Hillary Clinton is sitting pretty. She's cooled the Bern, reconnected with black voters, might soon be able to pivot to the general election and could up getting votes even from certain disgusted Republicans.
Everything's coming up Clinton -- except for that pesky felony talk.
It says something about the state of American politics that the party not in the throes of an existential quandary -- the party that's supposed to have its stuff together, in other words -- is the one with a frontrunner who has to keep her eyes out for blue jackets with yellow letters. (Just curious: Did she conduct her State business on an iPhone?) For every story declaring Clinton's legal jeopardy overstated or almost over, there are several others insisting that soon she'll be making a campaign appearance in front of a judge and giving a two-word speech: "Not guilty."
News consumers who avoid Fox News and the Washington Examiner might be surprised to learn that a criminal indictment of Clinton is assumed, expected and baked into Republican scenarios to win the White House. Among purveyors of these scenarios, the only questions involve when the indictment is coming and whether Clinton faces prison time in addition to an embarrassing end to her presidential run.
In the past few days alone, Pat Buchanan mentioned an indictment on "The McLaughlin Group," which, much like Buchanan, is evidently still going. Conrad Black, who knows from felonies, wrote in Canada's National Post that Clinton might well be indicted in no small part because "Obama is nasty enough to have her charged."
Tom DeLay fueled the recent speculation by reporting that his "friends that are in the FBI" are ready to indict her, which is sort of like saying that friends of Dan Snyder think the Redskins can go far next year.
Andrew Napolitano, the in-house judge of Fox News, insists Clinton could be charged with felony espionage, punishable, as the statute reads, by imprisonment for "not more than 10 years."
Regardless of whether she's eventually charged with anything, Clinton is surely already guilty of something: forcing all of us to ponder the retreads and not-ready-for-primetime pols who might burst onto our front pages as the new Democratic nominee.
There are numerous Joe Biden scenarios out there, plus some Elizabeth Warren theories and John Kerry notions, which must excite those who yearn to hear more about what he was for before he was against them. Al Gore is also out there, slugging it out with Al Jazeera and, one imagines, enjoying being mentioned as another possible party savior.
Far more ingenious is the plot alleged by Larry Nichols, a Clinton family accuser since their Arkansas days, who says nothing less than Barack Obama's personal ambition is behind the indict-Hillary push. Both Obama and Bill Clinton aspire to be named U.S. ambassador to the UN as a stepping stone to becoming secretary-general, Nichols says, so for Obama to achieve that goal,
"(H)e's got to do a couple of moves: No. 1, gotta get rid of Hillary, because if she gets elected, Bill will be secretary general to the UN, not Obama; and then, he's got to get Vice President Biden … to be the candidate."
Like Nichols, Ann Coulter sees Obama maneuvering for an indictment that "destroys Hillary's campaign and gets Biden in." In her conjuring, Obama urges an indictment in private but pretends to oppose it publicly, making his attorney general, Loretta Lynch, appear heroically independent when she proceeds with charges. That all but assures Lynch will be confirmed once President Biden names her to the Supreme Court.
These handicappers, with their wild ideas, all have their merits and long track record of cogent political analysis (especially Coulter), but what's missing from the Hillary-indictment oeuvre is a true long-con scenario, one that connects multiple presidencies.
So here goes.
In the 1988 presidential election, a viable Democrat who didn't see a way for his party to defeat Ronald Reagan's vice president dropped out to make way for a Massachusetts liberal, knowing Democrats would be routed at the polls and have to seek a different path in 1992. Enter the "New Democrat" movement, Governor Clinton of Arkansas and the "two for the price of one" debut of his wife, whose taste of power would lead her to a political career of her own and, invariably, to an ill-conceived decision sure to give ammunition to her adversaries.
When those two forces -- Hillary's ambition and imprudence -- collided, as surely they would, the Democrats would be left seeking a last-minute replacement, one who ran for president before, served in a cabinet, is too obscure to have unfavorable ratings among today's young voters, and is brilliant enough to devise and carry out a presidential power grab lasting almost three decades.
Well played, Bruce Babbitt. Well played.
(Read My Lips is a column dedicated to the proposition that men and women in the corridors of power will say or do things for which they might be sorry.)