paydays making private speeches to Wall Street fat cats while publicly decrying their profligacy.
And while I'm piling on, what did Clinton stand for? Why was she running for president? Beyond "because it's my turn," I still have not been able to suss out a plausible answer, and neither could the staffers calling the shots in a presidential campaign so atrociously run that it resembled a Kafka-esque comedy minus the laughs unless you consider the consequence -- a Trump presidency -- to be funny.
About that very bad luck: At several junctures, Clinton's truly sucked.
As The Times story notes, aircraft carrying Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Bill Clinton happened to be at the Phoenix airport on the same day in late June 2016 and the unwise and impromptu chat between them during the FBI's investigation of Hillary Clinton's emails provoked a firestorm, while some of those emails later ended up on a computer belonging to sex pervert Anthony Weiner, who happened to be married to her close advisor, Huma Abedin, and was being investigated by the FBI.
Their discovery prompted Comey to reopen the Clinton probe only days before an election that would radically alter the course of history and put American democracy on life support.
Declaring that Hillary Clinton's lightning-rod role in this enormous tragedy is being overlooked in the rush to identify other villains may seem like sour grapes. And if it seems like I am proffering the equivalent of blaming the victim of a rape, that is certainly not my intention.§
But no matter your perspective, the story of the slow-motion disaster of the past couple of years -- beginning with the initial Russian efforts in 2015 to hack Democratic interests through to the approaching 100-day mark of a man profoundly unfit for the presidency -- is incomplete without noting the role Clinton herself played.
Historians will be dining out on these dramatic events for years to come. It is my belief that the more perceptive ones will be unkind to Comey and wonder why he didn't climb onto the recusal bandwagon, let alone why no one investigated the FBI. They will eviscerate Trump and his putrid posse. And perhaps give Clinton more of a pass than I am willing to give her now. As apparently are an outsized number of her former supporters according to polls showing that four times as many Clinton voters as Trump voters now say they would back someone else if there was an election redo.
Of one thing we can be sure: The 2016 election cycle brought down the curtain on two political dynasties.
The Bush dynasty ended with a whimper as Jeb revealed his incredible lightness of being. Besides which, America has had quite enough of Bushes even if Dubya seems to have been . . . well, actually somewhat presidential compared to the plutocrat who is less occupying than destroying the Oval Office these days.
The Clinton dynasty ended with a thud as Hillary captured the popular vote but lost the Electoral College as only a pathetic 55 percent of eligible voters stirred themselves to actually do so. We can be fairly certain that we've seen the last of her save for the inevitable memwow and mega-buck mea culpa lecture tour. This hopefully also will mean seeing less of Bubba, as well.
But if daughter Chelsea decides to try to keep the Clinton family flame burning . . . oh, please spare us, Dear Lord.