Blow and Collins

In “Hillary Clinton: Ma’am Survivor” Mr. Blow says you have to accept the swirl of madness with the political mastery, the constant flirtation with self-destruction.  Ms. Collins, in “Hillary, Beyond Email,” says it’s a good time for Clinton to make changes so she doesn’t win simply by default.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

The Clintons — both Hillary and Bill — are very smart, but also quite reckless. They play too close to the edge and sometimes go over. They parse words to parry attacks. They possess a sort of preternatural political ability, but also a political paranoia.

Anyone who has followed the Clintons over the years already knows this. So hearing the stinging rebuke by the F.B.I. director, James Comey, of Hillary Clinton over her email usage in some ways made no waves, at least not for me. As obviously qualified as Clinton is — at a Charlotte, N.C., campaign rally, President Obama said, “There has never been any man or woman more qualified for this office than Hillary Clinton, ever, and that’s the truth” — and as clearly superior to the puffed-up presumptive Republican nominee as she is, there is something about Clinton, and indeed the Clintons, that makes me uneasy.

But Comey refused to bring charges against Clinton, which seems to be the right call, and also seems in line with the Clinton history.

I know that Republicans have attacked the Clintons for decades. Many of those attacks were baseless, opponents driven mad by the Clintons seeming imperviousness, an endless search for a presumed fire beneath a fog they perceive as smoke. But some of those attacks come because of the Clintons’ own carelessness, as it did in this case. Sometimes there actually is a fire, however large or small, that the Clintons themselves have set.

With the Clintons, you have to accept the swirl of madness with the political mastery. They have a constant flirtation with self-destruction.

But it seems to me that most voters have actually adjusted their expectations for this reality, whether they support or oppose her.

If nothing else, the Clintons are the ultimate survivors.

When an Iowa caucusgoer asked Hillary in January why young people are not enthusiastic about her campaign, she replied, in part:

You know, look, I’ve been around a long time. People have thrown all kinds of things at me. And you know, I can’t keep up with it. I just keep going forward. They fall by the wayside. They come up with these outlandish things. They make these charges. I just keep going forward because there’s nothing to it. They throw all this stuff at me, and I’m still standing.

That is true. But the attacks and her impressive ability to dodge them seem to lead to a sort of Wonder Woman syndrome, in which the evasion of calamity creates an expanding sense of invincibility.

Rather than possessing strategic discipline, the Clintons’ Republican opponents have displayed an uncanny, uncontrollable impulse to overplay their hand, like a poker player with three deuces betting the house.

Donald Trump suggested that Clinton had bribed Attorney General Loretta Lynch in the case, although the decision to recommend no charges was made by Comey, and as USA Today reported last week, “Attorney General Loretta Lynch said Friday that she will accept the decision of career prosecutors, investigators and F.B.I. Director James Comey on whether to bring criminal charges” in the case.

Republicans, smarting over once again not bagging a Clinton when they were sure they had one trapped, have called Comey to the Hill to testify — or to be grilled, as will likely be the case — Thursday before the House Oversight Committee.

Republicans will turn a damaging episode for Clinton, one that would otherwise reinforce the specter of mistrust that they have labored so diligently to foster in the public around her, into another spectacle of the absurd.

They have a near algebraic ability to turn a positive into a negative, and vice versa.

They were hanging their hats on a stronger action against Clinton because they are wringing their hands with consternation over Trump.

In any other election cycle with pretty much any other candidate, the damage they have done to Clinton would be enough to fell her. But this year, she is running against the most inept, unqualified, ill-equipped, abrasive candidate imaginable.

In this context, in which a damaged candidate is up against a deranged one, Clinton will likely emerge with little more than yet another battle scar from this episode. And while Clinton won’t face charges, it is a fact that Trump is embroiled in two class action lawsuits over Trump University, as well as a lawsuit brought by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

Clinton’s case is now in the realm of what might have been, but Trump’s cases are in the realm of what actually is. Indeed, in every way when you compare Clinton to Trump, her shortcomings shrink.

Clinton’s survival instinct will likely allow her to weather whatever Trump and the Republicans throw at her.

