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September 22nd, 2017

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Voluntarily elect an out of control president?

Glenn Reynolds

By Glenn Reynolds

Published Nov. 2, 2016

Voluntarily elect an out of control president?

"Someone somewhere should have told her no." Those are the words of a Clinton ally quoted in a roundup of Democratic reactions to Hillary Clinton's FBI news by congressional newspaper The Hill. And, despite the fact that they come from a Clinton supporter, albeit an angry and disappointed one, they may illustrate the best reason for choosing Donald Trump instead of Clinton.

Here's the full quote:


"I'm livid, actually. ... This has turned into malpractice. It's an unforced error at this point. I have no idea what (FBI Director) James Comey is up to but the idea this email issue is popping back up again is outrageous. It never should have occurred in the first place. Someone somewhere should have told her no. And they didn't and now we're all paying the price."


Someone, somewhere, should have told her no. Well, yes. But who? That was the problem with Secretary of State Clinton, and it will be a bigger problem with a President Clinton. Because, by all appearances, nobody tells Clinton no, and Clinton has no compunction about breaking the rules when it suits her purposes.

Thus the Clinton Foundation became a global money-laundering and influence-peddling organization without precedent in American history. Donors to the foundation were encouraged to steer money to what one employee called "Bill Clinton, Inc.," and later to Bill Clinton. State Department personnel did favors for people who donated money to the foundation. And to make sure that nobody found out what was going on, Clinton ran her own home-brew email server operation designed to ensure that Freedom of Information Act requests turned up nothing - and even President Obama, rather than saying no, went along, sending her emails at her non-government address under a fake name.

Someone somewhere should have told her no. But if the president didn't tell her no, who would? Staff at the State Department? They might have been willing to tell some other secretary of State no, but Clinton? Too risky, it seems. They certainly went along without visible objection, and without even leaks.

The press? When The New York Times reported Clinton's secret server, Politico's Glenn Thrush, far from condemning it, called it "badass."

Congress? Clinton has stonewalled and run rings around numerous committees investigating her. Besides, Congress had already told her no, in the form of statutes governing the treatment of government communications and classified information. She just ignored those rules and did what she wanted. Hotel magnate Leona Helmsley famously said "only little people pay taxes." Clinton seems to feel the same way about obeying laws.

It won't be that way with a President Trump. This isn't because Trump is any less arrogant than Clinton (though it would be hard to be more arrogant). It's because more people will be willing to tell Trump no. The civil service, which leans overwhelmingly Democratic, won't be bending over backwards to do his will. The press can't stand him. And Congress, even if controlled by the GOP, won't support him if he misbehaves because so many Republicans dislike him, too.

The truth is, neither one of our leading candidates for president is a paragon of virtue. But only one of them has already made a habit of flouting the law while in office, selling favors and escaping the consequences, and only one of them is likely to be able to pull it off from the White House.

And that's the problem. If Secretary of State Clinton, serving under a president and with an eye on winning a second term in the White House, wasn't constrained by the rules, who will constrain her if she's president?

The answer, most likely, is nobody. And, once again, we'll all be paying the price.

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Glenn Harlan Reynolds, a University of Tennessee law professor, is the author of The New School: How the Information Age Will Save American Education from Itself and is a columnist at USA TODAY.

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