Specifically, in the case of the “damn emails,” as Bernie Sanders called them, the Clinton magic — wiggling out of danger and constriction to great amazement — remains intact. Unfortunately, belief in magic also requires a certain amount of naïveté.

Now here’s Ms. Collins:

Chances are, Hillary Clinton did not grow up dreaming that someday she’d be a woman of whom it could be said that “no reasonable prosecutor” would indict her.

But think positive: Between the F.B.I.’s 11-month email investigation and the eight congressional Benghazi inquiries, Clinton has now probably been examined more thoroughly than any candidate not up for canonization in the Catholic Church. How many times have you, as a concerned citizen, witnessed a famous politician felled by a terrible revelation and thought, “My God, who knew?” Not likely to be a problem with this one.

In his big press appearance Tuesday, F.B.I. Director James Comey took the now-familiar prosecutorial path of smearing the target he couldn’t nail. But the bottom line was that Clinton had used less-than-secure private email servers rather than the State Department system, which was the proper procedure, albeit possibly even less less-than-secure. Worse, she did not tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth when she was cornered.

It’s a problem for campaign strategists, but not much of a surprise for voters. We already knew that she was paranoid about privacy. Perhaps that was why some people decided, in 2008, that they preferred Barack Obama, who was promising presidential transparency. Whose administration then set new Olympics-level records when it came to rejecting Freedom of Information Act requests and persecuting suspected leakers of information to the media.

We obviously haven’t heard the last of the email scandal — Comey is testifying before a House committee on Thursday. Attorney General Loretta Lynch is going to be dragged before another committee next week to answer questions about that private meeting she had with Bill Clinton on an airport tarmac at the worst moment humanly possible.

The Republicans will broadcast Comey’s “extremely careless” quote from now through November. “People have been convicted for far less,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said as he happily made the cable TV rounds after the F.B.I. announcement. This came between the moment in which Ryan had to distance himself from Donald Trump’s anti-Semitic tweet and the moment in which he had to distance himself from the speech in which Trump praised Saddam Hussein.

Oh yes, Donald Trump. The Republican presidential candidate who had a “university” that wrung thousands of dollars out of credulous students with get-rich-quick promises, which was linked to an extremely shady seminar program that plagiarized course materials from an old real estate manual. And which is now subject to lawsuits, some of which are being heard by a distinguished federal judge from Indiana. Who Trump slammed as a biased “Mexican,” triggering a Paul Ryan distancing of epic proportions.

Every problem with Hillary Clinton’s campaign comes attached to a reminder that the alternative is the businessman with a terrible business record and attraction to murderous tyrants. It’s hard to imagine anything that she could do that would make her look like the worse option in this particular contest. It’s a lucky candidate who gets the chance to divert attention from her problems by giving a speech in the city where her opponent bankrupted several casinos and dodged the bills of a long line of small businesses.

But nobody wants to be remembering 2016 as the year America elected its first woman president by default. Since at least she didn’t get indicted.

Clinton can spend the next four months listing all the ways Trump would be worse. Or she can use her intelligence, experience and fortitude to turn her story around. So that when the confetti falls in Philadelphia, we’ve got something more to celebrate than a new entry in the Guinness World Records book.

A few suggestions:

■ Send Bill home. This is an easy call. At best, he’s a reminder that she didn’t get where she’s at entirely on her own. At worst — well, plane. Attorney general.

■ Hold a news conference every week. Clinton has not met with the press corps for an open-ended question-and-answer session this calendar year. Her strategists aren’t stupid; they know that the chances of making unwelcome news at these encounters are high. They’ll keep dodging them if they simply want to make sure she can stagger across the finish line this fall. The only argument on the other side is that she’s prepared to demonstrate she’s not just better than Trump; she’s better than her own current background noise.

■ Take a hard position, just because. Clinton has been rolling out some smart, progressive and well thought out proposals on issues like student loans. But it doesn’t exactly require a profile in courage to be against college debt. A brave and specific series of recommendations on, say, trade would be something else. Or a plan to fix Obamacare that would involve tough news for the pharmaceutical industry. Or pretty much any reform that would make big-money Democratic campaign contributors unhappy.

She can win without doing anything. It’s just the difference between making great history and being the lesser of two evils.

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